A Surprise Visit to Duluth
Originally published Feb. 2, 2013
I finally made it into the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). Living in Minnesota, I really have zero excuses for not having previously been there, but somehow I managed to rack up over 40 years of them. The BWCAW is a pristine 1 million+ acres of wilderness covering the northern most part of Minnesota and runs 150 miles along the border with Canada.
It’s a big deal to go there. You need to get permits which are given out on a limited basis to control human impact on the area. Access is either by foot or with a canoe at designated entry points. There are no motorized vehicles allowed. No motor boats, no cars, no snowmobiles. There is no cell phone service. There is no internet or electricity or toilets. There are no power lines running through your photos. There are no man-made structures, except for maybe a handful that were grandfathered in when the BWCAW was first designated in 1964.
In other words, you cannot book a hotel or lodge or cabin in the BWCA. If you go in overnight, you will be setting up camp.
There is one road that runs between two BWCA areas. It is called The Gunflint Trail. Look at the green strip that goes in between the two purple areas in the upper right corner of the state. I’m pretty sure that is where the trail is located. Along here there are lots of lodges, cabins, homes, and electricity lines. I was staying along the Gunflint Trail but I was able to walk into the BWCA, where I proudly filled out my first and second Self-Issued Entry Permits.
I have a lot to say about that trip, but the most ironic thing happened on the way home. In my last post I talked about a little ice storm from Lake Superior waters and showed some images of boardwalk structures coated in ice. Well, wouldn’t you know I had a car problem and my royal chariot ended up in a repair shop in Duluth. Here’s where the irony comes in. The hotel I ended up staying at was the very same spot where I had taken those images two years earlier. I didn’t know it until the next morning because I checked in at night and it was dark. Sure I knew I was in the general area, but since my reservation was made over the phone, I didn’t exactly know where I was going until I got there. Same hotel, same bench, same light post that I had photographed before.
I’ve always wanted to spend some time in Duluth. I wasn’t quite prepared to do it this week but then car breakdowns have a way of altering schedules and life like that.
When I woke up the next morning, I could see that there were ice chunks floating in the water. Water freezes at the edge of the lake but as the waves pick up force from time to time, the back-and-forth motion breaks up the newly formed ice from below the surface and that is why you see these various shapes of ice floating around. Sometimes they start stacking up on top of each other and then if a person can get the sunlight coming through those stacks they might be in nirvana because they just got some very beautiful photographic images.
I was about to do that, having seen two small stacks of those ice configurations, but decided to do a couple other things first. When I came back a few hours later, I was shocked to look out my hotel window and see that ALL the ice had melted or somehow disappeared. Look at the difference in these photos.
Then the call came that my car was done. It had been two days and I was ready to go home. The weather was changing though. The temperature was dropping and ice was starting to form again at the edge. I would have to wait for another time.
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.