Chicagoland and the Hiawatha Cedar Rapids

According to Wikipedia –

On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was organized with a population of around 200.  Within seven years it would grow to a population of over 4,000. The City of Chicago was incorporated on Saturday, March 4, 1837 and went on to become the fastest growing city in the world for several decades.  Today, Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the US and is home to 9.5 million people.

We were fotunate to be included on a once in a life time trip while we photographed the Kremer family as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  The Kremer family had rented a restored 1940’s train car, the Hiawatha Cedar Rapids, and traveled the railways from Minnesota to Illinois.  The “Cedar Rapids” features a unique Skytop end, providing passengers a unique view of the country as they head down the railroad. We were honored to be included on this special occasion, what an experience (thanks again for the opportunity)!  Included in this post are a few images from the train itself and images from in and around Chicagoland.

Chicago is rich in the arts and architecture; we did not spend much time in the city during this trip, but we plan on returning someday!

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Grand Portage

Our plans for the day started with photographing the sunrise at Hollow Rock on the property of Hollow Rock Resort owned by Grand Portage Casino. After asking permission to photograph this rock formation, we were on our way. We arrived in the dark hoping to capture the beautiful of this magical place during the Golden Hour. The “Golden Hour” in photography refers to the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset or the first and last hour of sunlight in a day. The morning was absolutely stunning; we listened as the water crashed against the shore singing a tranquil song and enjoyed the peaceful moment as the first rays of sunlight hit the horizon painting bright colors in the sky.

We enjoyed this area immensely and returned later in the year to stay in one of the 8 cabins on the property at Hollow Rock Resort- keep a watch out for that post.

The next stop: Grand Portage. We spent the day discovering the history of the aboriginal culture while visiting the fur trade at Grand Portage National Monument, and the Grand Portage National Monument’s Heritage Center. Volunteers and park staff at the monument dress in period attire. They staff the Kitchen, Canoe Warehouse and Great Hall in and around the Stockade, and explain and interpret what life was like at the trading fort at the turn of the 18th century.

The day ended with a trip into Canada as we wanted to hike the trails in Pigeon River Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. With passports in hand, we crossed the border and hiked the trails to the Middle Falls of the Pigeon River. Beautiful country and a place I would like to visit again to hike the longer trail to the High Falls of the Pigeon River.

Enjoy the views seen as we explore the northerly tip of Minnesota at Grand Portage.

Goosberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park: A Beacon of Light.

Goosberry Falls State Park is known for its amazing waterfalls and spectacular hiking trails. I would highly recommend getting out and exploring this area. The Gooseberry River falls over 1100 feet in 23 miles until it enters Lake Superior. Your choice of hiking trails leading to the Upper, Middle, and Lower falls all have their own surprises and beauty.

To know the history behind this beautiful landscape will explain it all. According to the MN state parks website:

Geology of the area between Goosberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

Geologists have determined that about 1.1 billion years ago, the Earth’s crust began to split apart along a great rift zone now covered by Lake Superior. Huge volumes of lava flowed out onto the surface and cooled to form volcanic bedrock, mainly the dark type known as basalt. Several lava flows can be seen at the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls and south of the Gooseberry River along the Lake Superior shore. The rifting also caused the flows to tilt gently toward the lake. These basalt lava flows, all along the North Shore, are also the birthplaces of Lake Superior agates.

About two million years ago, the Great Ice Age began as periodic glaciers (up to a mile thick) advanced into the region from the north. As they ground across the area, they changed the landscape dramatically, especially by excavating the whole basin now occupied by Lake Superior. About 10,000 years ago the last glacier melted back, allowing the basin to fill with water and starting the erosional process that creates the river gorges and waterfalls. Today, water, wind, and weather continue to shape the North Shore.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park

In 1905, a November gale that Lake Superior is famous for claimed the ships Edenborn and the Madiera, among others, within miles of the Split Rock River. The lighthouse and fog signal building were completed in 1909 and remained as a steady beacon of light for ships until 1969. Even after the light was dimmed, the horrifying November gales took the Edmund Fitzgerald and her 29-crew members. The loss of the ship and its crew members are remembered every year on November 10, with a public program and the lighting of the beacon at dusk in remembrance.

Building Split Rock Lighthouse and the buildings on the property presented many obstacles. Hiking the path leading southwest down to Lake Superior will show you a glimpse into this amazing feat. The lake isolated the station, as there was no land access, all supplies and visitors needed to come by boat until 1934 when a road was built from the lighthouse to the Lake Superior International Highway.

Split Rock Lighthouse tram image
In 1915-1916 a much needed elevated tramway was built for delivery of supplies

We enjoyed our time spent hiking and photographing the Split Rock Lighthouse and the grounds of the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. To walk through the grounds and the restored 1920 lighthouse learning about the history of this property is intriguing to say the least. Listen to the life saving calls of the fog signal as heard today and of the 1920; to hear up close and personal was bone chilling.

Fog Signal as heard today:

Fog Signal as heard in the 1920’s

Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse will forever be, in my mind, a highly recommended stop if ever in the area.

Minnesota North Shore, Exploration of Two Harbors

After our walk around Cove Point Lodge, we headed back into Two Harbors, MN to take in some city scenery.  On our way, we noticed a sign alongside the road for “Cooter Pottery”.  Dan quickly took the sharp left onto the road heading us in that direction.  Off the beaten path and down a dirt driveway, we came to a creative hotspot that Dick and Debbie Cooter have built.  The kiln and pottery showcased here was absolutely amazing and the colors that Debbie used for her rug weaving was spectacular.  Walking into the showroom was to say the least; inspiring. A stop highly recommended!

A quote taken from Dick Cooter from his website.  To view the website and gallery click on the following link Cooter Pottery.

“My pots are fired in a 125 cu ft wood burning kiln inspired by traditional Korean kilns.  The pots I make are sturdy, bold, and reflect the processes of making them, simple decoration enhances the rich surface created by long wood fires. “

A quote taken from Debbie Cooter about Cooter Handweaving:

“I was introduced to rug weaving 27 years ago as a folk art.  The tradition using recycled clothing to weave and household items appealed to both my creative and thrifty nature.”

After spending some time photographing the Cooter Pottery grounds, we headed into Two Harbors and stopped to photograph the two lighthouses in the bay.  While driving around this quaint little town, our eyes laid upon the signs of abandonment in a large building not far from main street.  What we ran into that day required a trip back later in our vacation.  The buildings that we ran across was the old Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway 30 acre lake front property (DM&IR).  Oh my… My heart skipped a beat as the excitement poured into my body.  This was going to be a good!  We stopped for only a short period of time photographing just a small portion of this property.  The feeling these building put forth is far beyond any words that can spew out of my mouth.  Look for a post on this site in the near future as it has been recently demolished and is no longer standing.  We were extremely lucky to have noticed this gem when we did.

The next leg of our trip will bring you along with us as we tour Split Rock Lighthouse and the grounds of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

 

Winter Wonderland

According to Wikipedia,

The song, Winter Wonderland, was originally written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyrics). Throughout the years, it has been recorded by over 150 different artist!

When it snows, ain’t it thrillin’?
Tho’ your nose, gets a chillin’
We’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.

Please enjoy some of the frolicking we have done in our little Winter Wonderland.

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.

When the School Bell Rang

The first time seeing this one room schoolhouse along side a country road near the small town of Elgin, in southern Minnesota, was exciting to say the least.  As we got out of the car and walked closer to the shell of this former schoolhouse, I could almost hear the chalk as it slid across the black board or the children that used to learn under her roof.  The images in this post are from the two times we have visited this little gem at two very different times of the year.

This old schoolhouse reminded me not only of the children that walked through the door, but also of the teachers that encouraged these students daily to learn and grow.

I would like to take the time to thank every teacher I have had the privilege of learning from.  My fourth grade math teacher that pushed me to apply myself to the schoolwork when I didn’t want to because he knew that I could… and I did.  To my Chemistry teacher in college that made learning the subject so fun that I completely understood, without even trying.  Math and Science is now one of my strong points, Thank you.

To all the teachers out there, I thank you for your time and dedication you put forth on a day-to-day basis…  Keep believing in all of your students and they will believe in themselves.