122: Minus Seven

(Me at The Blue Wall.)

I’ve done at least three things outside of my comfort zone today.  I’m pretty sure that’s  my personal best.  Three in one day.

The first thing I did that would be obvious to you is that photo up there.  I don’t usually feature myself as top photo (even on the rare occasions I post a self-portrait).  There’s a good reason for that.  I’m the shy, quiet type.  And my blog posts are published on Facebook and Twitter via Networked Blogs and the first thing that shows up is the first image.  I usually aim for something pretty since that’s what folks will see and inspire them (or not) to click and visit my blog.

(Camp Whitewood.  Leaving the camp and entering the woods in the early morning.)

The second thing I did that is outside of the usual and certainly not within anyone’s comfort zone, is get up early on a Saturday to go for a hike fully aware that it was -7°F.  Is that insane or what?  Who does that?

(I was not the only crazy one out there.)

Not just me, I’ll tell you that.  There were nine other people tramping through the snow in the woods with me this morning.  One of those nine was my favorite and almost-a-lifetime hiking partner, M.  Another of the nine was our guide (the guy pointing his walking stick up at a tree with the sun just above his shoulder).

M and I signed up for this hike through the Holden Arboretum.  Here is part of the description:

Behind Locked Gates Forest Adventures
The Blue Wall

Discover the amazing giant ice wall of Warner Hollow near Windsor.  This frozen monument of blue, white and tan ice is one of the most spectacular sites in Ohio.  This walk also includes a visit to a frozen waterfall, a covered bridge, and remnants of an ancient Erie Indian fortification.  Warner Hollow has a variety of forest communities that reflect a variety of exposures, elevation and moisture…

(A glimpse of the frozen waterfall.)

Insanity has its payoffs, including a look at something not a lot of people get to see because the hike was, as described, on private property (or “Behind Locked Gates”).  Sure, it was cold.  But it was incredibly beautiful.  I don’t know how it happened.  Everything lined up almost just right.  The sky was mostly clear.  We got to see the sunrise on our way to the meet-up point.  The early morning sunlight on the snow was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

(Into the woods.)

And it was cold, cold, cold in that winter wonderland.  -7° when we started at the top of ravine.  (Take note of that minus sign.)  We made our way through the woods, past the handsome snow covered hemlocks.  Our guide stopped every now and then to point out a few things (such as the Erie Indian fortification which looked pretty much like a snow covered mound blending in well with the rest of the forest).

(Near the edge.)

And now we come to the third thing I did today that was outside of my comfort zone.  The ravine.  Specifically, a steep climb down to get to the bottom of the ravine.  As some of you know, I have this fear of heights and going downhill (due to a fall in what seems like a previous life).  I manage, most of the time, since I enjoy hiking (especially in the mountains of Colorado).  Sometimes, though, I look down a steep trail and freeze up.  I almost did that today.  No, not literally.  Well, maybe that too.  (Hey!  It was cold out there!)

I'm doing it!(Going down without an elevator.)

If you should happen to have a similar fear/problem, I recommend working it out on a cold winter’s day when there is a good cushioning of snow (a foot, sometimes two feet in spots) and you have at least eight strangers waiting for you at the bottom.  One of the advantages of the arctic cold temperatures is the padding from all the layers you have to wear.  Even if I had tumbled down the ravine, I was so padded that I’m pretty sure I would have been okay as long as I avoided any trees along the way.

I don’t have photos of the steep parts of the trail, the parts that made me shiver in more than just fear.  I was too busy watching my feet and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, taking it one step at a time.

(At the bottom of the ravine.)

According to our guide, the temperature dropped with our elevation drop.  About 5-8 degrees.  You do remember that when we started it was -7°F, right?  Yeah, it was cold.  And blue.  And absolutely beautiful.  Beyond description beautiful.  Beyond photographing beautiful.  But I did the best I could.  (I had to carry my camera under my coat to keep it warm.  Otherwise it freezes up, usually due to the batteries getting cold.)

Part of our walk through the bottom of the ravine involved walking over slabs of ice that were not visible due to the snow (so we had to take our guide’s word for that).  There is a creek running through there, frozen over in spots, running freely in other places.

(A small section of The Blue Wall.)

As we made our way along the creek, we glimpsed the blue ice in the distance.  And then, the way opened up and there it was…  The Blue Wall.

Isn’t it beautiful?  Incredible?  One of the most wondrous things you’ve ever seen?  Maybe not.  My photos are not even close to being as good as being there, toes numb, face freezing, yet somehow managing to smile at Nature’s beauty and creativity.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  Beautiful, incredible, wondrous.

(The Blue Wall with our guide in the picture to give some perspective.)

The blue color in some of the ice is caused by a lack of oxygen.  In the above picture you can see a little of the tan colored ice as well.

We were not able to finish the hike as planned.  As we made our way around the blue wall and back into the woods to follow the creek, we found the creek was not frozen enough to cross without getting wet feet.  Nobody wants wet feet on a day like today.  We ended up going back the way we came, up the steep hill to the top of the ravine.  I don’t mind the going up part so much.  It was warming, too.  I think most of us had worked up a good sweat by the time we made it back up to the top.

We walked back through the camp and down the road to see the covered bridge.  I’ll bring you some photos of that tomorrow.  I also have more photos of The Blue Wall.  I quickly picked out a few so I could get this post up before the day is over.

See you at the covered bridge!

(And remember:  You can click on any of the photos to see the larger version.)