Weekly Photo Challenge: Cheeky

Leave in Snow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cheeky

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Oberg Mountain Loop Trail in Tofte, MN

Oberg Mountain, North Shore MN

In the last week’s post, i had shared the panorama photo of Caribou Lake and about the White Sky Rock trail in Lutsen.  In today’s post, i will detail out yet another trail in Cook CountyOberg Mountain loop, which is part of Sawtooth Mountains in North Shore, Minnesota.

Oberg Mountain trail is a 2.2 mile loop trail with 9 scenic overlooks of spectacular views. Once at the top of the mountain, the trail provides beautiful views of Lake Superior, Oberg lake and Moose Mountain. Especially during fall colors, this is must-visit in Cook County to see the red maple. Initial trail has few moderate switchbacks but once at the top of the mountain, trail is relatively easy and in circular loop. This is a spur trail off the Superior Hiking Trail. The above pic is of the Oberg Lake taken from one of the overlooks of the Oberg Mountain, and captures the transformation of leaves and scenery during the fall season, when the leaves turn colorful.

One interesting recommendation i read in many sites and blog is that you should keep to your right at the fork on the top of mountain and walk the trail in anti-clockwise direction. Except during busy time when there can be more people on the narrow trail, i find no particular reason why we should be hiking in anti-clockwise direction. If your sole purpose is to photograph the Oberg Lake, by all means i would suggest you to go left at the fork in clockwise direction, as the distance is shorter this way. But if your idea is to capture the rising sun or the Lake Superior, you must traverse in anti-clockwise direction. Moreover, it also depends on the time of the day and the situation of the light on that particular day, which is to be considered for photography. Having said this, i did not know all this and hence, walked anti-clockwise direction. Given a chance to reverse the day’s decision, i would have walked clockwise direction that day, for simple reason that i wanted to capture this view first as it was little cloudy that day and light was playing its magic. So,  by no means, i wanted to miss this opportunity. Despite this, i was lucky enough to capture this beautiful scenery. So, choose your loop direction – clockwise or anti-clockwise – wisely.

There is a vault toilet at the parking lot and details about both trails – Oberg and Leveaux mountain trails. There are no facilities at the top of mountain. Except one overlook, none of the other overlooks have guard-rails and there are steep cliffs of the mountain. So, use extreme caution.

How to reach: Drive approximately 4.7 miles north of Tofte on Highway 61, North Shore. Turn left at Onion River Road (Forest Road 336), which is marked by a small sign and easy to be missed. Hence, look for the ‘Superior Hiking Trail’ sign on Highway 61 to signal your turn. Drive 2.1 miles on this unpaved road to find the parking lot on the left. Once here, you will find that there are two trails that originate from the parking lot. So, don’t get confused. LeVeaux Mountain Trail, 3.4 miles leading up to the LeVeaux Mountains, starts from the end of the parking lot, farthest from the Onion Road. Whereas Oberg Mountain Trail starts from the opposite side of Onion River Road from the parking lot. Visit here for the map and more information.

When to Visit: Fall is the best season. But views from the overlook will change every season and hence, you can visit it any time of the year. Make sure that if you are visiting it during the crowded fall season, you go early as the parking lot can be pretty full by 9 am. After hiking, when i returned to the parking lot around 10:30 am, cars were parked on both sides of the Onion River Road for about quarter mile, as parking lot was full.

Length of Trail: Loop of 2.2 miles

Have you hiked Oberg Mountain? What was your experience like?

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White Sky Rock Trail in Lutsen, MN

Caribou Lake, North Shore MN

North Shore, located along the beautiful Lake Superior in Minnesota, is a magical place in all seasons. It stretches more than 150 miles from Duluth at the south tip of lake Superior to the Canadian Border in the north. This scenic drive is along the lake on one side and the Sawtooth Mountains on the other side, with several hundred miles of hiking trail.

One such hiking trail is the White Sky Rock hike, overlooking the Caribou Lake and the surrounding maple forests. This trail is part of the Superior Hiking Trail. I hiked it this year in order to capture the fall colors, as this is one of the recommended trails to see the fall color change. Since there are lot of maple trees, view from the overlook is amazing.

While i was there in the last weekend of September, i got to know that maples were past peak. Hence, i was not able to capture lot of red. Despite this, it was worth the hike and the view. Once i was at the overlook, i wanted to capture the view of the lake in one shot, which did not seem possible with my 18-55 mm lens. This was the widest lens i had. An ultra-wide lens would have been more ideal.

Left with no option, I decided to experiment with panorama shot. I took two shots with both shots overlapping almost 30-40%. Since this was the first time i was shooting the panorama shot with my digital SLR camera, i was little short on the experience and instead took 2 shots. Now in the hindsight, i realize that i should have taken atleast 3 shots. Later in the post-processing, i merged both the shots in Adobe Photoshop Element, and did some minor adjustments in Adobe LightRoom. Above shot is the post-processed panorama of the Caribou Lake.

How to Reach: On Highway 61, drive approximately 92 miles North of Duluth. A mile past Lutsen on the Highway 61, drive into the Caribou Trail (County Road 4) for about 4 miles. You will find the Cathedral of the Pine son the right. Drive further to find an unpaved road on the right side which is White Sky Road. There is a small parking area for car and boat launches. You will also find the trailhead sign to the White Sky Rock trail. Follow the short little trail upto the Caribou Trail Road you just came from and cross it. You will find the trail leading uphill into the woods.

Length of Trail: This is a very short hike but with an elevation gain of 230 foot. Trail-head sign mentions 0.3 miles. This is a steep hike but manageable. Half way into the hike, you will reach the junction of White Sky Rock Trail and Lake Agnes Hike. Both are part of Superior hiking Trail. Take the right for White Sky Rock Trail. Overlook is very much exposed with no guardrails. Hence, take care if you have kids.

Best Time to Visit: Fall color is definitely the best time to see maple at its peak. However, you can hike this any time of the year to get the beautiful view. This is one of my recommended hikes and it does not require lot of planning and execution time.

Let me know what do you think of my first panorama shot.

Few of my other posts on fall colors are:

Think Local Travel Global

Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Peek

Door County Wisconsin Countryside

This summer we went on a road trip to the Door County, which is a beautiful peninsula  bounded by Lake Michigan on its three sides. Door County is located in the state of Wisconsin and is approximately five and half hours drive away from Minneapolis. We drove mainly on the countryside roads of Door County, as these roads had beautiful imagery. The forecast for the sunset was clear skies but the sun was playing peek-a-boo amidst the clouds. I stopped at the Diamond Dairy Farm, shown in the photograph, since i could not resist the temptation to shoot the beautiful sunset sky with the farm building.

Door County in Wisconsin is a magical place at any time of the year. Driving on the county roads of Door County provides lot of photographic opportunity, and fun-filled activities. In the morning, we visited one of the dairy farms during our visit. Our two-year old daughter had an exciting time, feeding the goats, sheep, horses and cattle. She loves these cute animals. We snapped lot of her pictures with the farm animals. She also watched milking of the cows and we told her  milk she drinks everyday comes from one of such dairy farms, though i am not sure she remembers it now. Because of so many dairy farms, Wisconsin is considered to be the dairy-land of USA, and after California, produces most milk. This post is a contribution to this week’s photo challenge – Peek.

Have you been to Door County? What was your experience like?

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Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis Downtown

Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis Downtown

Minneapolis downtown has its famous Stone Arch Bridge, which was a former railroad bridge over the Mississippi River. Built in 1883, this bridge is made of stone and consists of 21 arches . Today this bridge is used as a pedestrian and bike bridge, and provides a panoramic view of Minneapolis skyline and Mississippi river.

This post is part of this week’s challenge: Pedestrian.

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Willow River State Park, Wisconsin

Willow River State Park

I often wonder how rivers and streams keep flowing relentlessly without stopping and taking a pause. They are always in the transient state, and travel far and wide. Couple of weeks back, we had visited Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. This state park is less than an hour drive from Minneapolis. Park has a beautiful waterfall, and you can check out its picture in my previous blog. (Check the shot of another waterfall – Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota – here.) There are good, well marked trails leading to the fall and pretty view of the river itself.

Being summer, there were many people and families with kids having fun in the water. Some were simply relaxing, enjoying the falling water, and there were few like me, who wanted to capture the beautiful scenery. I wanted to avoid people in my shot, which proved difficult for me. Hence, i decided to capture smaller streams of the fall, and i was not disappointed with the long exposure shot like this one. Hope you like this week’s photo from my adventures. Have a wonderful week.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Flowers in Focus

This photo is a contribution for this week’s challenge: Focus

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Friend



Need i say more about this shot?

This shot is inspired by this week’s photo challenge – Friend.

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Thank You: 1000 Followers Now

1000 Followers on WordPress

Few days back, i received this notification from WordPress that my blog site has 1000 followers now. A big thank you goes to all of you who have shared their love and warmth with my contributions all these days. This blog site has been possible only because of all the inspiration and motivation that you provide through your feedback and interactions. I constantly get encouraged by your appreciation and kind words. This keeps me going.

Now that summer is here, i am planning few trips during upcoming long weekends, like a visit to Door County in Wisconsin in Memorial Day weekend and a road-trip to Badlands, Grand Teton, Yellowstone National Parks, Devils Tower in Wyoming during July 4th weekend. Like last year, this year too, theme for my travelogue continues to be nature, and national and state parks of USA. I will continue to share my experiences along with photographs with all you beautiful people out there. If you have questions regarding planning these trips, do post your question below and i can help you. Till then have fun and take care good care of yourself.

Below photograph was shot by me in the summer of 2012 when i had visited Madrid, Spain.

Madrid Bull Fighting Arena

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5 Reasons to Visit Mount Rushmore at Sunrise

Mount Rushmore South DakotaSo, now you know when you should visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial! Really early in the morning, preferably at sunrise. More so, if you are a photographer and want to take really cool shots of the Memorial and the Black Hill in the golden hour.

Like the Statue of Liberty in New York, Mount Rushmore is one of the iconic symbol of heritage of United States. Located in Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore National Memorial celebrates American history with 60-foot sculpture of the heads of four USA Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Among them, they span more than a century.

Now let us look at why you should visit Mount Rushmore at sunrise:

  1. Golden Sun Rays Fall Directly on the Faces – Most important reason. Sculpture of four Presidents face east. So, at sunrise, when the golden rays of the sun fall directly on the monument, granite rocks are bathed in the orange and yellow colors, creating a dramatic effect. Throughout the day, you will have various amount of shadow over the faces, which does not make a good shot from the photography perspective. At sunset however, sun will be behind the monument so there is shade over the face of the monument.  Unless you want to capture the colorful sky at the golden hour or the twilight colors with a silhouette of the monument, you may not want to shoot at sunset. That leaves us with morning sunrise. Remember monument opens up at 5 in the morning itself. Though we were at the monument around the sunrise at 5:30 am, sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. It rained as well for few minutes. Hence, the shots I took are not what I had expected for. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience to wake up at 3:30 in the morning, drive for almost 1.5 hours from Wall, city where we stayed and reach Mount Rushmore at 5:30 am.                      Mount Rushmore South Dakota

2. Avoid the Heavy Crowd – We visited Mount Rushmore during the Memorial Day weekend of 2016, expecting heavy crowd. But we were in for a surprise and beat them all by reaching really early in the morning at sunrise. This also means that in your selfies or shots of the monument, there is least probability of anyone walking into, making it the perfect travel photo. I am pretty sure as the day would have advanced, there would have been more souls eventually. It is one of the most visited monuments in USA. No wonder Mount Rushmore is crowded throughout the year with visitors. Do you know how many tourists visit the Memorial each year? Nearly three million. But early in the morning, when we visited, there were probably not more than two dozen people till 7 am.                                                                                                                                   Mount Rushmore South Dakota

3. Extended Sightseeing Time in Your Travel Itinerary – This one is probably a no-brainer. Once you have checked off Mount Rushmore from your your list in the morning, you are still left with the entire day of sightseeing. Most of the people – tourists, and not travelers – wake up little late in the morning and by the time they have visited the first spot of the day, half day is over. Advantage of visiting Mount Rushmore at sunrise is that you have plenty of time to enjoy other nearby spots. Some of the nearby attractions definitely not to be missed and within the driving distance are:

  • Wind Cave National Park (approx.. an hour)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (approx. 45 min),
  • Badlands National Park (approx. 1.5 hrs),
  • Custer State Park (approx. 35 min),
  • Needles Highway (approx. 15 min),
  • Crazy Horse (approx. 25 min)
  • Beautiful landscape of South Dakota with pine trees and hills

Mount Rushmore South Dakota

4. Enjoy the Morning view of Black Hills in Mist and Fog – There could not be a better time for you to enjoy and photograph the Black Hills, grappling to wake up from its slumber and still shrouded in the fog and mist and soothing sun rays,. You should definitely walk down from the hill, approximately one and a half miles from the town below – Keystone – if you want to the soak in the morning view of the majestic landscape.Black Hills South Dakota

5. Unofficially Free Entrance – Purposefully I saved this travel hack for the last. On the official site of Mount Rushmore, it is mentioned that there is no entrance fees to visit the Memorial but there is a parking fee to park your vehicle. For cars, motorcycles and RVs, the parking fee comes to $11 per vehicle. However the ticket counter for the parking booth opens up only 7 am, which is mentioned at the counter. So, we drove in and parked our vehicle, without paying any fee. We were expecting that when we exit, we might have to pay at exit counter, if any, or someone might come to collect the fees. But guess what? There was none. And we literally visited Mount Rushmore for free. Enter anytime before 7 am and you will save the $11 parking fee. Interesting, isn’t it? This is really doable during summer when sunrise occurs very early. So, remember this when you visit Rushmore next time.

Only drawback of visiting the Monument early in the morning – may be insignificant to many but a critical one for some like me –  could be that the restrooms open late in the day, probably at 7 am. So, if you need to use the restroom, you might be in for a trouble. Only option is to drive down the hill to Keystone and pray that atleast one of the touristy establishments is open. It was beyond my logic to understand why they keep the restrooms locked at Mount Rushmore when the Monument itself is open by 5 am. Keep a note of this and plan your date with four Presidents of United States accordingly.

Have you visited Mount Rushmore? How was your experience like? Do share your experiences so that readers have more information.

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