On the clock

_MG_9726For the first time in five years, I consistently get to take photos for my job. It feels great.

I started more than six weeks ago leading two weekly newspapers in the Twin Cities suburbs: the Prior Lake American and Savage Pacer. It’s a relatively small operation that nonetheless takes a lot of work. I oversee two reporters and help get their work into the best shape possible, I work with other editors and reporters at six other weeklies that are part of the same company, I edit everything that goes in mine and work with designers to decide where it all goes in my papers. And I also get to report and photograph on my own. Above, for example, I watched a little CLIMB Theatre skit about nature and conservation at a Prior Lake elementary school last week. To understate, this is not a bad gig. Here’s a sample of some other things I’ve been up to.

A social and work skills day program for young adults with autism started up in Shakopee last month:

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Prior Lake High School is performing “Sister Act” as its fall musical this weekend:

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Local veterans spent all day Thursday sharing their stories and thoughts on their service with Prior Lake High School students (happy Veterans Day, by the way):

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A Shakopee establishment called Pablo’s was voted the best Mexican restaurant and restaurant overall in our coverage area, the southwest metro. I can’t say I’d mind taking a lot more food photos:

And I wrote a little outdoor feature all about the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches over several miles of wetlands, streams and forests along the metro’s south. Look for that one, with some of these photos attached, this weekend:

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_MG_9989Stay warm out there, and thanks for looking.
Dan

Lake Superior

_MG_8935This primordial-looking rock first emerged as lava around a billion years ago; now it’s the solid, chilly shore of the world’s broadest freshwater lake, including at this spot, the farthest north I’ve gone. You see here the eastern edge of Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park, a small, beautiful and popular Civilian Conservation Corps endeavor, much like Devil’s Den back in Arkansas. A few thousand others and I checked out the park last weekend.

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_MG_8985I’d actually been to Lake Superior once before, more than a decade ago. That trip was Gooseberry’s opposite in some ways — to the opposite end of the lake in Michigan, 300 miles away, in the middle of summer, with soft sand beaches that come from cliffs of sandstone instead of black and deep-red volcanic rock. The lake that’s big enough to cover North and South America with 1 foot of water isn’t limited to one personality.

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Dec-17-2007-095---Copy.jpgTahquamenon Falls in Michigan, above, is impressive, and Gooseberry has several cascades of its own. We hiked from the shore back upstream along the Gooseberry River to reach them.

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_MG_9053I have so much of Minnesota left to see — it’s almost twice as big as Arkansas — but it hasn’t disappointed yet. I’ll be back to the North Shore for sure, though. I’ve got to at least find a Lake Superior agate.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

New neighbors

_MG_8689If you missed the news, I’m now living way up north in the Twin Cities. It’s the biggest move I’ve ever made to the biggest place I’ve ever lived, as I keep telling all my new coworkers and acquaintances. I miss some of Arkansas’ people and places and weather; it’s been gray and chilly for most of my time here so far. Between the storms, I’ve started exploring this place, meeting some of its ducks and lakes, some of its people, its downtown and its Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, for a start.

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IMG_0775..jpgThe FairShare Farm community garden sits a few steps from my fourplex door, so that was one of my first stops. The growing season is obviously winding down, but some of the garden’s regulars tell me I should join the neighborhood clearings and plantings there over the next several months. I can’t turn that down.

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_MG_8791This is a nice little corner of Minneapolis, a piece of a metropolitan area with more people than all of Arkansas. There’s a lot of life here, good and bad. Many of the people at the nearby farmers markets and shops originally hailed from the Caribbean, Latin America, Somalia, Russia and southeast Asia. Just south of here, scores of tents line one particular highway exit, and a grocery store keeps its supplies of baby formula and vanilla secure behind the customer service desk with the cigarettes. International flights roar over the wildlife refuge down near the Mall of America.

I’m looking forward to learning about the Twin Cities’ mixtures and contradictions.

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_MG_8829Thanks for looking and following along with the journey.

Dan

Mulberry

_MG_7044This is one of my favorite spots in Arkansas. It is a pain in the butt to reach.

These falls and their hollow are part of a creek that runs alongside Mulberry Mountain, former home of the old Wakarusa music festival. I never came for the music, but some friends and I hiked to the nearby Mountain Creek a little more than four years ago (I posted about it here). I’ve wanted to go back since. It’s no 100-foot Cedar Falls, but it is a lovely, peaceful little swimming hole in the middle of Ozark National Forest.

The hike there, on the other hand, was not peaceful. The path is unusually steep and difficult, mostly straight down the mountain and therefore deeply eroded and rocky. But worse were the gnats and flies. I don’t know whether one group of them followed me or if I was just the baton in a relay down the mountain, but the dots darting around in front of my eyes and the whining buzz in my ears were literally, maddeningly constant. One big specimen pursued my camera lens no matter how much I swatted at it. Every now and then a metallic blue, sinister-looking wasp would fly in a straight line over the path, ignoring me. If only the rest followed that example.

There would be no relaxing until I got to the valley floor. And that’s too bad, because on both sides was a smorgasbord of fungi like I haven’t seen in years, if ever.

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Some toadstools glistened wetly, while others looked soft as velvet. All were just the most visible part of a network of fungal filaments busy decomposing things beneath the surface.

I couldn’t spend much time with many of these beauties because of the gnats, but the bug issue surprisingly died down a bit when I reached the creek, where that sort of thing can be at its worst. I guess the spiders are more effective down there, since there were plenty of those, too. It seemed like I was the first visitor in a good while. The rest of you are missing a genuinely idyllic place, once you get past the rude, buzzing neighbors.

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_MG_7024Thanks for looking.