Eau Claire, WI Part II: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum
Osseo, WI - Events of Tuesday, July 12, 2011
After visiting the Chippewa Valley Museum, we went next door to the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum. The museum has a lot of historical information and artifacts from the logging industry in the Chippewa Valley.
Like the Chippewa Valley Museum, the Paul Bunyan Museum also has a very reasonable admission fee of $5 with a 10% discount for AAA members. And as we mentioned in our last post, there is a combo ticket for only $9 for both museums.
Lumberjacks from both the United States and Canada have spun yarns about a legendary lumberjack named Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. The legend possibly has its roots in a real person. A soldier by the name of Paul Bonjean fought in the French-Canadian Revolt of 1837. Bonjean was a fierce soldier and was taller than most. He also was said to have been involved in logging or a lumber business at some time in his life.
No matter what the origin is, the stories about Paul Bunyan are a lot of fun, and the lumberjacks entertained themselves trying to outdo each other with their stories as they spent long winter evenings in the bunkhouse. One story says the Grand Canyon was formed when Paul accidentally dragged his axe behind him. Another story says it was Babe's footprints that filled with water to created Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. The museum has a statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe outside.
There is also a "Tall Tales Room" where kids of all ages can have fun with some of the stories about Paul Bunyan.
The museum also has a lot of historical information about logging. With logging having been so important to the local history of the Chippewa Valley, and since we encountered logging recently during our visit to Stillwater, MN and Amnicon Falls, WI, we were interested to learn more.
One room of the indoor part of the museum had a display of a number of animals the lumberjacks would have encountered in the woods.
We also learned how the logs were identified. The photo below shows a series of log stamps. These were mounted like hammerheads on long handles and were swung to stamp the logging camp symbol into the logs. That way, when the logs were floated en masse to the mill, they would know who the logs belonged to.
In Stillwater, we learned logging was done in winter because the sap in the trees in summer gummed up the saws and other equipment. It was also easier to move heavy loads of logs when the ground was frozen. Logs were normally moved by horses pulling sleds, but in the late 1800s, the Phoenix Manufacturing Company of Eau Claire began producing the Phoenix. The Phoenix was a steam-powered hauler that looks like a steam locomotive with tracks on the back and skis on the front. The Phoenix could haul a load that would take dozens of teams of horses to move.
In addition to the building that houses the main museum, there are other display buildings including one that is set up like a lumberjack dining hall.
There was an interesting lighting fixture hanging from the ceiling.
Opposite the dining hall is the bunkhouse. There were rows of bunks around the perimeter of the room and a wood stove in the center. Wet clothes were hung from racks near the ceiling to dry. We can only imagine what all that wet, sweaty wool smelled like.
There were lots of displays of tools at the museum including the saws below in the sharpening room.
Of course, no logging camp would have been complete without a blacksmith shop to make and to repair metal items and tools.
There was also a shed with displays of heavy equipment that would have been used to haul and lift logs. It was interesting to learn how they would make roads to haul logs through the forest. A sled called a "rutter" would make two fairly wide tracks, then a "sprinkler" sled would spray water on the tracks. The water would freeze and form two ice rails that the log sleds would then run on. Unfortunately, it was too dark and the equipment was too close together for good photos.
Along one of the outside walkways was another version of Paul Bunyan done as a chainsaw carving.
On the way back to the motor home from the Paul Bunyan Museum, we stopped by the Norske Nook Restaurant in Osseo.
We saw billboards for the Norske Nook along the road on our way to Osseo in the motor home; and when Margery checked them out online, it looked like just the type of place for the 2011 Zeller Foodie Tour.
The Norske Nook is kind of like a Norwegian diner, and they specialize in wraps using a Norwegian flat bread called lefse (LEF-suh). However, when we saw hot roast beef sandwiches on the menu, we couldn't resist. We both had half a hot roast beef with mashed potatoes.
Everything is made from scratch and the gravy in particular was outstanding. The roast beef was good, but not as tender or as flavorful as that at Der Dutchman in Amish country in Walnut Creek, OH.
The reason we both had only half a sandwich was because we both wanted to save room for the other specialty of the Norske Nook - pie. They have 20 different kinds of pie on the menu, about half of which have won first place at one time or another in a national pie-baking contest. You can see some of their blue ribbons pictured on the paper place mats in the photo below. Unfortunately, even though Wisconsin has a fairly large Amish population, they didn't have Paul's favorite - shoo fly pie. Paul had pumpkin-cream cheese instead, and Margery had fresh blueberry cream. Both were yummy!
We were stuffed when we headed back to the motor home. Over the next two days, we chilled out around the motor home and made a Walmart shopping trip with a side trip to Kohl's for Margery (couldn't let that Kohl's cash go to waste!) and to Menard's for Paul.
With the weekend approaching, it was time for us to move on. As we mentioned in an earlier post, the campground rates go up substantially on the weekend. We headed south to a Corps of Engineers campground along the Mississippi River. We'll tell you about it our next post.