Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands National Park: The Lakota named this land “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”;

Badlands National Park

The park consists of roughly 244,000 acres of prairie grass mixed with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.  Looking out over the sometimes lunar landscape, it is desolation at its best… You can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.  Despite the solitude, the land has been so ravaged by the elements it has become quite stunning. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). These striking geologic deposits also contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds; prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

I cannot even tell you how many times Dan and I drove the 30-mile Badlands Loop, how many times we stopped to hike the trails to absorb the surrounding beauty, or view the abundance of wildlife that roam the park’s boundaries. We stayed in the area for 2 days and with each entrance into Badlands National Park, we encountered something new and exciting.

If ever in the area, stop in at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center situated near Cedar Pass Lodge to learn more about what the park has to offer.

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Pipestone National Monument

“For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.”                                                                    Source: National Park Service

Dan and I enjoyed our hike on the well groomed trails and visiting the quarry itself. As you walk the trails you encounter cloth ties on trees and rocks; the ties represent a prayer or an offering and are placed here for spiritual purposes.  While visiting the center and the daily demonstrations of pipestone carving, we met and visited with the talented Travis Erickson. Travis is a fourth generation self-taught artist who learned the basic techniques from his mother and other male elders.  The grounds and the trails are wonderful to explore, so full of history and tradition.

For more information please visit : National Park Service, Pipestone National Monument, MN

When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.
-Black Elk

The Pasque Flower

Pasque0120

The Pasque Flower
Genus: Anemone
Species: patens

The Pasque flower is plentiful in the wild. It can be seen any where from northwest U.S. to northern Alaska, and is the state flower of South Dakota. In Red Wing, MN we mainly notice these plants growing in the bare and sometimes rocky ground of the bluffs surrounding this area. The flower is found close to the ground among the old grasses of last year. It’s lavender petals and leaves are covered in fine silky hairs, which help to insulate it in the sometimes cold temperatures of Spring in the north. The flower is a welcome sight that triggers the notion of warmer days ahead.

 

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.

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.

Continuous Creation on the High Falls of Pigeon River

This particular morning Dan and I headed on our way to the very top of Minnesota with plans to stay in Grand Portage for a few days.  We were to hit the last state park on our northerly trip, Grand Portage State Park.  I was certainly excited to see the park as it holds 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.  This morning’s mist was heavy which made every color of the landscape pop; a photographers dream.  We arrived at the park mid-morning and made our way down the very easy hiking trail that lead to the High Falls on the Pigeon River.  As we started on our hike, we could hear the low rumble of the water as it passed over the crest of the waterfall and we felt the vibration of the water as it hit the base.  What an incredible feeling!

We took our time this morning stopping to take in every scent, every scene.  Adding to the ambience of this outing, were the lichens that were covering the trees, the animals scurrying around gathering their morning meal, and the mist as it danced through the trees.  As we got closer to the high falls, the sound and vibration increase its’ intensity, which only increased our excitement.   I walked up the few stairs to the first observation deck and my eyes laid upon an amazing sight… It literally took my breath away.  Low and behold, the High Falls of the Pigeon River in all its glory.

To read more about the history and geology of this area, please visit the DNR website for Grand Portage State Park. This is a highly recommended stop if ever along the North Shore of Minnesota!

 

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

In 1963, the park was renamed Judge C. R. Magney State Park in honor of this late advocate who helped establish 11 state parks and wayside rests along the North Shore. Over the years, many parcels of land have been added to the state park, which now totals over 4600 acres.

Dan and I were excited to see what this park had in store for our viewing pleasure. We were not disappointed, however, I would have to say this 2 mile round trip trail, which includes over 200 ascending and descending stairs, is for advanced hikers but will lead you to the most famous formation on the Brule River… The Devil’s Kettle.

Half of the Brule River plunges 50 feet into a pool as it continues on its way to Lake Superior; the other 50 percent disappears into what we call the Devil’s Kettle. The famous cauldron is rumored not to have a bottom. Researchers have dropped brightly colored dyes and other objects into the Devil’s Kettle without result of finding the water’s outlet. This formation is another example of the amazing wonders Mother Nature can create.

Information taken from the MN DNR website about the geology of this area may explain a wee bit, but the mystery of Devil’s Kettle will remain hidden for the time being.

The bedrock exposed along Lake Superior’s North Shore has a geologic history that goes back some 1.1 billion years. During the dramatic volcanic activity of that time, molten lava poured through great fissures that developed in the Earth’s crust. One particular flow complex, the Devil’s Kettle rhyolite flow, visible along the Brule River, is thought to be as much as 770 feet thick. As these flows accumulated, the land along the rift zone sank to form a great basin, into which huge volumes of sediment were deposited after volcanic activity ended. A long period of erosion followed. The local Sawtooth Mountains of the Grand Marais area are the remnants of these great, tilted lava flows. Much more recently, glaciers took their toll on the area as massive ice sheets gouged out the Lake Superior basin, mainly from the post-volcanic sediments, and scoured the bedrock surface. In Cook County, where the park is located, the glacial action eroded more earth and bedrock than it deposited.

We enjoyed this day immensely and may have even shed a few pounds that day. Please enjoy the views from in and around Judge C.R. Magney State Park.