Archive for January, 2014

Let It Snow

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Cabin and Car During Jan 25 Storm

I don’t ski, and my last two experiences with ice skating went horribly wrong, but for some reason, I really like snow. We’ve had some concentrated winter experience during the last week, more than fulfilling my appetite for the white stuff.

Township Road before the plow

Last Saturday, another visit from the polar regions transformed our little valley into a snow globe.  4.5 inches (11cm) of new snow  just before noon when I took camera, coat, and my aptly named Snowy River out for a blustery walk (see location above during July flooding).

Looking across the swamp

A single pair of tracks outlined the center of our township road, which hadn’t been cleared.  A heavy wind was blowing the snow across our swamp (see creek above during July flooding).

Before the Snow Plow

Our driveway seemed to be Subaruable, but it gave the entrance to the Hollow a much more remote feeling than its had since we started building the cabin.

Pine tree during Jan 25 storm before the wind

We don’t get as much wind in the Hollow, so our trees were frosted with snow for most of the weekend.  The roads were covered, but we didn’t see a lot of plows.  Later Saturday afternoon Elizabeth took a walk out to the township road and met one of the neighbors plowing it with his Polaris.

Neighbor plowing township road

. After another inch or two of snow over Saturday night, we gingerly drove down a lightly plowed driveway Sunday morning, starting what turned out to be a surprisingly long drive to church.  With greasy unplowed roads, we never got out of 3rd gear.

The Mighty Killbuck

Our return home was easier, not because any of the roads had been cleared, but because we weren’t driving through heavy snow fall.  We stopped along the state highway to watch the ice floating in the Killbuck.  In July, the spot above was impassable because of floodwaters (see the couple on the ATV).

Plowing the Driveway

I’d taken a quick swipe down the driveway on Saturday, but on the theory that you can never spend too much quality time with your tractor (and anticipating 20 below zero temperature), I cranked up the reluctant Diesel after work on Monday and thoroughly plowed the driveway from the cabin to the township road.

Well-Plowed Driveway

It takes a gentle touch, driving slowly, with a hand on the hitch height control, and a foot on the brake, to avoid making a big mess out of the limestone.

Base of our Driveway After Plowing

After cleaning up a quarter mile of private driveway, I decided to clean up about 3/4 mile of the township road, which is a lot easier to plow, because there’s no gravel.  That left a bunch of snow in front of our drive, a satisfying opportunity for some front end loader work.

Frozen Falls

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The tiny brook that makes Heiser Hollow a hollow flows year around, but it is usually underground.  Not only has it been flowing constantly for the last month, but a light Christmas freeze created hundreds of crystal clear icicles and iciglobs.  Splashing water froze over a period of several days into all sorts of interesting patterns and shapes.

Once a fantastic alpine cataract, over a period of millions of years, Heiser Falls has eroded into a 30 foot high jumble of sandstone boulders, decaying back into the sand that they sedimented from.  As the fragile sandstone splits, slides, and decomposes, it constantly alters the shape and form of the falls. Truly, you never really visit the same water fall more than once.


By December 28, the continuously splashing falls were making increasingly thicker layers of ice on top of stones and fallen branches.

Dripping water from day time thaws had created stalactites, solidifying ferns and moss.

The spring-fed brook created beautifully clear ice, covered and infused with subtle but complex textures of cracking. And then everything melted.

And then it froze. It froze hard. Starting from a relatively balmy mid-40s on the night of January 5, the temperature quickly dropped to -10 Fahrenheit (-23C).  The pond quickly froze solid, but I didn’t get to the waterfall for a couple of days.  When I returned after a light snow on the 9th, the brook and falls appeared to have frozen solid, although you could still hear the water flowing under the ice.

It looked like a miniature 300 foot glacier, sliding into the back of our property, sliding slowly downhill towards the frozen pond.

Much of the brook above the falls had turned into stair steps of ice, as successive layers of constantly flowing water solidified on top of already frozen water.

The falls seemed frozen into place, although you were always surrounded by the babbling sound of flowing water.  And then it thawed again, with all but the thickest ice completely melting.

Cold weather returned, and this week, the Hollow is beginning to ice up again, looking like it did before Christmas.  The constantly flowing spring water surrounded by elaborately formed and textured formations of beautifully clear ice.  I went out at lunch with a tripod and macro lens, trying to capture some of the elusive beauty of the ever-changing ice.

Christmas in the Cabin

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

There is something about celebrating a holiday with your family that establishes a place in your heart as a home. Although we’ve owned Heiser Hollow for 4 decades, perhaps the lack of heated bedrooms and showers had always discouraged us from overnight trips in the winter. Now that we’ve finished the cabin, this year seemed like a good time to spend Christmas in the woods.

On Christmas eve, Elizabeth and I drove to a local tree farm, cut down a spruce we particularly liked, and threw it in the truck bed, in the hopes that the new tree stand would actually work.  It turns out that even with an emphasis on acorns, wood, straw, and other ornaments either made from or depicting natural things, we had more than enough baubles to hang from the tree. We included 3 ornaments that Mom made from scratch when she and Dad were first married, the cardboard  “Santa’s Breeding Farm” ornament that I made in the 2nd grade (or 12th—the details are dim), some early work by Kirk, and what may well have been the highlight of our short time in Indian Guides, three glass balls with paint dribbled on the inside.

Kirk drove in from college, and Mom & Dad drove across the county, and lacking any convenient attachment points near the chimney, we hung our stockings with care on the bannister.  After a couple of drinks, we all nestled snug in our beds.