Chasing Ghost Stories, Faribault, MN

Dan and I enjoy photographing abandoned properties immensely.  The excitement of stepping back into history, and the wonder of what transpired in these ruins can be mind-boggling.

Research is key in finding and exploring abandoned properties.  Ohhhh, the Internet… What a wonderful place for information, sometimes.  As I was briefly searching that morning, (yes, I have to own up to this one) I came across rumors of an old abandoned asylum within an hour or so of our home.  What a find, I thought as my heart started beating faster.

Rumor, after rumor, after rumor, I read:

“I was walking through the tunnel and it leads to the old asylum”

“We even went to the other entrance by Teepee Tonka Park but did not find the tunnel leading up to the asylum”

“ Then walk through the halls.  With 5-6 rooms to the left and right.  Walk through that then it goes on another trail.  Follow it to your left, it brings you to what I though was the tunnel that people were talking about but it is just a bunker room in the hill.”

As I was reading the posts and information regarding the property, I found that there were no directions posted as to how to reach this place directly and it seemed like there was confusion as to which property they were actually writing about. It was like reading a treasure map; picking information out of this post and obtaining information from another.   No matter what we found on this photography outing, I knew that the day would be fun.  With time running out for the research portion, I gathered what I had (although confusing) and we headed off with the starting point at Teepee Tonka Park in Faribault, MN.  We did find the trail in the back corner of the park and headed on our way.  It was a beautiful sunny day; not too hot, not too cold and we were spending the day exploring as we tried to piece together the bread crumbs found on the internet.

From this trail, we did find the tunnels and ventured through them.  I could have gone the whole day without seeing the bats and spiders, but the experience and the memory made was worth it.  Dan was on his game and took every opportunity to joke with me, whether if it were the noises he made in the complete darkness of the tunnels,  or telling me that there was a bat right above me as I stopped to take a picture, or cracking a joke about how we were chancing ghost stories.  Paybacks can be fun 🙂

We might have not found the old asylum, or whatever the abandoned buildings these posts were actually talking about, and that was okay.  What we did encounter was a superb day spent together as we laughed and we joked.   We got to spend a day in the great outdoors doing what we love…  What could be better than that?  Please take some time and join us on this day as you page through the images below.

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Knock, Knock… Who’s there?

I recently accquired these images of pigs on an Amish farm in Wisconsin.  When I was viewing the series in Lightroom, I noticed the punch line forming right away.  A friend (thanks Linnae) suggested that I merge them together in the same image to tell the whole story.  So I did…  The right place at the right time 🙂

Dells Mill and Museum, Augusta Wisconson

Dan and I awoke this particular morning with the intention of visiting Dells Mill and Museum in Augusta, Wisconsin.  We had just returned from a recent trip to that area when we learned that one of the few remaining gristmills was just a hop, skip, and a jump to where we were photographing.  After visiting Pickwick Mill and Schech’s Mill in South Eastern Minnesota, we were excited to visit another historic mill and mark that one off of our list of places to photograph near home.

The day was bright and shinny and full of photographic opportunities.  Once inside, we were taken back by the monumental size of this mill and were able to soak in some of its history.

I would highly recommend a stop at this historical site; 2014 will mark its 150th year anniversary.  Take in the sites and the sounds of this old mill and if you are lucky enough, Gus Clark will play a tune for you.  Gus was not only talented, but he was the friendliest museum proprietor and guide around!  Thanks Gus for the knowledge and the wonderful song- I only wish we would have had video rolling.

From the Wisconsin Historical Marker Plaque at the Wisconsin Dells Mill in Augusta Wisconsin

The Dells Mill

Water-Powered grist mills ground the wheat that dominated Wisconsin’s Civil War-era economy. Built in 1864, the mill was one of the server serving area farmers. After wheat production moved westward, owners adapted the building to mill flour and grind feed.

A trip to the Dells mill could be an all-day family affair. Farmers often fished the millpond to pass the time. The millpond also provided a source for the winter ice harvest. A store, hotel, and school grew up nearby to serve the growing community

Creating a mill pond required the building of a dam to flood upstream land. The Wisconsin Territorial Legislature enacted legislation enabling dam construction in 1840.

Built along the dells of Bridge Creek, the base of the mill was carved into the sandstone bedrock. massive hand-hewn timbers secured with wooden pegs make up the structure of the Mill. Water turbines powered the milling process. A concrete dam replaced the original log structure in 1919. Dells Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, operated continuously until 1968

Dells Mill and Museum map

The Dells Mill Museum is open May through October 10 am to 5 pm
The Dells Mill Museum and Historic Properties
E18855 County Road V Augusta, WI 54722
715-286-2714

Golden Sand

Wisconsin frac sand mine facilitiesWithin the past 8-10 years Hydraulic Fracturing has become more prevalent in the United States as we try to keep up with our countries energy demands.  Dan and I did not completely realize or appreciate the indirect impact that Hydraulic Fracturing is having on our countryside, our health, our communities and even our pocketbooks.  

Even though Hydraulic Fracturing in not being done here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the driftless area in these states is sitting on a gold mine of sorts…Golden Silica Sand.  The sand used in the process of Hydraulic Fracturing is sitting below the bluffs and rolling hills in this region.  Dan and I have known about the discrete underground sand mine located in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin for sometime now.   Frac Sand mining became more of an issue last year as the demand for this “Golden” sand has increased.  The residents of the small town of Diamond Bluff, Wisconsin, lost the battle with a large corporation and the underground mine in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin wants to expand its territory substantially.  There is also a proposed mining site just outside of Red Wing.  All of this activity spurred us to start educating ourselves more on the sand boom. One side saying “Sand = Jobs”, the other “Save our Bluffs;” there is certainly a very easily discernible differences in each camp’s way of thinking.  I am not here to say what is right or wrong or force anyone to have the same beliefs as I do.  I will, however, encourage people to become informed on the practice of Hydraulic Fracturing.  Please take the time to increase your awareness as to what these communities are facing and more importantly, how our environment and wildlife is currently being effected.  What is our future going to look like after the sand is gone?

Maiden Rock, WI Projected underground expansion projectMAIDEN ROCK, WI proposed underground Frac Sand Mining expansion

Last year, Dan and I started hearing about the battle that concerned citizens and business owners were facing  just across the river from our home in beautiful Red Wing, MN.  We started to educate ourselves on how the whole Hydraulic Fracturing process worked, what the majority of this “Golden Sand” is being used for, what the effect of Frac Sand mining has on our environment, our health and wildlife, and watching the documentary “Gasland” & “The Price of Sand.” Knowing that these mines provide employment for local families certainly complicates, as well as ignites, the passion surround the arguments on both sides.    Many states are being affected by this procedure whether it be the Frac Sand mining (both underground and strip mining), or the Hydraulic Fracturing itself.  Again I encourage you to become more aware, educate yourself and others you care about and most importantly, get involved.  The real issue here isn’t necessarily Frac Sand mining or hydraulic fracturing itself, it is our country’s insatiable thirst for fossil fuels.  But until that very issue can be addressed, we need to find a better way – a more responsible way – to extract these energy sources.

Please take a trip with us to the beautiful land of surround Augusta, Wisconsin in Eau Claire County.  We had originally set out to photograph farm animals, abandoned farmsteads, wildlife, barns and the surrounding community.  What we actually saw troubled us and sparked the need to know more about this sand boom.  Driving along the rolling hills near Augusta, we were shocked at what we saw in the middle of this picturesque farmland.  Turning a corner, we noticed a towering object that extended as far as our eyes could see.  We had never ran into anything of this sort in our travels;  our curiosity and wonder drew us closer.  We passed by an Amish family in a horse drawn buggy as we came closer to a section of the contraption.  In one picture, please notice how close the settling ponds and plant is to the Amish farm.  How will the Amish community in that area be affected?  How will this affect all of us?

Only time will tell; and tell it is indeed.  Story after story is surfacing in local news outlets and social media.  Economic and environmental harm is never too far from one of these mining operations.  What is the magic equation here?  How many jobs is worth what amount of harm to our economy and/or environment?  This is quite a predicament we find ourselves in.

Sneak a peak at Dan’s post on this subject: The cost of an unsightly landscape companion.