The images of Ricketts Glen in winter are varied in what they comprise. They are all beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others. Over time, I have learned that many of my pictures can’t even begin to compare to some of the masters who post to the social media groups of the world. Their eyes are just slightly better than mine at being able to pick out angles and intricacies than the things I see.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I take some crazy beautiful images, but to the professionals and skilled amateurs who I aspire to be like, they just seem to have worked a little harder, mastered something unique, which I have yet to do. I have my 10,000 hours148, but I just lack some of the formal refinement and tutelage that they have received.
In this, they see how things can be filtered and touched up on Facebook to dramatize the moments so much better than mine. Thus, my “naked” pictures, while personal to me, don’t even begin to compare to some of what’s out there. For this, I bow my head in respect to those great photographic artists who share their days with me.
Nevertheless, let me be clear; I don’t refuse to take pictures before of them. Oh, no… far from it! I take more pictures, but I allow them to stand for what they are, and if for this, the blues in the icicles aren’t as deep or the greens as shining in their reflections as winter’s jewelry, then so be it.
They are what I remember them to be.
And when I think of my images of those scenes from Ricketts Glen’s winter world, perhaps no other image stands out quite as much as the ice curtain between the Shawnee and Huron waterfalls. I have conservatively estimated that the icicles are 30 feet high, which is the same height as the Shawnee waterfall. However, they are most likely taller than that since it appears that they stand above the crest of the waterfall when they are seen on that back rocky wall.
And when I think of these ice columns and how they fill the back wall that stretches from one waterfall to the next, I am still blown away, even while sitting at a computer on a warm almost spring day.
However, in February of 2004, the water in front of the falls wasn’t completely frozen over. As a result, I never walked across the ice that was bridging over the stream to find out what was behind them. Instead, I took many of my pictures from up on top of the staircase that descended into the base area. At the time, I found that this was sufficient in what I wanted from the hike. This allowed me to gawk and admire, and it was really that good.
At the end of my photo session, I did walk over to the far edge where the Huron drops and the steps are revealed, but for the most part, I stayed close to the edge and avoided anything that was situated near or over the water because I didn’t have any confidence in the surface I would be standing on.
To this day, I look at that picture that I have of that moment. I have stated it before, and I will state it again that this was one of those life-affirming moments. It was something so unexpected and so wondrous, that I had to get it printed out in a bigger size than what the standard 4x6 could offer. I had to share it with my students so that they too would understand the beautiful things that the world has to offer, for how can we not share these places with all those people who should learn and understand what they are?
And for this, the 5x7 image of the Cave of the Ice Cones, as it came to be named, sat it my computer room or my living room, either in its own frame or as the center of a collage of Ricketts Glen images for years to come.
Nevertheless, despite its prominence and meaning in my life, something was keeping me from going back there to this place to relive the moment. Over years, that thing would change, but still, I would look at the picture of those dozen or so columns / pillars / horizontal slabs / conglomerates of many thing icicles grown together and wonder how the heck Nature, even the beauty of Nature in all of its majesty, could produce something so amazing and unique.
In many ways, it became a white whale, even though I had seen it before and had beheld it and called it my own, but while it became an obsession, it became a different kind of obsession. It morphed into a place in my mind where all was good with my mind and that things like the cold and the wind and the gear I did and didn’t have and the people who weren’t with me on this hike and in life and the money I wasn’t earning and the expectations that I wasn’t meeting didn’t matter.
No, the only truth was winter waterfalls, and I was 100% hooked.
Besides, if I had winter waterfalls, I had something good to look forward to, and with that, I had adventures that were in some ways equal to those in magazines like Backpacker and National Geographic Adventure149.