As of today, the lakes are all frozen over. The ferry that carries residents from mainland Red Lake to one of the sub-communities, McKenzie Island, was pulled out of the water this morning. That means that until the ice is solid enough to walk or drive across, around 500 people have to get creative with their commutes. While some choose to stay with friends on the mainland while the ice thickens, others takes a more brazen approach. Some islanders will take a canoe and walk across the thin ice with one leg in the canoe, dragging it along just in case the ice breaks and they need to hop in.
This is not your average town, and these are not your average people.
Each of the six small communities within Red Lake--McKenzie Island included--was created because at one point in history there was a mine there. The workers built their homes around the mine, and as long as the mine thrived, so did the community. But the history of McKenzie Island goes back long before the mine to 1804 when Donald McKenzie of the North West Company had an outpost on the island. The story goes that Donald was warned of an oncoming Sioux war party so he hid 80 kegs of rum in a small lake on the island and fled. The lakes have been searched for the cache, but nothing was ever found.
In 1933, McKenzie Red Lake Mines Ltd. was incorporated and people from all over Canada flocked to get in on the work. A town was formed, complete with a dance hall, a pool hall, a movie theatre (which would put you back 20 cents for a film and 5 cents for a treat), a bakery, a butcher's shop, a drug store with a soda fountain...and a whole lot more. Horses hauled timber to the mines and transported the garbage. Two local cows provided most of the milk for the area. The first vehicle didn't come to the Island until the 1940s so many relied on a team of dogs for transportation.
The mine in McKenzie Island closed in 1966 and in those 33 years, produced a total of $23,724,000 worth of gold. Today, there are no businesses on McKenzie Island, just houses. Walking around the Island, it feels like you've stepped back in time with all of the old homes. I would have loved to see it back in those days when the mine was in operation.
Though present-day Red Lake is still growing on me, I have an insatiable curiosity about the history of this place. I have a mini freak-out every time I come across a really old vehicle in the woods or what I think is a piece of old mining equipment. Dilapidated barns and abandoned houses? Don't even get me started.
Now, in celebration of the frozen lakes and many days of snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowmobiling ahead of us, here are a few snow-inspired goodies that I love.
I firmly believe that you can never own too many blankets. This Buffalo White Wool Throw Blanket would be great for snuggling by the fire in the winter or tossing on the beach in the summer.
This festive Jax and Bones Snowflake Rope Toy is good for your pup's teeth and may even be mistaken for a Christmas decoration. Win-win!
This phrase is running through my head everyday as I walk to work. Why not wear it on a shirt? Awesome typography and cozy feel from Thug Life Shirts.