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LENGTH 2.3 miles
DATE May 27, 2016
MAIN FEATURES Historic frontier town, Mississippi River, St. Francis Xavier Chapel
Crow Wing is a park rich in cultural history. In this area, a frontier town emerged to serve the needs of travelers and traders. The town died when the railroad chose to cross the river at Brainerd. Walk through the site of the Old Crow Wing Village for a sense of history. The park still has a section of the famous Woods Trail, which served ox cart traffic that carried supplies between St. Paul and the Red River settlements.
The hiking club trail is a fairly easy 2.3 mile hike through the woods that takes you through the Old Crow Wing Townsite, along Mississippi River, and through the convergence of the 3 major biomes in Minnesota. We hiked about 3 miles on this visit and learned that the park offers 6.5 miles of paved bike trail, which is the latest extension of the Paul Bunyan State Trail (115 total miles).
It rained a little on this hike and I got to test out my brand new super awesome thrift store score–a Gore-Tex Arc’tyrx rain jacket! You guys…it’s bombproof and I don’t care if it’s gigantic on me, I bring it on every trip now. If you can fork over the money for one, you’ll probably never need another rain jacket/shell again. The waterproof breathability made the hike in the rain so enjoyable.
We hiked along the shore of the Mississippi and waved across the river to the Camp Ripley Military Base. We continued up a thick wooded trail, in the mud and saw what we still believe to be moose tracks. They were HUGE! I have no idea if moose are supposed to be in this area, but I saw these same tracks again later in the year in Isle Royale, and we were just so tickled at the thought of a moose being in in the park.
Just towards the end of our hike, we encountered the strangest thing, a CHAPEL in the woods! The St. Francis Xavier Chapel was built to honor the first Catholic Mission in North Central Minnesota. I couldn’t find very much out there on the old chapel but Wikipedia had a little an interesting tidbit bit that tells a little about Father Pierz and what his life may have been like back in Old Crow Wing.
Father Pierz was assigned a mission field, comprising the whole of Minnesota north of the Twin Cities. He established his headquarters at the boomtown of Old Crow Wing, filled with saloons and honky tonks. It is now the site of Crow Wing State Park. Traveling on foot between his missions, Pierz carried on his back all that was necessary for saying Mass. The Ojibwa dubbed him, “Old Man, Black Gown.” Viewing him as a man of great spiritual power, they occasionally stole his socks to use as a folk remedy against rheumatism.
It looked so modern set unexpectedly in the woods and we walked around and explored it for quite some time. We couldn’t get inside, but I loved the architecture and imagined many a beautiful wedding happening here.
I’ll definitely come back to this park to explore the river and learn a little more about it’s rich history.