High Falls of the Pigeon River

The last stop of this Autumn trip to the MN North Shore was Grand Portage State Park. The Summer of 2014 was the first time I laid eyes on this natural beauty. I remember the thunderous noise as we walked down the path to view the tallest waterfall in Minnesota (120 foot drop).  One side of the waterfall is located in Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota, the other side is located in Pigeon River Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.  The hike is not bad on this one and I would highly recommend a stop any time of the year. An insert from a previous post, Continuous Creation on the High Falls of Pigeon River,  “This morning’s mist was heavy which made every color of the landscape pop; a photographers dream.   Low and behold, the High Falls of the Pigeon River in all its glory.”  The colors are so vibrant, that I still have to remind myself this image is not taken in a Tropical Rain Forest.  🙂

Bringing us back to this trip and the colors of Autumn in Minnesota. The trip this day included some investigating as we took the road less traveled while looking for another waterfall on the Pigeon River. The majority of times these types of excursions do not end up in the way we were hoping; however, we always have a blast attempting to find what we set out to originally locate. As we turned to follow the low maintenance hiking path, we spotted a sign, “Caution”, it read. Caution? Bravery triumphed and we continued down the narrowing path.  A mile or so down the path, we stumbled across what appeared to be the imprint of a very large mammal. Could this be a dinosaur left over from the Ice Age hiding in this remote part of the country?

Well, not a dinosaur in sight, all we really saw down this path was a whole lot of beauty as the seasons changed from Summer to Autumn.  Enjoy the images from this trip!

 

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I See Fields of Green

Recognizing that our country is losing its natural landscapes, Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded an organization in 1982 to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes.  The organization opened a new facility southwest of Austin TX in 1994, now named Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center after the former First Lady. The wildflower center is devoted to help preserve and restore the beauty of North America.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-8204

The Center’s many gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South, and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects by conserving its rare and endangered flora. One out of every five plant species in the world is threatened by development, invasive species, climate change or other factors. The centers core principles are in set place for plant conservation by developing botanical expertise, partnering with the public and private landowners, educating and training Texas Master Naturalists, Seed collecting and banking, identification and control of invasive plant species, and conservation research on rare and endangered plant species.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-8084

Not only was this one of my favorite albums to post process, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the center as we walked along the paths that highlighted the beauty this land has to offer. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers a little bit of something to everyone.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope”
~Lady Bird Johnson

A State of Existing, North Dakota

“Ghost towns stud North Dakota, and this empty house is just one bone in a giant skeleton of abandoned human desire.”

A quote from a perfectly written article for National Geographic about North Dakota titled,
The Emptied Prairie” By Charles Bowden

I remember, as a little child, walking hand in hand with my father across fields of long prairie grass.  I was amazed by the dance created by the wind as it touched each blade of grass.  To this day, I can close my eyes and visualize the sight seen as we walked closer to an abandoned farmstead and the excitement noticed in my father’s eyes and heard in his voice. I learned from him that these abandoned properties are not a place of destruction, but a story of endless outcomes.

The trip to North Dakota was an incredible journey, one that I am happy to say, was shared with an amazing man.  Dan and I enjoyed the migrating birds that this pothole region attracts and the vibrant colors a North Dakota landscape can provide.  Visit North Dakota as seen in some of my previous posts:

North Dakota Ghosts- The old school in Forbes, North Dakota
Abandoned Outside Forbes, ND
Following the rails of North Dakota
North Dakota Shines

This trip included some of my favorite abandoned properties to date. As I am writing this post, I can still see the texture of the peeling paint on the rickety walls or see the layers of personal material left behind on the floor.  Two different properties that told two different stories.  The old farmhouse with the herd of cattle watching us explore was full of color and texture – a feast for a photographers eyes.  I could only imagine the grandeur of this home when she was alive with activity.  The other property included in this post was just as incredible, but for a different reason. My grandfather was a talented violin maker and carpenter.  Watching him play the instrument as a child, taught me the wonders of music.  Violin, piano, and cello are three of my favorite instruments that can send a shiver right through me whenever heard.  Now imagine mixing the two…  an abandoned property with musical ties- WOWZA!  The music sheets were strewn throughout the home, and a shell of a guitar was left behind in an empty room.  I can almost hear the music that played within those walls.

This concludes the series on North Dakota.  Where will our next journey take us?  For now, take a walk with Dan and I as we tour some of the most intriguing abandoned farmstead that we have had the privilege to photograph.

North Dakota Shines

Even though North Dakota may not have purple mountain majesties, its waves of grain provide vivid greens, yellows, and oranges.  This state has it’s own beauty.

According to Wikipedia, “North Dakota has long been known as the most agricultural state in the Union.”

However, just like most farms in the United States, the farms have increased in acreage but have decreased in numbers.  When Dan and I travel the back roads of Minnesota and Wisconsin, we would consider ourselves lucky to happen upon two abandoned properties.  The abandoned properties that we stumbled upon in North Dakota were plentiful and we even joked at one time that we had hit our quota for the entire year just in this one trip.   Some of the most beautiful and interesting properties that I have ever had the privilege of visiting were on this trip. Keep your eyes peeled for my favorite properties coming soon!

Researching the population of North Dakota, I came across this wonderful article on the Bakken Shale Oil Fields at nationalgeographic.com titled:

The New Oil Landscape
The fracking frenzy in North Dakota has boosted the U.S. fuel supply—but at what cost?

In recent years, the state has had a strong economy.  Much of this growth is not due to what they are growing in the fields,  but has been due to what they are pulling from the earth in the Bakken Oil Fields of the Western portion of the state. In 2012, the United States Census Bureau estimated that North Dakota’s entire population for the state was 699,000. Whereas the 2012 population for Denver, Colorado alone was 634,000 and the cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul total population was an estimated 670,000.  From those facts,  take a look at the map below of the light that is seen in certain areas of the United States from space.

Bakken Oil Fields

In an article written on Oilprice.com titled, “Bakken Companies Sued for Wasting Gas Royalties”, The light that you see on the image of the United states is the result of the surge of natural gas flaring in the Bakken shale.  HOLY CRAP!

“The result is that North Dakota, over the Bakken shale oil fields, looks like a bonfire party, with at least 1500 bonfires at any given time, flaring excess natural gas that can’t make it to the market. It’s cheaper to burn than to build pipelines to transport it.”

ND-Oil-Spill_Sidd

In this Oct. 8, 2013 photo provided by the North Dakota Health Department, a vacuum truck cleans up oil in near Tioga, N.D. The North Dakota Health Department says more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota. Officials say the 20,600-barrel spill is among the largest recorded in the state and was discovered on Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles south of Tioga. (AP Photo/North Dakota Health Department)

Read more on oil spills in North Dakota here: newsbreak-100s-of-nd-oil-spills-not-publicized

I will be interested in how this all changes the face of North Dakota… Only Time will tell.  Take a trip down that dirt road with us as we travel the back roads of the eastern portion of North Dakota.  I also encourage you to read these articles on the Bakken Oil Fields of ND.  This industry is not only affecting the driftless areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin, It is affecting the Eastern and Western coasts of The United States as well.

So open up the car door and jump inside- Don’t forget your seatbelt!

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.