Beauty from a Mining Past

Photo is of a large lake bordered by tree covered shores. The lake has a rocky, read beach in the foreground, with deep blue water that continues into the distance. The trees on the shore are deep green. A blue sky with wispy white clouds is overhead.

#18 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Galloping Goose Trail, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

I want to acknowledge this hike took place on the traditional territory of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and Mdewakanton. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Trash Collected: 1.4 pounds

The image is of Pennington Mine Lake taken from the western shore. The narrow lake reflects the clear blue of the sky. Wooded shorelines of green forest border the lake appearing to merge in the distance.

Stopping at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (SRA), I wasn’t sure what to expect for my hiking options. The park is primarily designed for mountain biking. Suffice to say I was blown away with the sheer beauty of the park. The lakes, all formed from the state’s mining past, against the forest and deep red, iron rich earth are dramatically stunning.

Huntington Mine Lake is the backdrop to the main parking area offering a small beach and access to the park’s many mountain biking trails. As I pulled into the parking lot on the sunny day with not a cloud in sigh, the breathtaking beauty hit me hard. The deep blues and greens set against the iron red soil make a striking contrast. I started with a short walk to the overlook and beach at Huntington Mine Lake. I knew my pictures would not do justice to what I saw in front of me.

After a few minutes of watching the mountain bikers along the paths coming and going, I headed over to the Pennington Mine Lake. Again, striking beauty, marred only slightly by the remnants of someone’s picnic lunch that included hunks of watermelon strewn toward the woods. I grabbed my trash bag from my pack and collected what I could easily get at. I also lamented the remains of a fire built on the ground right in front of a grill. I struggle to understand these things even though I know the rationale likely at play.

I continued to watch the bikers, ultimately deciding to take the paved trail Cuyuna Lakes Stare Trail on the south side of Huntington Mine Lake. I wouldn’t have beautiful views of the lake, but at least I’d be less likely to get in the way. The trail is, thankfully, mostly shaded on this section. In the near 90 degree heat every bit of shade was a welcome gift. Eventually though the dirt trail’s call was too much. The Galloping Goose trail runs parallel to the paved one and crosses in a few places. Near the narrows between Huntington Mine and Black Hoof Lakes, I entered the bike trail, heading against the one-way route of the cyclists. I hoped this would give me a better chance at getting out of the way of oncoming bikes.

It felt good to have my feet on dirt again. Pavement takes its toll on my spirit. I feel less connected with my surroundings when I’m moving on pavement. As I expected, only a few bikers were using this beginner trail. I was able to quickly step aside and give those I did meet ample room to pass. I was grateful for the 1.7 mile hike, though I wished I could get on to some of those trails on the north side of Huntington Lake. For now I have to imagine how beautiful they are and hope for a chance to visit again in cooler weather.

The photo shows the brown park sign with dark yellow lettering. The sign reads Hill Annex Mine State Park Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Behind and to the left there is a padlocked gate blocking the drive to one of the mine buildings in the background.

#19 of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Hill Annex Mine and Mesabi Bike Trail

I want to acknowledge this hike took place on the traditional territory of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Sisseton, and Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

In keeping with what seemed to be the theme of the day, my next hike would also be on bike path in lieu of hiking trails. Just a little over an hour north east of Cuyuna Country SRA, I made my second attempt at a brief hike at Hill Annex Mine State Park. When I arrived, the gate was closed. It was a good reminder that checking the park website before visiting is always a good idea. The park was still closed due to COVID restrictions. Luckily at the same parking lot there is access to the Mesabi Bike Trail so I could still get in a bit of hiking before finding my evening’s campsite.

In the hot afternoon sun, I set off on the trail. I’d compromised with myself that I’d only go for a bit so I wouldn’t overheat or run out of water. Much like many other paved trails, the width of the trail makes for little shade. From the parking in Calumet the trail slowly rises away from the mine in a northerly direction before turning and heading west for a bit. Paper birch, wildflowers and towering aspen mixed with pine trees line either side of the way.

I was completely alone which was wonderful after the busy trails at Cuyuna Country. The section I chose would take me to Marble, just a mile or so away if I chose to go that far. What struck me about both trails was the abundance of cycling opportunities in this part of the state. I was wishing I had my bike along to better appreciate the trail. Maybe next time.

Less than a half mile later, in the full head of the day, I decided it was time to turn back to my car. The heat was going to get the best of me if I didn’t. Knowing when to stop is something I have written about before and this was an excellent example of making that choice. Back at the car with the air conditioning cranking I consulted my maps again. It was time to find a place to camp for the night.

Next Post Preview: Sometimes you get your trip details mixed up. That night of revisiting Schoolcraft State Park? Yup…it was after my hikes on biking trails. So we skip forward to the next part of the trip and come closer to the end of my Big Goal.

GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, Columbia® Women’s Arcadia II Rain Jacket, REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, REI Co-op Rainier Full Zip Rain Pant, REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, ENO DoubleNest Hammock with Atlas Straps, Guardian Bug Net and Pro Rainfly, Slumberjack 2-person tent with footprint, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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