Like all (very) amateur outdoor photographers, I have a large collection of what I characterize as charismatic photos. These include the usual: waterfalls, trees in intense fall color, snowy mountain faces, creeks and rivers and lakes and, of course, my wife and kids enjoying it with me. What I also have, however, are a lot of photos of things that really resonate with me, though in a smaller, quieter way—particularly bridges, simple buildings, directional signs and other evidence of human activity that one would see only along a trail. You won’t find any mountains or desert canyons in this collection. What you will find, though, are footbridges, woodburned signs identifying wilderness areas, and trail blazes of all shapes and colors.
It’s not clear to me why these objects attract me so. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I spend a great deal of time alone in fairly remote places where there is little evidence of human impact, and that what evidence there is tends to be purposefully minimal and designed to fit the landscape to the greatest extent possible. For example, the North Country Trail in Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest features bright blue blazes (sometimes known as “assurance markers”) to guide the hiker along the proper route. Even though these markers are infrequent, they are a dependable and very friendly reminder of the path forward…and the bright blue color is lovely, especially in the fall.
As a solo hiker/biker, I’m almost always gladdened by the appearance of these small things, and I tend to document them in photos as surely as I document those waterfalls and colorful trees. The collections below highlight some of the places I’ve been and some of the things I’ve noticed and admired along the way.