“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another”  – Mahatma Gandi

This past June, we took a family trip up north to Ely, Minnesota one of the main launching off points to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW or BWCA). This expansive wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota covers 1,090,000-acres (4,400 km2) of the pristine Superior National Forest and is filled with lakes, streams, waterfalls, forests and wildlife. Its preservation as a primitive wilderness began over one hundred years ago, and its protection was solidified in the signing of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978. Today, the wilderness area is managed by the US Forest Service.

The BWCA is a magical place where you often feel as if you are stepping back in time to an easier, more peaceful way of life. You are awoken each morning to the melodic cry of the loon or lulled to sleep at night by the chirping of the crickets or croaking of the bull frogs. You can easily spot deer and sometimes fawn and if you are lucky you may even see a distant mouse, wolf or a bear. It is a truly remarkable place that has given us so many gifts and with the passing of the US National Parks 100th birthday I was reminded how blessed we are to have such an amazing network of protected parks (both national and state), forests and wilderness areas around the nation.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota


Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time along the North Shore of Lake Superior doing our annual fall hike to Eagle Mountain in the BWCA. Looking back now, I realize that my love for nature, wilderness and being outside grew during this annual pilgrimage up north. I was only two or three year’s old on my first hike to Eagle Mountain and my father had to carry me on top of his shoulders. As the time went by what once seemed like a huge mountain to climb felt like a quick walk in the park. I’d grown up.

Eagle Mountain, Minnesota

Our beautiful pristine Northern Minnesota.

There is something about nature that captures my soul. I crave it and find myself much more fulfilled hiking along a forest or in the mountains with no sign of civilization than any other place.I often wonder what I would do without nature.  It is only in nature that I can truly let myself go and feel free. I can give myself time to reflect on life. To reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed. To rejuvenate my mind, body and soul.

What if this was taken away and all gone someday? Where would we be?

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

“There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it”. – Edith Wharton

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

With the growth of deforestation, the depletion of our natural resources, troubling climate change, and the booming global population, our planet is threatened and nature like this is fighting to survive. Oftentimes if feels like we are at war with the Earth, just like we are constantly at war with each other.

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

My budding photographer, Sophia.

What does this mean for future generations to come? A lot will lay upon the hands of our children. In the meantime, I will do my best as a parent and global citizen to teach them to love, honor and protect our planet just like they must do with each other. Love not hate. Compassion not anger. And most of all, to never give up trying to change the things we can change and make the world a better place.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Mirror. 


  1. Your photos are spectacular!! I totally agree with you and think of this often. We see places that have been destroyed and will never return to their original beauty until human beings no longer roam the earth. Other places are being destroyed so fast that it happens before our eyes and we never even notice until it is too late. I am now very aware of the dirt roads leading into the woods along the roadways nearby. They know exactly what they are doing and that is why they remain hidden in their deforesting until they get closer to the road. They purchase smaller areas of wetlands to avoid the restrictions on filling wetlands. Smaller areas can be filled. Once the smaller area is filled they pulled the land together and build homes. Unsuspecting homeowners buy the land unaware that they will be fighting mother nature for the entire time they live in the home. All we can do is not participate and teach our children, grandchildren to appreciate mother nature, trees, wetlands, forests, and respect wild animals (to know that not everything should be controlled and tamed by human beings). Very nice post!

    1. Thanks for your wonderful, thought-provoking comment. I read an article by a professional photographer who had moved to Canada so excited to be surrounded by nature and beauty. Yet the first few days he was there and shooting the forests, he discovered the dark side of logging. He was devastated and changed the focus of his photography to documenting the tragic deforestation in Canada. It is hopefully people like this and being more aware and engaged that we can try to slow down the destruction we are doing to our own world.

  2. What a beautiful place Nicole, I can see why you love it. I too am a nature lover and agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about being at peace with Mother Earth, at least people are more aware of the impact we have on her and more focused on preservation for future generations.

  3. Your photos are a beautiful tribute to Mother Nature. Nature soothes my soul and I, like you, am concerned at her ability to maintain our assaults. When will we learn to gently embrace our home?

  4. Truly magnificent images, Nicole. I know very few people who would not agree with the statement that we need wilderness and that we need to protect it. However, there are way too many people who don’t see how their own personal actions, every single moment of every day lead to the destruction of the very wilderness they profess to love: the vehicles and “stuff” we buy that use the resources extracted from the earth, our commuting and travel habits that use more resources and contribute to pollution, the food we buy and consume and where it comes from, the lawns we love and perpetuate with chemicals and precious water, the wastefulness, the “convenience” of throw-away things….and on and on. Unless and until every single one of us examines how we live our life and how we can make changes to diminish our footprint, we will keep on losing what we say we love so much.

    1. Excellent points! I often think and feel sick at what a “throw away” society we live in. I recycle everything yet that still takes a lot of wasted resources to recycle it all. For example when you order something online from Amazon or someplace else all the wasted plastic materials and the oversize box they use. Or how when you go to the store they always try to give you a plastic bag (I bring my reusable bags even for buying cloths). If we each stop and look at what we use including water ( a huge resource people waste without thinking about it) it can get overwhelming. Yes big cars, big homes and too much stuff. I try my best to really only take what I need and we let our lawn go yellow in the summer. It is difficult but at least I know I’m doing something. One thing that is good is that we live in a city and my husband takes the bus to work and I hardly drive more than a half hour a day total and some days none. Every tiny step counts but I worry it is such an enormous problem that it won’t be enough.

  5. I love nature and I love the North Shore, yet I’ve somehow managed to live in Minnesota nearly my entire life without ever doing a Boundary Waters trip!!! It seems like a lot of work; permits, outfitters, etc. to put together a trip, but I should really just do it!

    1. You actually don’t have to do the full on canoe/backpack trip to experience a taste of the BWCA which is the good news! In Ely you can stay at a rustic cabin which we did outside the BWCA and do some day hikes inside. We also love to do the Eagle
      mountain hike which is about an hours drive from Lutsen and inside the very start of the BWCA as well. So there is a lot you can do by just taking a few day trips and hikes! You would love it!!!

  6. Breath taking photos as usual Nicole and such thought provoking words that I resonate with. I can’t imagine a world where we can’t step outside and feel at one with nature, with the mountains and the sea. Thank you for sharing your beautiful part of the world with us.

  7. Just great shots. And get this: I’ve been to Ely, MN!! Loved it. Canoeing. Outback-style living. Flannel shirts. Who doesn’t love that stuff?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.