Day 46: Bemidji to Pine River - Racpat Northern Tier - CycleBlaze

July 16, 2021

Day 46: Bemidji to Pine River

On the Paul Bunyan Trail

“Say it ain’t so,” Rachel says. “Yes a headwind,” Patrick replies and mentions the wind is coming from the south and the Paul Bunyan Trail is going south, “but it’s nice with the trees, no wind and lots of shade.” Patrick adds.

We say goodbye to Mary and thank her again for her hospitality. She lives close to a street with a wide bike lane that connects to the bike trail that leads to the Paul Bunyan Trail Bridge over the highway. We are in a corridor of trees, and the trail is decent, much better than the shoulder on highway 2 with the constant divots. There really is not much between Bemidji and Walker. At Guthrie there is a shelter and a bike repair station. This ended up being the only one we saw today. At Laporte we stop at a large picnic shelter and walk across the road to pick up some chocolate milk. The shelter has several “no-camping” signs. Not something we like to see. This is so different from all the small town city parks in North Dakota.

On the other side of the line of trees are occasional farms and fields, and lakes. We reach the intersection where the Heartland Trail, the Mississippi River Trail and Paul Bunyan trail merge. At a Y junction we try to decipher the map and decide which way to go: there is small sign pointing left Downtown Walker but nothing about the trail that continues to the right. We decide the trail to the right is the Heartland Trail and if we take this we would meet back up to the PBT but on the stretch that has 8 ½ % grades. We want to avoid this.

Finally we decide we need to go into Walker and find the Shingobee Connector Trail. This was easy as the trail to the left pointing to Downtown Walker is the Connector Trail marked with a Pine tree and SCT symbol. This trail parallels highway 371 and is hilly. After about 7 miles we reach the junction where the trail once again is the Paul Bunyan Trail and flattens out.

Before Walker the trail has cracks down the middle repaired with black tar and looks like a drunk had tried to paint a dividing line. After Walker, the cracked lines are across the trail. It is still nice riding without the worry and sound of traffic, but there are lots of bumps. We see occasionally local cyclists and walkers. In Hackensack where we planned on staying tonight, we stop at the Visitors Center just off the trail and by the Statue of Lucette, Paul Bunyan’s girlfriend. We could camp in the park except the restrooms are closed at 9pm, there are no showers, and a summer concert is going to be held there 5-7pm.  The center sent us to the Owl’s Nest Motel as an option, but when we arrived, there is no tent camping, only RVs.

We go to the Thai Restaurant for Pad Thai and check out our options: at Pine River there is mention of some primitive sites along the trail and there is the Riverview RV Park. This would add another 16 miles to the day. Patrick calls the RV park and confirms they have tent camping and showers. We decide continue on and reach Backus and stop at the shelter for a break. Backus claim to fame is the Legend of the Corn Cobbler. “The town's legendary salesman, Col. Cobber, is honored with a chainsaw-carved living corn man created by Hackensack artist Ross Olsen in 2006.” In case you missed it, the legend is he was a great salesman.

In Pine River we stop for supplies at the store and continue on to where the primitive camp site should be. The trail off towards the river is blocked by a branches and the sign that used to be here has been removed. Not good….  Patrick goes to explore and walks down the trail a while. There doesn’t appear to be any campsites and there is a lot of trash on the trail. So we go on to the Riverview RV Park. We’ve had to cross Highway 371 twice now, it is a VERY busy road, but we've experienced "Minnesota Nice" with cars stopping to let us cross. At the RV Park, the manager shows us where to set up the tent for $25, then Rachel asks, “do you sell beer? We’ve had trouble figuring out where to buy it.” Then Patrick says, “instead of change how about some beers?” and later the manager brings us 4 canned beers. The upside is we have showers and Wi-Fi. The campground seems to be mostly occupied by permanent residents, but we find a grassy area and a picnic table in the shade to pass the afternoon. Since we had a good hot lunch we don’t cook and have sandwiches instead.

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Tomorrow in Brainerd a Warmshowers host. We hope they will have information on the next stretch of going to Isle and into Wisconsin.

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Guthrie is where we see the only bike work station
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Taking a break. Little Free Libraries are in every town.
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A confusing junction where the Heartland Trail and MRT converge with the PBT
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Shingobee Connection Trail from Walker back to the Paul Bunyan Trail
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The Junction where the Hilly 8.5% grades of the PBT from the Heartland State Trail.
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Back on the Paul Bunyan Trail toward Hackensack
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Lucette, the girlfriend of Paul Bunyan in Hackensack
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With no place to camp in Hackensack we continue on to Pine River
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Every town along the trail has something to claim, this is Colonel Cobbler in Backus
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Patrick checks out where the Primitive campsites are supposed to be...the sign is gone though still marked on the map.
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The Riverview RV Park is on the other side of Highway 371 from the trail.
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Today's ride: 68 miles (109 km)
Total: 1,874 miles (3,016 km)

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