This week has been a dream come true for Karen. Ever since 1962 when she not only became best friends with Ann, the new girl at school, who later became a college roommate, but developed a friendship with her whole family, Karen has dreamt of visiting two small towns in northeastern Minnesota. Tower in the early sixties boasted a population of nearly nine hundred but today it’s about five hundred. While we stayed at Hoodoo Point Campground on the southern shore of Lake Vermillion right next to Tower for seven nights, we explored this part of St Louis County. We learned more about the succession of native peoples that have called this area home for seven thousand years, the fur traders, the prospectors that flocked to this area with the 1865 Vermillion Gold Rush, the establishment of an iron mine as well as the arrival of the railroad in 1884 to transport the ore to the port of Duluth. Apparently Tower was at its population zenith at about 1900 fueled by iron mining and declined especially with the closing of the mine in late 1962. We enjoyed talking with a volunteer at the Tower-Soudan Historical Society Museum at the Historic Train Depot and checking out vintage train cars and the local museum there. Another evening we returned to check out the local farmers market. One afternoon we patronized Tiny Bubbles, the local laundromat and Good Ol’ Days, the immediately adjoining bar and grill before walking across the street to Zup’s, a great little family owned supermarket. The other town is Buyck, where Ann’s immigrant grandparents farmed a homestead claim. Once famous for it’s roadside town sign in the 1960’s sporting a bicycle on top to represent the correct pronunciation (“bike”) but also the caption “Population 9” it’s an area of Portage Township with a strong identity and proud history. On Friday we drove north into the deep woods of Minnesota first to checkout the Echo Lake campground in Superior National Forest but more importantly to stop at Echo Trail Tavern to sit at the bar, enjoy a good meal, and to hobnob with a couple of folks that today call Buyck home.