Melanie Fensick of Plainville, Connecticut didn’t believe the Paul Bunyan Trail was completely paved from end to end.
After roller blading 100 miles and seven days from Bemidji to Brainerd she was amazed at just how smooth, remote and friendly the trail is.
The chemist and fitness trainer has taken a roller blade vacation each year for the last seven years. She has skated the Cape Cod Trail, the East Bay Trail in Rhode Island and the Heart Montgue Trail in Michigan.
She wanted to try something different, some more remote and longer than before. While studying rail trails across the nation she discovered the Paul Bunyun Trail. It was exactly what she was looking for.
The trail was easy to get to and from. She flew into Minneapolis and hopped a short flight to Bemidji. At the end in Brainerd, she caught an airport shuttle back to the airport. Since there are so many towns along the way, she was able to stay in hotels, a bed and breakfast and a resort along the way.
She carried nothing more than a change of clothes, spare parts and tools in her bag. She has learned it is important to make reservations long the way and to talk with the people she plans to stay with.
“I find people are very accommodating once you let them know what you are doing. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you need.” said Fensick.
She set out from Bemidji on June 29 but had to walk the first couple hours because of rain. Once the trail dried off she was appreciated how smooth the trail was and how remote the area.
“Coming from out east, I’ve never skated through such a remote area. I saw only four bikers that first day,” said Fensick.
The quality of the paved trail helped her skate her longer than usual up to 20 miles with time to spare at the end of the day.
She operates on a five-mile-plan; taking breaks every five miles.
She decided to skate the Paul Bunyan Trail when she learned the bed and breakfast in Walker offered a shuttle.
“On a solo trip you need to know you have a back up. I always keep in contact with the places I stay in case I need help,” said Femsick.
“The owners at the B and B were very helpful. The owners greeted me with chocolate covered Oreos and gave me lots of information on the trail,” said Fensick.
She planned to take the Shingobee Trail that routes around the Chippewe National Forest and it helped to know there was a big hill at the start.,
She took her first a rest day in Hackensack where she stayed at aresort.
“The people here were so helpful. They let me stay for only two nights, provided me with towels and a sweatshirt when it got cold.”
“I’ve never seen little towns like this. I explored Hackensack, did laundry, bought a puzzle and read a book,” said Fensick.
While the natural aspects of the trail were impressive she said the towns stand out the most. She appreciated learning the culture and folklore along the Paul Bunyan Trail. Her favorite was the Colonel Cobber statue in Backus and the railroad depot in Pine River where she also learned about chicken drummies and walleye pike in a restaurant.
Fensick arrived in Nisswa in time to watch the evening Fourth of July parade of fancy boats.
After 100 miles of roller blading she treated herself to a nice hotel room in Brainerd.
“I must admit, I was hard to step off the trail, knowing the trip was over. But I treated myself to a big meal of buffalo wild wings. The Paul Bunyan Trail is an easy trail to roller blade, it’s well maintained, people are friendly and helpful,” added Fensick.