The Photo Journal

Today I’ve been siting at home feeling sick. Since I’ve not been able to do work on some of my To-Do’s, I decided to take this opportunity to look on the bright side.

Being home bed-ridden opens me up to doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a long while. Since I created my second blog, 1k Photo Challenge it has been seeing a steady rise in growth.

It wasn’t not really my intention to separate this blog from my Photo Journal blog, but I felt that the two blogs had vastly inconsistent formats that would not work as one. Fortunately, today has given me the opportunity to keep these blogs separate but still merge them under one unity.

So now, under both sites you will find each one of them linking to the other blog. For the Challenge List you can go under:

Challenge Lists >> 1K Photo Challenge

If you are unaware of what the 1k Photo Journal is about, check over here for why it was started. You can also check out some of the top posts from the site:

Top Posts:

DSC00604Devil Lake State Park

As we begun our descent the sun started to blare down. We built up more of a sweat on our decline trip from the West Bluff Trail then we did during our incline. […]Read more



20160610_120055Minneapolis Diagonal Trail

It was a hot and sunny day today making the run especially sweaty […] Read More



20160624_105337Off On Holiday

Tomorrow I will be traveling north to run the Spartan Sprint then heading west to explore the area of Wisconsin.[…]Read More

1K Photo Challenge – Adventures In Caving

Cave People of Spring Valley Cave

This month I had the pleasure of joining the Minnesota Caving Club for my first caving experience. I’ve been interested in going caving since watching the film The Descent, right before all the cave-ins and death. It not only looked like a fun, new challenge, but would also be a different kind of hiking adventure.

Being a complete newbie to Caving, I was not sure what I’d need. I shot an e-mail to the club president who told me all I need to do is to dress in clothes I don’t mind getting dirty. Just to be safe, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to gather some helmets, gloves, headlights, and boots for our caving endeavor.

The club met pretty far south in Minnesota early in the morning. Since we were a good distance away from their meeting location we got up before dusk. Not being familiar with the southern part of Minnesota, we got a bit lost once or twice in the vast farmland that stretched for miles. We met up with John “The Cave-man”, president of the club. John guided us down a 2-hour trip towards Rochester where we traveled to a privately owned cave.We learned that we were traveling to several caves that day, all of which were owned by John. I2cPe6CThe club itself consisted of a number of outgoing experienced cavers all very friendly to talk to. We also found that most of the equipment we did buy was completely useless for the cave, but the club had more than enough gear to spare. We spent little time above ground before going on our under ground tour down the cave.

Now, when I thought of caving, I had a different sort of idea of what I’ll be getting into. My only experience in caving was being guided through a Tourist Attraction of a cold environment that was extremely well lit. This caving experience was a whole another level than that tourist attraction. Shortly after getting into the cave we found ourselves in a cool damp area that was a complete blackout only lit by out head lights. The pathway was not the familiar flat terrain, but a rocky area where each step had to be taken with precision and caution.
During our tour, our guides, Anna and Trish, talked to us about certain caving techniques and information about how the cave’s structure formed.We got to some of the more unique area of the cave shortly into the tour. I was grateful to have skipped out on the fatty foods all this time, because we ended up spending a good chunk of time crawling on our stomachs through thin crevices to reach hidden rooms. Some of these crevices definitely had to involve some shimming, flexibility, and a good chunk of upper body strength. Especially when some of the holes we  crawled through lifted our legs completely off the ground.



Since it was Spring a few of the cave pathways were not taken because of flooding. However, this only opened up the opportunity to explore other structures that required a TGuLvtgdifferent kind of traversing to get through. The second half of our caving adventure was on the higher ground. This was definitely the time to learn if you’re afraid of heights since much of the exploration involved shoving ourselves in between cave walls 20 feet above the ground and carefully stepping our feet to find the ladder mounted between the rocks.

The entire adventure did not feel extremely physical, but the four of us, all young and fit, were sweaty and out of breath by the time we finished. After we settled for lunch we took above ground to explore the creek and smaller caves around the area. Unfortunately for us, my girlfriend and I had to cut it short due to a family emergency. Although, both of us agree that the entire experience was definitely a memorable one, making it my top pick for the 1K Photo Challenge day of the month.

Click for Full Album

1K Photo Challenge – Starting A Journal

A few weeks ago, Ransom Patterson, writer on College Info Geek, wrote an article about the importance of keeping a journal. Ransom found that since he started a journal he was able to develop a log that allows him to reflect on his life and see how he has developed over time.

Now when Ransom was talking about keeping a journal he mention how it’s more ideal to keep a daily journal rather than documenting one whenever you feel like it. This not only builds strong journaling habits, but also is a great way to express your thoughts and feelings on that day.

As some of you are aware, my Challenge List is a journal documenting milestones achieved in my life. When I first read about keeping a daily journal I figured doing it online only made sense for me. Although, when I look through all of my previous blog entries I found that a lot of them are formatted in a way that takes a while to write up. I felt that creating a daily journal here will not only require me to write a lot each day, but it will also take away from the entries that are there to reflect on each goal achieved on my list.

So, with that being said, I decided to create an online photo journal. A photo journal not only allows me to document each day visually, but also gives me the ability to write very brief descriptions about my thoughts and feelings that day. This photo journal will document one photo that involved a progression/event that has significance towards my goals.Every 30 days I will be taking the best/memorable/eventful photo and writing a reflection of that day. The reason why I call it a “1k Photo Challenge” is because I felt I needed an overall goal to motivate me for updating my daily journal. Since I like challenges, I thought I’ll make one that requires me to journal once day, for 1,000 days.

I’ve started this project about a month ago and already it has been a positive way for me to look back and see how much I’ve grown in just a mere 30 days. I recommend everyone to start a journal of their own and start writing in it every day. It has been a very encouraging way to go out and find adventure in life. If you have created a daily journal give a comment below on where it can be found and how it has been an influence for you.

50 Points in 50 States(Highpointers)

A little while ago I posted an entry explaining this idea called “The Impossible List” where I define the differences between an impossible list and a bucket list. I also provided my own Impossible List as an example. In my Impossible list I have an item where I would climb the highest point in each state.  Since I cannot post all 50 states in the Impossible List without making the post super large, I decided it’ll be more ideal to make one post that will link each state I climbed to its own individual post.

HighPoint List || Progress: 3/50

State Highpoint Elevation(ft.) Completed
Alabama Cheaha Mountain 2,407
Alaska Mount McKinley 20,320
Arizona Humphreys Peak 12,633
Arkansas Mt. Magazine 2,753
California Mount Whitney 14,494
Colorado Mount Elbert 14,433
Connecticut Mt. Frissell 2,380
Delaware Ebright Azimuth 448
Florida Britton Hill 345
Georgia Brasstown Bald 4,784
Hawaii Mauna Kea 13,796
Idaho Borah Peak 12,662
Illinois Charles Mound 1,235
Indiana Hoosier High Point 1,257
Iowa Hawkeye Point 1,670
Kansas Mount Sunflower 4,039
Kentucky Black Mountain 4,139
Louisiana Driskill Mountain 535
Maine Katahdin 5,268
Maryland Backbone Mountain 535
Massachusetts Mount Greylock 3491
Michigan Mount Arvon 1979
Minnesota Eagle Mountain 2301 8.15.2015
Mississippi Woodall Mountain 806
Missouri Taum Sauk 1772
Montana Granite Peak 12799
Nebraska Panorama Point 5424
Nevada Boundary Peak 13140
New Hampshire Mount Washington 6288
New Jersey High Point 1803
New Mexico Wheeler Peak 13161
New York Mount Marcy 5344
North Carolina Mount Mitchell 6684
North Dakota White Butte 3506
Ohio Campbell Hill 1550
Oklahoma Black Mesa 4973
Oregon Mount Hood 11239
Pennsylvania Mount Davis 3213
Rhode Island Jerimoth Hill 812
South Carolina Sassafras Mountain 3560
South Dakota Black Elk Peak 7242  7.19.2017
Tennessee Clingmans Dome 6643
Texas Guadalupe Peak 8749
Utah Kings Peak 13528
Vermont Mounts Mansfield 4393
Virginia Mount Rogers 5729
Washington Mount Rainier 14411
West Virginia Spruce Knob 4863
Wisconsin Timms Hill 1951  6.29.2016
Wyoming Gannett Peak 13804

Goal 47 Accomplished: Go Snowboarding

Back in middle school I took a field trip to a ski resort where I learned to ski for the first time in my life. After a few hours of lessons I took onto the bunny slope to begin my Olympic Skiing career. In one hour, my short dream of being a professional skier was shattered when I found myself repeatedly falling face first into snow. I chose to hang up my skis for the rest of that day and spent my remaining lunch money trying to get the high score in Pac-Man.

Every once in awhile I like to reflect back to these sort of moments and compare them to where I am now. While I may have never fulfilled my short-term dream of being an Olympic Skier I did manage to become insanely good at Pac-Man. As I got into college I made friends with a lot of people who love to hit the slopes every winter. I was invited every so often to join them, but I told them I wasn’t too much of a fan of skiing. One of them suggested that instead of going to the slopes to Ski, I give snowboarding a shot. Being a lover of physical activities and new challenges, I thought I’ll give it a go.

I saved up my paychecks to book a hotel room with a couple of mates over in St. Cloud for a weekend. After we got settled in our hotel, my friends and I packed in the car and headed to Powder Ridge Lodge.I booked a private 1 hour lesson with a snowboarding instructor to learn everything from ground up. Since my snowboarding lesson wasn’t for a few hours I took the time to go snow tubing with a couple of friends.It felt like quite the adrenaline rush to start off my Slope experience by going 20MPH in an inflatable tube.

After a few hours of tubing I went to my snowboarding lesson to meet my instructor. My instructor took things slow by drilling a few basic techniques down. When I got comfortable with that it was off to the Bunny Hill. Being the impulsive “dare devil” that I am I went to the very top of the slope and found myself frequently falling on my arse. Eventually my hour was up but I was still falling down the slopes every so often. However, rather than hang the board up to play Pac-Man, I told myself to keep going for it. After a few more hours I was finally able to go down the slope without once falling on my butt. I kept at it well after dusk just to make myself consistent. I then rewarded myself with a sore bottom and a cup of hot cocoa.

The entire experience was definitely rewarding. I may not go professional in the future, but I now know a new skill which I can continue to improve on. When I reflect on this moment, I feel proud that I didn’t stray away from this skill because I wasn’t good at it. It made me realize that the only way to ever be good at something new is to work it out while taking in the bumps and bruises along the way .It’s best for me to keep in mind that the road to success will always be a rough one and I just need to learn how to drive on it.

2016 Challenge List
47 Go Snowboarding ACCOMPLISHED

Goal 8 Accomplished: Hike Up Eagle Mountain

Back in June, three of my friends and I made the journey to travel up to Northern Minnesota to visit the Spirit Tree. Unfortunately for us, the Spirit Tree was no longer accessible to the public and we weren’t able to complete our journey. While we still had a fun camping trip, I felt like the trip was no longer a challenge.


After thinking it over I decided to save up some money and make a second trip up north. This time, I was going to test myself physically by climbing up Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. This 2,300 foot tall trek would be a 7 hour hike on rough terrain and will be the first to cross off on my list to trek the highest points in each of the fifty states.
Devil’s Kettle

My girlfriend and I readied ourselves for the trip. It would be a four hour ride from home to Two Harbors, where we planned to set up camp, then an additional half hour car trip to reach the start of the trail. We felt like taking advantage of our time up North so we planned a number of other visits along the way, such as touring Enger tower in Duluth and hiking to Devil’s Kettle.  After hitting up some of the sites we eventually landed to Two harbors on our third day. We set up camp in the early morning then headed off to Eagle Mountain. While the trail was 7 miles long the actual summit was a  3.5 mile hike from the closest parking space. We readied our gear, checked for water, then hit up the trail.


DSC00088The trek to the summit felt like a very easy walk. The silent nature that surrounded us was very captivating. By the time we started to hit the 2nd mile marker the weather got increasingly humid. We stopped by a small beach to dampen our faces with the cool water before quickly heading back on the trail. We arrived at the summit and found the trail getting steeper. We hit a nice clearing that we assumed only meant we were at the finish line. We would’ve stopped there too, if it wasn’t for a hiking couple who pointed out that the trail goes another mile upward.


We took this time to munch on some food and re-hydrate ourselves. We made the foolish mistake of packing salty treats with an inadequate amount of water. We finished out snacking and were down to less than a cup of water a piece. We carried on and soon found ourselves to the top of the mountain. We grabbed some pictures, enjoyed the lovely view, than drank the rest of our water. After we rested for a bit we decided to head back down the mountain.


DSC00096   DSC00091


Our Savior, the Beach

The hike back down felt a lot easier than the hike back up. Eventually we hit the small beach and cooled our faces in the water. The rest of the trail was going to be very rock and very hilly from then on out. We realized we made the huge mistake of not packing enough water. The weather started to hit it’s peak temperature during our trek back. We started to become exhausted from the combination of dehydration, heat, and exercise. We finally got back to the car where we drank a bunch of Gatorade as a reward for our climb.


The next day we drove up Ely to enjoy the rest of our trip in the Boundary Waters. It was definitely a worthwhile experience to take on Eagle Mountain. It also proved to be a valuable learning experiencing to make sure we pack more water for future hikes. Eagle Mountain, a very enjoyable trip, and is now the first out of fifty I have climbed.
8 Hike Eagle Mountain ACCOMPLISHED!

31 Days of Halloween: Day 2, Pumpkin Patch and Apples

One of my favorite activities to do during the fall is to go apple picking. There’s nothing better than picking fresh apples from your local orchard during the cool autumn weather. My girlfriend and I decided to head to a place down south called, Minnesota Harvest Apple Orchard. Looking at the reviews it seemed like an awesome place to go, plus the idea of Apple Pizza sounded more than intriguing.

We arrived to Minnesota Harvest a bit later into the afternoon. We were fortunate enough to have gone on a Friday so there were were very few people around to crowd the area. My girlfriend and I both ate light to save room for the food there. Unfortunately though, they were already closing up the kitchen and we did not get a chance to try out their Apple Pizza. We instead bought a plastic bag to fill up some apples from the orchard


We wandered around the orchard a bit, but had a very difficult time navigating it. The Apple Orchards were divided up into numbered sections but it was not clearly marked what each type of apples the sections were. However, taking a quick bite out of the apples helped us resolve both our hunger issue and identifying what apples we wanted. Despite the fact it was October we still managed to gather a hull of perfectly delicious apples.

After we had filled our apple bag we went off to explore other activities offered at the orchard. We first went off to their sunflower maze to get lost. When we got there, the maze’s flowers had withered away. Needless to say, the maze was not hard to navigate through. I also loved how the withered maze during dusk added to a creepiness feel. We went to go pick out some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch before heading off to the cities.


On our way back we stopped by this arcade place located in Jordan called Zap Arcade. It felt great to go back to an old school arcade place in Minnesota. For $5 to get unlimited access to the games it felt like it was money well spent. We ended our adventure by eating at a place called J’Panime Cafe, were we feasted our a delectable bowl of Seafood Ramen and Boba tea.


Goal 8: Road Trip to Spirit Tree

About a year ago my girlfriend and her friend found a magnet on the fridge. The magnet was a long forgotten souvenir with the words “Witch Tree” marked on it. They did not know much about the Witch Tree, expect that it was significant to the Ojibwe.

My girlfriend told me of the tree. Being of Ojibwe heritage myself, I was curious. I talked to my dad, who corrected me by saying it’s name is not “Witch Tree” but rather “Spirit Tree”. He told me the tree is sacred to the Ojibwe, where it has lived in Northern Minnesota for over a thousand years. Although, it’s not the age that makes it special, it’s how it has lived. Spirit Tree grows on a rock where none of the branches touch the ground. It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists since its discovery. Jokingly, my girlfriend wanted to know if I want to go on a quest to the tree with her friend. I agreed.

Her friend, Eli, my girlfriend, and I, were all not licensed at the time. We agreed we will make the trip once we are licensed. Over time we invited a fourth member, Steve, to the trip. Steve was able to drive, so we set out to plan for the trip.

The planning took many months. In order to cut cost, we decided to share a camping spot with my parents when they went on their annual Ojibwe language camp in Duluth. We left off on in the later afternoon then arrived at the campground at night. We past out shortly after setting up. We spent the majority of the next day browsing Duluth’s local shops. There were many spectacular amenities. One of my favorites was a local bakery called Positively 3rd Street Bakery. They had a variety of treats such as pumpkin raisin bread and banana cookies(banookies). A very savory treat for the road.

We then took a detour to Goosebury falls. Steve and I went off pathway to take a closer look at the falls. I skipped along the rocks to transverse across the water. I slipped on one of the surfaces and found myself knee deep in water. We eventually headed back to the campsite where I dried off by the fire for the rest of the night.

On day three we headed out to Grand Marias. We arrived at the campground by the evening. Upon our arrival we were met with a light drizzle. We quickly set up camp, gathered some wood, then ate canned soup cooked over a fire. We made sure to secure everything in a dry location before trapping ourselves in the tent when it down poured.
The weather did not let up throughout the night. By next morning we decided to make the trip to Grand Portage and visit the Spirit Tree. The Spirit Tree was located in an unmarked location on the Grand Portage reservation. In order to prevent any damage to the tree, the Tribal Council requires visitors to be escorted by a member of the reservation. We made a stop by the Grand Portage Reservation Heritage center to find a guide. One of the workers informed us we would need to speak directly with the Tribal Council Office. We drove to the Council Office, but discovered that the office was closed for the day.
The Heritage Center employee had suggested we try the casino down the road to see if any of the members would be available. We made our way down to the casino but found that no one was available to give us a tour. Defeated, we went back to Grand Marias. We parked by the Grand Marias’ beach in order to explore the town. I found that along the shore there was a hiking trail that lead to a rocky peak stretching into Lake Superior. I made it my quest to travel down that trail to reach the peak. The rain did not led up during my hike. By the end clothes were heavy, and the pathway was flooded. Nevertheless, I reached the peak stretching into Superior. I found the closet tree to the lake and dubbed it was “Lil’ Spirit Tree 2” before laying some tobacco down by it.
We made the walk back into the city while facing cold rain and harsh winds. With our clothes soaked and our stomachs empty, we went out to eat at a local cafe to dry off. After filling our stomachs we spent the remainder of the evening hanging around a laundromat playing cards until late in the night After enjoying a couple of drinks by the fire we had settled to get to bed early for our trip back home the next day.
The last day was nothing too adventurous. We had to spend some time drying out our camping equipment so there were long periods of waiting in between packing. We did manage to get some more hiking in before leaving. We stopped by a place close to Two Harbors known as Betty’s Pies. The place was fantastic, and I would recommend anyone near the area to try one of their delicious Pie Shakes. We made this stop our last before heading home.
Although we didn’t get a chance to go to Spirit Tree, I still found myself have a great adventure. I was able to explore new areas in Minnesota and figured out there are some items I want to add to my Challenge List for 2016. One item I hope to accomplish is hiking up the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle’s Mountain. I called the Tribal Council when I got home and found out they stopped giving tours to the Spirit Tree a long while ago. It seemed like it was a futile attempt but I do not regret the effort we spent getting there.
Would I say this goal was successful? It’s hard to say. On one hand I never did get to Spirit Tree. On the other, my goal wasn’t so much the destination, more so just making the trip to there. Still, I do feel as if I would be cheating myself out of my goals if I didn’t push myself to actually accomplishing something. So, I do intend to leave this goal unchecked for now. I have a goal I do wish to accomplish as an alternative, but finishing it is completely dependent on transportation. If I can figure out transportation, I will be revising my goal and make a second trip up to Northern Minnesota where I will make the hike up to the top of Eagle’s Mountain.
Eli and Steve
Eli and Steve