Finding the Road Routine

Day Two: Destination Lake Vermilion – Soudan Underground Mine & McCarthy Beach State Parks

Getting into the groove of a road trip can happen quickly, sometimes it takes a few days. Slowing down to a new pace. Setting up camp, striking camp, cooking, hiking. Life becomes a series of basic needs. I know this pattern on trial too. It’s a pattern that feels like home in the only way being on trail can feel. I fall into it easily, except for the car part of it. Camping from my car feels awkward because I don’t do it that much. It feels complicated in some way. But I’m grateful for the music and reprieve from the mosquitos.

Lake Vermillion – Soudan Underground Mine State Park

#24hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Located about a little less than an hour from Bear Head Lake State Park, Lake Vermillion – Soudan Underground Mine State Park is an interesting contrast of the historic mining operations and Minnesota’s fifth largest lake. Having opted to Hiking Club trails on this trip, I didn’t venture close to Lake Vermillion on foot. Instead I took time to visit the mine operations buildings and then hike just over 3 miles along pit mines and through the abundant pine forest.

I always say, it’s not a hike in Minnesota unless there is some mud to traverse. The Miner’s trail didn’t disappoint. It had rained in the days before my departure so I knew I’d be in for some Type 2 mud and mosquito fun. The thing I love about mud is that it’s a great way to gauge who and what has come before you. In this case plenty of deer and a few humans with a sturdy footstep.

Take only pictures … leave only footprints.


As the trail progresses, the it wraps around additional pits, including one that’s full of water and an early entrance to the underground mine that still has rail for the cars the miners took into the mines. From this point, I detoured through the picnic area to the field that sits below the mine entrance. Wildflowers were in bloom along the railroad tracks that run below the old transfer equipment. Then it was around to the winter park entrance and looping past more of the mining operation buildings.

I also realized that I’d made the right choice to pass on the Mine Tour when I saw a guide step out of the car that runs down to the mine. The small iron box didn’t look inviting at all. Instead I opted to head back to my car to have lunch and head to my next stop.

McCarthy Beach State Park

#25hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

The drive just another hour west brought me to McCarthy Beach State Park. I had reserved a campsite as close to the Pickerel Lake Trail and Big Hole Trail Loop so I could to be positioned to hike for my dinner. At the park office I learned that the campground water was contaminated and that a section of the Lake Trail on private land has been closed. The location of the trail closure impacted my access on foot to the trails I’d planned on hiking, adding about 2 miles round trip to my total.

On trail I was starting to really notice the early summer flowers. Wild roses, columbine and many others had benefited from the warm, wet weather. The Pickerel Lake trail goes through beautiful old growth pine and then connects with the Big Hole Trail. As I hiked I had the same feeling I’ve had before – this all is starting to look the same. Sometimes that’s ok. But for me the idea of seven days of hiking on the same looking trails was disheartening. I decided that I would need to work on my attitude. This one was not going to serve me well for the next few days. I headed back to camp, ate and snuggled into my hammock with the hope that a good night’s sleep would do the trick.

GEAR: Columbia Women’s Arcadia II Rain Jacket, Vasque Talus Mid UltraDry Hiking Boots, Granite Gear Blaze 60 Backpack,  Marmot Kompressor Pack, ENO Double Nest Hammock/Guardian Bug Net/Profly Rainfly, Paria Thermodown 30 Down Quilt, MSR Pocket Rocket, MSR Dualist Cookware, Slumberjack Trial Tent, REI Co-op Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Lhasa Lite AS trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets.

Next Post Preview: Tomorrow I head for Scenic and Big Bog State Parks in search of a change in scenery.

*To find out more about Leave No Trace (LNT) principles,
check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
or on the Stewardship Resources page.

Copyright Ruth Wikoff-Jones, | No Use Permitted Without Prior Permission

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