“if people knew how hard i had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
― michelangelo buonarroti
(picking up from the last paragraph of “the road north part one”)
it was 2 am by the time i made the bumpy ride back to the parking lot. i was due to meet gary about 5 am. i decided to stay in the parking lot and try to get some sleep. at this point, i was wearing my winter coat, mitts and hat as it was in the low 40s. there was a chill in the air even though it was early june. i grabbed a blanket from the trunk. i got into the driver’s seat, locked the door and put the blanket over me. i leaned my seat back and closed my eyes…..
my mind was whirring with thoughts while i tried to sleep such as these… “just be calm and fall asleep….man, it’s kinda cold in here….you can do it; just stop thinking and be at peace….i hope no crazies will come knocking on my car window…., you’re finally getting sleepy and falling asleep….nope, not gonna’ happen”. as usual, i was not going to get much, if any sleep, in my ford focus. i think i might have gotten about a half hour of sleep, if that. if one can’t sleep, one can certainly do worse than being awake where i was. i watched the beautiful night full of stars slowly transition into twilight over lake superior from the cool confines of my car.
eventually, a pickup pulled in towing a boat. it must have been about 4 am in the morning. i guess people take their boating seriously here to start that early. i can remember thinking that seemed rather excessive. then i also remembered that here i am having gotten maybe a half hour of sleep in the last twenty hours with another adventure still ahead. some of you reading this might even be thinking, “ that seems rather excessive…” 😂
somewhere between 4 and 4:30 in the morning, i pulled out onto hwy 61 and continued north. i was going to meet up with a friend, gary, who was going to take me about a mile and a half up a river to a waterfall that, from what i understand, not too many people have seen. i would find out later why not too many people have seen it. i pulled into gary’s driveway, walked up the path and heard the familiar sound of moose and lucy barking as they realized i was approaching. they are great dogs and have been a part of gary’s life for quite a while now.
once gary loaded his gear in his van, i followed him back down hwy 61 a bit to where the kadunce river spills into lake superior. as we pulled in to park, i noticed the sun was beginning to crest the horizon. the billowy clouds were catching the rising rays. the water was reflecting the peachy color of the clouds. it was a glorious start to the morning! i mentioned to gary that i wanted to make an image along the shore there before we started up the river. as always, gary is very gracious and patient with me.
the time when the sun slowly rises and sets is a time of potentially incredible light and color. it lasts between what is known as blue hour and golden hour in the morning; in the evening, it happens in reverse: golden hour and then blue hour. those times are kind of a “holy grail” of sorts for a lot of photographers. while i don’t limit myself to making images during only those hours, i certainly take advantage of making images during those hours if i’m out and about with my camera. this one was no exception. atmosphere, mood, color, light and more change so fast during these times so i was intentional in not wasting any time.
now…i’m not one who subscribes to a “run and gun photography” philosophy. this means (a very loose description here) to work quickly to make as many images in as many settings as possible in the short amount of time to do it. i’m not saying it’s a wrong philosophy; it’s just not my philosophy. by intentional, i mean i have a set goal in mind but i would rather find one or two images to make that i love than to make a lot of images that i’m ok with. i work better that way, a quality over quantity sort of mentality. but that’s just me. everybody has their own workflow.
i found a spot on the shores of lake superior that made for a pleasing composition to my eyes. i worked quickly to set up my tripod and camera.
side-note here…someone asked me recently why i shoot with a tripod as they often make images just holding the camera. it’s less gear for them to haul and it’s quicker to get an image made. that person is right on both accounts. however, for me, my hands are not steady when i make images. i don’t have any medical condition that causes my hands to shake; they just do. unless i use a very fast shutter speed, and even that doesn’t always mean a sharp image, my images will be a little bit soft looking. granted, sometimes i actually want a soft looking image depending on the outcome i want. but most of the time, i want the image to be as sharp as i can make it. as well, i use slower shutter speeds in the rising or setting light of the day as it tends to require longer exposure times. 99.999…% of the time, i use a tripod. in other words. always! but there might be that one time someday, so i better say 99.999…%!
after i got my tripod and camera set up, i dialed in my settings and made a few images of what was transpiring before me. this image below is my favorite. i love the feeling of peace and calm in this image. i can see this image being restorative to the soul of those looking to slow down, to breath and to reflect.
gary had joined up with me on the shore to take in the scene as well. i packed my gear up and we walked back to the parking lot, crossed the road and started right into our hike. we followed a well marked dirt trail for a while. then we reached the point where gary said it was time to leave the trail. did we ever! and here starts why few people have seen the waterfall we were hiking to as i alluded to earlier.
one thing i love doing with gary is getting off the beaten path. having lived up in northern minnesota for twenty years or more, gary is quite knowledgeable about hidden treasures to hike to. my few times with him hiking have been special and rewarding. he has taken me to some incredible spots that i’ve been privileged to make images of. some i have shared with you in blogs and/or on my website gallery. some are easy hikes. some are not. this one was definitely not an easy one!
once we left the trail, we probably had about a mile and a quarter of hiking to go. some of it was crossing the river which was moving at a high rate of volume due to the ongoing rains. i think by the time of year we were there, the river would normally be quite a bit lower, but water was still flowing rapidly. it was moving fast enough and was high enough that it was very difficult to see under the normally clear water for the most part. gary was being quite careful in where to cross the river and making sure to be intentional in putting one foot in front of the other. so you know how much longer a greenhorn like myself took to cross the river. even with a walking stick in each hand to prod the rocks and sand under the water for stability before taking my next step, it was quite laborious for me. but the thrill of trekking through the river overcame any apprehension i had from time to time. i don’t know what it is about trekking through the river but there is something immensely satisfying about it. maybe it strikes a chord in me as a male homo sapiens. perhaps something is wired within my male psyche that feels as if i’m made to do this. maybe its a connection with our ancestors who might have done this in their explorations of new land to seek out. who knows? but it is rather addicting even as it can be unsettling.
as usual, gary was patient in waiting for me every time we had to cross the river. i lost count but i think it was somewhere around 14-16 times, going in and coming back out, that we crossed the river. maybe it was more. it was a lot!
i seem to fall at least once traversing a river when i get together with gary. this time was no exception. i can’t remember exactly where it happened, but i lost my balance at one point and down i went into the swirling water! the first thing i said to gary was something to the effect of whether my backpack got wet or not. i didn’t care about myself; i just didn’t want my equipment to get wet 😂! it actually was a pretty hard fall for me but i do what i normally do; just shake it off and keep moving on. i did have a hard time getting back up in what was about knee deep water as the river was a bit torrential in speed and intensity. i remember gary extending a hand to help me up as he came back toward me. i’m always leery i might pull him down with me when he offers his hand as i’m heavier than he is so, as usual, i didn’t grab it. i need to get over that as there may come a time when i can’t get up. i’m sure he is more than capable of positioning himself to help someone up. i’m not the only one he has taken on hikes and we are, after all, in his element!
the other aspect of the hike was bushwacking through the woods. it was no easy task. there is no trail. it’s just making your way through densely packed trees, climbing over downed trees and crawling under downed trees. this is a type of beauty that i’m guessing not many experience. the hard work of bushwhacking is offset by the wild beauty of the landscape all around us. i would never try something like this without the experience of someone like gary who intuitively knows where to go. this only comes with years of experience.
soon gary and i were in our groove. bushwhacking along the river. crossing the river to the other side. bushwhacking along the river. crossing the river to the other side. bushwacking….crossing….bushwacking….crossing….this went on for quite a while!
the hike may be hard but it pays off to go where few go. here are a couple of images i made while going up the river to our destination. this first image required a short descent down to the river. we came to an area where the marsh marigolds were starting to show up. there was a bridge crossing the kadunce river in the background that gary said was part of the superior hiking trail or the sht. the sht is a hiking trail through some of the most rugged and beautiful backcountry in minnesota. it starts somewhere along the mn/wi border and ends at the canadian border. for more information on sht, check out this link:
going back to the first image i made...the sun had yet to break through which allowed for the rich colors of the rocks, trees and the marsh marigolds lining the kadunce river to shine through. taken from a big rock jut out, it would have been easy to sit here for a long time and just enjoy the beauty!
i’m not sure how you will feel about this second image but i fell in love with it. what i love about it is the contrast of the river roaring on its journey to lake superior against the small trickle that branches off from the river only to join up with the river again. you don’t see the beginning of that small trickle or the end of it. to me, it leaves a bit of a minor resonance as i like to call it. in music, songs sometimes start and/or end leaving the listener feeling like there should be more…there is a sense of things left hanging so to speak. it is not resolute from start to finish. in this case, i like how this image of the trickle does not have a start or finish from and to the kadunce river clearly visible. instead, it is up to the viewer to “fill in the the story”. how does it start to branch off up above? how does it join up again below? use your imagination!
i was loving the hike! so much to take in! so much to experience both visually and physically! but at one point, i was thinking, “man….seems like we’ve gone at least a mile and a quarter”. i asked gary if we were getting close and he said it wasn’t much further at all. we kept moving ahead. i’m sure he knew we were close as he could probably hear the falls. in fact, i remember he said he did hear them. with my hearing loss, i could not hear them. then, at one point, an incredible view materialized as we emerged into view of it! before us was a roaring thunder of a falls! gary had told me that this falls was about 30-40 feet tall but it still didn’t register with me the full breadth and height of it until i saw it in “full color” right before me. it was truly a magnificent site! i think i kept muttering to him that this was incredible. i just couldn’t get over the site of what must have been hundreds of gallons of water pouring over the cliff before me!
gary and i just took it in for a bit before we started making images. the image i made is a panorama of three images horizontally stacked. i wanted to try and portray the immense feeling of this falls. i hope i succeeded. once again, because the sun was not yet hitting the bluffs along the right side of the waterfall, the colors along there come out quite nicely in the image. i can’t tell you the name of the falls because i don’t know. as far as gary knows, there is no name for it as of yet. i suggested, half-joking, that he name the falls after himself as he is probably one of the few who have seen it. he’s been to this location at least a few times i believe.
to give you a feel for the intensity of the falls, here is a video as well. i’m not sure you are going to hear me over the roar of the falls, i’m trying to remember to be louder in my videos as my wife says i’m often too quiet. i think i failed here as well but maybe you’ll hear some of it.
we finally packed up after some time and started our way back. maybe it was just me but it seemed like it was quicker going back than it was coming in. along the way, there was another bit of an uncertain moment for me. we had missed where we were supposed to start heading up the gorge back to the trail. where we finally started heading up was a bit of a steep incline. at one point, i lost confidence in my ability to get across a certain point. it’s amazing what a little panic creeping in can do! gary was getting a little bit ahead of me so i called for him to wait up as i wasn’t sure if i might need his help. i just stopped for minute, took a few breaths and grabbed onto a tree branch, i gave it a tug to make sure it was not going to come loose. it was not a substantial branch. if it came loose in my hands, i was headed backward down a steep incline. movies use that to comedic effect but i was pretty sure i wouldn't be laughing if it happened to me! i pulled on the branch. i crawled on my knees sideways and upward for a little bit, trying to grab any branch or solid rock that looked like it would hold me. it was not very graceful and about as rookie looking as they come but i made it past that point, once at the top, we traversed along the bluffs for a bit before finally hitting the trail that took us back to our cars. as we walked on the trail, i could feel the tiredness creeping in. it was a good tired though. this was a hike i would not soon forget!
once back at the vehicles, we took our waders off, packed up our gear and said our goodbyes. as tired as i was, gary was a bit concerned and asked me to let him know when i made it home. gary and i haven’t had a lot of time together but you know it’s a good friend when they care enough to say something like that. we took off on our separate ways. roughly 5 hours later, i messaged gary to let him know i had made it home. that night when i “hit the sack”, i had no trouble falling asleep. that was no “ford focus” mattress in my bedroom but a memory foam that i sleep well on. though, truth be told, i was so tired it probably could have been a leaky air mattress and i would have slept just fine because i was horizontal with a couple of pillows under my head! well...maybe but that's not a story for this blog...
well folks, another blog is wrapped up for the books! i hope you enjoyed the second of the two parter. i really enjoyed reliving this photo adventure with you all that are reading this. feel free to share in the comments below anything that comes to mind about this blog, the images or anything else you want to share that might have come to mind while reading this blog. maybe you have had an experience of a tough adventure that led to an incredible moment when you arrived at the destination. I’d love to hear about it!
it doesn’t just have to be a hiking adventure. it could be any life adventure you have had. i love to read comments and respond to them!
i’ll be posting images to the online store on my website soon. in the meantime, if there are any that you would love to have for your home and/or business or to give to that special someone in your life, again, shoot me a message in the comments section below. i’ll help you put together an art piece that will definitely be a conversation piece and a visual treat for the eyes!
the quote i chose for this blog reflects my continued pursuit for excellence with my images and writing. i’m so appreciative of your continued support of my photography blogs by reading them and sharing them with others that you think would enjoy reading them. to share this blog with others. you can do so via the social media icons below. you can also share by copying and pasting the url above into an email or any other type of media account you may have.
i just wanted to share a reminder here as well about the solo art gallery show i have coming up at the paradise center for the arts in faribault, mn. it is roughly an hour south of the twin cities. it will start august 3 and go through september 17. the center is open wednesdays through fridays from 12-5 and saturdays from 10-2. there will be several other artists showcasing their work as well in other galleries within the paradise art center. i’ll be showing in the lois vranesh gallery. august 5 from 5-7 pm will be a gallery opening reception for myself as well as the other artists. i hope to see many of you there and get a chance to meet you in person!
with that, i’ll see you soon with more “images from a quiet world”!