Reflections on the Gunflint Trail
Two years ago today, my wife and I turned onto the Gunflint Trail for the first time. It was pitch black as we made our way to Flour Lake Campground. Despite living in Minnesota my entire life, I had never made this trek. But as my wife and I had been exploring the North Shore region more and more, we felt that it was time to see what the Gunflint was all about. We had plans of hiking, canoeing, and searching for moose. As I’ve written about before, I had never seen a moose in Minnesota and for some reason, in the back of my mind, I had this growing desire to photograph the iconic animal of our northern forests. I had no idea how realistic this was, but like most of my adventures, it started out with a little planning and a lot of imagination. And while I had little idea as to what I was actually doing on that trip, we must have had beginner’s luck on our side, as we saw three moose over the course of the weekend as well as two bears and a fox. I found myself reflecting a lot on that first trip as we found ourselves again, almost two years to the day, exploring some of the same backroads we did on that first trip. This time it was less imagination, more planning, and a more realistic understanding of the challenges and rewards that go into these ventures. We walked away from this trip seeing six moose, two bears, and a fox, very reminiscent of our first trip. Two of the moose were even in the same spot as they were on that first trip.
While the two trips were similar, there were also incredibly different. On this trip I knew exactly where I wanted to explore. I’ve become relatively familiar with the area and had a good idea of spots to check. Sure enough, my hunches weren’t terrible, as seeing six moose is a rare experience. But my reasons for being there in the first place were different. I had been asked to teach a photography course at North House Folk School in Grand Marais so it was during my spare time that I found myself traversing the Gunflint. It was an honor to have the opportunity to teach about something I am so passionate about, and I hope it’s something I get to do again in the future. But what struck me most was how I have grown as a photographer and how significant that first trip up the Gunflint was to that growth. If I hadn’t made that trip, or randomly encountered that first moose in an unexpected spot in the middle of the day, I don’t know if I would have been so inspired to return time and again to the area. If I hadn’t found success on those early trips, I don’t think I would have devoted the time, energy, gas, and miles on the car searching far and wide. And frankly, I don’t know who I would be as a photographer right now without those experiences. Because of those early experiences, I have ventured further than I would have without them, leading to experiences and stories that have been published in the Boundary Waters Journal as well as the opportunity to teach a photography course with North House. These are small accomplishments, but they mean a lot to me and I know they would not have taken place without that first venture into unknown territory. It’s kinda crazy to reflect on the trickle-down effect that first trip has had in my life over the past two years.
And with all that being said, I am grateful for the past two years and I am excited for what’s to come. Towards the end of the first day of the photography course with North House, I talked about passion and why we bother taking photos in the first place. One thing that came to mind is that this is a hobby that gives back. Photography has given me new experiences, goals, excuses to travel and explore, opportunities to be published and have my voice heard, and a chance to teach others how to engage with a creative outlet. For those that have taken even a remote interest in my work, whether that’s purchasing a print, buying a calendar, browsing my website, or reading these blogs, thank you. I am grateful for the support and the kind words you have sent my way during this journey and I hope to keep bringing you images from our great state.
Keywords: adventure, animals, forest, gunflint, Gunflint Trail, Minnesota, moose, nature, Northern Minnesota, photography, up north, wild, wilderness, wildlife, wildlife photography
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