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!
Since we stayed in one of the 8 cabins they have on the property, we were lucky to have this rock formation right outside our front door. We spent the next few days capturing this magical landscape at different times of the day, but the sunrises were amazing! During the day, we took the time to explore the area and stumbled across many treasures all while producing wonderful memories (priceless).
Dan and I cannot get enough of Minnesota’s North Shore area.
MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors
The landscape is riddled with an abundance of beautiful scenery and waterfalls. Every time we take this trip, we stumble across something new. We enjoy the outdoors and what excitement the hiking trails of this area can bring especially during Autumn. This season marks the transition from Summer to Winter and in Minnesota, the green leaves give way to an array of colors providing a showy performance of red, orange, and yellows. In this post, we made a brief stop at Temperance River Falls, then were off to explore what we could find in the area. As we made our way closer to Grand Marais, we ran across Honeymoon Bluff Trail which has an amazing lookout over Hungry Jack Lake (perfect for sunset images). Please enjoy the view in and around the area.
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.
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.
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
Dan and I traveled to Austin, Texas earlier this year to visit family and see the sites. I have not been there for years and the beauty of this city has not changed. The city is located near the Balcones Fault, as a result, much of the eastern portion of the city is flat with soil heavy in clay, whereas the western suburbs consist of rolling hills and is located right on the edge of Texas hill country… Beautiful I tell you!
Image by Dan Traun
Because the hills are primarily limestone rock with a thin layer of topsoil, parts of the city are frequently subjected to flash floods from runoff caused by thunderstorms. We traveled to the Lone Star State in May which was unfortunately one of the rainiest months on record. Actually, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, 35 trillion Gallons of rain fell on the state in the month of May; enough to cover the whole state up to nearly 8 inches deep. Whoa!
It was a wet trip, however, that did not stop us from venturing out when we could. Hiking, eating, laughing, and spending time with family; what a grand time and it came with a few firsts… First time consuming brisket cooked to perfection, first time actually liking a good margarita with Sotol (way better tasting than Tequila, in my opinion) and the best margarita mix ever (Jalapeño- lime, produced by Republic Spirit Blends); both of which you cannot find in Minnesota.
The following images were taken on a hike in these rolling Texas hills.
Thank you, Dean, Vickie, Brian, Megan, Adam, and Renae for your wonderful hospitality!
Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views. Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures. Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.
Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map
One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds. Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another. The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating! Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity… Such amazing creatures.
My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”. The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit. Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road. Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.
If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!
After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD. This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old. The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.
Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion. Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.
We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff. The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget… A Time to Love.