The fifth season has arrived. Unless Winter has mercy and provides a white blanket, it will look like this for at least four months. Sigh. And I did saturate the colors beyond the legal limits.
About 9 months ago I went looking for the Arrowhead Arch near Hemlock Cliffs, and I thought it’s time to see how this place looks like in the autumn.
The stubborn spiders are out and about, and the stubborn leaves cling to the trees.
But, of course, what is really stubborn are the rocks of the Messmore cliffs.
This time I was stubborn enough to explore them all the way.
I like the complex and noisy landscape.
And there is the surprisingly harmonious contrast between the cold rock and the warm autumn colors.
Contrasts like these seem to need each other.
In places like this, sometimes, something magical can happen, pure serendipity.
The second long hike this fall in Ohio took me to the waterfalls in Hocking Hills State Park.
Flowing water is infinitely attractive. It’s common to capture waterfalls through long exposures to get that seductive silkiness.
Waterfalls can be as beautiful as the human body.
One little project I have is to make a time lapse movie with long time exposures of waterfalls, ideally in Iceland, over 24 hours, taking one shot every minute, which would give a single one minute long clip.
Then one can also capture instants time with very short exposures, dissolving the flow of a water into isolated droplets.
Here the plan would be to create a slow-motion film, taking hundreds of shots a minute, and exposing each for 1/8000 of a second, so that we can follow each droplet for much longer that it takes to fall.
When I visited state parks in Ohio at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020, I didn’t expect that we would still be struggling with isolation.
One of the places I visited then was Conkles Hollow, whose rim trail offers fascinating views of scraggly trees on the steep slopes of the nature preserve.
I was curious how all this would look in the late fall, and the difference is not big.
If at all, the trees have become a bit more scraggly (and older, like myself), many individual lonelinesses in immutable clusters.
Maybe they are patiently waiting, too, for time to pass, wounds to heal, and spring to come.
Would they move elsewhere, if they could, and become tall and beautiful?
With cooler temperatures and less humidity, it’s time to say good-bye to the mushrooms, and maybe these close-ups will do.
The now decaying fruiting bodies of have done their work and put out spores for new mycelium to grow.
Underneath the mycelium will keep composting and cleaning up and waiting patiently for spring and warmth.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if inside us could grow fungi, too, with moody tendrils of a soul-mycelium absorbing worries and fears, and strangely shaped fruiting thoughts sending out spores to grow elsewhere?
Spring and warmth will come.
The autumn colors are finally here, too, and Shades State Park, about which I can’t possibly have written often enough, offers from it’s Inspiration Point an excellent view across Sugar Creek to the tree covered hills of the other side.
I could have spent hours there, letting the colors soothe mind and soul, like music for the eyes.
Does it ever get boring? The trees don’t think so.
Well, to have some variation, here is a wider view of the scene:
My third and last day in the Holy Cross Wilderness took me to Lonesome Lake, a suitable day hike for recovery, because it has little elevation gain and is easy on the mind.
The first part is gently uphill through old growth forests. Aging can be beautiful.
The middle section leads through lush meadows with an abundance of wildflowers. This would be a place to grow old.
Then, after a short last climb, there is the lake, lonesome alright, as is the entire valley.
Behind the lake the valley closes with mountains from the continental divide. Crossing it means going west.
Sadly not yet. Hopefully soon.
There is more to a landscape – or a life – than the sum of its pieces. So maybe acceptance is not the only way to relate.
More and more it occurs to me that what really matters is our involvement with the place, or the person. And hence, what I am talking about here is not the place, but my encounters with it.
Each picture not only tells the story of such an encounter, but in turn offers the viewer an opportunity for other encounters.
I am not suggesting that there is meaning here, merely an attempt of mutual understanding.
By capturing these moments of dialogue, do we try to capture time itself, be it in its vague state of chaotic flow,
be it in the solid state of a rock face hourglass?
Entering Beaver Creek Wilderness from the Three Forks of Beaver Trailhead has the advantage that you get a view of the area before descending into the gloomy valley.
Signs are rare, trail markings sparse, and the trail itself often unrecognizable. The very humid landscape is subject to continuous transformation due to intense growth and decay, so I was initially grateful to be able to hang on to the rocks.
How does one esthetically tame a feral landscape like this? Instead of imposing structure, one approach is to embrace the wild complexity, and let it overwhelm.
Once you reach the valley bottom, you can follow Middle Ridge Trail along Beaver Creek upstream or downstream; the former offers better campsites (I think).
Hiking downstream has more rock formations, if you desire so.
Then, strangely, a rather wide wooden bridge: For what traffic?
After a while one gets used to the constant slipping in mud, tripping over roots, and breaking off rotten wood when attempting to prevent a fall.
One begins to look away from the rocks and to accept that the transformative power of this place, water, offers reflection, too.
Is this it? Why, is this not enough?
The abundance of Magnolia macrophylla was one of the my favorite attractions in Kentucky’s Beaver Creek Wilderness.
At this time of the year, the giant fallen leaves become an essential part of the ground cover.
Even the Beaver Creek itself is not safe, the unfallen leaves appear as reflections.
Many get stuck among their smaller friends in the process of falling,
or decide to go the last steps of decay just a few inches above ground.