By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — How long do you think it would take to walk across Minnesota? The answer is about 5 minutes — at least in Kanabec County.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how one family has made that possible.

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From ground level, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But from the sky you can see how hundreds of stately pines form the state of Minnesota.

(credit: CBS)

“I feel proud about it. I’m happy about it. My brother is a retired pilot, so he’s flown over and taken aerial pictures,” said Nancy Sylvester.

This Minnesota-shaped forest was on Nancy’s property long before she and her husband John moved in. Its creator was a relative named Luther Loftness.

“He wanted to do something for the Minnesota Centennial. And that was to lay out the map of Minnesota in Norway Pine,” said Rod Foss, Luther’s nephew.

That was 1958. After getting the dimensions just right, Luther planted 2,500 trees on a little over an acre of land. Then he literally watched the state grow.

Minnesota itself is about 415 miles long from Jackson in the south to International Falls in the north. This version is just a tad smaller.

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“From the south border to the tip of the Northwest Angle is about 260 feet,” said Rod.

That makes for a short hike from Rochester to Duluth, or Mankato to Moorhead.

Through the years, Rod and his brother Bill have helped Nancy and John maintain the wooded lot.

“It might be one of the reasons I ended up as a forester,” said Bill Foss.

A retired DNR forester, Bill saw the woods weather storms and droughts and even a beetle infestation, which looks like it took out a chunk of Crow Wing County.

“We put bark beetle traps up and it did solve the problem,” Bill said.

Years later a North Star was added next to the state. Luther’s family hopes the 80 foot pines that make up the North Star forest, are seen from the sky for decades to come; enjoyed by travelers who love this state as much as they do.

“I’m sure that there is a smile on their face,” said Nancy. “As long as it can be, yes, as long as it can be.”

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Bill said every so often the forest needs to be thinned to maintain its health. There is another forest shaped like the state on public land in Williams, Minnesota.

John Lauritsen