With its gorgeous views of northern Wisconsin, and easy biking, there is a lot to love about the Bearskin State Trail. What I love the most however, is the wonderful history that looms over the trail. It was built on a former Milwaukee Road rail bed (and 13 trestles). As you enter at the trail head in Minocqua and cross the trestle over Lake Minocqua, it’s easy to get thrown back in time.
Suddenly you’re a passenger on the Northwoods Hiawatha, watching the scenery go by. There are over a dozen historical signs along the 18 mile trail. They tell stories of logging towns that no longer exist, early area settlers, railroad stations that served summer tourists, and various landmarks. The most interesting one is the sign along the Harshaw Trestle. It details an incident when a steam locomotive derailed and fell into the marsh, along with three rail cars. The railroad repaired the rails and brought in two cranes in an attempt to retrieve the expensive locomotive. One of the cranes tipped over during this effort, also falling into the marsh. The recovery operation was abandon after several days, as the locomotive, three cars, and crane, slowly sank further and further down. The locomotive and other equipment remains in the marsh to this day, covered by a natural shroud of water and moss.