Big Bike Solo in the Western UP

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, May 18, 2010.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    To get to Agate Falls, you stop at a wayside and then walk under this engineering marvel.
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    I was really more interested in seeing the railroad bridge than I was the falls. It was a nice path to the overlook.
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    The rail bridge is part of an ORV trail now.
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    This river and falls were really a river of logs back in the logging days. In fact, they touched up the falls a bit with dynamite to remove any snags that would hold up the flow of timber.
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    An old post card of the falls.
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    This ranger station in Bergland was built by the CCC in 1937 and was the first Ottawa National Forest HQs. Much of the land for the forest became available when the depression hit. The government got hold of the logged off and burn scarred land for back taxes. Some soil was burned sterile preventing regrowth.
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    As I mentioned, the CCC brought much of it back.
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    A lot of company owned towns just evaporated when the principal industry went under. I think the Diamond Match folks had a lumber town called Matchwood that went away when the company pulled out. There was no reason to go on as the houses and stores were company owned. The town of Bergland was different. The founder was wise. He stayed away from the company owned concept. Others owned their stores and houses. When something went bad, people had a reason to stay and go on to something else. There is a lot more to the Bergland story, mostly having to do with the wisdom of the founder. The town is still going strong today while surrounding communities went under.
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    Nice scenery.
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    At first glance I thought this was an eagle's nest. After looking more closely I am inclined to think it belongs to an Osprey. It is along 12 mile long and shallow Lake Gogebic (go-GIBbick).
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    Time zones were the product of the railroads' need to keep time. They are kind of irregular in shape. In the UP perhaps more so. When you look at the mining/railroad operations maybe they make sense. Anyway, the county line that cuts the lake is also the Central-Eastern Time Zone demarcation. People around here like it because they can hop between two nearby taverns to celebrate New Year's twice.
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    The ride around Lake Gogebic is pretty nice. On the west shore you can hike to a high spot that resembles an alligator's eye from a distance. At this spot, some ancients quarried to make tools thousands of years ago. Since the blackflies were in bloom, I skipped the hike.
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    I think Gogebic is the fourth largest inland lake in Michigan and the largest in the UP. (No big deal I guess as the UP has 1700 miles of coastline - some of which is fantastic riding. :lol3 ) The lake is a great walleye and perch fishery. It used to be a great bass lake before they introduced the walleye and perch. Years ago they used to run excursion boats on the lake.
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    #41
  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    This was the Plymouth Open Pit Mine in Wakefield. It was 7,600 feet long, 900 feet wide, and 360 feet deep. The water depth is about 325 feet. It operated from 1913 until 1952. It was the only open pit mine on the Gogebic Range.
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    This whole thing is within the Wakefield City limits. I drove around the company homes and looked around.
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    The mine as it looked in 1940.
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    We are in the Gogebic Range for iron mining. In 1890, mines on the Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic Ranges produced 80% of US iron ore. By 1900, the Minnesota Vermilion amd Mesabi Ranges surpassed Michigan. A century later, two remaining mines on the Marquette Range still produced about one quarter of US iron ore.
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    The stone for the Ramsey Keystone (railroad) Bridge was brought from Kaukauna (in WI at the top of Lake Winnebago) by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. The bridge was built in 1891 and rises 57 feet above the Black River.
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    This is the Gogebic County Courthouse. It was constructed in 1888 just four years after they started mining here. It is constructed of Lake Superior Red Sandstone.
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    This grand old building is still in use.
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    Whenever I was near old mining towns, I often found fruit trees. I may not have been able to pick out much else, but the fruit trees the miners planted carried on.
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    This is the Memorial Building where you come to do city business. It is a memorial to veterans of wars. It has marble walls, terrazo floors, and hand painted murals. Inside the lobby is a doughboy statue.
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    The cornerstone was laid in 1922. The American Legion and the Women's Club raised $500K in bonds to in 1922 to build it. This feat gained national attention because the population here was only 17,000. Even Chicago couldn't match that effort for their memorial.
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    They have 47 windows like this one that are worth a total of about $500K.
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    The Ironwood Theater was built in 1928 and at the time it was considered to be the finest showhouse in the northwest. It has solid bronze entrance doors and is of Italian Renaissance decor.
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    The Depot is now a museum. It was built in 1892 and at one time had a block long platform. Passenger travel continued as late as 1970. Freight traffic died off in 1981.
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    The view from atop a hill in Ironwood.
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    Looking toward a bay on Lake Superior.
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    A ski flying hill to the northeast that we will visit tomorrow.
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    I know you need to be comfortable riding sand if you off-road in Michigan, but this may be carrying things a bit too far.
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    The Pabst Mine was named because a beer baron had money in it. In 1926 it had a disaster. Some claim that an 11 inch rainfall contributed to the collapse of a 64 degree 10' X 18' incline shaft. Others say the problem was pre-existing.
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    Anyway, three electricians headed down the shaft and it caved in and killed them. It also trapped 43 miners down below for five days.
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    The miners rationed their lunches and after they ran through that they started to make tea from the birch bark of some mine timbers. After five days, rescuers busted them out. It is said that 5,000 people were at the mine opening when they came out. While trapped some of the miners sang songs, talked politics, and discussed religion. As they were rescued someone asked what they needed most. Someone answered "tobacco" and was immediately given a cigar.
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    The local inspector was relieved that the 43 came out alive because everyone had been on his ass during the time they were trapped.
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    End of day 1.
    #42
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Catching up again on some comments and PMs.

    Thanks again for the encouraging replies. It is nice to know that some are entertained by a report that combines entertaining riding with interesting history.

    It is also good to hear from some folks that have ridden with me before on some dirt rides in the UP. Some of them have seen a few of these things on those rides. :wave

    This is a timely report for some because starting next week I'll be taking two consecutive groups on an 1100 mile dual sport loop around the UP on dirt bikes. We'll be visiting some of these spots (briefly) as we make our way. Hope some of this history enriches their trip a bit too. :D
    #43
  4. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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    These ride reports that you do with the history included are golden. Thanks!
    #44
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    A few comments about the Wisconsin portion of the Gogebic Range.
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    This is what the Gogebic Range looks like. Iron was discovered here in 1872. By 1886 there were 54 mines operating. They described the area as having inexhaustible stocks of high grade ore. Stocks rose 1200 percent. The rich speculation crashed in 1887.
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    In the mid-1600s, 400 Fox Indians raided Madeline Island (part of the Apostle Islands) and kidnapped four Ojibwa women. The Objiwa warriors silently pursued the Fox in the fog.
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    When they got to this cliff site, the Ojibwa engaged the Fox in a naval battle and wiped them out.
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    I wonder if this fisherman, who is enjoying an exceptionally calm day, knows what happened here.
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    Lake Superior water is clear and cold. The water temp is probably still in the 40s. More on the lake later.
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    This is Little Girl Point. Ojibwa lore says that a maiden got lost in the woods on her wedding day. She was later seen here with her lover. This point was a regular rest stop for people traveling from the Apostle Islands to the Porcupine Mountain area.
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    The power of water and ice keeps filling in this outlet at a boat launch site.
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    Today is one of those days where the horizon often becomes indistinguishable from the water.
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    #45
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    This scenic byway is a nice up and back ride.
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    This is an interesting stop.
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    This is the only ski flying hill in the western hemisphere.
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    It rises close to 1200 feet above Lake Superior.
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    In summer you can ride the chair lift 36 stories to the top of the hill and then ride an elevator 18 stories up the slide to look around. You can see a long way in all directions.
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    I don't think I want to try this.
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    #46
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    There a few waterfalls to stop and see along this scenic byway. I had seen them before so I didn't stop.

    This is the site of a tiny fishing village that clung to the shore of Lake Superior.
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    No town is left here anymore. This boat is typical of the fleet from that period. It was custom built in DePere, WI, in 1913.
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    #47
  8. Uneasy Rider

    Uneasy Rider The life of Riley

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    Excellent ride report as usual Colonel. :thumb
    #48
  9. Tijuana_Taxi

    Tijuana_Taxi Been here awhile

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    Great ride report!! If this would of been how history was taught when I was in school I would have paid attention.:ear
    #49
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Sometimes we take electricity for granted. For years, this town generated their own electricity with diesel powered generators.
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    I think Escanaba is changing over from a coal fired plant to a plant that relies on local forest waste. I guess there is more than enough readily available as fuel.
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    This city hall building was designed by a self-taught architect (Costanza?). He did a nice job and it is still going strong.
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    The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park ws formed in 1945 to protect the last stand of native hardwoods in the area.
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    For now, we are going to skirt around the boundary road that runs south and east of the main park.
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    It is a beautiful area and is mainly set up for hiking.
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    The boundary road is nice and doesn't get much traffic.
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    There is an old mine along the way that you can hike back into to look at. Not much there. This was one of the richest lodes of copper bearing rock ever to be opened. Once this mine closed, another company followed this lode two miles east and opened the White Pine Mine. The White Pine became the most productive copper mine in Michigan with more that 4 million pounds of copper extracted in 43 years of operttion. We'll visit that later. This Nonesuch opened around the time of the civil war and died out with fluctuating prices.
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    The park has an interpretive trail that explores the ruins of this mine. I didn't walk it as I wasn't equipped to deal with blackflies which can be troublesome this time of year.
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    #50
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    There is a nice visitor center in the park.
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    Nice to see these things. The 107th is a Michigan Guard unit.
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    That ski flying hill seems visible from a lot of places.
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    Lake of the Clouds. Nice ride up there and a neat place to visit.
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    You can go into the Carp Lake Mine for a bit. There is a barrier inside. It is also a place where the bats that hang out in the woods all summer hibernate come fall.
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    #51
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    A B-17 crashed in the Porkies south of Lake of the Clouds. Once the Army was done with the wreckage a guy from Silver City went and drug a prop out of the woods.
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    The plane went down in the middle of the night in April 1944. The crew bailed out. The right engine and wing were on fire.
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    Nine of the 10 crew were found pretty quickly. One of those hung in his parachute harness from a tree for a couple of hours because he thought the snow beneath him was water. The tenth guy was missing for a while longer so the local mayor organized a search party. They found him the next morning.

    They took the crew to a local home. I'm not sure where they buried the survivors.
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    The old bridge in town.
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    There was a lumber camp just upstream at a local waterfall. The falls (Bonanza Falls) is sometimes called Greenwood Falls because of the camp. In the 1920s a fire came through and wiped that out.
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    The city is called Silver City because a guy discovered silver here. He sat quietly on his discovery for 17 years until a land grant to a proposed railroad expired. Then he dug in. In the end it cost more to get the silver than it was worth so the whole thing busted out.
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    #52
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    The White Pine mine was once one of the nation's largest. It goes back to around 1880, but really came into prime production after the government put some money in it around the time of the Korean War. The mine shut down in 1995 after producing 4.2 billon pounds of copper and 47 million ounces of silver.

    This mine did not have deep shafts. Instead it had one enormous underground cavity that grew to four square miles in size. It sloped downward to 2,800 feet in depth.

    This cavern has been filling with toxic brine, so now they are trying to fill it with Lake SUperior water instead.

    For a variety of reasons, some environmental, the mine closed in 1995. There used to be 3,100 union employees working here. That had to hurt.

    This coppery refinery is left. They have been getting copper from a smelter in Manitoba and then they purify it here using lots of electricty. As I was doing research for this ride, I read an article that came out this spring that says the Manitoba smelter is going under so unless these guys get another source it is all over for them.
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    This place also produces power for public use for a UP power company. Looks like that would go under too. The plant uses some coal that comes to Ontonagon by freighter. There are problems there that will probably end that.
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    One positive story is that a company called SubTerra is using the mine's highly stable environment to grow plants in a controlled environment. One such plant is a tobacco strain that has seeds that may help treat cancer. They occupy 3,000 square feet at the top of the cavern and use a lot of grow lights. They like the genetic containment and the protection from bio-terrorism.
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    The company town is to the left and the refinery is to the right.
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    There was an environmental problem with tailings so they rerouted a river to flood the tailings fields. The big ponds are the result. They are trying to get this covered with vegetation.
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    The town looks a lot like a closed military base. Here is the mall.
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    The company sold off the houses for about $25K each.
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    One reason these mines go under is that there are cheaper methods to mine copper that is closer to the surface. South American copper is big now.

    Ontonagon has some problems developing as well. Smurfit Stone had about 240 employees and made the corrugated sandwich layers that gives cardbox boxes their strength. They went under.
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    Every year the harbor had to be dredged to the tune of $400K. This harbor didn't move enough tonnage to qualify for federal aid. Thorugh the magic of politics, they kept getting the money for the dredging. Now without this plant, that will stop. Without dredging the copper refinery won't get coal through here either.
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    I was fortunate enough to see a coal dump when I was through here in the past. A self-unloader came in to discharge coal.
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    This is the old lighthouse. This was one of the few refuge harbors for ships trying to get around the Keweenaw Peninsula. In 1883, the Manistee (184' ship) got caught in a November storm and tried to make it here. When the ship never showed, a search party found wreckage confirming the loss of 38 passengers and crew.
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    There is a nice historical museum in town. It is hard to miss.
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    I don't know what this boat was built for, but it looks durable.
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    #53
  14. Utah Bones

    Utah Bones Gas X ready!

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    Nice!:bow :lurk
    #54
  15. GasMich

    GasMich Been here awhile

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    Neat Stuff. Loved the history story. Great reporting as usual.
    #55
  16. davyboy

    davyboy Adventurer

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    epic stuff,reading it from my home in ireland,fascinating.:clap
    #56
  17. TomDac

    TomDac Been here awhile

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    wow. amazing RR.. as a kid, I spent a lot of summers up near the UP border in a town called Winchester, Wisconsin and remember going to Ironwood. Is there a giant Paul Bunyan there still?
    #57
  18. jwalters

    jwalters Farkle Proliferator

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    Fantastic as always, CS.

    If you haven't read it already, I'd recommend the book Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals. The book is broken up by each of the Great Lakes and has a lot of history about the bays you've mentioned in this ride report, including the story of the Manistee.
    -jesse

    ps. I'd send you my copy but I'm already loaning it out!
    #58
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11874

    Giant indian.
    #59
  20. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Yeah those shipwreck books are great. I'm a diver as well so I have had an interest in that for years and collected quite a few books myself. Many great stories and some excellent books from a local writer named Fred Stonehouse.

    I'll cover a little about it later but there are several underwater preserves in the area that protect some interesting wrecks.
    #60