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.

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.

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

Our Saviors Church

Driving the backroads in and around your community does have its surprises like- this little gem.  Back in early 2014, Dan and I were out on a little trip with the girls (Tindra and Audrey) and stumbled across this charming country church.   Our Saviors Church, or the Historic Woodside Place, is an old wooden church built in the year 1888.  This church was moved to its new location at 2053 County Rd N, in Baldwin, Wisconsin after sitting vacant for years on a property about 1/2 mile west if its new location.  The new owners have done a wonderful job restoring this old beauty and offer the facility for weddings or other special occasions.

historic churchImage above provided by the Historic Woodside Place Facebook page

We enjoyed our day and found this country treasure just as the sun was passing the steeple.  Another reminder that there are wonders where you least expect it!

Have a great week!

 

A Family Affair

This particular day, we were itching to get out of the house and so were the girls. We forget sometimes that the furry little ones go stir crazy in the winter as well when they can’t go outside to chase “Chippy” or “Bun-Bun”. They will often sit on the bed and look out the window searching the woods for four-legged vermin.   As we were packing the car with the camera gear, the girls were bouncing off the walls. Take me, Take me, TAKE ME!

With their cute little faces, they win every time. We decided to travel around close to home and drove into the Hay Creek area; a small town just south of Red Wing on Hwy 58.   A campground, an old western saloon, the Goodhue Pioneer State Trail, Hay Creek Stables, 15 miles of equestrian trails, and a blue ribbon trout stream. The beautiful valley’s that make up the Hay Creek day-use area is beautiful in every season.

After photographing some enthralling horses in the Hay Creek area, we then moved on to Bay City Wisconsin; a small town east of Red Wing on the shores of Lake Pepin. If ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping in for a bite to eat at “The Chef Shack” a delightful restaurant with the best service ever and mouth-watering food! We decided to drive out onto Lake Pepin (that felt weird) to gain a different perspective of the landscape. Maneuvering around the ice heaves and listening to the ice crack was unnerving and we didn’t travel too far onto the frozen lake… Call me chicken 🙂

All in all, the Traun Family enjoyed our time together.  Please enjoy the images from this little, close-to-home adventure.

 

A Sticky Situation, but no Earth Day Reoccurrence.

This trip brought us through the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest which is located in Southeastern Minnesota.  The Zumbro River twists and turns as it flows through the lower Zumbro River Valley and right through this beautiful state forest..

When it comes to backroading, we have come across some “sticky” situations- The first that comes to mind is a trip we took that celebrated Earth Day literally, or take a peak at Dan’s post on our “Sticky” situation that one Earth Day as we made a Mud Pie. That, truly was a “sticky” situation that really got us stuck!

This day we were not stuck per say, it was the hope that the car keeps moving in the direction we wanted it to.  Driving through the beautiful area of Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest  and the Zumbro River bottoms after a winter ice storm may not have been the best idea ever, but we were enjoying the day.  We stopped at the information area to view a map so that we may actually travel on a paved road.  The shortest route was the path we chose, the road was flat and our Chevy Equinox was plowing through the fresh ice and snow perfectly.  Well, the road (or one lane path) started heading up the side of a bluff.  With no way to turn around, we had to move forward and finish our trek.  One quick look out my passenger window and I noticed the step drop off, which caused a slight whimper noise to escape out of my mouth.  We both knew that if we stopped, we were in some deep doo-doo.  We look at each other and saw the worry in each other’s eyes.  “I think we might be using up a ninth life right now”, said Dan.  We held our breath and eventually made it to the top… WE MADE IT!   With steamy windows we moved on down a safer path, giving thanks to both of our guardian angels.

Please enjoy the images from this particular trip in and around the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest in Winter.

Winter Bliss

With our chilly winters and unreliable weather here in Southeastern MN and Southwestern WI, I still am proud to call this place my home.  I have been known to call my mother as the burning, frigid air passes through my nostrils while I am cleaning off my car after a fresh snow and ask, “Why would you raise a family in this state with this kind of weather?”   Truth be told, I love the four seasons.  I love the angle of the light in Winter, the green tip of the Tulip as at it pushes through the winter residue in Spring, the green, green, greenness of this land in Summer, and the beautiful array of color that Autumn can bring.  All seasons inspire me and continue to keep me here.

Sometimes the cold can force the body indoors and push you towards hibernation, just ask any Grizzly bear in the Northern Hemisphere.  However, Dan and I will still venture out and capture what we see in this amazing state.  Winter can add a spotlight to an item that is otherwise obscured in the thickness of the forest.  Please enjoy the images from this unseasonably warm Winter day as we traveled through rolling hills and farmland into the area of Augusta, WI.

Within the clouds

Fog:

A collection of liquid water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term “fog” is typically distinguished from the more generic term “cloud” in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated locally.  Fog is distinguished from mist only by its density, as expressed in the resulting decrease in visibility.  Fog reduces visibility to below 1 km (5/8 statue mile), whereas mist reduces visibility to no less than 1 km.

Wikipedia

The sensation that fog or any condensation adds to photography is one of mystery, one of magic.  The eeriness that those little water droplets can add to a scene may bring forth visions of fantasy.  What lies within the clouds?  The way that light intertwines with moisture in the air adds to the atmosphere of the landscape. Not only are you mystified by what lies behind the curtain, the mist can add the feeling of surprise, fear and admiration.

We had a few days when the fog stayed with us until the late afternoon- a rarity in our parts. We were lucky to be out in countryside on these days traveling the back-roads of Southeastern Minnesota lucky that we could share this abnormality together.  Next time the fog rolls into your area, grab your camera, and capture the light that dances gracefully with the water droplets.  Be quick though, the fog can form and then dissipate just as fast.

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!