Twenty days ago, My brother, his wife and I, headed up to Lake Superior. Making a day of wandering along the northern coast. I had never been up there in the winter months and was quite curious about what much of it would look like. We started by chasing waterfalls. Figuring we would go to the most northerly destination first and make our way south from there. We arrived at stop number one and proceeded to be very underwhelmed, the falls were a mass of ice without any detail, or interesting ice formations at all. Ok, that’s fine, let’s hit My favorite waterfall next! A ten minute drive and a short hike later, we arrived! But, it was also a bit of a let down… The ice was not very photogenic. Realizing that the best Ice shots were probably to be had early in the winter, as opposed to our venture near winter’s end, we wandered back towards the car. Instead of taking the trail, we walked on the river. Which turned out to be very memorable! All was well for the first half of the stroll, but then we started encountering some pretty thin sounding ice. My sister in law being pregnant and carrying five thousand dollars in camera gear myself, we departed from the river walk and scrambled back up the hill to the trail. It was pretty rad walking on water though, even if it led to much anxiousness and a bit of fear..
After that, we made our way back towards the south. Pausing for a quick view of this rock beach that I had visited with a friend last year. It is actually private property, but I was a bit suprised to see that there was no sign of humans there. Clearly, this place was actually owned by deer. Who had left plenty of tracks in the snow… There were some pretty cool frozen rock walls, held together by ice. Some spots had a four or five foot overhang. It was pretty neat, especially because of the icey build up on the southern point in this miniature bay.
Then, we stopped at Tettegouche State Park. The crown jewel of the state parks system here in Minnesota. Opting not to bother with the hike inland to the falls, we stayed along the coast and were dazzled by the ice built up around the shore line. Many pictures were taken, much time passed by and just like My previous visits to this park, I did not want to leave…
We did leave this wintery wonderland though. The pregnant one among us was getting pretty tired. So we stopped at Palisade Head, where I took a lonely walk up to the the high ground. Pausing to take a shot of the communication tower piercing through the bold sun dog above, I made it to the overlook. What a view! You can see the southern quarter of the rolling hills to the north and the endless glitter of Lake Superior to the south. It was by far the easiest hike of the day and yielded one of the most spectacular perspectives on the north shore…
Continuing south towards Duluth, we made one more stop. So I could take some pictures of the light house at Split Rock. Unlike anywhere to the north, the bay was mostly iced over. Having walked down a river of ice a few hours earlier, I started My way out to the edge of the bay, walking on the lake… There is an island a couple hundred yards out. I noticed some people were on the island and also made note of the many lines of foot prints in the thin snow all around the bay. The ice was pretty thick, so I was quite confident as I wandered towards the spot where one can take a picture with the island and light house together. About a third of the way there however, there was a cracking sound and the ice shifted under My feet. Not by much, maybe an inch and a half, but I watched a crack form, a foot or so to the side of Me that stretched all the way out to open water. Heartbeat increasing to a rapid pace, I hopped over the crack. Which was inbetween Me and solid ground and hurried off the ice.. I then snapped a couple shots of the light house and neglected to make it out to the planned location of shooting. Adrenaline flowing, I walked the path back to where My brother and his wife were waiting and we departed.
We made a pit stop in Duluth to fill our bellies. Then decided there was still time for another stop. My brother and I were both curious to see Jay Cooke state park. We had camped there a few years ago, but wanted to see what it looked like now. The reason for this curiousity is that two years ago, a damm just up stream from the park broke. Sending a gnarly torrent of flooding southward in to the park. It washed away the bridge that is the only real access to the camp sites and many miles of hiking trails. The water was super low compared to our previous visit and there was a spiffy new bridge over the river. If there were any other real differences, they were hiding under ice and snow..
With the sun sinking in the sky and home being over two hundred miles away, we hopped back in the car and made our way south toward the Twin Cities. Quite the successful day trip! We even got to enjoy a pretty lovely sunset as we cruised down the interstate, on our way home…
We are fortunate to have a picturesque waterfall, within the urban sprawl of the Twin Cities. Minnehaha falls, a very popular spectacle. I’ve taken pictures of it before, but had not investigated what is possibly it’s most awesome feature in a long time. Over the years, the falls have eroded a sizable amount of rock out from behind it. Making it possible to wander behind the beautiful waterfall. The ice laden cavern was about three times wider than My last visit, some 10+ years ago. Allowing for some pretty rad pictures. Sediment captured in the ice gave a pretty cool rainbow effect in some sections. Awesome stuff!
As many of You know, there was a total lunar eclipse this morning. I wandered out of the house at 3:30am to find a good spot to shoot it from. Not far from home, I set up My tripod, dialed in the intervalometer and captured some of the event in the sky, among other things. This shot, is the first time I’ve ever done image stacking. Needs some improvement. I know..
That should give You a rough idea of what some of this video looks like. I did a much wider time lapse, consisting of 160, 15 second exposures, which were taken every 18 seconds. I then repositioned and zoomed in, taking 400 shots, 3 seconds apart, with a closer view of the neighboring city’s skyline. As the night becomes day, one can see the massive cranes, constructing the new Vikings stadium on the left side of downtown. Which is impressive, considering they are about seven miles away. The sun came up as the moon was setting, which ended up bleaching out the shot just before Luna dropped out of view. Vimeo’s free accounts don’t give a very good image quality, but it does look a little better if You watch it on their site, instead of mine. :(
I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.
Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.
For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.
Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.
My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.
After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…
About four years ago, My Brother’s Wife introduced Me to what rapidly became one of My favorite places to eat. The Uni Deli, inside the United Noodles Grocery store. In the time since, They have had a small, but reasonably consistent menu. Tonkatsu/Tonkotsu Ramen being the gem of the line-up. The afore stated bowl of deliciousness has, without question, been the single best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities for years now. I have told dozens of people to head that way, with statements such as “It’s just amazing,” “You won’t be disapointed,” or “simply the best” ringing in their ears. Nearly everyone has agreed with My assessment. My sister-in-law has sent even more people that way, as she has been shopping at the grocery store aspect of the place her whole life. This past winter, a group of us made a weekly ritual of tonkatsufying ourselves, but no longer.
This year, particularly the last four months, things have changed DRAMATICALLY! The Uni Deli seems to have lost focus. In early May, I went there three days in a row, taste buds anticipating the wonderful thick tonkatsu stock flowing in to My belly. However, I was thwarted each time. Monday has become experimental day, okay, that’s fine, You’ve got to test new ground. Their label for this has been “4 unique ramen varieties every monday.” Which is a lie, since one and often two of the offerings aren’t even ramen. Soba, udon and other things are fine and dandy, but don’t lie about what You’re offering! Saturdays lately have been their “Asian Grill” experimental day. Again, I’ve no isue with testing different things and seeing how customers respond, but how many days a week are You going to stop offering that which got You where You are? Keep the experimental stuff to one day a week, or less. Try once every other week!!!
I have gone over all My receipts from January 1st of this year, up til now. I have gone there and ordered food 37 times this year, nearly every time with friends, often their first encounter with said deli. There is only one thing I want! TONKOTSU RAMEN!!! In the realm of ranking food, it has been a consistent 9/10. There is nothing else on the menu which ranks better than 6/10, that is an honest truth.. In those 37 visits I had tonkatsu 28 times. Sometimes trying other things to remind Myself why I don’t get them more often, other times because their experimental days mean they simply do not offer the regular menu. Sadly, I can also tell You that in the same time period, I have gone there EIGHT TIMES, only to find them closing early, thus getting NOTHING AT ALL. I know sometimes there are technical difficulties, such as the record rains this year made a hole in the roof, or electrical issues preventing people from swiping their debit/credit cards. By all means, close shop and fix the roof, I won’t complain, but when the electro payment is not working, don’t close like You did. We were there as a group of six people, perfectly happy to go find an atm and pay in cash. We watched 50% of the people entering the grocery store, turn around and leave without getting anything, because they came for the Uni Deli. Clearly, somebody cares nothing for their customers, even those who drum up more business for You…
Which brings Me to another failing that the Uni Deli has undergone recently. The prices went up by $1 per bowl of soup, PLUS if You want it spicy, it is now an extra 50 cents. They use to put plenty of chili oil on top, but now that You have to pay for it, they give You half as much. On top of that, the quality of the food has gone down. I’ve had different noodles, bland tasting broth and 45 minute waits in the last couple months. I AM OKAY PAYING MORE TO KEEP THE QUALITY LEVEL WHERE IT IS, BUT PAYING MORE FOR A LESSER BOWL OF SOUP IS NOT ACCEPTABLE ! ! ! If You are going to skimp on the supplies, don’t raise the price. If You want to keep the same supply, but it’s costing You more, then raise the Price. Pick one, not both! The waiting would make sense if they didn’t have 6, 8, or more orders sitting on the counter, ready for customers, but not getting to customers. So it isn’t like the kitchen was that far behind.. More than once I have walked up and taken My food, without them calling the number on My receipt, wondering why they can’t just grab the microphone and call it out. It isn’t that hard to look at the order tickets and see which ones are the oldest and thus should be filled first is it? The lowest number is the top priority, right?
I do not like leaving negative reviews, particularly when it involves a place that I am, or in this case HAVE BEEN, a fan of, but You deserve it Uni Deli! Get Your act together and stop this two, or three day a week experimental crap! It is hurting Your reputation. I know all these hipsters have finally discovered You, but that is not a liscense to turn Your back on those who have poured thousands of dollars into Your register over the years. Keep the menu small and simple, You do not need to cater to everyone. You have a niche that until recently, only You did well. Now that You are sleeping at the wheel, others are under-cutting Your position. Now if You’ll excuse Me, I am going to have some Tonkatsu Ramen, at Fuji Ya(Someone named Michael has stepped up the game). Which is where I shall tell other people to go, unless You can stop Your madness and stick to what You’re actually good at. What a shame. .. …
I went back to the Uni Deli this past weekend. Having gone there so many times, I couldn’t actually stay away.. Unlike the last couple of times, the tonkotsu was up to par with what I’ve been use to getting from them. My brother ordered the shoyu ramen, which was a little different than in the past, but still a pretty average bowl of soup in My opinion. His wife ordered the black tonkatsu, which is on the regular menu now. It was about the same as the first time I had it there, but the times inbetween were far less flavorful. There was a distinct garlicy flavor that wasn’t so pronounced the last two times, they also salted it more, which was a good thing. Hopefully they don’t toy around with the regular tonkotsu recipe anymore!
About a month ago, My brother asked Me if I would keep Him company on a drive up north. He was playing a set at Legacy Glass Works, located in Minnesota’s second lovely’est city. Duluth, 2 hours there, two hours of glass blowing and musical performances by Midway Felix and Kanser Troop and two hours back to Saint Paul..