Weekend Get Away - The Minnesota Pipestone Region

post by Kay Nelson

Weekend Wildcard September 27 & 28


Pipestone Here We Come!

The Pipestone area has beckoned to me for years.  Visions of wide-open prairie, glacial rocks with petroglyphs, a waterfall, and buffalo herds tantalized me.  After enduring a summer of too much noisy construction, a friend and I took off on a Friday morning and headed south on Highway 169 to explore another part of the state of Minnesota!


The drive through the Minnesota River valley is charming and one could see there soon would be a dramatic display of leaf color.  We headed over to Interstate 90 and passed through the turkey capitol, Worthington, and headed north to Luverne.  The fields were full of banks of wind turbines, corn, soybeans and skyscraper-like storage bins.  And of course, there was a cute restaurant for lunch where we could not believe the low small-town luncheon prices.


Our first scenic stop was at the Blue Mounds State Park.  If you are a birder, there are close to 300 species to check off your lifetime list.  A herd of buffalo was out of camera range, but here is a viewing tower to get a better look and pictures when they are near. Minnesota photographer Jim Brandenburg has a gallery in Luverne with gorgeous photos of them.   There were campers and the campsite even contained a couple of teepees. (Ornamental?)  We walked a short trail, but could have spent a whole day exploring the various ones.


As it was almost time to check in at our B&B, we made a quick stop at the Pipestone National Monument and were so impressed we decided to drive back the next morning.  Travis, a 4th generation Native American was busy carving an eagle's claw in pipestone and the outdoor trails looked inviting.


Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the Triple L Farm near Henricks, MN.  Owner Joan Larson's hog farm has been turned into a bed-and-breakfast. (LLLFarmBB.com) Before saying "Ewww" the hogs have been gone for years and we stayed in two upstairs rooms in the 1890 farm house.  An old upright piano, antiques, a fireplace and comfy furniture awaited us.  While visiting with Joan we learned she had worked at the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT and one of her relatives married the youngest Von Trapp DSC03974son.  Yes, she knew Maria!  The next morning I waltzed right to the piano and started playing Edelweiss and other hits of the movie and Broadway play while my friend and Joan sang along.  She served us a delicious breakfast of Pannekoeken, bacon strips and a cold fruit compote washed down by a great cup of coffee or three.  It was time to head back to Pipestone to see the sites before heading northeast for home.

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The Pipestone National Monument has an amazing visitor center.  We started out by watching a 20 mn DVD on the area which told the heartbreaking story of how the Native Americans were put in boarding schools and other historical information.  Now the quarries for obtaining pipestone are only available to the Native population and many of them consider it a religious experience to do the back-breaking work.  We gazed at the Pipestone Petroglyphs and made an executive decision to bypass the Jeffers Petroglyphs rationalizing we could always come back!! Then we headed to the well-maintained trails and looked at the quarries, Lake Hiawatha, and trees with prayer flags containing ceremonial pouches of tobacco fluttering in the breeze.  The highlight for me was looking at the waterfall while climbing over rocks.


Last, but not least we headed into the historic section of the town to visit the 1888 Calumet Hotel and noted the architecture of the old city hall turned history museum.  We bypassed an old fort and the park where "The Song of Hiawatha" pageant was held for 60 years.  We also learned that we missed a famous bakery that Lynn Rosetta Kasper recommended, but hey it was time to head home and we had our share of calories!  Linda played a CD of an Indian pipe flute and as we drove closer to the Metro it seemed way out of character.


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