Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Along a river valley backroad near Mazeppa August 9, 2022

The first scene off the highway was this fenced farm site with that lovely aged barn. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

BACKROADS IN ESPECIALLY remote rural regions often yield an eclectic mix of discoveries. Like those spotted along a gravel road off Wabasha County Road 21 in the Zumbro River Valley between Mazeppa and Oronoco in southeastern Minnesota. A homemade roadside sign for Mac’s Park Place drew Randy and me to take a path into the unknown.

On the way to Mac’s, a 1950s restored Oliver tractor peeks out from a weathered shed. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

I photographed some of the sights along that short route from the highway back to Mac’s, a bar, restaurant and campground along the Zumbro River.

Mabe’s. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

What we saw remains somewhat of a mystery, especially Mabe’s Deer Camp. Was this once a public place for hunters and others to gather? Or was this (is this) a private hunting retreat for friends and family?

Skulls identify Mabe’s as a deer hunting camp. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

And who is Mabe?

Signage on a truck parked by Mabe’s. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

I expect locals could tell me lots of stories. Or I can spin my own backwoods river stories about Mabe’s, imagination running rampant.

A vintage gas pump sign outside Mabe’s. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

That’s the thing about backroads. You see oddities that leave you wondering. And sometimes it’s OK to wonder, to not have all the answers. To delight in the simply seeing. In-the-moment appreciation for that which unfolds before you, unexpectedly.

Also headed back to Mac’s Park Place, a converted school bus. Maybe a party bus. Maybe a camper. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

TELL ME: What oddities have you discovered along a back country road?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Along a river valley backroad near Mazeppa”

  1. These would have made my hummm…file blog! I loved it the door of the truck signage. You caught some great photos.

  2. beth Says:

    these finds are always fascinating to me, and like you, I wonder about the stories behind them. once, in northern Michigan, my sister and I happened upon a store, offering spices, souvenirs, etc. everything you’d imagine from a little store not too far from a lake where many go to relax and get away. the store was cute and when we walked out the back, there was a garden and little shed filled with horrible scary images and items! kind of on the order of a creepy haunted house but not fun, doll heads, etc.- such an odd contrast.

  3. Years ago, I lived in a very small town and there was a beautiful natural hot springs that the locals knew about. It was hard to find, well off the beaten track. You had to know someone that knew someone to find it.
    I remember a saloon that looked very much like the front of Mabe’s. It was very popular with the local deer and elk hunters.
    Nice piece, Audrey. 🙂

  4. It’s always fun to visit back roads. Most surprising thing found that sticks in my mind was in Australia where we spotted a microwave turned into a mailbox. I thought it was brilliant!

  5. Valerie Says:

    I love to go on back roads, and off-the =-beaten trails. Can’t remember anything specific right now, but I’m glad you shared what you found on this back road.

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