Today’s blog was written by a very special guest, Jeff Rennicke. Thank you, Jeff for sharing your beautiful story.

Jeff Rennicke has lived a life of adventure traveling the world for more than 20 years as a writer for such publications as National Geographic Traveler, Reader’s Digest, Backpacker and others. His writing on destinations on six continents has twice been awarded gold medals for excellence by the Society of American Travel Writers and includes over 250 magazine articles and 10 books such as Treasures of Alaska: Last Great American Wilderness published by National Geographic Books. His photography, known for its creative artistry, has been featured in publications such as Reader’s Digest, National Geographic Traveler, and Backpacker and was included in an exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in the American Museum of Natural History. He is currently the Executive Director of Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and lives in Bayfield, WI.


It was a Sunday morning early, way too early. Any sane person was still fast asleep but jet-lag from a return trip from a place that I could barely find on a map and still wasn’t sure I was pronouncing correctly, had me sleepless.

I rose and walked down to Lake Superior, and right into the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. Mist was rising like gray wings off the still waters tinted red by the approaching sun. A pair of ducks circled like black stars silhouetted in the light. The beauty of it left me breathless and, I have to admit, shaking my head: how many miles do I need to travel, I thought to myself, before I begin to see the beauty right in front of me?

Photography by Jeff Rennicke (

Humans are a traveling species. It is in our DNA this desire to see what is over the hill or around the next bend in the trail. Travel allows us to put ourselves in the midst of new cultures, in the presence of other species, and maybe even helps us find ourselves in the process. To paraphrase Ted Kerasote in his book Navigations we are a species in love with movement, with the sheer act of finding and refinding the way.

But for me, it took finding my way back home to really ignite my creativity.

For much of my adult life, I lived like a stone skipping across the earth. My work as a freelance writer took me to six continents – Crawling into the dens of hibernating black bears in Colorado, river rafting in China, exploring Antarctica on a Russian research vessel, climbing Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, skiing across glaciers in Alaska, hiking among the giant grizzlies of Kamchatka. It was a passionate, exciting life. But, something was missing.

“To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever,” wrote Edward Abbey. As I stood at the edge of Lake Superior that sunlit morning, I felt the weight of all those miles and places pressing down on me. I decided to come home.

Choosing to focus my attention and creativity on the Apostle Islands and Wisconsin’s Northwoods gave me a focus, a subject. I began to look, listen, and see more deeply, returning again and again to the same landscapes to see them in different light, different seasons, different ways – something I could rarely do in the exotic places I traveled before.

I understood that I was making progress in developing a sense of place because of a single tree. There was this beautiful, brassy, little birch tree that stood out over a small bay near my home. It seemed to lean out over the dark waters of the bay and catch the last golden rays of sun. I returned again and again to photograph it until one morning, after a particularly windy night, I set up my tripod, looked through the viewfinder, and … it was gone. Blown over in the storm.

Photography by Jeff Rennicke (

A weight seemed to settle in my stomach. As silly as it may sound, I found myself mourning the loss of a single tree. Then it hit me: I was mourning the loss of a single tree because I had seen it, appreciated it, come to know it deeply over time.

Today, my work centers around the Marcel Proust quote, “The true journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

I have found my place, my focus. I am home. And every day now rather than jetting off across the world, I turn my attention to this one small part of it and push myself to see it with “new eyes.”

  • Jeff Rennicke

To learn more about Jeff, visit his amazing website at

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