The Hedeens on Skunk Lake

A physician talking with a patient in St. Paul in the 1940s was the start of the Skunk Lake adventure.

The patient knew of 200 acres and a very rustic cabin on Skunk Lake, 17 miles north of Park Rapids. Soon after, the physician, Dr. Sidney Hedeen, piled his family into the car for the day-long trip to Park Rapids. They found the woods, the lake and the rustic cabin appealing but the purchase price was a problem. On returning to the St. Paul, Dr. Hedeen talked a colleague into buying half the land which made the transaction affordable and, thus, the beginning of the Skunk Lake adventure.

25 or more years later, in the early 1970s, Dr. Hedeen had passed the 100 acres and a newer cabin on to his son, Carter and his new wife, Florence. Dr. Hedeen’s colleague also decided it was time to pass his 100 acres on and offered the land to Carter and Florence for a bargain price … the price he originally paid for the land plus the taxes he’d paid over the years. Even at that price, Carter, now a young doctor, and Florence had to scrape to come up with the purchase price. “We knew it was the thing to do but, to come up with the price, we went so far as to cash in some insurance policies,” Carter said.

Fast forward 40 years, to today. Carter and Florence have a home in Park Rapids, where he spent his career practicing osteopathic medicine. And they still have the Skunk Lake property, now with a new cabin they built themselves just after retirement in 2000. The cabin is cozy and rustic, with no running water, no plumbing and no electricity. It was built with as many recycled windows and other materials as the Hedeens could find. Being just 17 miles from home, the couple spends a lot of time here, winter and summer.

The Woods
The land is rolling hills covered with birch, aspen and pine. The Hedeens purchased an updated Stewardship Plan last year that included the ecological classification analysis of their properly. Harvey Tjader, the ecologist who did the work, concluded, “This land is made for pine.” Heeding the advice, the Hedeens planted 500 white pines last year and now spend many hours each fall bud capping the young trees to protect them from deer.

The Hedeens’ Passion
The Hedeen’s believe in volunteering, starting with Florence’s two-year stint in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corp in the 1960s.

While they love the cabin, the lake and the woods, today the Hedeens’ passion is the North Country Trail which is a 4,600 mile walking trail extending from Lake Champlain on the Vermont-New York border to the Missouri River in central North Dakota. The Hedeens’ interest is in the 45-mile segment from the Cass / Morrison county line west to Itasca State Park.

Because the North Country trail is for walking only, it consists of a two-foot wide walking track with another one foot on each side cleared of brush. Being so narrow, all the work on the trail is done by hand, cutting brush and then grubbing out the roots. Since 2000, Carter has invested over 5,000 hours working alone and with others while covering the 45 mile segment multiple times. Today this section of the trail is completed so the Hedeens’ work is limited to annual maintenance. See more information at

So, that conversation between doctor and patient more than 60 years ago led to a lifetime in Park Rapids, on Skunk Lake and on the North Country Trail.