The beds at The Chase on the Lake were extremely comfortable, and I got a good night’s sleep. Since we did not close the curtains on our lakeside room, I awoke at 5:00 AM when the first sunlight stretched across the water – what a fabulous way to wake up! I worked on our blog until the alarm went off at 7 AM. We decided to eat breakfast at Walker Bay Coffee Company, which is located about two blocks from the hotel. I had a delicious breakfast sandwich and purchased a decadent sweet roll for later on the trail 🙂 .
We left the hotel about 9 AM and pedaled west a couple of miles to the junction of the Heartland & Paul Bunyan trails where we turned north. The first 12 miles passed by quickly as Joyce and I discussed our upcoming planning meeting for the Clayton State Retirees Association. We passed through Benedict without even noticing and stopped in Laporte for a quick bathroom break (porta potty style). After five more miles, we reached Guthrie where we ate our previously purchased cinnamon roll. It was SO scrumptious that I wished we had purchased one apiece! I noticed another senior-aged couple in the parking lot, and I asked them for directions to the Paul Bunyan Trail Office in Bemidji. They have lived nearby for several years but had never heard of a trail office. We shared stories about the trails that we both had ridden when I suddenly realized that I was getting several bug bites on my legs. I sprayed my arms and legs with Skin-so-Soft Bug Repellant by Avon, and we resumed our bike ride.
During the next 11 miles to Bemidji, we encountered a brief rain shower. A biker traveling in the opposite direction warned us about the approaching rain so Joyce and I put on our waterproof jackets. Although we felt a few rain drops and the trail ahead was wet, we were fortunate enough to miss the rain. As the skies became brighter, we removed our steamy jackets at the next town.
Today’s ride seemed more like the “Northwoods.” The trail was more remote, and there were beautiful stretches of northern pines. We approached a large deer grazing along the edge of the trail, and he stared at us as if he did not usually see people. Speaking of people, we only encountered a handful of bikers today – another reason that the trail seemed more isolated.
We arrived in Bemidji about 1:00 PM and took an extension trail along the lake to the Visitor Center where the original Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox statues are located. The agent at the visitor center was extremely helpful, offering us maps of Bemidji with instructions for locating Ruttger’s Resort, our accommodations for the night.
With our bikes chained to a post at the visitor center, we walked across the busy highway to Subway where we purchased lunch. Since it was sunny and hot outside, we chose to eat in the cool air condition before proceeding east around Lake Bemidji. We somehow missed the trail on the other side of town, but we were fortunate to find a teenager on his bike who offered to let us follow him back over to the trail.
The trail followed the rim of the lake and provided brief glimpses of the water through the trees. In a couple of miles, we crossed over the Mississippi River as it flows east out of Lake Bemidji. Dean at the Bemidji Visitor Center explained that the path of the Mississippi River actually forms a question mark as it flows north into Lake Bemidji before curving and heading south. Tomorrow, on our way to the airport in Fargo, we plan to drive over to the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca about 30 miles southwest of Bemidji.
As we continued north, we passed a few rollerbladers who were gliding along about 11 mph! When we reached the intersection leading west to Bemidji State Park, we decided to continue north for a couple more miles to the official end of the Paul Bunyan Trail. The trail ended abruptly at the intersection of a highway, and we noticed that the unpaved Blue Ox Trail to Canada started across the road. We chatted with a couple staying at the state park and then turned around and headed south to the cut-off trail leading to Bemidji State Park. The short, somewhat hilly ride passed through a dense hardwood forest leading to the park’s picnic area and campground. I felt this trailhead marked a more significant ending for the trail. We took some celebratory photos and ate a cookie beside the lake 🙂 .
Continuing out of the state park, the trail followed the road for about 2-3 miles before we turned left into Ruttger’s. I chose this resort as our final destination several months ago. It is a family-owned, historic resort which has served northern Minnesota for 100 years! The lakeside resort is comprised of two lodges and numerous cabins. We were fortunate enough to upgrade to a cabin located 20 feet from the lake’s shore! Our cabin is rustic, but it reminds me of the camps I stayed at as a teenager and later as a youth advisor.
Joyce and I parked our bikes in the screen porch of the cabin, put on our bathing suits, and walked down to the boathouse where we rented a canoe (all of the kayaks were already rented). We paddled a couple of miles around the northern fringe of the lake and spotted a loon, the Minnesota state bird. On our return trip, we noticed that there were now two loons feeding in the same area. We quietly paddled toward the birds, and I was able to take a few close-up pictures 🙂
We returned the canoe and sipped a free glass of wine (Joyce had water) and ate some crackers & cheese on our way to the indoor pool. Joyce swam laps while I soaked in the hot tub. After changing our clothes, we walked over to the hotel restaurant where we were fortunate to find a table on the outside terrace overlooking the lake. We split a pizza and enjoyed watching a family climb the 30-foot inflatable mountain and then dive into the lake.
Today was a very special day! We finished the Paul Bunyan Trail, marking my last Hall of Fame Trail! I chose to celebrate by staying at a historic resort which was once frequented by millionaires and important dignitaries, including Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. Although biking the Hall of Fame Trails does not require fame or fortune, I feel that what we have accomplished is significant. As darkness covered the lake, I sat on the front porch of the cabin listening for the loon’s choir-like song, and I decided that no other praise for our achievement would be quite as special!