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This isn’t meant to be a political post. Over the course of the past year, news from Iron County has inundated my Facebook feed via a flurry of political, economic and environmental posts. The posts were often triggered by a proposed mine that may or may not ever happen. But buried within the posts were references to countless, unknown waterfalls that I hadn’t seen referenced on a regular basis in travel publications or local news stories.

Waterfalls mesmerize me. I’m naturally drawn to water and there is something cascading waterfalls that calms my soul. When my husband and I completed the Lake Superior Circle Tour, we stopped at every easily accessible waterfall on Lake Superior. We’ve done countless North Shore trips, day hikes and exploring in our neck of the woods to photograph just one more fall. By default, this included at least 2 waterfalls in Iron County. But, after some digging on the Iron County website and reading an article on the Travel Wisconsin website, I learned there were at least a dozen documented falls that were accessible to the public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a cool, crisp, and extra wet fall morning I decided to load up my trusty Subaru with my camera, snacks and a worn-out gazetteer to see just how many of these falls I could find. I had 10-hours and a full tank of gas. Given my time constraints and location (I live two counties away), I had to limit myself to northern Iron County. By my initial estimate, I thought I could photograph and explore seven waterfalls. My initial estimate was wrong. I didn’t factor in a torrential downpour, mismarked roads, flooded backroads, incomplete directions (thanks Travel Wisconsin), and at times a lack of common sense on my part.

By day’s end, I managed to discover and enjoy seven of the nine waterfalls and a gorgeous overlook where I enjoyed some serious windburn and a beautiful view of the Penokees. As usual, Mother Nature did not disappoint me. Many of these waterfalls were remote. Fall colors were at their peak with the rain and haze drawing out the vibrant golds and radiant reds against the grey sky. Swirling leaves, rapid waterfalls and solitude provided the perfect backdrop for the photographer in me to pause for a moment and reflect on what an incredible place I live.

The day held one flaw I saw repeated over and over again in the backroads of Iron County. A disconnect between man and nature. As someone who loves hidden gems, I understand the value of locals keeping some things private. I also get many of these backroads aren’t meant to be major thoroughfares for folks to travel. But, would a simple, occasional road name sign be so much to ask? Or better yet, could we limit the bullets to hunting animals (in-season of course) versus signs? As a lone, single women in God’s country, it is not very comforting to find the path to what you hope is a waterfall posted with a graffiti ridden bent metal sign filled with bullet holes. Last time I checked, this isn’t the wild, wild, west in the 1800s. It is disheartening to see remote, pristine campsites posted with a simple request of no cutting trees, next to a series of stumps. But I digress.

I end my day at Superior Waterfalls. Here the Montreal River makes a final 90-foot plummet before finding its way home to Lake Superior. It is an impressive way to end a day full of discoveries and a thunderous reminder that sometimes exploring in your own neck of the woods is as calming and invigorating as any far away place.

Over the course of the next days I’ll share directions and additional photos from this day but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorites:

 

Amnicon Falls is one of those often overlooked but beloved state parks near my home in northwest Wisconsin. The park is small compared to nearby Jay Cooke State Park. It is often lost in the hype and marketing of the North Shore and the countless parks and waterfalls that dot the shoreline. By some respects, it falls on the wrong side of the bridge. I have a hunch, if it were 15 miles northwest, it’d trump Gooseberry Falls in visitor counts and poised family waterfall photos.

Lucky for me, it isn’t. Instead, this unassuming park provides meaningful moments of reflection and an opportunity to pause in life. This past month was no exception. I awoke early on a Sunday morning to meet a friend for coffee in Duluth. As I pulled out of the driveway, I discovered I was ahead of schedule and had an extra 20-minutes to kill before breakfast.

As a new mom, these moments of unexpected solitude are prized possessions that compare to winning the lottery. I immediately knew I’d find myself at Amnicon State Park. I arrive at the park just before dawn. Despite the park being open for over an hour, the parking lot is empty. This is often the case when I visit these falls. I hop out of the car and take in what the park has to offer. By many definitions, it isn’t much. But for me, it is everything.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe park has no extensive trail system. There isn’t a single set of stairs to an expansive overlook of Lake Superior. The state hasn’t invested in a multi-million dollar interpreter center or deluxe restrooms. Instead, it is a simple park that encompasses an impressive portion of the Amnicon River. Within seconds of getting out of your car, you find yourself staring at a series of small but picturesque waterfalls. A few moments later, a wooden canopy crosses the river framing a set of lower falls that is a photographer’s dream.

amniconbridgeAccording to the Wisconsin DNR, the bridge is a Horton or bowstring bridge, named after Charles M. Horton. Horton patented the bridge structure while working in Duluth. In its prime, it was one of several highway bridges that allowed folks in northwest Wisconsin to connect to the west. Today, only 5 of these Horton bridges remain. The bridge moved the park in 1930. During the height of the Depression, the Brule CCC constructed the wooden roof that covers the bridge.

One can’t argue the park’s beauty. But what I love most about it is its simplicity. To me, parks exist for people to reconnect with nature—a simple time-out in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In some cases, this means wilderness areas that can take days to explore or hikes that are measured in miles not footsteps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI snap photos for a few minutes and then pause to take in the silence. Despite being just moments from Highway 2, the only sound is that of thundering water. I wander across the bridge and upstream to another set of falls. Snap, snap, snap. I have photographed these various streams of water countless times. I pause on the riverbank and take in this untouched beauty. I admire the neat line of pines and the golden needles that are starting to fall from their branches. After another few moments of pause, I make my way back to my car. As quickly as I arrived, I leave knowing this park will wait for me until next time.

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Greetings from northern Wisconsin! This weekend I’m heading outside to enjoy what is sure to be fall peak in my neck of the woods. I couldn’t be more excited in part because this comes after a nearly a month of my entire family being sick. And, knock on wood, but right now we are all healthy and ready to get outside and enjoy fall.

I won’t go into the gory details but needless to say, in the past month we’ve visited our local Community Health Clinic 11 times. We’ve spent one morning in Urgent Care. I utilized my employee health plan and Urgent Care during work one day. And, I got to experience Westfield Hospital’s Wal-Mart set-up over Labor Day weekend.

It has been an interesting ride. I work at a hospital. I serve on the board for our Community Health Clinic. I’m passionate about health disparities and have written several articles about the impact of the affordable care act in northwest Wisconsin. But, I’ve experienced all of this from a relatively healthy perspective and as someone with health insurance.

As I watch the medical bills roll in from what started as a simple round of Pink Eye, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have health insurance. I’m also grateful that despite living in what many folks would refer to as Hicksville, I have access to amazing providers in both an Urgent Care and Clinic setting. Our public health system is strong, despite continuously having funding cut. As frustrating as the system can be, this last month reminded me of the positives including the quality care my family received.

This comes on the heels of me writing several health related articles that will come out in MN Business Magazine the next few months. The first, came out in September and focuses around a software system focused on reducing medical errors. Ambient Clinical Analytics is currently being test at the Mayo Clinic. Someday, should you find yourself in an ER, it may become part of your patient experience. Read the full article here.

As someone who just recently got around to downloading the Kindle Ap on my IPad so I could read my first e-book, I tend to be slow when it comes to technology. But, I’m all for outside the box solutions that allow providers to focus on care and not charting or attempting to read charts. Kudos to this organization for taking that step. And, I hope many others follow.

Survival Mode

The countdown is on. In less than one month, thousands of runners will lace up their shoes and hit the tri-county corridor to complete the Whistlestop. Since giving birth 13-months ago, I assumed I’d be among them. In April, I completed a warm-up half-marathon despite a polar vortex and countless other obstacles. I was unstoppable when I crossed that finish line. I set new goals and had every intention of setting a new personal best this fall.

The path to success seemed so obvious. Lose weight. Train hard. Show-up. Achieve goal. I started strong. As someone who thrives on organized chaos, my goals seemed manageable. I updated my to do list factoring in my new goals and kept plugging ahead. Then, life happened.

I’m not sure how I went from organized chaos to overwhelmed mess. Somewhere between a foot injury in mid-July to typing this today, I lost my way. My diet derailed. My training became non-existent. My immediate to-do list trumped finding time to get out and run. Tomorrow never happened. By mid-August, I acknowledged the half-marathon needed to be a 10K. Then, life happened again. This time, an unexpected lingering illness knocked my desire to run. My body shut down. It became easier to make excuses than push through and run. At some point, the obvious path to success became an unbearable burden.

Last week, I acknowledged a 10K wasn’t in my cards on October 11. My consolation goal wasn’t achievable. In many respects, running rejected me. Truth be told, I’m disappointed. But, I’m picking myself up and moving on.

I’m not sure where I go from here. This week, I put on my running shoes, cranked up my Ipod and headed out with no goal other than to run until I didn’t feel like running anymore. When I was tired, I stopped. I walked. I took in the fresh fall air and acknowledged that some things are beyond my control. I caught my breath, I ran some more. It felt amazing. I don’t know if this will equate to lining up for another race at some point. I do know that the pressure of a race right now won’t motivate me. If anything, it’ll break me. So for now, I’ll run for fun until it isn’t fun anymore. If I find myself longing to line up at a starting line, I’ll put together a plan and do it. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. But, it needs to be on my terms and my timeline.

Meantime, I’m returning back to the basics. First on that list, get back on track. Block off time to enjoy all that fall has to offer. Hike. Take pictures. Enjoy some family time at home and on the road. Say no to new freelance. Utilize my vacation. Plant garlic. Fertilize my garden. Keep breathing. And from there, who knows where life will take the Probst family.

Dear Jake

Dear Jake,

I don’t scrapbook. I’ve discovered, despite my love for writing, I’m horrible at keeping up your baby book. But, like any new mom I managed to take lots of photos. I slapped them together in this video just in time for your birthday. I hope someday you can watch this and know you had an amazing first year surrounded by lots of people who love you.

It is crazy to think it has already been one-year. If I’ve learned anything this past year it is that I have no idea how to be a mother and that you have given me a new perspective on life. This past year you have taught me more than I could ever teach you.

A friend on Facebook (a social media tool that will be so old school by the time you can read this) recently posted a poem that came through on my feed this week that really hit home:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

By all definitions, your dad and I strive to live an ordinary, grounded life. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we live in an extraordinary place surrounded by extraordinary people. You are one of those people.

I have no idea what the next year will hold for us. What I do know is that the first time you grabbed my finger, I truly understood the sheer force of unconditional love. I look forward to many, many more birthdays with you my little munchkin.

Love,

Mom

 

Jacob Time

10484147_726996994028819_4369468032011984221_nJacob William Probst of Moon Lake here. I hijacked mom’s blog again. This is a big week. I turn 1. More importantly, I’ve been promised a chocolate cupcake. It’s all about perspective folks.

So much has happened in the past year. I’m not sure where to start. In a nutshell, we’re still operating on what I call Jake time. Life pretty much revolves around my nap and feeding times. I don’t mind. It has taken a while but I think mom and dad are finally adjusting to meeting my every need. Sometimes when I’m crying in my crib they pretend they don’t hear me. If I really want out, though, I let them have it. I always win!

Daycare rocks. I have lots of friends and I get to play all day long. Minus naps and eating which are equally as important. We do lots of crafts and there’s always someone available to push me on the swing. I do love swinging.

Mom and dad’s house is a bit more boring. But, I do my best to make the most of it. We go on a lot of boat rides, swim in Moon Lake, and wander aimlessly around town in my stroller. Mom and dad are constantly reading to me. I also have lots of toys. Mom calls it clutter. Dad laughs and dumps the boxes over for me so I can wander with the toys dropping them all over the house only to watch mom trip on them and say words I don’t think I’m supposed to repeat.

When mom isn’t around, dad sneaks me down to what he calls the workshop. I play with a lot of things that I don’t think mom would approve of or that are kid friendly. I also get very dirty which I love. To me, it is very similar to playing in a dirt box for kids like I have at daycare and that’s ok so why shouldn’t this be ok?

Mom tends to take me out and about to experience things. As in art festivals, parades, fairs, grocery stores, malls and other random places that generally involve her buying things. Then she makes me do embarrassing things like poising with machinery or animals so she can take yet another photo. I’m really to the point where I should start charging a commission. I mean, it is never too early to start saving for college, right?

I eat like a horse. When I’m full, or bored, I accidentally drop food on the floor. The pets love me. What can I say? I deliver. Especially if it is food I don’t like. Just call me a giver. I have a mouth full of teeth. I’ll admit, teething is unpleasant but I enjoy the fact that as I get more teeth I get to try new foods. Dad gave me my first haircut while mom was feeding me. It was a bit chaotic having sharp blades by my face but I guess he did ok. (They really only cut 2-3 pieces of hair off so I’m not sure what they were so excited about.) Speaking of hair, I’ve learned I’ll never be as furry as Joey, Lucky, Mischief and Chickpea. That said, I love eating their hair that I’m constantly finding on the floor (or pulling off their body but they really don’t seem to mind).

I’m also what mom and dad call mobile. This seems to cause a lot of angst at Moon Lake Estates. Sometimes for fun I climb up and down the stairs while watching mom and dad follow behind me. I haven’t quite learned how to walk yet but I do know how to crawl fast. And hurl myself over something mom and dad call ledges. I like doing that to get a reaction. It isn’t like I’d actually let myself fall. What, do they think I’m stupid?

Everyday is a learning day for me. I see new things, experience new places, savor new foods and push myself to do new things. Mom and dad say they are exhausted. Meantime, I’m doing just fine on Jacob Time. They really should tackle life the way I do – two naps a day whenever I feel like it and 12 hours at night. But they always ramble on about how they have to work to provide for me or something. As if.

I’m not sure what happens after I turn 1. If being 1 is anything like the past year, I’m ok with that. As mom always says, Life is Good on Moon Lake.

Happy Me Week!

Jacob William Probst

 

Meet Hannah

My first memory of Hannah Stonehouse Hudson is of a newspaper ad I saw many moons ago. It was an ad for her business that featured a wedding shot where the bride’s face was in focus and her dress was blurred from spinning in circles. Now knowing Hannah, it seems appropriate. Somehow, despite her entire world being in utter chaos, she continues to succeed in life while inspiring thousands along the way.

My first real encounter with Hannah was back in 2011. We asked this up and coming photographer to take our adoption portfolio photos. Keep in mind, my husband and I hate having our photos taken. Turns out our dog refuses to make eye contact with a camera as well. (This may be PTSD from an overzealous home photographer when she was a baby. I’m curious to see if Jake has this problem as well as he gets older). But somehow, Hannah made us appear normal—even like a happy glowing couple—despite our distaste for professional shots. The entire shoot took about 30-minutes. I think the reason, in addition to her being a fabulous photographer, is she gets people and pets. Capturing someone’s spirit means you must engage with them enough to understand who they are as people and how to best represent that in a single image. This is a pretty hefty task but Hannah always seems to deliver.

Over the years, our paths have intersected on occasion. I always leave a conversation with her energized about life and inspired about what happens when one sets their mind to something. This past month, I had the opportunity to delve a little deeper into what makes Hannah successful as a business person. The article ran in the July issue of Business North and can be found here.

While this article certainly cannot capture the spirit and adventure of one of the neatest people I’ve had the chance encounter to meet, it is a start. Be sure to check out her blog as well if you want to learn more about her story and her work.

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