E.T. Phone Home

About 60 miles east of downtown St. Paul, MN lies a small rural town named Elmwood, WI.  Dan and I have traveled through this small town many times on our photography excursions. As with any small town, there is some story that surrounds the town history.  Elmwood, WI has its own special history and it has to deal with little green men and shiny round discs. The town is the home of several reported UFO sightings since the 1970s and embraces its otherworldly connection. In 1978, the town started celebrating UFO days; at that same time, the UFO sightings stopped.  The annual celebration includes food and beer tents, a UFO medallion hunt, and a parade.  For more information surrounding the UFO sightings in the 1970s, please visit UFO Evidence.  As always, in Elmwood, WI all are welcome (human and aliens alike).

Please enjoy the images from in and around this small rural community.

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Southwestern MN

Charles Bennett and Daniel Sweet founded Pipestone, MN in 1876.  By 1890, Pipestone had train service on four different rail lines and had become a travel and business center hub for southwestern Minnesota.  A lot of the buildings within the city are constructed with local Sioux quartzite. The county courthouse, built in 1899, is made from this stone and is considered the most stylized of the quartzite buildings located in the city. It is rectangular in shape with a 110-ft clock tower topped with a dome and a statue of Lady Justice.

Pipestone county courthouseHistoric American Buildings Survey, HABS MINN,59-PISTO,1-E-1

Another building constructed with the Sioux quartzite stone is Moore Block which was built in 1896.  This 25 foot by 85 foot building was built by Leon H. Moore, a local businessman who owned and operated a Sioux quartzite quarry. One of the more distinctive features of this building are the gargoyles that embellish the north and west facades.
Pipestone MN-5931Within the grounds of the Hiawatha Pageant, the”Song of the Hiawatha” was performed for the last time in 2008 due to the lack of volunteers, funding, and attendance. For 60 years, busloads of tourists were brought to this small town in Southwest MN.

Hiawatha Pageant grounds-5737

After exploring Pipestone, we decided to make our way to Blue mounds State Park. It was a gorgeous, although hot day when we decided to venture out on the hiking trails.  Usually, before visiting a park, we do our research and know the terrain so we are prepared for what comes our way.  This day, we were not prepared and unknown to us, we were about to embark on a 13 mile hike.  Not a problem, but when you are not dressed or prepared for the occasion, it can become difficult.  I remember falling many times due to the slippery shoes I had on my feet, at one point in time- right in a small stream.  Saving my camera came first so my body took the brunt of the fall.  I appreciate Dan not laughing at the time as I’m not sure I could have contained my laughter.  We eventually came up to the visitor’s center where I washed up and we both grabbed some water to quench our thirst. I would like to revisit that state park and come prepared.  Blue Mound State Park has a lot to offer such as one of the last remnants of preserved native prairie, the Sioux quartzite cliffs, wildflowers and cactus, Buffalo, and bird watching.

Blue Mound Pano-5997

Traveling in the Southwestern portion of the state gave way to many interesting finds, as our travels always do.  According to Wikipedia, “this region is a transition zone between the prairies and the Great Plains”.  From hiking trails found in Blue Mounds State Park and appreciating the landscape, to exploring southwestern cities such as Luverne, Marshall, and Pipestone to absorb the history and architecture, we stumbled upon many surprises along the way that of course we had to capture.

Off the Beaten Path

When Dan and I travel, we rarely take the direct route.  Venturing off the beaten path is where the fun is.  On this particular trip, the end goal was Pipestone, MN which is located at the very Southwestern corner of MN.  There were many towns along the way that we made a mental note to stop back and explore further at a later date and time.  A few mentionable towns we decided, for some reason or another, to stop in were Gibbon and Walnut Grove MN.

To Pipestone we go

As we traveled through Gibbon, MN a few of the business caught our eye and seemed to bring us back to another point in time. Gibbon Village Hall is an extremely interesting building;  the unusual building was built in 1895 with medieval-themed Romanesque Revival architecture.  We also took some time out of our travels to walk into Bad Dog Antiques and Other Attractions and were pleasantly surprised.  What a very interesting and unique store… I am still kicking myself for not purchasing the complete antique set of alphabet wooden blocks!  If ever in the area, stop in and chat with the friendly staff. To see more images from Gibbon, MN take the time to view Dan’s blog, “Gibbon, MN/MN South Central”.

Located in the Southwest corner of Redwood County, Lies a small town called Walnut Grove.  Walnut Grove is known nationwide today as the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Every year, the town holds a Wilder Pageant which is an outdoor drama based of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although there are no pictures of the historical site in this blog, I remember visiting the banks of Plum creek often as a child since my grandmother lived and taught school in a small town located east of this area in Lamberton.

What is Good for the Goose

On this day, Dan and I decided to take a short trip and venture down to Reads Landing in Southeast MN.  We followed the mighty Mississippi as it twists southbound from Red Wing; our first stop was a small beach in Old Frontenac.

This small town was originally established in 1857 with the name Westervelt, the name changed in 1860 to Frontenac by brothers who owned large tracts of land in the area.  At that time, Frontenac soon began to attract wealthy residents and became a community of summer homes with Lakeside views of Lake Pepin.  Frontenac is indeed a beautiful little town, we visit Frontenac State Park often and will stop by the little beach on occasion.  On this day, the girls had fun in the sun and sand.

Frontenac Map

Heading south on Hwy 61, our next stop was Lake City.  We did not stay long but had enough time to walk the marina to see the sails that are waiting for warmer weather.

Lake City Map

Our final destination was Reads Landing, MN and Reads Landing Brewing Company.  Originally founded in the mid 1800’s, Reads Landing soon grew to a major river town located at the mouth of Lake Pepin.  In the late 1880’s the town began decline and most businesses relocated to Wabasha.  Interesting fact:  According to Wikipedia, “At one time Reads Landing was considered a possible site for the Minnesota State Capital.”  Although there is not much left in Reads Landing, it is home to Reads Landing Brewing Company.  I would recommend a stop in to try some of their hometown craft brew and a snack.

Reads Landing Map

The birds were out, the sun was shining, and we all had such a wonderful time making memories that will last a lifetime.

Everywhere a Moo MooOOOoooo

After spending a day exploring and photographing The House on the Rock, our time off was coming to an end.  We packed up the car and headed on our way back home but of course, we took notice of the surrounding views.  Not only is the landscape beautiful in this area, the counties of Vernon and Monroe Wisconsin, also have some interesting barns, including many round barns. I encourage you to get lost in the countryside no matter where you reside; each state has its own unique features and architecture!

Old MacDonald had a farm, E, I, E, I, Ooooooo

The Horse Knows the Way

The beautiful rolling hills and bluffs that overlook the Wisconsin River Valley are breath-taking.  Dan and I started and ended a weekend photographing Southeastern MN and Southwestern WI and experiencing the artist community in and around Spring Green, WI. This land is part of the Driftless area, which was left untouched by the glaciers of the Ice Age millions of years ago.

Driftless area

Driving the backroads and taking in the country air will forever be a favorite of mine.  With every turn of the road, you may find an old barn, an abandoned farmstead, the Amish towns, interesting livestock, wildlife galore, or River valleys with breath-taking views…  Wonders for a photographer’s eye.

Some of the main attractions of this area today include Taliesin, which after 1937, was the estate of architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and House on the Rock.  We did not make it to Taliesin but we did visit House of the Rock.  As a child, I remember walking these halls and seeing the many collections that reside here.  As an adult, I was astonished and amazed that one man had this eccentric vision to create what we see today… The world’s most bizarre and immense collection of stuff.

Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, 2015 #AISDR

The excitement of the dogs grew as each dog was hooked up to their sled and the vocalization was heard for some distance.  A chill rushed through my body as the sound of the dog’s cries hit us down the track.  I knew right then and there, they were close to starting the races.

Friends of ours, Dave Semerad and Julie Mooney, invited us to join them as they volunteered for the Apostle Island Sled Dog races in Bayfield, WI, and we joyfully accepted.  They were volunteering their time helping groom the trails and handling the dogs for the mushers and their teams; we were photographing the event.

I was even lucky enough to ride on the back of the sled as one team finished – I am sure I had and extremely LARGE smile on my face 🙂

Got the fever

Got the fever

The event: 

Date February 78, 2015
Race Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race
Location Bayfield, Wisconsin, USA
Purse $3,000
Organizers Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau
Distance 60 mile & 80 mile; 40 mile Sportsman’s Race; and a 6-8 mile Family Rec Run

Dave and Julie both can recall how energetic, strong, and focused these dogs were; sometimes even pulling the handlers across the parking lot to the starting shoot 🙂  They told stories of each team and how they work together, each one as incredible as the last.  The mushers really need to understand and know each dogs personality for placement on the team for placement of the lead dogs, the point dogs, the swing dogs, and the power behind it all- the wheel dogs.

According to Wikipedia:

Dog sledding has been used for hunting and travel for over a thousand years, even as far back as the 10th century.

Assembling a dog sled team involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The lead dog is crucial so mushers take particular care of these dogs. Important too is to have powerful wheel dogs to pull the sled out from the snow. Point dogs (optional) are located behind the leader dogs, swing dogs between the point and wheel dogs, and team dogs are all other dogs in between the wheel and swing dogs and are selected for their endurance, strength and speed as part of the team

Viewing the power of each team as they raced past us on the the trail was beyond words.  Looking back on the images, I relived the excitement of the team and noticed how proudly the mushers gaze was as they looked upon their dogs.  Sled dog racing shows great team work; I was completely impressed.

We will be making this a yearly visit and next year, I will be volunteering to help handle the dogs!