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Averaging 10 miles a day, Canadian crosses Minnesota in an oxcart

Terry Doerksen is retracing the old Red River Ox Cart Trail.

WADENA, Minn — A Canadian is turning heads as he travels across Minnesota riding a wooden cart, pulled by an ox.

Terry Doerksen left Winnipeg on May 17 with St. Paul as his destination. He’s retracing the path of the Red River Ox Cart Trail, a primary shipping route for fur traders and other merchants in the mid-1800s.

Every summer, hundreds of ox-pulled carts navigated the dirt trail, often in lengthy wagon trains.  

Doerksen said carts traveling south often carried furs and buffalo robes. On the way back north, he said the carts were filled with all sorts of merchandise needed back in Canada. 

“Farm implements, they brought a piano back, they brought a very heavy church bell back, that was all by cart,” Doerksen said. 

This summer, it’s just Doerksen, Zik his ox, and Doerksen’s wife Patty, who drives the motor home where the couple sleeps along the way.

Monday morning, the couple passed through Wadena, more than 300 miles into their journey.

“There’s a history side, which I love. I love touching and feeling and experiencing what people did 150 years ago,” Doerksen said.

Doerksen said he prays for Winnipeg as he navigates dirt, gravel, and paved roads, remaining as close as possible to the route used for the original oxcart trail.

Averaging 10 miles per day, travel has been slower than Doerksen expected. So, later this week, he’ll be trucking his ox and cart to St. Paul where he plans to finish his journey on Sunday.

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