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Go West: Get out the Map


Traveling, Camping and Hiking My Way Westward

Trail/Park: Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area

This travel, hiking and camping took place on the traditional territory of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Wahpeton and Wahpekute who have stewarded this land for more than 5,000 years. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. Join me in learning more about the tribes and these lands, by following the links provided.

Heading out for four weeks of travel. Today it will be from home to Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area just west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Despite estimating my route will take me about 4.5 hours to drive, I’m already behind on my start. It took me longer than I hoped to get the last of my things packed in the car and camper.

Then there were stops to be made. First would be lunch near in Mankato at Blue Bricks. Parking was a bit of a challenge with the camper, but I was able to find a spot in the lot behind the restaurant. I was hungry unaware of how large the portions would be. Especially my ginger ale. I didn’t ask, but it sure seemed like a 32 oz glass. The Blue Brick Chicken sandwich was so very good.

While eating I got a text from my dad sharing he was celebrating Mom’s birthday with a Dairy Queen. An incredibly fitting thing to do. I decided I would do the same if I could leave just enough room for a cone. Mom always had an uncanny way of finding a Dairy Queen no matter where we were, so I attempted to channel her instinct with a little help. Just a short distance away I found one and enjoyed a treat despite the chill in the air.

Settling Into A Routine

Fed and back in the car, I started back down the highway, but the camper started bouncing all over the faster I went. After a couple stops and resetting the auto-tow break the bounce was resolved. I also discovered a poorly placed bottle of cooking oil had taken the brunt of the excitement and spilled in the camper’s kitchen. I cleaned it up and continued on across southwestern Minnesota under grey clouds. I’d have to get things more settled or my planned leisurely pace across country would become a race to the sunset each day.

The clouds obscured the annular solar eclipse happening as I drove southwest. I was grateful it wasn’t raining. As the miles rolled by the sky slowly cleared a bit, then clouds closed back in. It was early evening when I arrived at Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area, located on the Lake Vermillion reservoir. The 52-acre lake is known for great fishing and has only one short hiking trail. The lake sits like a reverse “L.” I’d booked a site on the east shore where the campsites are strung along the long, north-south oriented lakeshore. The many sites have easy, direct access for kayakers. After checking in with the park staff, I found my way to the small loop where my site was set with a view of the lake.

This summer has been a steady opportunity to get my rhythm down when I take my camper out. I’d never towed anything before April. Never backed up a trailer. I’ve learned and been lucky. Picking a site with a straight approach is half the battle. I’ve gotten that down pretty well.

Backing the camper took throwing traditional methods aside. I had plenty of advice on how to do it, but my first attempts were multi-point efforts of ridiculous numbers. Then a colleague suggested a different approach and it changed everything. When they described it to me it made perfect sense. As I backed the camper in, I sent a little thank you to the west for the alternative perspective.

The wind had picked up a bit as I got settled into the site. Knowing I had a relatively long drive ahead the next day I decided to walk the campground and along the lake to stretch my legs before getting myself snug in the camper for the night. The loop took me back past the campsites strung along the reservoir, past a few folks fishing and in view of the homes on the hills above. It was peaceful to walk along the waterfront as evening.

Returning to my campsite, I made dinner and then a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I read and journaled for a little while. As the sky darkened and cleared, I opened the big shade to watch the stars for a while. Excited for the campsites ahead which I knew would bring big skies all around, I savored this first taste of a clear view of the depth of stars in the sky. As a bit of chill settled into the camper too, I tucked in for the night, stocking cap on my head for a bit of extra warmth with the goal of a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s drive further west.

Next Post Preview: I make my way across South Dakota to Badlands National Park for a return to one of my favorite campsites and the knowledge I’d be surrounded by big sky, prairie dogs and bison.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: My adventure camper is a lovely little teardrop made-to-order by the incredibly talented people at Vistabule in St. Paul, MN.

GEAR: Granite Gear Crown2 38 Pack, Marmot Kompressor Pack, Oboz Katabatic Mid Waterproof, Oboz Katabic Low, Mountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Light Jacket, Mountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Pant, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants, Gnara Go There™ Pants, Chickfly Merino Eucalyptus Leggings, Icebreaker Women’s Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top, Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Thermal Leggings, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent, Nemo Sonic™ 0 Down Sleeping Bag, Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, Exped Ultra 7R Mat, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, TOAKS Titanium 450ML Cup with Lid, 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”.


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