Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part III from Hackensack: A close call along Highway 371 October 27, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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TOOLING ALONG MINNESOTA State Highway 371 just south of Hackensack on the second to last day of our Up North vacation, Randy and I chatted and watched the northwoods landscape pass by. We’d had a good past five days exploring this part of the state, attending a book release party and visiting with friends.

Except for the cool and rainy mid-September weather and me forgetting my swimsuit, our much-needed get-away to the Brainerd Lakes and Park Rapids areas and to Hackensack had gone well. But that almost changed. Almost.

Ahead of us on the shoulder of the opposite traffic lane, we spotted a large bird huddled and feasting on roadkill. We expected a crow.

But as the van drew nearer, we identified the bird as a bald eagle. With my Canon DSLR camera in my lap, I was excited about the prospect of photographing the eagle.


An eagle sculpture at Veterans Memorial Park in Morristown. Imagine if this was a live eagle flying over your vehicle. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012 used here for illustration purposes only.


That did not happen because…moments before our vehicle drew even with the eagle, the bird lifted off from the roadside. That would have been OK except for one problem. The eagle flew directly toward our traffic lane and our van.

In that moment, thoughts flashed of the eagle slamming into, and through, our windshield. Instinctively I ducked. Massive talons and an impressive wing span filled my view as the eagle flew over our windshield. This bird of prey is much larger than you think when observed from an underside open wing span perspective.

Randy estimates the eagle missed our van by four feet. He later told me he swerved slightly toward the fog line hoping to soften the blow of impact. I had no sense of him doing that.

Looking back on this incident, I am thankful the eagle cleared our windshield. But I’m kicking myself for missing what would have been a heckuva photo.


FYI: This concludes my series from Hackensack. Click here to read my first post and then my second.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Part III from Hackensack: A close call along Highway 371”

  1. Whew – that ended well with Randy’s quick thinking. I still remember the time a flock of quail hit the hood/windshield of our car when living out west. Luckily the windshield held. Then we were traveling cross country from out west to here and in Texas we had a vulture heading towards the windshield (the wind was horrible) and Mr. Craves did some swift driving to avoid a collision. I have been up close to a full adult male bald eagle and they are pretty good sized. Glad all work out. Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  2. Lynne King Says:

    Audrey, I share your excitement and awe. I never tire of seeing and photographing eagles. While reading your post, I remembered the first time I encountered and eagle flying “at” my car. It was both frightening and awesome. I’ve since had them circle above me and screech at me if I’m too close. Keep up the good work and you’ll get your shot!

    • Thanks for the encouragement. The flying at the car perspective is something I don’t need to experience again, though. Love your photography, BTW.

      • Lynne King Says:

        You’re correct….it can be very scary to have them coming at you and so close. They are huge birds for sure. Thank you for the compliment. Have a great weekend!

  3. Don Says:

    Scary stuff Audrey! Birds of all types are enjoyable to look at from a proper distance but very scary when they try to occupy the same airspace as your vehicle at the same time. I’ve had close encounters and actual encounters in cars and airplanes. The close encounter surely give you a quick shot of adrenaline but the actual encounters make a huge mess and have caused some substantial damage. Evasive action on Randy’s part was a good thing or you may have had an unwelcomed additional passenger or mess! Wouldn’t it be great if you could slow down time (or turn it back) in order to get a close up picture ….

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    That would give anyone a scare! Glad all turned out ok thanks to Randy’s skills! Beautiful birds but best to not have a close encounter!

  5. Valerie Says:

    I think you got an amazing photo of that eagle. Whoa…too close for comfort I’d say but what a beautiful sight!

  6. Jackie Says:

    Whew, that was a close one, and you’re right what a photo that would have been. Last weekend the great up north had plenty of eagles to observe, they flew over our cabin and along the road on our drive home. We also observed two eagles picking at road kill….they are so active right now.

  7. Littlesundog Says:

    I think you did a pretty good job of describing the close call… enough that I could feel your reaction of ducking. I’m glad the eagle managed to get away. I often wonder why some birds that feast on roadkill wait so long to flee.

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow that is one huge bird 🦅 glad everything turned out good

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