Trees in Color (Frost VIII)

The Pine Hills Nature Preserve at Shades State Park is one of the most beautiful places of Indiana, and in deep winter even the blunt access trail acquires a certain charm.

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Trees and rocks in the valley seem to be bending under the snow.

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 Two people had left a few footprints the days before, otherwise the landscape was as pristine as it gets.

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At the backbones I was grateful to see that others had been able to cross…

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From the top the trees reveal their structural beauty.

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Down at the bottom the look up is mind bending.

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The way back follows the creek without further risks.

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And yes, there is color, too.

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Too Wide?

When I started using an SLR, I had just two lenses: A 28-85mm zoom, and a 20mm wide angle lens. That was too wide for me, back then,
and it took me a while to appreciate it.

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When I moved on to a DSLR, one of the first new lenses I bought was Nikon’s 14-24mm zoom. That was something else, and again it took me many years to make use of the wider end of it.

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This year, I decided to push myself again, and I acquired an 11mm lens.

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This lens works like the news these days: It shows a distorted reality. If you want the truth, look elsewhere.

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But, as with the news these days, the distortion is so extreme, that we are never tricked into believing it is real. It is more a provocation.

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The benefit? Maybe we can learn to resist to undergo this distortion ourselves. Or is the remaining path too narrow?

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The Loop

Once again I am returning to the fascinating Pine Hills Nature Preserve in Shades State Park, walking the loop trail there.

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I have done this several times, at different seasons, and both the fact that I keep repeating this hike and that it itself is a loop (returning to its beginning) makes be wonder about the purpose of this.

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Return and repeat: Aren’t these early signs of failure? Wouldn’t it be better to give up and move on?
After being exposed to Iceland’s permeating Black, Green, and White last summer, I was surprised to find the same monochromaticity here, in late summer.

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Green is a difficult color, and doesn’t pair well with a single other color I think, but it does exceedingly well in combination with black and white.

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When we return, we are different, and view things differently, and possibly even the completion of a loop teaches us something new. That what makes us repeat is maybe the feeling that there is unfinished business, that the circle has been left open, in the way the ensō brush stroke is often left open.

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So the loop, as a pattern, is nothing but a sophisticated mechanism to move on.

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The Obscure Object of Desire

The trails of the Pine Hills Nature Preserve are naturally bordered to the north by the Indian Creek, a tributary to the Sugar Creek. For most of the time, all one can see from here to he west is this triangle riddled view:

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This has become one of my many obscure objects of desire. Fortunately, I am mentally sane enough to have learned that you do not get all what you want in your life, so I have been happy keeping it this way.

Even more fortunately, this fall the water level in the Indian Creek was so low that one could easily get to that strangely suspended tree in the center triangle. So on we go…

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This tree, growing on a small patch of earth at a nearly vertical cliff is an easy metaphor for too many things. You pick.
For me, almost more surprisingly, the possibility to move forward also opened the possibility for a view back.

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So maybe, even if we don’t always get what we desire, sometimes we should get it, if only to be able to reflect about the change that just happened.

And on we go. Following an abandoned path along the Indian Creek, we meet another cliff, with Morse code writing on it that appears to tell a story for an audience long gone.

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And on we go, exploring the little piece of new territory. Finally, we arrive at a new border: The Sugar Creek, that connects Turkey Run State Park with Shades State Park.

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Also, unreachable from here, a covered bridge that would allow to cross the creek.

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Indiana doesn’t have a National Park. This whole area, including Shades State Park and Turkey Run State Park, is so full of quietly beautiful places, that it would make an ideal candidate. But maybe it is better to leave this area alone, and hidden, most of the time.

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Pine Hills Nature Preserve

Shades State Park in Indiana has so many wonderful spots that it is easy to miss the little Nature Preserve at its boundary.
The 15 minute access trail is not really preparing the visitor for what happens at its end: A steep descent leads into the narrow Clift Creek valley, and you are greeted with steep, barren rock faces.


The creek meanders around backbones with promising names like Devil’s Backbone that are at some points less than two meters wide but offer vertical drops of 30 meters and more. Crossing them in winter requires care.


Even from below, these overhanging rock faces are vertiginous.


Usually, the best time to visit Indiana landscapes is during the Fall, but this place is so complex that it is almost made for a reduced color palette.


This ancient sandstone cliff looks tired. Who wouldn’t, after all these years.


These rocks were left for a forgotten purpose, waiting now for time to end.