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Another One Night Stand

Night Sky © Andor (1)

That’s right, I went on yet another one night camping excursion. This time, My brother, our friend Ryan and I headed to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The site that I booked was nicely secluded, located on a beaver laden pond, it made for a very pleasant night. Hiking the trail out to our weekend home, it was clear that we were in a part of the park that most people rarely visit. This was certainly one of the most picturesque places that I have been lately. With any luck, I shall camp at this spot again once winter is in full swing. I didn’t take a ton of pictures during the day, instead opting to focus on capturing the stars in the night’s sky. For the first time, I had good luck too. There were no clouds that night and the moon was on the other side of the planet. One couldn’t ask for better conditions to capture the vast expanse of stars.

Most of the day time was spent being lazy as hell. I did set up My cameras to catch a couple of time lapses, but did not take the time to set up My shots very well. Even so, I made a quick video of what I did manage to catch. At this rate, I am going to have to pay Vimeo, so You can all see what I’ve been doing in a reasonable resolution. :( Go ahead, have a look, there’s some nice stuff mixed in to the medeocre day time lapses. I do suggest hitting the misleading “HD” button, which brings You away from here and on to Vimeo’s site to watch it. The quality is slightly more appreciable.

Just after pausing by a map, to see where we were and staopping to take a quick shadow selfie, the path led us to the remains of a tree, about 7 feet tall and completely hollowed out by woodpeckers. Happily, they made a hole near the base, the perfect size to squeeze a camera into.

Where Are We Anyways © Andor

Selfie © Andor

Wandering in the Forest © Andor (3)

We did not see any bears, but definately spotted their droppings. There were a few little garter snakes slithering around and plenty of odd varieties of fungus growing all about. I really do love the wilderness! Why did I have to be born in to the city life? Hopefully one day I will be able to afford to move out of the urban environment, I would be a much happy’er person.


30 Hour Vacation

30 Hour Vacation © Andor (21)

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…


Wandering the North Shore

My friend Ryan and I headed up to lake Superior for the weekend, on yet another one night camping excursion. Before checking in to our camp site at Tettegouche State Park, we headed farther north to check out some water falls. First we stopped at Temperance State Park and hiked the rocky trails along the river. The park is laden with age worn steps, some carved into the rock, others stacked from loose stones. The abundance of trees shed plenty of shade over the various paths and trails. The shallow depth of the soil leaves the roots of many trees visible, snaking around the rocky surface, giving a majestic feel to the already sublime surroundings. With it’s long series of short falls, carving deeper into the bedrock, the Temperance river is a beautiful place to go and spend some time. Clear skies and the bright sun did not make for great photographic conditions though.

After a couple of hours wandering the river side, we departed and stopped at a place Ryan’s friend had told him to go. Driving by it on the main road, You would never guess what was lingering just inland from the shore. Nor would You think that You would find anything particularly special once You parked in the small ten car lot. It was another small river, trickling over the rocks in a nearly deserted valley. Such is the way of this part of Minnesota. Every couple of miles is yet another river, stream, or creek, feeding into the vast lake to the south. This particular one however, is a gem among the parks up here. Somehow, it was also the least travelled of the places we went. All of the other parks and falls had tons of people buzzing around the crowded parking lots and river sides. We saw eight people on our hike up this stream. One was panning for gold in the lower part of the river, He told us it was wise to keep going up the path nearby, “so long as we didn’t mind the 158 stairs.” Unsure about what was to come, we hiked up the trail. It went up above the river pretty quickly, after only ten minutes or so, we were at least 75 feet above the valley floor. Then, after a little more hiking, we rounded a bend. The sound was unmistakable. Waterfall. Shortly after hearing it in the distance, the path split, one way went up, the other down. We chose the downward option, discovering a long meandering set of stairs. “This must be what that guy told us about.” Was the thought that passed through My head. At the end of the steps, flowed a gorgeous falls. Pouring into a calm pool, surrounded by a rocky beach and towering cliffs. We stayed for quite a while. Ryan went for a swim while I soaked My feet in the cool water and snapped a ton of pictures. This was My favorite part of the trip… We couldn’t even see the whole falls, because it made a bend or two as it went down. Nor did we hike up to the top, because we lingered so long at it’s base, we had to rush farther south to check in to our camp for the night.

Our camp site was at Tettegouche State Park. Having not planned this trip, I simply booked the lone site available on the entire north shore. I could see right away why it was the only site available on the hundreds of miles of coast. This site was ten feet from the trail down to the shore and sadly, most of the people who came up from the shore, walked right through our site, instead of the trail. So it was a high traffic home! My goals for the weekend were to shoot the full moon rising over the lake, shoot some time lapse of the stars at night and some time lapse of something, anything during the day. After mostly clear skies all day, the moon managed to hide behind clouds when it came up. Once Luna was up in the sky, the clouds moved out, but the moon was so bright, it blotted out the stars. It was no darker than an ordinary overcast day, except it was night time. I did manage to shoot a time lapsable sequence during the day, but it was spoiled by people walking by, a lot. So I managed to succeed in none of My goals for the wekend. It was a great time though!! In the end, I just want to move farther north. I’ve been saying this for half of My life time, maybe I should just act on it soon? Clear water, endless forest, massive rock formations, cliffs and rolling hills, waterfalls and an abundance of wild life. The north shore is marvellous. I will be back there as soon as possible.


An Evening on the Side of the Road, Bringing Back Great Memories

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (1)

This weekend is the Car Craft Nationals here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have been taking a LOT of car pictures lately, so I opted not to attend the gathering it’s self. Instead heading out with My buddy Ryan Clemens of Opposition Motors, to post up on the side of Snelling, just out side of the show. There was a very wide variety of vehicles out and about, mostly American made, spanning many decades, but there were some other cars out cruising too. It is nice to see classic and modern muscle cars, massive land boats from the 70’s and 80’s, low riders, high riding trucks, kit cars, sports cars and a whole lot more, out on the streets at once.

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (42)

This was like a throw back for Me. When I was Younger, University Avenue was the home of all things cruising. Every weekend there were thousands, upon thousands of cars and huge quantities of people out on the strip. We had one of the most robust car cultures in the world, on display, three days a week. Over the last ten to fifteen years, this scene has been broken up and dispersed, to the bain of an awful lot of local businesses. So many local and family owned restaurants and shops have gone out of business since the city started it’s campaign to end the cruising scene’s dominance of our weekend culture. Much of the blame lands on the shoulders of a large home for the elderly, building and expanding to become a sprawling complex, right on University, next door to the beating heart of this, now miniscule scene, Porky’s drive in. Naturally, the people at the Episcopal Homes complained heavily about the noise and abundance of people walking next to their building. Sadly, three or four years ago, Porky’s, the lone 50’s style eatery left in Saint Paul and home to some of the best all American eat’s around, went out of business. I really, REALLY miss having My double supreme burger, with that great “special sauce,” the city’s best pork cutlet sandwich, the best onion rings I’ve ever had and a thick, chunky strawberry malt, whenever I want. Now I, as well as every one else, will never get to eat their great food again. Below is a picture from their last year in business. That crowd, is nothing compared to what was around for decades in the past. The massive bland buildings in the rear, are two of the four newest buildings of said retirement home. I am all for giving our elders reasonable homes, with care takers to look after them as best they can, but why choose the busiest street in a bustling part of town? Can You guess who expanded in to the space left when Porky’s died?

Porky's Drive Thru in 2010 © Andor

I wish I had a better picture of this iconic eatery, but I don’t. In the end, all hope of the cruising scene on University being revived, was crushed by the construction of the recently completed light rail line, which runs right down the center of the street. The car culture is still visible, but since there is no place that everyone knows to go to, the numbers of cars out on the weekends are laughable. There is no where that You’ll find ten, or fifteen thousand people gathering, like in the past. So those of us who wish to re-live the sight seeing, less the food that’s not available anymore, must wait for two or three events per year. Back to the Fifties and Car Craft being the main draw. The local economy has been delt a pretty big negative impact overall. These hand full of gatherings do help a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that the miles of road occupied by smaller businesses are now lined by endless corporate chain stores. Funneling money out of the Twin Cities. The general lack of low riders and imports out at these events is a huge loss of variety too, but at least we still have something! I guess.


Strolling the Bluff


Camping in the Snow

Camping in the Snow © Andor (1)

My friend Asha called Me early in the week and asked if I wanted to go camping. She was in need of being surrounded by nature, as opposed to this city-born existence we live. Sharing Her sentiment, I said “hell yeah!” It was a one night excursion in the snow. After sitting in My alley for nearly an hour, calling state parks, browsing the Minnesota DNR website and scrolling through maps, the destination was decided. Wild River State Park, on the Saint Croix River, an hour or so north of the Twin Cities. I had never been there before and google maps gave us useless directions. For some reason, they said the park’s entrance was at the boat launching point, down a non-maintained dirt road, ten miles from the actual entrance to the park. Eventually, we found where we needed to be and effectively had the park to ourselves. One mile of hiking through sloppy snow down the untouched trail, camp was made. It wasn’t actually very cold out. 40’s on Saturday and 50’s sunday, I would guess the temperature at night was around 30 degrees. The snow certainly made it feel like winter, as did the massive slabs of ice floating down the river.

During the day Saturday, there were no clouds in the sky, so I was quite excited to get some pictures of stars, then as the sun set, clouds rolled in. They relented for about 45 minutes and revealed the sparkling sky I wanted to see. Some good practicing time doing something I have long been a fan of seeing others do. Capturing the night’s sky. Here is what I came up with.

First thing Sunday morning, I woke up, snapped the picture at the top of this post and proceeded to go back to sleep for 2 more hours. After that, we shared a can of pinapple chunks and Asha sat down to read in the sun. I decided to go for a walk, hoping to snag some closer pictures of some birds of prey. Half a mile or so down the trail from camp, I spotted a massive bird landing on a tree a few hundred yards away. I did My best to quietly work towards it, but such a thing isn’t possible when You’re walking through snow ranging from four inches to two feet deep. It kept ahead of Me, following the river for at least an hour, flying from one tree to the next. Every time I got within 150 yards, the bird would skip ahead another 300-400 yards. I use a 70-200mm lens on a cropped image sensor and just couldn’t get close enough for the shots that I desired. Which was quite saddening to Me, given this huge bird was actually an owl. I didn’t know they were so active during the day. It may only be this particular type of owl, which I believe was a Barred Owl. The wing span looked to be five, or more, feet. After looking at the two pictures I got of it, I was suprised that I wasn’t looking at a Great Grey owl. This owl’s eyes were not the right color and the greyish brown, with white stripes on the feathers didn’t match either. Included below is this barred owl sitting in a tree and flying directly over head at about 400 feet.

This was an especially awesome weekend for Me. Seeing for the first time, that big owl, golden eagles and turkey vultures. Not to mention the bald eagles, herrons, swans and various varieties of ducks that were fluttering about in large numbers. Just after the sun set, a pair of golden eagles came to our camp site. One landed in a tree about 40 feet from where we were, while the other circled 40-60 feet above us. I was a bit nervous, as well as awe struck. Not as large as the ones I’ve heard and read about, but the wing span was at least 6 feet. It was to dark for Me to get any sort of picture, so I am making due with these long range shots I aquired during the day light hours.