We chat to Milli Vedder, an avid hiker and photographer hailing from the beautiful Pacific Northwest in the US.
Words and photos: Milli Vedder
North: How long have you been taking photos?
Milli: When I was in middle school, my mom and I spent an entire month on the road driving from Washington to New York. At the time I had a turquoise Kodak point and shoot camera that I used to capture everything I saw on the trip. A lot of the photos were just memories or funny road signs, but every shutter click made me fall more and more in love with the art of photography.
North: What inspires your work?
Milli: My work has always been inspired by the nature around me. Washington has rocky beaches, misty rainforests, alpine meadows, and even desert scrublands on the east side. It’s hard not to feel inspired when I step out my front door.
North: Have you ever gotten lost exploring in the woods?
Milli: I honestly don’t think I have. When I was a child, I’d spend my days wandering around in the woods foraging for mushrooms and in that time I developed a sense of where I’d been and how to get back to the trail.
When I was a teenager, I built a shoddy little fort in the greenbelt behind my dad’s house. I didn’t follow any set trail to get there, I just knew “turn left at the fallen tree” and “cross the creek where the skunk cabbage grows”.
North: What are some of the weird and wonderful things you’ve discovered on your hikes?
Milli: A few summers ago, my mom and I embarked on a 14 mile round trip hike with the goal of finding an old mine from the early 1900s that has been all but lost to time. The location of these mines is so unknown, it’s difficult to find any information on them besides interviews from the time period and trip reports from hikers who returned empty handed. But my mom and I have always been good at finding these types of things so we were optimistic.
It was a hot day and after letting the GPS send us on a wild goose chase, we’d mostly given up trying to find the mine. Instead, we made it our goal to hike up to a waterfall we’d glimpsed through the trees.
The waterfall was beautiful; multiple tiers and it must have been 50 feet tall. Once we’d finished with our admiring and photography, we followed the creek downstream so we could intersect with the trail, and as a last ditch effort to find the elusive mine. After all, mines are typically found near sources of water.
As we carefully made our way downhill, we spotted another waterfall, plummeting over moss covered bedrock and surrounded by, not one, but three small mineshafts! Two of the shafts were fairly accessible, but the third and largest one had over 80 years of rocks and dirt piled up, partially obscuring the mouth. I managed to summon the courage to crawl in on my belly and explore. The mines had never been successful so there was no ore to speak of, but there were dozens of giant cave crickets meandering around the walls.
We made a return trip the next summer and found a possible fourth mineshaft, and the clear foundation of their rather large (given the time and distance from the closest town) log cabin. Scattered around the ruins was old logging and mining equipment and numerous glass bottles.
North: What adventures do you hope to have next?
Milli: After exploring so much of the west side of my state, I’d love to see some of the attractions the east side and southern parts of my state has to offer. Not to mention the wonderful mountains and forests located in the neighboring states. I’m also slowly working on getting back into hiking shape so I can revisit places like Mildred lakes and Lake of the Angels.