Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Ice Castles

We went to be breathless for a spell, one evening …

I stumbled upon this place quite accidentally, between overhearing a conversation at work and seeing one picture from one of my Facebook friends. The picture was not very good – blurry and dark, but the words “ice castles” sounded intriguing.

Then, there is Google – and one quick search revealed the mystery.

We drove up there after work, with some friends from Armenia. The temperature was about 27F (-3C) outside the “(ice) park”. Once inside the park, the temperature felt like it dropped about 10F degrees (5C), if not more!

The “park” serves as a soccer field in the summer. It’s inside a residential neighborhood, surrounded by horse farms. I am not sure how they “do it”, and honestly, I don’t think I want to know, but it looks like an intricate system of refrigeration pipes leaking water. With the constant subzero temps this time of the year, the water freezes and huge amounts of ice build up, over time, making these incredible formations that look like intricate sand castles, only … in ice. Just as ephemeral, however.

Once you’re in the midst of it, it feels sort of like a cave, with the only difference being that … you can still see the sky peeking at you above your head. There are very, and I mean extremely tight, narrow pathways in between tall ice formations, that you can squeeze through and find your way out.

Much like a maze. Huge reflector lights are cast on some of the formations, turning the walls of the labyrinth all sorts of colors, from pure white to dark blue and purple and everything in the middle.

Because we went to The Castles right after work, as an afterthought, we didn’t bring “real” cameras, so all the pictures are taken with our phones. The reason they look so amazing is because the place speaks for itself.

It’s poetry standing still and poetry in motion, all at the same time, because in the silence of the ice mountains, you can hear the streams of running water, adding away to the sand … urrr… ice castles.

My feet were not to be felt for about an hour after the journey through the maze ended, and my neck was stiff from chasing the tippy-tops of the caves, but my heart was warm, full and happy.

I miss The South more often than not, but I am so grateful that I live in a place that does have a real winter, which allows for such beauty to form. It opens your eyes and your imagination to new horizons of beauty and to a new dimension of dreaming. 

 Just to give you some perspective of how tall these formations actually are - they are taller than some of the rock formations I have walked around in these parts. Amazing how fast water freezes when the conditions are just right!

Some of the formations looked like under water life - maybe giant jelly fish, or the giant octopus.
When you pay for your entrance fee, you see this ice globe on the ticket counter.

Details of ice formations: there are no special settings on the iPhone that took these pictures to show these as black-and-white shots. It's just the natural contrast between the night sky and the white of the ice.
Some of them look like the insides of your stomach, really. Still eerie. 

 Navigating the really narrow, tight pathways in between the mountains of ice ...

Just a glimpse at "how they do it": pipes covered in ice, "dripping" ... 

This mountain reminded me of the limestone mountains of Turkey, with small cabins carved inside the mountain, and tons of chimneys springing from the mountain tops. The clouds make for very realistic smoke ...On the right: details of "the chimneys".

On the way out - seeing the light from the ticket cottage through the narrow path. 
Click on the picture to see the whole album from this trip.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Winter Musings

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” - Lewis Carroll. 

Well, Happy New Year, everyone!

I’ve read somewhere that this is a tall order: how can you possibly wish someone, in good faith, a whole year of “happy”?! That’s 365 days of “happy”! Anyone who’s lived more than an hour on this planet knows that’s impossible … So – take what you wish from that whole year, and make it a happy one! It’s all different for each one of us, I am sure.

The travel compass is all but missing in our winters. We live winter by a different pace and we measure it by a different clock yet than other seasons. We stay put and lazy during these months. It’s a slow passing, really: we cozy up with books and kittens, cook too much and eat likewise, use the crock-pot a lot and the “magic” fleece blanket almost every day. We pull out the knitting needles and virtually stop having garage woodworking projects. There is not much outdoor activity going on, other than feeding the birdies, or shoveling the driveway, occasionally.

Like lazy hibernating groundhogs, we sometime, with cobweb eyes, peer out from the warmth of our home, through our chilled window portholes, to see lots of drab, less of green and lots of snow in our back yard - when we do bother to peel ourselves from the couches.

We’ve had a white winter so far – cold and gray, for the most part, and the inversion has been crazy and gagging, again, this year. People born and raised here continue to say, every year, that “this is the worst they’ve ever seen it”. I guess the 3 ½ car per family ratio around here, in the narrow valley, won’t help it a bit! One more winter like this and we’re on our way to California – we say, again, for the fourth year in a row.

We’re making travel plans for the year, but so far that’s where the travel ends: in the plans. We’re staying indoors watching the sparrows frisky in the snow and listening to Gypsy mourning the warmer days. I think he himself only believes in happy new summer, really … 

They're hungry!

There is a bush of mums in the picture on the left, but the rest of them ... are "evergreens" - if this is the color of an evergreen, I give up! 

Our back yard: what we see for ... umm ... about 6 months starting every November or so ...

"The way a crow / Shook down on me / The dust of snow / From a hemlock tree. ...
(Robert Frost) (replace your own bird and tree in there ...) 

The picture of desperation, or calm: Gypsy, waiting for birds, or spring - not sure which ... 

The picture of winter, in my mind: Gypsy and Li'l Kitty snoozing on the "magic" fleece blanket. Not sure what they put in that texture, but it's the ultimate downer for my felines. And me.