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.  

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