Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Soudan Underground Mine State Park, The Hike...and Lake Vermilion State Park!: September 21st, 2013

Once we returned topside from our Mine Tour, we checked out some of the aboveground mine buildings before heading out on the Soudan Underground Mine Hiking Club Trail.

Joe on the way to inspect the crushing house

Most of the aboveground equipment is kind of rusty and confusing.  I'm not sure what all of those big gears and works were for, but they were impressive for size if nothing else.  We were on a bit of a tight schedule, so we left behind the rusty things and got to hikin'.

Joe in the forest

I was kind of surprised at how many deciduous trees there were in Soudan.  I kind of thought it would be a pine forest, like the one that I live in on the North Shore.  We did see plenty of pine trees, of course, but easily half of them were aspens and birches and friends.  I bet that it's very impressive during fall color.

One interesting note: it's getting chilly on the North Shore, but apparently it's nothing like it was last year.  It was one year ago on Monday that we went on the Bean and Bear Lakes loop leaf-peeping trip, and the North Shore was erupting in fall color.  This year, fall color is maybe at 5-10%.  Big difference!  Last year's drought probably had a lot to do with it.

Ye Olde Open Pit Mine

Joe mentioned that the area reminded him of the quarries that he used to play in as a kid in St. Cloud.  The open pits of Soudan were pretty impressive, but very much taken back by nature.  These mines were abandoned because the iron ore was too expensive and difficult to get to.  I wonder what would happen if the easy-to-access iron ore was depleted: would this pit ever reopen?  I hope not.

There's some pines

Confession time: we skipped about half a mile of the Hiking Club Trail.  We couldn't help ourselves - there was a loop trail option that spurred out of Soudan Underground Mine State Park...and into the newest Minnesota State Park, Lake Vermilion State Park!  The trail appeared to be an already existing seasonal snowmobile trail that crossed over onto what was now State Parkland.  The half mile of trail that we hiked in Lake Vermilion State Park are the only ones that are currently developed.  The park will someday have trails and a campground and all sorts of amenities - but right now it's just that little spur off of Soudan.  It'd be fun to explore the undeveloped land of Lake Vermilion State Park...maybe someday.

No signs told us when exactly we entered Lake Vermilion, but we did find a sign letting us know that we were re-entering Soudan.  It was fun to explore Minnesota's newest State Park, even if only for a half a mile.

We'll be back, Lake Vermilion State Park!

Obviously, the mine is the main attraction at Soudan Underground Mine State Park.  However, I think that anyone who goes on the mine tour (and everyone should) should also do the 2.5 mile Hiking Club trail.  It's downright pleasant, an easy hike, and you get to spend time in the forest.  You can't beat that.  Plus, it's good to breathe in the fresh air after being 2,300 feet underground.

The winding road

Total miles hiked today: 3.0 (2.5 Hiking Club, .5 spur)
Total miles hiked in 2013: 91.8
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2013: 19.7
Total ticks today: 0
Total ticks in 2013: 54

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