A few years ago I searched for caves of Minnesota, after exploring Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and found Mystery Cave. This is a state park which offers tours through the largest caverns of the cave located in the bluffs of Southeastern Minnesota. We’ve attempted to plan a visit when we first discovered it but plans fell through so we kept it on a list of “someday” things to do. Fortunately this “someday” event actually was achieved this summer. We hosted a French student for a few weeks and thought this would be an enjoyable place to show some of the many faces of Minnesota. He had never been in a cave before and was fascinated with it.
Caves are very fascinating places and this one was no different. As is common, it is cool in Mystery Cave which felt nice on a hot summer afternoon. After descending a couple of flights of stairs we were transported into another world. Here is complete darkness surrounded by layers and layers of stone carved over thousands of years of water carrying away each piece it can grab until it can no longer flow through this area. These natural tunnels continue to transform yet today as water from the surface still drips through these rocks altering their environment.
As this water drips down the stone walls it carries with it minerals from above which separate from the water as it flows down these walls creating these veins throughout the caves giving them an appearance of life. The veins of Mystery Cave give it a beautiful and amazing ambiance adding to the wonder around each new cavern. What will this cave look like in a thousand years from now? What will be the same, if anything? What did the cave look like a thousand years ago?
This is the first cave I’ve toured that I saw an underground lake. While it was smaller than I was prepared for it was incredibly clear and had a very deceptive depth that could only be realized by shining light through the surface and moving it around. Even then the deception required a focused realization and understanding of what you are viewing. We continued through some of the narrow passageways returning to the beginning and climbed out to natural daylight squinting while adjusting to it once again. It was cool enough inside and hot and humid enough outside that everyone’s glasses fogged immediately upon exiting the cave making those with corrective lenses laugh as this usually happens during the winter, not summer.
It’s been several weeks now since the passing of Prince and many of the tributes are now over. Over the past several weeks I’ve talked to a number of people and listened to their stories regarding interactions with him. Some who’ve met him on a more personal level, others who’ve been to some of his more intimate shows in the area, and those who’ve gone to full scale concerts. Many in his home town of Minneapolis have been affected by Prince. How many people in the world have such an effect as to be able to turn symbols around the world purple? Very few that I can think of.
While I didn’t take in those paying tribute at his recording studio Paisley Park or the well known night club First Avenue, I wanted to photograph the city he grew up in at night and what better opportunity than while it was lit up in purple? After work one evening I heading out in search of a great place to capture it all. While I didn’t fully succeed in capturing it all, I think I got some interesting pictures of Minneapolis.
The first goal was to photograph the city as the sun set behind it so I headed to a spot east and set up waiting for dark to begin falling. I was surprised to find I was not the only one taking advantage of this situation and specific location. In fact much of the night I came across others doing the same thing in the same places. Sure the opportunity for a unique picture was decreased but it was somewhat comforting to know others thought taking these night photos was a good idea also.
As the sun continued its trek below the horizon, more and more purple lights became visible in the darkening sky. Blackness continued to fill the sky over this busy city making these colorful lights stand out in places I didn’t expect. There were stories of a few buildings in downtown, and the 35W bridge, being lit up in purple but many other buildings had joined in on this night bringing an even larger tribute to Prince’s place.
After photographing in this location for a couple of hours while the last light from the sun dipped below the city I decided to try a different perspective to see if more of these colored buildings could be spotted so I drove to the north side of Minneapolis. Not much time was spent here as I couldn’t find a composition that brought out these purple accented buildings in a way I wanted so after a few pictures it was off to the west side of the city. From there, more buildings lit up in Prince’s color appeared and provided some nice opportunities with the rising moon in the background. After photographing this night cityscape for over an hour from this location, I decided it was time to call it a night and head for home and a soft pillow.
While hosting a student from France this summer we took a couple of days to head to the North Shore of Minnesota to see Lake Superior. A great place to stop is Tettegouche State Park to see both Lake Superior and the highest waterfalls entirely in Minnesota (there’s one slightly taller but it borders Minnesota and Canada). This was in the middle of August so the waterfalls are not gushing with as much ferociousness as earlier in the year but still a beautiful sight. It was raining and nearing nightfall during our time here which actually allowed us to have these falls all to ourselves. A rare opportunity this time of year.
The Baptism River is cold (yet warm when compared to Lake Superior) people like to swim near the falls and jump from a nearby cliff. A dry towel to wipe the water from your skin and warm clothing to put on shortly after was a good idea on this day as the temperature was not very warm and there was no sun to warm up in so hypothermia was certainly a possibility. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend a stop at Tettegouche State Park to explore the high falls. There is a short hike of just under a mile to get there from the nearest parking lot which is worth it if you can make it. There are a couple of smaller waterfalls to see if you have the time to hike to them. Darkness was approaching so we were unable to check out the rest of the smaller waterfalls. That will have to wait for another time.