My "My Own Wilderness"

In two days Today I am off on a road trip from Philadelphia to Northern Minnesota, 3000 miles round trip. Just me and my dog with the canoe on top of my minivan, meeting J Randall Updegrove, who is coming the same distance (but from Montana). This will be our fifth canoe trip into the Minnesota wilderness, always to a new location within the Boundary Waters area. But any road trip for me is much more than the destination.

1. Being on the road is as much fun for me as being in the wilderness. In the past I have driven west to Chicago, and then up through beautiful Wisconsin and on to Minnesota. Last year on my way home I drove up and around the northern shoreline of Lake Superior across the Province of Ontario and then down through Michigan. This year I will be driving west to Toledo, Ohio and then up through Michigan and west across the Upper Peninsula for my first visit to the area and the completion of driving around the entire coast of Lake Superior. Another part of the road trip involves doing some paddling along the way. I've got an ongoing list of bodies of water that I want to get my canoe into. The five great lakes are on that list and I'm going to make an effort to paddle in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior during this trip. I think I have figured out a way to do that all in a single day, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

2. I am a fairly new Vegan (a little over a year now). And the challenge of doing a 3000 mile road trip while staying true to veganism is an interesting one in itself. The American Inter-State Highway system isn't exactly Vegan friendly, and camping in the woods is traditionally a time for lot's of meat cooked over the open fire. I bring lot's of good food in the cooler for the drive and I've also tracked down several promising Vegan restaurants in small towns across the Upper Peninsula by using this awesome web site...Veg Guide.  Food out in the wilderness consists of   my own custom blend of Lentils, Tofu, Seaweed, and dried Veggies that I package up in individual meals with my Food Saver (vacuum sealer). It's essentially eating the same thing for dinner every night, although I have daily variations of flavorings in each package to mix things up. The key out in the woods is ease of preparation and light weight. With these meal packs all I have to do is simmer everything in one pot. The meal is satisfying and full of nutrition. Breakfast is a similar portioned package of oatmeal or grains, to which I add raisins or other dried fruit while it simmers in the pot. It's all about feeding the body for a full day of paddling and portaging.

3. As a baseball fan, it is a big sacrifice to completely miss the first week of the playoffs, and as a Philadelphia Phillies fan, the angst of wondering how they are doing is a constant throughout the week without any electronic communication. Last year I missed the no-hitter by Cliff Lee, and in 2004 I completely missed the historic Red Sox comeback against the Yankees. This is a long and ongoing Fall tradition for me though. October is always camping season for me. As long ago as the 1970's I have missed critical baseball moments while heading off into the woods.

4. Of course, being in the middle of one of the last great wilderness areas of the United States is the entire reason for the journey in the first place. Serene and beautiful, October is past the prime season up there, so very few people means you can go an entire week without running into another human being. The sky at night is gorgeous, with full visuals of the Milky Way down to both horizons and regular displays of the Northern Lights. And it is the land of 10,000 lakes. Nothing but beautiful lakes and pristine woods for miles around on all sides. The call of Wolves at night and the siren of Loons in the morning are the music of the North Woods.

Lot's of photographs to come... I take digital images on the road, and use only my Olympus OM-1 while out in the woods. I feel that B & W film just captures the spirit of the place like nothing else can, especially Plus X 125. I use a very minimal system in the wilderness. The nice compact OM-1 with a 50mm lens in a small dry bag with a half dozen rolls of film ends up being the size of a large grapefruit. Light, easy and simple. There is no need for any extra stuff out in the woods.

My own photographs will not be included in the upcoming My Own Wilderness exhibit or book. I think it is important as a curator to detach from including personal work. (Maybe not always... I have seen many nice exhibits that included the curator's own work). For this particular call for work I decided from the start that my focus would be entirely on the submitted work and related artist statements. Trying to decide which of my own work to include would be a distraction and create a possible influence on the work I was reviewing.

Beautiful work continues to come in from all over the world, and I want to thank every photographer who has submitted their work and artist statements. Reviewing this work on a daily basis for the past month or so has inspired me in so many ways as I have been preparing for my own trip to the wilderness.

There are two more days until the deadline of October 1st. I hope to find lot's of last minute entries when I get back to civilization. You can find details for submitting your work here... My Own Wilderness

Best to all of you!  See you in a couple weeks... stay safe and warm!
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