Time with Trees

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After a couple of trips to the big city, it feels good to spend some time away from the hubbub of metropolitan energy and spend a bit of time in the northern woods.

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Winter Picnic?

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Not exactly picnic weather, but lovely for some XC skiing.

Rice Lake State Park near Owatonna, MN.

Sony RX100 V, ISO 125, 10mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, twiddled a bit in Adobe Lightroom CC.

Marching Onward

My month long visit home has ended and I have returned to Minneapolis again.  Sports photography begins at the end of next week and my sister is arriving from Florida later today.  She claims she likes taking a break in cooler weather, but she may get more than she bargained for on this trip.
During the month of March I was able to accomplish many things that had been awaiting my attention, however, there is always much more for when I return home next.  I managed to sneak in a few photo trips while home, some of the results were shown in previous blog posts.  As I was kind of quiet during the past month, I thought I would share a few glimpses of how I spent some of my time in the Duluth area.  The image with the blue bridge highlights my upcoming summer adventure.  I will be a seasonal operator of the bridge, which opens to allow the tour boats, fishing charter boats and private craft to pass on their way out to Lake Superior.  Part of the job is to be an ambassador for the city of Duluth.  You can be sure I will always have a camera with me on this job.

 

Coming Home

When people think of home, it usually is their house, a family home or perhaps their hometown.  I arrived back in Duluth late last Friday night to my house, but wasn’t truly “home” till the next day when I was out enjoying nature.  As I walked the trails along the St. Louis River as it passes through Jay Cooke State Park, I came to the realization that this was part of my true home.  Not just this park, which is quite beautiful, and not just northern Minnesota, but all of nature.  It is the place where my spirit resides and is renewed after absences.  As I look back at the past year, a year that started in early March when I got the call from my father’s doctor informing me of his hospitalization, followed by three months in hospice before he passed away which lead to spending a lot of time at their home.  While there, I began doing sports photography on the side and as often as possible, I would head north on weekends to be back in Duluth for a couple of days.  As I think back, I realize that one of the first things I would do upon my return north was to head out for a visit to Lake Superior, a hike along a river or into the forests or perhaps just climb the hills near my house and sit on a rocky outcropping and enjoy the view.  Those are the moments when I feel at home.  No matter where I am, I know that I am never far from home.  I can see it as I drive along the Great River Road of the Mississippi, the scenic back roads of pre-freeway America, driving through a national forest or sitting at a roadside stop with a view of the countryside.  The place my spirit calls home, is everywhere, it can’t be contained in a man-made structure, it’s far too vast for that.  Perhaps those places are good for being with others who share your belief, but so are the places I go to commune with spirit.  I know that many I pass on the trail share a similar belief, but in a much larger cathedral. Our altars are waterfalls, giant redwoods, dense pine forests, winding rivers, shimmering lakes and granite cliffs.  Our pews are fallen logs, rocks, flower filled prairies and sandy beaches.  We tithe by supporting our parks and natural areas, picking up trash as we hike, by taking nothing but photos and leaving nothing but footprints.

All images are of Jay Cooke State Park, February 27, 2016

Black Friday Follow-up

In my post on November 25th, “Opting Out“, I indicated that I would be skipping the shopping malls on “Black Friday” in favor of spending time in nature.  This was an attitude shared by many others that day and promoted by several outdoor businesses including REI and NRS.  It was also a day where all Minnesota State Parks were open to the public for free.
What started out as a plan to visit one park, ended up being a marathon trek to four parks.  It wasn’t that I was trying to take advantage of the free admission, I already have my annual park sticker, it became more than that.  As I planned this outing, I realized that this was going to be my last chance this year for a photo adventure.  It was also a road trip, a chance to see two parks I have never visited, time for some photography and I was curious how many people would take advantage of the free park entrance.  Especially on a day that started out overcast with temps in the upper teens.  On Thanksgiving day the area had received a snowfall that blanketed the ground in the parks to varying depths.  Three of the parks had little more than a dusting, while Afton had several inches.  It did eventually clear up and temps warmed to the low-mid twenties.
My day started with Frontenac State Park which is about sixty miles down the Mississippi River from St. Paul.  The park sits atop sandstone bluffs from which there are excellent views of the river.  As I pulled into the parking lot at the top of the bluff, I noted that I was the fourth car in the lot.  By the time I returned to my car, a couple of other cars had arrived.  The park offers the usual amenities, including picnic areas, camping, hiking trails and interpretive programs.  A word of note, if you have any interest in hiking down to the river while in the park, be prepared for a long trip down and a long trip up.  The park is heavily wooded, the trails are tricky at times and are not meant for the feint of heart.  There are trails on top of the bluff that are more accessible.  I couldn’t help but admire the one brave camper that was staying in the park that weekend.
There are a number of small river towns along the Mississippi, Red Wing, which is about twelve miles up river, is a very popular destination due to its old architecture and river town flavor.  Hastings to the north of Red Wing and Winona to the south, are also very popular.  One last note, “The Great river Road” is a trip of its own and I encourage anyone who enjoys a good drive to spend some time exploring it.