Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quetico & Toast

Off for a 12 day canoe trip into Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park. Quetico is Minnesota's BWCA northern extension. Regulations are the same, no cans or bottles, no live bait of any kind, and surprisingly, its mostly U.S. folks paddling here. I asked a Canadian why this is and the response was well put; "why would we go here?.....Canada has so much to offer with her multitude of exceptional natural resources and beauty in easier places to get to." Point well taken. Canada is fabulous and I have always been a fan of this great land to our North. A neighbor I'm glad to have. And yes, I like the Red Green Show too! And, what about "Slapshot?" Canadian treasures for sure.

I'm excited to paddle this thin strip of water etched out of the bedrock with lots of lakes spawning off like flowers. Plenty to explore and experience. And, on the first starry night I will raise my cup in honor of a fallen friend.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life Ain't Fair-A Terrible Loss

I have always approached life with two thoughts in mind; "You can't win if you don't enter" and "Life ain't fair." It keeps me grounded and puts things in perspective.

A communication to my office yesterday caused my heart to sink.

Will Powers, the Minnesota Historical Society Press Design and Production Manager died unexpectedly while vacationing at a family cabin in Canada.

I first met Will when he worked on my last book "A HARD WATER WORLD." A book that peeked into the whacky culture of ice fishing in North America and Russia. Within minutes of meeting with Will I knew this project was in good hands. I've never met anyone who could multi-task like this man, still smile and offer appreciations for the projects he was overseeing. He loved to talk about the photography and we engaged in conversations well beyond production lingo. Quite simply, he got it. It made me feel secure and I think he truly enjoyed participating in the works managed.

At the risk of revealing emotions so immediate after the news of this loss, I can't hold back. I liked Will. I feel like I need to call him today and ask him "what the heck are you doing?"
I can't believe he's gone. My frequent phone and email communications with Will allowed
an advance look into a relationship I believe was on a lifelong track. A valued friendship. I've tried to hold back the tears but the loss is real. I will miss him.

Working on a book project is no easy task. The pressure to find time, be in the right place at the right time, capturing the essence of your topic can be stressful. I want a perfect book. One that presents the topic in precise fashion. I don't photograph books for myself. I think I photograph them for the audience. I want to share these experiences with people. However, working with Will at the MHS Press, I think I was working hardest to please him. I knew if he liked what was coming in, I had done a good job. That inspired me in a quiet and fullfilling way.

There is no question in my heart to whom this book will be dedicated. Each and every image I create on this effort from here on out I will think of Will.

I wish like hell I could call and tell him this. I'm still in shock. Our know our paths will once again meet. Our common journey splits off here but will continue later.

I'll gaze into the night sky to say hello often. Safe travels my friend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ely, Minnesota

There is no question in your mind when you drive into Ely, Minnesota during the summer months you are in canoe country. Canoes are everywhere! On cars, next to buildings, outfitter after outfitter line Main Street. There's an energy bubbling over with excitement of folks beginning or ending canoe adventures that seeps into you.

I was driving down the Echo Trail, a long, long road North out of town where I was going to
visit some popular portage sites to photograph and I had WELY tuned in on the radio. The DJ was using a slogan that had me smiling each time I heard it; "In Ely, where every car has a canoe on top, every woman has a dog, and every man has a past." Too dang funny! Even the slogan for WELY is great: END OF THE ROAD RADIO. Fabulous!

I had stopped into PIRAGIS NORTHWOODS COMPANY store to purchase a few items and as always, am impressed with the quality of their wares. Their buyers sure know what they are doing there. A fine retail store and bookstore to browse and wet the northwoods appetite. Next door, the Chocolate Moose has incredible fresh pie. A real weakness of mine.

I had shot aerials over the Ely area this week, something I try to do on most stories, and I was surprised at the size of some of the bogs. As the prairie rolls eastward and meets the bedrock of the north and east the lowlands mix with the highlands. Its makes for lots of small rivers and boggy areas. Wildlife is abundant in these areas and one can see why this region is home to many of the State's wolf population. An amazing wilderness region rich with green and peat. I spotted the Little Indian Souix River from the airplane and snapped off a few frames. A beautiful meandering river filled with wild rice. One or two of the aerials will no doubt make the cut for the book.

Next, off to Quetico for addt'l coverage on the BWCA's neighbor to the North. There were already hints of Fall in some of the deciduous trees this week and a slight bite in the air at sunrise indicates that these times they are a'changin.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Erik Simula's Great Adventure

Once in a while on this job you meet someone who launches a project you wish you could join in on. Minnesota has so many talented and inspirational explorers. Polar trekkers Paul Schurke, Will Steeger, and Lonnie Dupre immediately come to mind. I've been lucky to have been part of some of those. In the course of developing this book on canoe country there are many historical and significant areas that demand coverage to offer the reader a complete perspective. Minnesota's GRAND PORTAGE in one of them.

Called the Voyageurs Highway, this string of lakes and rivers connecting inland waters to Lake Superior was a main travel route for trappers selling their wares. I spoke with friend Erik Simula last year as he worked on a birch bark canoe at the Grand Portage National Monument in Grand Portage, Minnesota. A skilled craftsman, Erik told me of a solo journey he was undertaking starting this Spring using one of his birch bark canoes. He was going to retrace routes taken by Voyageurs. A nearly 1,200 mile trip by himself and his dog, Kitigan. I wanted badly to ask to join along but with three kids in college and nearly three months gone from home didn't seem like a good enough reason to present the idea to my wife. So rather than scaring Erik with such a request, I settled for finding Erik on part of his journey and recording this for a portion of the book detailing the famed GRAND PORTAGE.

You can read all about Erik's jounrey on his blogsite:

You'll be able to read all about some of Erik's adventure in this new book to be published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in the Fall of 2010. Author Greg Breining, who also joined me for our last book, A HARD WATER WORLD, a humerous book on the culture of ice fishing in North American and Russia, will work his magic on the chapter detailing the Grand Portage as well as many others. Don't miss it!

One of the images posted here will never see ink, but was exciting nonetheless. While traveling to the back roads of Partridge Falls Road looking for Erik, my daughter and I stumbled upon five wolf pups playing with wild abandon on the dirt road. By the time I jumped out, grabbed the camera only two pups were still visible. We never found Erik that morning but the wolf pups made my day.

Take a moment and read some of his journal writing. He stumbled into some pretty incredible and frightening experiences.

Congrat's Erik! I'm proud of your efforts my friend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sourdough Paddling

It was Sourdough Heaven on Lac La Croix this last week in the BWCA. Our guide Jason,, had been preparing a batch of 100 year old sourdough he split off from friends that originated from Judge Wickersham in Alaska. Since I grew up in Alaska and my mother used to make sourdough pancakes and breads all the time my ears and mouth opened wide. You can read more about his sourdough and its history by going to Jason's website, then over to his blog. Type in, sourdough, in the Search box and you'll easily find all about this wonderful century old batch of sourdough.

This trip was filled with lots of heat and humidity in the BWCA. In fact, most say it was the first week of summer. July was the coldest EVER on record. Swimming was part of everyday and the clear nights let us view amazing meteor showers. Thursday evening we saw at least 100 in just over an hour.

The bookproject is coming along piece by piece. This last week's visit to the famed pictographs on Lac La Croix's Canadian side of the the lake thrilled me. The cliff that the images are painted on is an iconic image in this region. Its been photographed, painted, and published hundreds of times. Rounding the corner of an island and getting that first glimpse of the cliff side, the immediate impact of something you've experience before was spectacular. It was comforting to see it and I can only imagine the early voyageurs felt the same way when this landmark came into view.

Wild rice was prevalent on this trip and should be able to harvest sometime in the next several weeks. It was flowering out now and with the tap of a finger, pollen dust would fly off the flowers.

Another hard fought trip in the books. Several more trips on the horizon. The real bonus on this trip, other than the fine company of my companions, was the trip to the Chocolate Moose in Ely for dinner on the way home. The fresh blueberry pie knocked my socks off. All the blueberries were picked from the area. Geez, I'm getting hungry again!