My brother and I spent a Sunday driving around south-central and south-eastern Minnesota, hunting down waterfalls. We made our way to three of them. Though the first, Minnemishinona falls, was barely a trickle. It probably would have taken 5 minutes to fill a glass of water. Which is too bad, because it was a nice drop of 40 feet or so. It had carved a really awesome looking, narrow valley that we did not venture down in to, due to the slippery, wet, muddy, nearly vertical slopes. I didn’t even take a picture of it, just the walking bridge spanning the top of the gorge.
Making a swift departure, we headed to another waterfall near by in Minneopa State Park. Upon arrival, we made note of the depressing signs that stated the water was unsafe to enter, the D.N.R. had found “dangerous levels of fecal parasites” in the river. After a short walk through the picnic area, the first drop of this two-step falls was before us. What a pretty little area! I set up My tripod, with My camera wrapped in plastic and popped off a dozen long exposures of the flowing water. Constantly looking over My shoulder at the drop off, a few feet behind Me, I tried not to rush. The rain got a bit lighter and satisfied that I had captured some gems, I headed across the foot bridge, wandering along the path where I found My brother gawking at the view. The second part of the falls, gushing down in to the valley below was quite awesome! I took a couple more pictures and started looking for a way down to the base of the it. Strolling off the the trail, down the muddy hill, we found a nice place to view the area and paused to take it all in.
After that, we departed the Mankato area and started wandering to the east. We picked a random dirt road to head down and found ourselves wishing we didn’t live in the city. The rocky out crops gave way to the rolling hills of southern Minnesota’s farm land. Every time I find Myself in such areas, I feel compelled to migrate out of the Twin Cities. The country calls, beckoning one to come and take in the natural state of things, or to plant all of the flowers, fruit and veggies that one loves. We didn’t really explore much, as the rain had picked up again. But I can’t go anywhere without taking a picture, or two…
Proceeding ever eastward, we found ourselves back on Interstate 35. The gateway home. Then turned off of it, just south of Elko. I had heard of a waterfall at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park and couldn’t help but to investigate. We parked in the lot, I wrapped the camera in plastic once more and we strolled through half a mile of the lushest greens I’ve ever witnessed in a forest. It was seriously gorgeous! The little waterfall at the end of our walk was also quite pretty. Hidden Falls, as they call it, is about an eight foot drop, it’s extremely straight and squared off. If someone told You it was man made, it wouldn’t be a suprise. It isn’t though, the stream just happened to carve the rock away in straight lines. The incredible layers of green growth everywhere just added to the majesty of this place. My brother immediately walked out to in to the stream and stood above the falls. I told him to hold perfectly still for 5 seconds, which made for a pretty nice picture. We spent about an hour walking circles around it before My batteries ran dry. So we hiked back to the car and rode the concrete river back to the city. Already missing the rural views that we had been taking in all day… I want to go back soon!
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…
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…