After leaving Pine Hill Nature Preserve I paid Shades State Park itself a brief tour, descending into Devil’s Punchbowl and from there to Silver Cascades.
The Punch Bowl and the connecting canyon offered some pretty icicles.
My favorite was the frozen heron below. That’s what happens when you wait for too long.
Prospect Point has the best views, both across and down to Sugar Creek.
It will be another month before this will turn green again, but it feels like it will take a decade.
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.
Trees and rocks in the valley seem to be bending under the snow.
Two people had left a few footprints the days before, otherwise the landscape was as pristine as it gets.
At the backbones I was grateful to see that others had been able to cross…
From the top the trees reveal their structural beauty.
Down at the bottom the look up is mind bending.
The way back follows the creek without further risks.
And yes, there is color, too.
And I was moved to ask myself just what I could still manage to accomplish in the time left to me.
Thus Arvo Pärt about his composition Lamentate, a piano concerto of sorts, inspired by Marsyas, the enormous sculpture by Anish Kapoor.
Pärt’s Lamentate is, as the name suggest, not merely a lament but a call to arms, in order create a counterweight to the state of the world. Marsyas does this in its own way, too, in the form of a musical instrument filling all of space.
The short canyon in Shades State park that leads from Devil’s Punch Bowl to Silver Cascades Falls is such an oversized instrument in its own right, to be played by walking it.
The beginning is total silence.
But, even during the worst drought, there is a trickle of water, feeding the fall with bits of sound and hope.
Four years ago I attempted a prayer.
Yes, that’s right. Let’s begin the year with a recap of not last year, but of 2008, the year 10 years ago.
This year brought photographically two significant changes into my life: My move to full frame digital (and the ability to use a handful of SLR lenses I still had from film days), and the adjustment to the Indiana landscape.
It is not that the Indiana landscape is featureless. It is more a assembly of countless insignificant features that tire the eyes, with occasional exceptions.
Some are less obvious then others, but the only chance finding them is to look.
Sometimes I am being asked why I bother carrying a heavy camera when there is nothing worth to photograph.
Visiting some of the state parks has helped to open the eyes, like McCormicks Creek, Turkey Run, Shades, or Falls of the Ohio. This had been a good year.
Here are some pictures from a recent visit to Shades State Park.
It was amusing to see little oblivious flowers on a dead, moss covered tree trunk. What is the spider hoping for?
More typical are the vortex-like canyons that seem to suck you into whatever future there is.
Helpful stairways only lead downwards.
Water is still flowing the wrong way.
The trees remind that we can sometimes point sideways instead of up.
Once again I am returning to the fascinating Pine Hills Nature Preserve in Shades State Park, walking the loop trail there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So the loop, as a pattern, is nothing but a sophisticated mechanism to move on.
With Fall around the corner, it is time to revisit a few friends. One of the less traveled trails in Shades State Park is the loop #2 in the eastern part of the park (but still west of Pine Hills Nature Preserve).
It begins with a steep descend to Sugar Creek (using stairs).
One can wade through the creek westwards about 100 yards to get a view of Silver Cascades Falls
and then turn back
in order to continue upwards into Pearl Ravine.
This is again steep and sometimes very wet. After some minor obstacles
one reaches the Maidenhair Falls.
They are small but pretty.
From there, it goes up and out.
Sugar Creek is a tributary of Wabash River (which continues into the Ohio River and the Mississippi).
It connects Shades State Park with Turkey Run State Park, and is a highlight of both parks.
At Shades State Park, most trails touch the creek at some point, or at least provide an unobstructed view across onto a vast wooded slope.
There are sights that stun instantly, and others that require some time.
In Turkey Run State Park, (almost) every visitor will cross the suspension bridge and enjoy a view like this:
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.
My favorite State Park in Indiana is Shades State Park. The ominous name is short for Shades of Death, and possibly refers to a battle between Native American tribes. I have already written before about the Silver Cascades Waterfall in that park, but it has many other spectacular features. One is called Devil’s Punch Bowl, where in the early 20th century visitors that arrived from Chicago by train were treated to a movie night. These people had guts.
In dark winter, the punch bowl is certainly the place that justifies the park’s old name most. For some strange reason, the bare dead trees remind me of Francis Bacon’s crucifixion paintings.
The punchbowl is the end of a short canyon that has more fallen trees.
When the canyon widens, surprisingly the walls just get taller. One begins to wonder about the finale of this dramatic development.
Instead of a drop into the endless void, the canyon ends at the Silver Cascades Fall. That’s a counterpoint the composer of this landscape must surely be proud of.