Two 2020 Calendars and a Lot of Fall Photos

I’ve got a ton of fall photos to share. It seemed like a long, vivid and memorable fall color season. Early September was showing nice reds and oranges in areas already, giving way to 3 weeks of bright yellow, orange and red autumn change along the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounding woods. October started just as colorful with the yellows along the shore filling in and the blazing yellow tamarack following back in the forest. The October 12-13 snowfall added to the mix and really capped of a great color season. Now, with the leaves all gone and the tamarack starting to fade, we move into the next phase of fall. Another season of change and beauty all it’s own. Below I will share a lot of fall photos I haven’t really posted anywhere. Thanks for taking a look.

I also have 2020 Calendars available for purchase now. I made two different calendars, all with different images. The Up North – Superior Country Calendar is all landscapes of Lake Superior, the surrounding woods and the BWCA. The Superior Wildlife Calendar is all wildlife from the woods of the Arrowhead region. You can take a look at a preview and order at the links or this link below. I appreciate your support. They would make great gifts. Print within 5 days of order and shipping info will be shown when you order. Plenty of time for holiday deliveries. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ThomasSpence

And now some more fall color photos from the past month or so…

Gold Against Carlton Peak
Fall in the Fog
Blazing early color
Sawbill
Male and female spruce grouse in fall foliage
Lusen views from the Honeymoon Trail area
Big Fall Bull
Foggy fall mornings in Superior National Forest
Milky Way at Sawbill Lake – Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Fall – Minnesota
Welcome to Superior National Forest
Tofte Park Bridge
Fall Walk Around
the layers of autumn color
Seagull River on the Gunflint Trail in full fall color
Carlton Peak
Carlton Peak one week later
October snowfall
Temperance River Valley Fog
Snow Grove
Same Grove Different Day
That snow though…
Tamarack Flocked Forest
Fall Blanketed in White
Reflections and Morning fog
Spruce Grouse in snow and foliage
Big bull in the snow
The Temperance River Valley and a flocking of snowfall on the autumn woods.



Summer So Far in Pictures…

It’s been a fun summer for wildlife and landscapes in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. I have spent a lot of time working on the Gunflint Trail and the rest of my time exploring and photographing the rest of Cook County, mostly on the backroads and at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here is a selection of photos that may or may not have been shared on my social media pages. We still have plenty summer left, so I’ll update and do another post a little closer to fall. Thanks for stopping to take a look. As always, you can browse more photos for viewing and for purchase at my Gallery Site by using this link. Photo Gallery

Morning fog on a canoe country lake as a camper enjoys coffee by the shore.

I have had numerous moose sightings this summer. I think I have already seen more moose this summer than I did all of last summer. This young bull ate in a swampy river area for 30 minutes one cool morning at sunrise as fog moved across the water.

Turtles have been abundant. Early summer, our painted and snapping turtles can be seen along roadsides near lakes, swamps and rivers as they lay their eggs. It is a time to use caution, but it is a great opportunity to see turtles somewhat close. Of course, do not disturb them as they are digging and laying eggs. Give them and all wildlife a respectable amount of space. Pictured here are a couple Snapping turtle shells and an odd, deformed painted turtle. The painted turtle has a condition known as kyphosis. Kyphosis is a condition that causes an abnormal, convex curvature of the spine. It happens in humans as well as turtles. I had never witnessed this condition in our painted turtles.

Working this summer in the mid Gunflint Trail area has provided a few fun wildlife sightings. The early morning commute was good for a handful of great, yet brief moose sightings. This red fox greeted us many mornings at our jobsite on a BWCA entry point lake. Some mornings, it would be sitting in the grass nearby when we arrived.

Red Fox near a BWCA entry point lake.
Our red fox friend was often willing to pose for a photo before it moved on.
Cabin Reflections off the Gunflint Trail

I have had numerous wolf sightings and encounters this summer as well. They are always pretty shy, but this one cooperated for photos

Gray wolf – Superior National Forest
Gray wolf in the tall grass
This gray wolf wasn’t too impressed with me taking it’s photo. 🙂

More moose! This healthy looking cow moose gave me a few minutes of photo opportunities. She looked pretty flighty at first, but she calmed down and allowed me to take a few photos and some video as she chewed on the grass and brush one morning near the edge of the BWCA wilderness.

Cow moose and a sideways glance
Canoe country sunset at Sawbill Lake – Boundary Waters

And a few more summer photos from the past few weeks in the forest. Still plenty of summer left, so I will be back with more in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep following on Facebook and Instagram for more weekly photos from Minnesota’s wildest, most beautiful area. The woods and lakes and shores of Superior National Forest.

Bald eagle eyeing up lunch in Superior National Forest
Morning light and morning fog in canoe country
Lupine, morning fog and morning light on an inland swamp

February Full Moon Rise and Other Winter Delights

The rising moon over Lake Superior is one of, if not the best sights The Lake has to offer. I always try to catch the rising moon over Superior when it is full or near full. While it is spectacular after it has risen high in the sky, shining it’s path on the water of The Lake, it’s the moments it first appears that really grab me. The moon will take on deep orange, red and yellow colors due to atmospheric distortion. It will also distort and waver as we view it through many layers of Earth’s atmosphere. When the moon is high in the sky, we aren’t viewing it through near as many layers as when it is low on the horizon, so it glows a steady white/yellow and the shape is clearly defined. When photographing or viewing from shore level, we are looking at an angle through a lot more atmosphere, so the light of the moon is “filtered” through the atmosphere. I use a phone app called The Photographers Ephemeris to calculate where and when the moon will rise from wherever I am. I use a tripod and a remote shutter release when photographing the moon. This is a series of photos from the recent Full Snow Moon rising from Tofte, Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior.

The first moment the moon appears on the Lake Superior horizon
Ice on Lake Superior and the rising Full Snow Moon in the background…
The rising full moon forming an “Omega Mirage” as it crests the horizon through atmospheric distortion. The Omega Mirage is named so because of the similar appearance to the letter of the Greek alphabet with the same name.

The moment before separation…
The rising moon and a mirage of a second moon as the full moon rises over Lake Superior.
Still viewing through many atmospheric layers, the moon has a distorted shape and filtered, deep color.
Full Snow Moon – February 2019
The moon begins to show reflection on the water and ice after it rises high enough in the sky. The moonlight won’t reflect off the water in the first moments of moon rise. It must be higher in the sky before that happens.
Moonlight reflections on Lake Superior ice both near, and far on the horizon.
This November, 2016 video shows the moon rising in real time with atmospheric distortion.
And here is a bit of video from the recent February Full Snow Moon

February Wildlife

February has been a fun month for wildlife, too! The moose have been elusive, but I have had numerous other notable encounters and sightings. Pine marten and lynx have been actively controlling our snowshoe hare population. I have observed a lot of tracks from the marten and lynx. The common denominator has been the presence of snowshoe hare tracks. I think the marten and lynx have been eating well this winter.

An American pine marten sizes me up. They are a fierce little predator. Don’t let the friendly appearance fool you!
The marten will hunt for hare, squirrel, mice, birds and anything else it can catch up to in the winter months.
FRESH tracks from a Canada Lynx in Superior National Forest. So fresh, I was able to find it!
A gorgeous wildcat, the Canada lynx, eyeing me up through the woods.
Spruce grouse covey up in a tree. This is three of eleven that were together in one tree. Winter coveys of the spruce grouse can be common in my area.
Male spruce grouse – February 2019
Female spruce grouse – February 2019


And don’t forget the deer. A nice group at Temperance River State Park this month.

Lake Superior Ice

The ice has been fantastic this year on Lake Superior. Though never completely safe, the ice can be fun to explore. Here are a few photos from recent weeks.

Big Lake ice piles.
Enjoying the sunset view from Temperance River State Park
Snow and ice pile on Lake Superior.

Recent Photos – Winter 2019

Visitor at Father Baraga’s Cross – Schroeder, MN
Oh, deer!! Little one comes a running…

High stepping through the snow.
Fun with Lake Superior Ice plates.
The blues on a sunny day on Lake Superior
Sub-zero sea smoke and ice on The Lake
Frozen cove at 20 degrees BELOW zero – cold and beautiful Superior.
Morning arrival at the Sawbill Checkpoint on the John Beargrease Trail
Tending to the dogs at a John Beargrease checkpoint
Rounding the bend and crossing the Sawbill Trail – John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon 2019
Praising the team after a long run through Superior National Forest
Rest stop…
The Sawbill Checkpoint
Brown Thrasher is spending the winter here in Tofte, MN
Blue Jay on a frigid January morning
Trestle Inn – a pit stop in the woods for snowmobiles
A touch of January aurora borealis in Superior National Forest

2019 Wildlife and Landscape Calendars Available Now


Hey friends, I have been asked a lot over the past few years if I make a calendar of my images. This is the first year I have tried my hand at it and they are available now. I have compiled 12 photos, recent and older, that I think capture the essence of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the BWCA and Superior National Forest. Here are just a few of the images in next year’s calendar. You can also click the link or any photo to take you to the ordering page which also will allow you to preview the entire calendar. Just click on “My Calendar” on the order page to get to the screen that allows full preview.
http://www.lulu.com/shop/my-calendar/calendar/product-23866689.html


I don’t like to “spam” you all too often for print purchasing or product selling, but since these are time sensitive and once a year, I have been advertising a bit more than usual. I hope that’s OK 😉
These are some of my favorite images from the past year and previous years and I am happy with the selections. I think you all will enjoy them as well. The calendars are full color, gloss, wire spiral bound and 11 x 8.5 inches. They should make great gifts or nice additions to your home or office.

They can remind you of past trips to the North Shore, help you plan your next trip, or just plain make you long for the seasons and sights we hold dear here on The Lake and in the woods of the Arrowhead region.
I just wish there were a few more months so I could add more photos for you! Oh well, there’s always next year! You can even cut the calendars up and frame the monthly photos for your home after each month expires.

Thank you all for the orders so far, and thanks in advance for anyone else who orders. This support helps me keep going and helps ensure I’ll be able to keep providing you with weekly photos from the North Shore woods and waters.
Here is the ordering information and a schedule for holiday delivery information.
http://www.lulu.com/shop/my-calendar/calendar/product-23866689.html

Calendars are $22.00 plus shipping charges.
Calendars ship within 3 to 5 days of order.
Order by – For Holiday delivery…

Mail 12/7/18 4:59 AM UTC
Priority Mail 12/11/18 4:59 AM UTC
Ground 12/11/18 4:59 AM UTC
Expedited 12/13/18 4:59 AM UTC
Express 12/14/18 4:59 AM UTC

Where EXACTLY Can You Find a Moose in Cook County? – Map Included

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The most frequently asked question I get as a photographer is “Where do you find all the moose?” I probably get asked this question at least once a week online and in person. If you have been following me for a while, you know I am pretty guarded and vague about where I find moose in Cook County. It’s not that I don’t want you to find a moose. I do! I just don’t believe it is good for the moose to announce their exact location on the internet to potentially thousands of people. The moose are already in trouble here in Minnesota and the extra pressure and anxiety it could cause them is probably not worth it. The moose population here in Minnesota has been in decline since the mid to late 2000s. In 2006 there was an estimated 8840 moose counted during the winter count. In 2018, 3000 moose.

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A collared cow moose and a young bull moose in Superior National Forest

Parasites like winter ticks and brainworm are two major factors in the decline of the population. Researchers have also seen a lot of wolf killed moose, though many of those moose already had underlying health issues which likely weakened the moose making them an easier target. They say the decline has plateaued, which would be good news, but only time will tell if these magnificent mammals will survive in the woods of Minnesota.

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A collared “research moose” in Grand Portage, MN

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Ghost Moose – A spring cow moose showing signs of winter tick infestation. The ticks cling to the moose in fall and as winter progresses, the moose tries to rub the thousands(at times) of ticks off their body. This causes hair loss and can severely stress the moose in the cold winter months.

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A pair of young spring moose twins showing signs of winter tick damage.

For many years I took for granted that the moose will always roam the woods of Cook County and Superior National Forest. Since news of their decline, I have tried to photograph and observe moose every chance I get. Over the years I have had countless sightings. Some last only seconds, but sometimes I am fortunate to watch the moose for as long as two hours before they move on.

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More often than not, a fleeting glimpse is all you get as the moose run from the road and disappear into the forest…

Now, to share with you the information you kept reading for. Where exactly do I see moose in Cook County?
The Bay in Tofte
I’ll start with a sighting from way back in the mid 90’s. I used to tend bar at The Bridge, the old upstairs bar at Bluefin Bay in Tofte. One football Sunday, as a packed bar watched the Vikings game on the TV, a customer shouted “There’s a moose out in the bay!!” We all looked in amazement as a bull moose swam across the bay in front of Bluefin. The whole bar emptied as everyone went out by the lake to get a view of the swimming moose. It tried to exit the lake from the bay, but all the onlookers must have scared it off and it continued swimming up the shore. We heard later that the DNR saw the moose exit the lake up shore a ways. That is the only time I have seen a moose in Lake Superior other than at Isle Royale. A pretty unforgettable encounter.

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Moose are incredible swimmers

The Highest Moose in Cook County
Encounter two was one of the most memorable. My friend Troy and I decided to take a fall grouse hike up to Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s highest point, back in the late 90’s. The hike is in the BWCA and passes through some very moosey country on the way to the top. We saw a few grouse on the way, but no moose to speak of on our hike through the woods. Once we got up the final steep climb to the top, we decided to walk over to the plaque which designates the highest point in Minnesota. As we rounded a corner, standing RIGHT THERE in front of the plaque was a beautiful bull moose. We were both frozen in our steps as the moose glanced at us then ran off into the woods. This was long before I had a camera on me at all times, and long before the handy dandy camera-phone, so I have no photos of what was likely a once in a lifetime sighting of the highest moose in Minnesota.

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Have your camera READY. You never know when a moose will appear in the woods of Cook County.

Moose Birth Island – BWCA
Another very memorable moose sighting took place on a spring trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my friends Jeff and Korey. We had been on a long canoe route through many lakes and portages and were camped on Makwa Lake, deep in the BWCA. As we paddled around fishing, we trolled around a small island on the lake. We rounded the island and saw a cow moose standing alone on the tiny island. She looked agitated and her hair was standing up straight. A few seconds later, a brand new baby moose shakily got up from the ground and stood on its feet. This calf was just born and we were likely witnessing its first steps if not its first time standing. We were lucky to have a camera with and we got a few photos before backing off and leaving them alone. The cow moose will often times swim out to an island to give birth to lessen the chances of predators like bear and wolves getting to their newborn calves. I have since seen two other baby moose take what were likely their first steps. Always give a cow with calf plenty of space. The cow and calf combo can be one of the most dangerous wildlife situations you’ll encounter in our forest. Respect their size and never underestimate their speed and instinct to protect their young.

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Cow and Calf – BWCA. This was probably the first time this little moose was on its feet.

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Always give a cow and calf plenty of space. They can be unpredictable and fast as they will instinctively protect their young.

Fore!! – Or one at least
Another 90’s encounter happened on Superior National Golf Course and was another time that I had no camera. The golf course in Lutsen has historically had numerous moose sightings. The proximity of the golf course to Superior National Forest lends itself to many wildlife sightings, though maybe not as many as in the past with all the new development. That being said, I heard of at least one moose sighting at Superior National as recent as this past spring. A real hole in one if you are there at the right time!

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A majestic bull moose portrait.

County Line Moose
Seeing moose on Highway 61 used to be pretty commonplace. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have seen the massive beasts on the highway. Those instances are getting more and more rare as their population declines in Minnesota. That being said, I still see about one per year on highway 61. In the early 2000s, I encountered one standing directly on the County line down near Caribou River. Had I been carrying a camera at the time, I could have gotten a photo of the moose and the Cook County sign. Another reason to always have a camera ready to go!!

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Cook County Road Moose – Is your camera ready?

City Moose in Grand Marais
In 2009 I was on a curling team in Grand Marais. It’s a fun way to keep active and somewhat warm during our long winter months. Upon leaving the curling club one January night, I saw a large, dark shadow moving down one of the residential streets. My first though was that it was a large deer. It seemed to be huge so I drove down the street I saw it on. As I rounded a corner to try to find out where it went, a HUGE dark spot in someones front yard caught my attention. To my surprise and amazement, it was a moose! This was the first and only moose I have seen in the Grand Marais city limits, though I am told it was not that uncommon “back in the day”. These days, the Grand Marais water tower or Murray are likely the only moose you’ll see in town.

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A big bull and cow – love is in the air…

Downtown Tofte 
The last location, and a fun one for sure, was just this past spring. You can even pinpoint the EXACT location by the photos if you know the area 🙂 One morning this spring I was alerted by a friend that there were two moose in the Tofte Town Park. I grabbed my camera and headed to the park hoping to catch a glimpse. I hung around the park area for half hour before deciding I had missed them. I figured they had moved on across the highway and back into the woods. As I waited to turn onto Highway 61 from the Tofte Park Road, I saw them appear out of the small patch of woods between the park and the highway. There was a fair amount of traffic, and everyone stopped to watch the two moose as they cautiously crossed the busy highway. Pretty fun to see them in town, especially after spending hours deep in the forest hoping to see one. This was a fun encounter.

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One of the two “downtown” Tofte moose from this past spring.

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Moose Crossing!

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A real traffic stopper.

So, as promised, I have given you plenty of information to find a moose on your next Cook County/North Shore adventure. The map below will be your key. Take a pen and trace on the map from point to point to point until you have all the locations connected. It doesn’t matter which point you start or end with. Once the points are all connected, you will have an outline or a crisscross pattern of lines. If you have an oblong outline, you should be looking anywhere inside the outlined area. If you have a crisscrossed pattern of lines, you should be searching anywhere along those lines. I hope this was helpful in your search 🙂 I don’t often give out this valuable information. If I have any notable sightings, I may add them to the map. Let me know how your fall moose safari turns out and keep following my photo pages for the latest Minnesota moose sightings!
I hope you aren’t too disappointed as this was a pretty tongue in cheek post with pretty rare sighting locations. But keep in mind, a moose can happen just about anywhere in Cook County. Be ready!

 

Links to info and photos of Minnesota Moose

https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/
https://www.visitcookcounty.com/event/moose-madness/
https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/wildlife/moose/moosesurvey.pdf

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Bull moose in fresh snowfall – Superior National Forest – Feb. 2018

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https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/

Ice Out, Green-up, Aurora and More – May 2018

May 2018 – in a few photos…
In May we saw a lot of changes and it seemed like we had all four seasons crammed into the month. Ice went off local lakes during the first week of May. It’s been great to back on the water in the canoe and boat. The open water brought loons, loons, loons! I am seeing a lot of loons including a nesting pair. Hoping to encounter babies soon. We also had some very warm weather for May. some mid 80s and a lot of 70 degree days. The Spring green-up has also been a welcome sight. The woods have come alive with buds, birds and flowers in the forest. We had some nice northern lights last month, too. Always a pleasure to be outside at night under our dark night skies in just a sweatshirt again. I saw a handful of moose in May, but not a lot of photo opportunities. June has already been better for moose 🙂 I am seeing a ton of tracks and occasional moose now. Cow moose had their babies at the end of May and are being seen in the woods of Superior National Forest. I hope to have some calf photos for next months post! So here are some photos from May, one of my favorite months on The North Shore.

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Temperance River after ice out

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The Temperance rushes into Lake Superior at Temperance River State Park

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Loon “running” on the water of an inland lake. You can still see some ice at the top of the photo. Early May

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Common Loon – Inland Lake

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The Lovely Loon

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Northern lights and “STEVE” on the left. A little info on the newly named phenomenon known as STEVE. https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/the-aurora-named-steve

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The aurora borealis and STEVE 

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Temperance Aurora

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The lights and the trees…

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Sawbill Trail Aurora 

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Sawbill Aurora

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Lots of birds last month…

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Male spruce grouse displays…

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Loon pair on an inland lake

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The male evening grosbeak

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Loon pair

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The indigo bunting visits my house for a few days each spring. Always a surprise and a treat to see in my trees…

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A Lake Superior Sunset

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The Lake and The River 

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Turtle on a log, reflecting…

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Back in the BWCA! A pair canoe the shoreline of Square Lake. The 2011 Pagami Creek Fire burnt all the way to this lake. Half the lake was burnt and half was untouched. It is quite a contrast but things are growing well and greening up nicely. 

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Fishing at sunset in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

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The end of the day in the BWCA

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The pack and paddle…

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Baskatong Lake – BWCA

May is an incredible month with the changes we see in the North. I always hate to see it go. Now, we move into the busy and buggy season! The black flies and mosquitoes are now here, waiting if you dare. The fishing is heating up a bit and the wildlife sightings are more frequent now so look for more wildlife in next months post. I have a few little local trips planned so I hope to have some nice photos to share. As always, thanks for following. If you are interested in prints or more photos, please check these links. Summer officially begins in two weeks! See you soon.
https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/
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https://www.instagram.com/toftetom/