I was driving down a winding country road in early morning. Light and dark flashed rapidly over my eyes as winter trees filtered the low slanting sun. After a month of being trapped indoors with cabin fever mounting daily, I was finally getting out of the house. It didn’t matter that the temperature was just 16F. The sun was out and so was I.

Just a couple more miles and I pulled off to the side at a wide spot in the road. I grabbed my coat and hat, my backpack, and my tripod out of the backseat and headed in among the trees.

Only two days before the weather had been warm and rainy leaving snow only in patches now crusty from the cold. The rest of the landscape was brown and barren. Thin wisps of ice granules blown by the wind undulated back and forth over the smooth surface of ponds and hissed among the frayed and broken cattails at the edges.

Water that had been running high and open seemed to be in suspended animation. The cold had returned so quickly that everything was flash frozen to a crackly crunch. Thin ice shattered like glass under my feet sending little shards skittering downstream. Thicker spots were smooth and clean and incredibly slick. Staying vertical took concentration.

106-596.jpgA few hours into my walk, I stopped at a familiar waterfall to photograph some interesting ice formations. It is a pretty large fall with two tiers. The upper level fall is maybe thirty feet wide and drops about ten feet. Then there is a level-ish area maybe ten or twelve feet wide with a pool in the middle before the second drop of about thirty feet down to another pool at the bottom.

Even though everything was frozen, I could hear the water still rushing along under the ice and every so often there would be a hole providing a little window with dark water flashing past.

I was in between the two tiers taking close ups of the upper fall. My main concern was to not lose my footing on the slippery ice and slide down to the bottom which would certainly be painful. I was shuffling along slowly trying to cross the pool when with a loud bang and a sploosh the ice split open and down I went into the waist deep water.

Instinctively I held the camera and tripod over my head with one hand, leaned back onto the solid ice to prevent sliding in all the way, and frantically felt with the other hand for something to pull me out. I was out quick, but was wet up to my shirt tail and shivering from the icy shock.

Figuring the jig was up for the day I packed up my camera gear and started walking quickly back towards my car. I was disappointed that I would have to cut short my first day out in a month (it was only around eleven in the morning) and especially on such a nice sunny day.

It was a mile or so back to the car and I warmed up pretty good with the effort and with the sun on me. Eventually my pant legs froze solid which actually made it more comfortable. So I got an idea.

I quickly drove across the valley to a spot that I knew had some pretty stiff uphill walks. I figured that if I kept on the move and stopped only briefly to shoot some photos, I could stay warm and stay out. Amazingly it worked. I was able to stay out pretty much the rest of the day. By around two in the afternoon the unfrozen parts of my pants had mostly dried out and I kept going until the sun started to sink close in the west and I just got tired of walking.

I usually take my time and fiddle with my camera and stand around being “one with nature” so that I often am out all day without covering a whole lot of ground. Today was a little different. I walked up hill and down hill, through bright open hardwoods and dense dark stands of pines, around ponds and across open fields. I followed some trails blazed with paint, some marked only by deer tracks, and some places with no trail at all. I explored some new areas by pushing ahead to see what was over the next ridge or around the next bend. Today I did cover a lot of ground.

It was a bit of a whirlwind tour, but at least I was out where as John Muir put it, “the poor insignificant wanderer enjoys the freedom and glory of God’s wilderness.”



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3 Responses to “Wandering”

  1. fencer Says:

    Yikes! That must have been cold. Incentive to keep moving… Great photos as usual, especially the first one – almost a face!


  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Is that first photo frost? It’s quite interesting – the texture is so evenly dispersed on the surface of whatever that mystery object is.
    That was a close call, falling through ice. I can’t imagine being that cold and continuing on walking.

  3. Bernie Kasper Says:

    These are some great abstract shots Mark, love the texture in these, great work I like both of them.

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