Back to Basics is back in person in Pine River

In its first year back in full steam after the COVID-19 pandemic, Back to Basics features the workshops and vendors attendees depend on

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Carrie Jennings, with the Freshwater Society of Minnesota, showed maps and described how glaciers moved across Minnesota and made its many lakes at the Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, Back to Basics event in Pine River.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — Returning to a traditional, in-person format after disruption from COVID-19, Back to Basics opened with a deep dive into Minnesota lakes — specifically, how they were formed.

The keynote speaker opening the event Saturday, Feb. 11, at Pine River-Backus School was Research and Policy Director Carrie Jennings, who has a Ph.D. and is with the Freshwater Society of Minnesota.

She talked about the millions of years and complicated processes that shaped Minnesota and its over 10,000 lakes.

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From high enough, the paths that glaciers traveled across Minnesota are visible, as seen in this slide presented by Carrie Jennings at the Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, Back to Basics event in Pine River.
Contributed / Carrie jennings

Jennings described the ways glaciers moved across what is now land in Minnesota during one stage of the ice age, and how they scraped, pushed and deposited soils to shape the landscape seen today.

Not limited to simple audible storytelling, she came equipped with maps of parts or the whole state, viewed with such detail that massive imprints, impacts and many mile long drag marks can be seen stretching, in some cases, county to county.


The patterns and paths would not be visible up close, but seen from very far away, become suddenly clear.

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Jami Nelson, owner of Just Juice, led a workshop on the nutritional benefits of adding freshly squeezed, raw juices to your daily routine during the Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, Back to Basics event. She shared a mix of carrots and fruit with the class as an example.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

She took special note of how the land looks almost swept flat west of Spider Lake west of Backus. To the east of Spider Lake, in the Foot Hills State Forest, the landscape is rows of small hills formed almost like a rug that has been bunched up on a floor.

Jennings' presentation showed how glaciers dragged rocks from the west, north and east into the state, providing clues and observable evidence of the long gone process and where the glaciers came from.

For example, gray shales come from the glacial lake Agassiz in North Dakota and basalt comes from the great lakes to the northeast.

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Wood turned bowls were just one of many handmade wares on display at the vendor fair at the Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, Back to Basics event in Pine River.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Jennings explained the various ways that this glacial movement led to the shape of area lakes, including Mille Lacs, which was formed when glaciers deposited rocks and sediments into natural dam-like structures surrounding a low spot that was filled with water.

Jennings described how layers of mud at the bottom of a lake hold clues to the history of the state's vegetation. Pollen in the mud, which is apparently hardy enough to last many, many years, can be found in separate layers showing what kinds and how much foliage covered the state at various times in history.

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Ashley Diederich quizzes her children, Bennett and Haven, on the various structures and inhabitants of soil inside of an interactive soil health tunnel at the Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023, Back to Basics event in Pine River.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Jennings was just one of many knowledgeable professionals speaking at the event. There were nearly 50 workshops with topics ranging from mental health and suicide to blacksmithing to soil health to wild mushrooms.

Outside of the workshops, and open to the public, vendors filled the Pine River-Backus Performance Gym with hand-made and sustainable products and offered their expertise on countless subjects, including the National Loon Center, holistic approaches to better health, wood turning and soil health.


This marked the 17th annual Back to Basics, which brings a large variety of skills and products to Pine River-Backus School.

Enjoy free access to klick! photo galleries on

Sponsored by Happy Dancing Turtle and Pine River-Backus Community Education, the sustainable living event was digital or spread out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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