My photo adventure along the North Shore turned out to be very productive. My good friend Andy and I arrived late in the evening of Christmas Eve and took it easy in the Red Roof Inn. On Christmas day we took off around 10 am along “scenic” Highway 61 that runs along the shore of lake superior from Duluth to Two harbors, where I was hoping to find some interesting pull-offs to stop, but unfortunately nothing inspired me. However, once we got to Two Harbors, we found our way to the lighthouse/shoreline to see what we could find. Thankfully no one was really out and about on the roads since it was Christmas and it made for a very quiet landscape to shoot. The sun was streaming through some clouds that had just rolled in creating some lovely color casts and it got me excited to go exploring a bit. I knew it was going to be a cold photo conditions, so I tried to pack and dress smartly to ensure a successful adventure. I started off with skin tight underarmour running leggings, a skin tight upper body underarmour short with a high neckline, rugged jeans, a hooded sweatshirt with pockets, a complete face mask with just the eyes and a slit for the mouth and topped off with a sub zero jacket with LOTS of pockets, insulation, and its own separate hood. I was wearing two layers of socks inside my North Face show boots and two sets of gloves. The outer gloves were leather and deer fur lined, and the inner gloves were tight fitting winter running gloves that were very warm with rubberized finger grips to handle using my camera equipment and firing the shutter.
At the Lighthouse, I packed my inner jacket pockets with extra batteries to keep them warm (the extreme cold can zap battery power very quickly) and extra memory cards. The outer pockets each had a different lens in them so that i could change without bringing my photo backpack along. I find that I much faster and more nimble with changing my gear when I don’t have to mess with the backpack. I fired off a 2GB card while walking most of the “break-water” light house jetty and took my time composing shots and changing lenses to get different effects. Except for one lonely snow shoer who showed up to walk out to the light house, I was completely alone with the cold wind and ice. I loved it.
We continued up the North Shore towards Gooseberry Falls for our next destination. Again I suited up for the weather and got my gear ready for a longer trail walk this time. Surprisingly the Park Station and gift shop was open when we arrived. We paid the Rangers a visit to wish them a Happy Holiday and to thank them for being out there on a holiday. I set off along the trails and met a few cross country skiers and some snow-shoers. Took a while to get in the zone to shoot, but once it hit, I was having fun composing the snow and light. The falls were a bit of a disappointment because they were covered in snow and didn’t look the way I had anticipated, but such is nature. I still think i got some excellent landscape shots tho.
After a couple hours walking on the trails I returned to the Park station to warm up by the fireplace they had going. There was only one more place I wanted to stop along the North Shore and wasn’t sure where it was exactly till i saw a postcard in the shop that reminded me it was at Gooseberry Park itself. I just hadn’t realized it was there cause it was in the camping section. We drove down towards the shore camping sites to find it but encountered a small problem. The roads were only plowed to a certain part and then it stopped. I was going to have to set out on foot to reach the shoreline area I was remembering.This shoreline area is beautiful in the summer time with a rocky bedrock flat area next to a cliff with large iron chains slung between built up rock “posts”. I had seen another photographer’s work done a few years ago of the same place in winter with gorgeous built up ice layers and was determined to take my own….. little did I know that it was dangerous. My friend Andy stayed in the warm truck at the end of where the road was plowed while I set off to get my shots. I soon found myself chest deep in snow following what I thought were tracks, but it turns out they were deer tracks which made them look deceptively shallow. I had thoughts of turning back, but I pushed on thinking things would get better. With snow seeping into my shoes and pants, I finally arrived at the spot I had envisioned. Immediately I started firing off the camera trying to get as much data on film before I was exhausted. Moving around on the shoreline was treacherous due to the uneven bedrock, layers of slippery ice hidden under thin wisps of snow, and a chilly biting wind coming off the lake. I’ll admit that I slipped and fell quite a few times and after the third time diving into the snow camera first, i decided to give up, packed my camera gear in my back-pack (at least I had brought it), and crawled on my hands and knees off the shore till I reached the chest high snow.
Exhausted and tired, I made one final push through the snow back to my truck and decided to call my adventure complete. I knew I had some great shots, and was done risking my life on the ice and deep snow….. So I slugged down a liter of water and ate all the snacks we had brought (I probably burned a shit load of carbs trudging through the chest high snow), and we set off south for the second half of our holiday adventure. We were headed to Treasure Island Casino near Red Wing MN (a good 4 hour drive from Duluth). A nice way to cap off our hiking through the snow with a free night stay at a casino with a hot tub room and Buffet dinner. (I ended up winning $500!!!)