Sometimes It’s A Stumble In The Park

26 Jun

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Buck Lake-1

Jiminy Crickets! Whadda’ evening!

I was on my way to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Sherburne County last Saturday evening.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

Now….I don’t have the greatest capacity for long-term memories but for some reason I remembered the last time I was in that refuge. Years ago, my wife, sister, mother and I went to one of the trails there called Mahnomen Trail. A chuckle or three (and I confess – soon followed by laughter) started to rise out of my throat as I reminisced our short visit there.

My sister is allergic to bee stings. Shortly after we got out of the car, a bee started hovering around her and wouldn’t leave her alone. She got panicky and started to run from it as fast as she could…”flying like the wind” I might even suggest. Even today, after all those years ago, I still laugh. You may think I’m a bit of a meanie for laughing. However, I’m sure there have been many things I’ve done that have struck her as funny so I don’t feel too bad laughing. I can’t help but think of a scene from a movie where a man (who has been stuck laying in bed for five years due to weight issues) is being pulled up out of the bed with the help of two firefighters in the midst of a fire. As he rises and starts running with the aid of the two firefighters, he starts shouting “I’m running mama! I’m running like the wind!” It’s a hilarious scene!

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the world we live in now, I feel compelled to say I’m hearing impaired. I laugh at a lot of things related to my hearing loss. So for those of you who know the scene I’m talking about, don’t accuse me of being politically incorrect. To me it’s just a scene that cracks me up. Now where was I…oh yeah…

I pulled within the natural boundaries of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. I stopped at two different spots and took a hike at each. Although beautiful, I didn’t visualize anything that made me reach for my camera. A sign at the second stop stated that from March 1 to August 31, most of the refuge is off-limits to allow for wildlife to breed without disturbance. With that limitation in place, I decided to check out a trail that I’ve past many times in my travels through this refuge – a trail called Blue Hill trail.

Blue Hill Trail

After loading up on my favorite summer fragrance, 40% DEET, I took off with my backpack of camera gear in tow with a quick spring in my step. As it was now past 7 pm, I wanted to see as much of the trail as possible before it was too dark. I hiked the rather steep and narrow incline, reached the summit of Blue Hill (90 feet!) and looked out over the savanna of hardwoods and prairie grasses. I’ve read that SNWR is full of the sounds of birds and other wildlife; I heard nothing but silence atop the summit. There are advantages to having a hearing loss; hiking out in nature, to my thinking, is not one of them. At this point, things were uneventful save for the swarms of gnats. Then I continued down the rather steep and narrow descent (90 feet!) to pick up the main trail as my goal was to hit Buck Lake before the golden hour ended.

Golden Hour

A few smaller trails branched off the main trail as I hiked briskly. They all called to me to divert. I thought of Robert Frost and the famous final line of his poem The Road Not Taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”. But I had a destination. Today would not be the day I would divert. I plowed ahead even as the gnats were more prevelant and the biting flies started swarming as well. I alternated between plodding through soft sandy soil and trekking over firm ground. Finally, I reached a bridge where I stopped to enjoy the scenery and try to visualize some photographic compostions. And here is where it starts to be eventful.

I took off my hiking boots, put on my rain boots and wandered through the thick vegetation into the pond/stream that feeds into Buck Lake. I carefully tested each step as the ground was mushy and the suction of the mud pulling on my boots was significant. I set up my tripod and camera, took a step to my left and immediately my left boot started filling up with water. As quickly as I could without the suction pilfering the boots off my feet, I stepped out of the water and hoofed it back to the bridge. I took off the boot and poured out a boot full of water. I put the boot back on and sloshed toward my tripod only to turn back to bridge. My sock was so saturated that every step released water back into my boot. I took the boot off again, wrung out my sock, put the boot back on, put on my game face and headed back into the water. I would not be denied what I came to achieve.

I took a few images and moved the tripod. Big mistake. As I stepped over, I got water in my other boot. Being quite proficient with the necessary steps to return things to a semblance of normalcy, I trooped back to the bridge to dump the water out of my boot. This time I also remembered to wring out my sock as well. I imagined that with both my boot interiors, socks and pant legs wet, the ensuing squeaking noise emanating would excite other potential hikers wondering what wildlife was moving about. In this case, my hearing loss was definitely an advantage.

I manuevered my way through the vegetation back into the water. While it was now a mute point to be careful, I calculated my steps anyway, ensuring no more water in the boots. I moved to a new location to set up a shot for another image. I dropped my tripod legs to get lower to the water. I crouched down to see the scene through my live viewfinder…and promptly stained the butt of my pants with water. As I stood up, my camera strap that I had carefully positioned was brushed and the neck end of it went into the water. I heaved a rather depressing sigh (I might have muttered a few unkind words about myself as well), grabbed the immersed strap out of the water, finished taking the images and pulled out. I decided to end it while I still had a trace of dignity left. Which wasn’t much when you picture a wet butt, wet pant legs, socks and boot interiors, sweat pouring off of me from the humidity and a squeaky gait.

I didn’t bother putting my hiking boots back on as I figured might as well keep them dry. I took off to finish the rest of the loop. The whole way, because of the water and sweat diluting the efficiency of the DEET applied generously at the start, the biting flies enjoyed a nice meal. I swear one of them grew a few sizes off the meal he made of me. Another mistake that I normally don’t make. Keep that precious can of DEET with you at all times. That there is gold in them precarious situations.

Picture a grown chubby man discoing along the path with arms and legs flailing at various intervals to try to keep the gnats and biting flies at bay. John Travolta had nothing on me if we had a dance-off in that moment. I finally pulled out my backpack’s rain cover to protect my neck and back of bald head not covered by my baseball cap. If you don’t believe it, here’s an image of me. Any last trace of dignity I had was gone. Utterly, irrepairably gone. I’m putting on a smile so I don’t scare off my viewers. Okay, maybe I was chuckling at the ridiculousness of my predicament.

Steve Hadeen At Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

I finally made it back to the end of the loop. My right foot was blistered. Another mistake as the thin inner soles were no match for the pounding of my rapid pace. Fortunately, there were no other hikers to see my state of disrepair at the end. However, I’m sure Jesus along with my dad, brother, grandparents and other relatives gone from this earth, if they were given the privilege of seeing this scene unfolding, were enjoying this whole episode from start to finish. I know He enjoys a good farce. He created humor among other things.

You would have thought I’d had enough. Silly people! Photographers are a hardy breed if they are anything. The last rays of the setting sun were being thrown over the landscape. I started up the trail toward the peak of Blue Hill one more time, took a few more images in the waning light about halfway up and then finally called it a night. I sloshed back to my car, put my gear in the trunk, got in the car, started it up and basked in the most glorious of inventions…air conditioning.

The image at the top is one of my favorite images from that evening. The lowering sun during the golden hour added a richness and a warmth to the image. I personally liked the vertical grasses throughout the image being offset by the horizontal and diagonal flow of the lily pads. Adding to the abstract feel is the reflection of the grasses in the water.

Comments/thoughts are always welcome regarding the blog and/or image posted here. Feel free to share them below in the comments section. Thanks for allowing me to share with you “images from a quiet world”.

Interested in this image for your home/professional environment? Clicking the link below will take you directly to the gallery page where you can order it.

Lily Pads and Grasses

4 Responses to “Sometimes It’s A Stumble In The Park”

  1. Deb June 27, 2018 at 6:18 am #

    I remember the park and running as well. Glad to provide you laughter even after all this time. Congrats on your trek . Beautiful shot.


    • Steve Hadeen June 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment Deb! I felt like I worked for this one – lol. Glad we can laugh at each other and still be related ; )


  2. Patrick Forslund June 27, 2018 at 7:37 pm #

    Lol the things us photographers go through to get the shot! Great story! I can relate!


    • Steve Hadeen June 27, 2018 at 7:42 pm #

      Hey thanks for checking out the story! And yes, we do go through stuff, don’t we? Lol


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