Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

History, mystery & more along the Straight River November 30, 2016



THERE WOULD BE NO HIKING in the River Bend Nature Center as the sun shifted toward dusk on a recent Sunday afternoon.

The sign, “CAUTION DEER HUNT IN PROGRESS,” caused Randy to step on the brakes, back up the car and exit the entry road. “I don’t think I want to be in the woods this time of day,” he said, explaining that hunters prefer to hunt at dusk and dawn. I wasn’t about to disagree with him.




So off we drove to find another trail, parking on a dead end street near the Straight River Trail in the northern section of Faribault. Our entry point started near an aged limestone building. We wondered aloud about the history of the structure so in need of repair.




I would later learn from Jeff Jarvis, local historian and community enrichment coordinator for the City of Faribault Parks and Recreation Department, that the building was constructed from local limestone in 1903 as the Faribault Gas and Electric Company. Electricity was transmitted by wire from the Cannon Falls hydroelectric facility to the Faribault plant and offered to Faribault customers, he said.




I knew none of this as I studied the historic structure, noting the blocked window openings, the crumbling limestone, the detailed workmanship, the piled pallets, the empty barrels. Melancholy seeped into my thoughts. I’m always dismayed when buildings like this, an important part of local history, succumb to weather and near abandonment.

After snapping photos, I continued along the paved trail, stepping aside as a biker whizzed by. In the distance a trio of walkers approached, one gripping a dog. I am often wary of meeting canines. But this service dog posed no threat.




Eventually, Randy and I veered from the paved path to a dirt trail leading to the Straight River. A massive fallen tree blocked us from reaching the river bank. We could only surmise that September flooding or past floods uprooted the many fallen trees in this flood plain.




I noticed a tire on a sandbar, a man in a blue jacket walking his dog on the other side of the river, a single leaf clinging to a twig.








Pink edged into the day, the light softening. Ideal for photography. We hiked back to the paved path, back toward the aged limestone building and then down once again toward the river along a rock hard trail. Clusters of pipes pocked the woods. We wondered about those and the padlocks fastened to some. A mystery.






Soon the earth softened to river sand as the trail twisted. A buzz of noise cut through the silence, headlights flashing through the woods as an ATV approached, followed by a dirt bike. We stepped aside, allowing the vehicles to skirt us. And we wondered whether they should be there, near the river. Probably not.








We ended our outing at Two Rivers Park, the convergence of the Cannon and Straight Rivers. Men fished. On a nearby path, another man pedaled a three-wheeler, his wheelchair strapped to the back. A woman walked her dog. And I paused on a bridge to photograph the Faribault Woolen Mill and the golden sky.




And then, after crossing under Second Avenue via a recreational trail, I photographed a duck rippling water and light in the Cannon River. Lovely in the gloaming of this November day.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “History, mystery & more along the Straight River”

  1. A Day In The Life… Nice!

  2. Marilyn Says:

    What a great photo story, Audrey. Thanks, much appreciated as usual.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Beautiful walk with you today. Thank you!

  4. Don Says:

    Nice relaxing and contemplative afternoon, thanks for the pictures!

  5. Don Says:

    I like balmy weather, wish we had some here as it’s currently 27 BELOW F. and getting colder………..

  6. **I’m always dismayed when buildings like this, an important part of local history, succumb to weather and near abandonment**

    Such a superb metaphor for life!

    Thank you, dear, for continually bringing me w/ you on your wonderful adventures!

  7. Emily Says:

    I know I comment so infrequently now, but I do want to take a moment to iterate how grateful I still am for your posts. Slices of life, shown and expressed beautifully. Happy holiday season, Audrey!

    • Thank you, dear Emily. And now I am over to check out your writing. When I had my computer in to the shop awhile ago, I lost all of my blog subscriptions, thus my absence from your site. I relied too much on technology and not my mind to remember some of my favorite writers. You are one of them.

  8. Sue Ready Says:

    What I admire about your writing is the ability to take the mundane things in life and elevate them to a whole new level with your insightful words.
    Thanks for sharing:)

    • I am humbled by your specific observations of my writing. I am drawn to the ordinary, to the everyday, to that which is seemingly plain rather than glitzy. My joy is found in the everyday ordinary which is truly extraordinary if we choose to see that.

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    I love this casual day… full of wonderment, questions and thoughts. That last photo is a beauty. I would have to investigate those locks on the pipes. Very weird!

  10. Stunning pictures. I especially like the second to last one. They are all so peaceful looking

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