Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tainted Snow (SWF)

Limestone cliffs of Clifty Falls State Park,
in snow and icicles

Perhaps even more than in other seasons, winter brings wanderlust upon us.
Long days of work, and fleeting hours of daylight wrapped around them, leave little time to get out and about. We use our weekend days to explore beyond our boundaries and burn the pent up energy that becomes the worst symptom of cabin fever.
And, as always, find we gain much more, than physical exercise alone.

Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana is perched on the bank of the Ohio River, just over the border from Ohio, and a short drive from Cincinnati. The steep shale and limestone cliffs lining this small canyon are seen easily through the bare trees of winter, and are woven with miles of rugged stone trails traversing the plunging slopes. Frozen waterfalls and the icy formations that grow beneath them, as the small feeder creeks make their way to the Ohio River, add to the winter experience here, not found at any other time of year.

Ice Balls beneath the Falls

We arrived later than hoped, driving headlong into an unexpected snowstorm moving up the Ohio River Valley and seriously slowing our drive along the windy, rural roads. So, with limited time to explore, we drove straight to the Inn for that hiking essential, the trail map.
I happily caught lacy snowflakes on the back of my black mitten, stretching my legs from the 2-hour ride.
Towering behind the charming brick fa├žade of the Inn, three monstrous stacks from below, billowing smoke into a cold, snowy winter sky.

Clifty Inn,
Power plant stacks behind

Setting each foot deliberately between the whitened, slippery surfaces, we slowly descended into the gorge, finally reaching the small Hoffman’s Branch in the base, where it meets Clifty Creek.

Ice on Hoffman Branch

Snow at water's edge

Swallowed by steep walls all around, it would be easy to forget yourself here,
hopping stone to stone,
wandering the creek bed as it winds its way deeper, toward the Clifty Falls.

The trail, now almost completely covered with these lovely little flakes, took us up again, along a hillside where the fallen logs accented in white stood out plainly against the brown leaves covering the slopes.

And stacks of limestone, barely releasing a trickle, were held fast by slender trees, roots reaching around them.
Frozen rivulets covering their sides.

Snow-dusted Icicles on face of limestone

Catching our breath, we turned and found it, there, again, in the distance.
Smoke stacks spilling into the air.
And the snow fell all around.

Power plant stacks beyond hillside

Perhaps, easier to recognize at this time of year, more than others, in the lovely white covering that blankets these woods and hangs on crystal drips from its faces, what is other times invisible here.
From the stacks of the coal-fired power plants, its smoke and everything in it, caught by each little lacy flake, and brought to rest on the earth.

Snow-covered Trail #4,
Clifty Falls State Park, Madison Indiana

Power plant at Ghent, KY

Some of the highest concentrations of atmospheric mercury in the nation are found in the rain and snow that fall over Clifty Falls State Park from the towers of coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River in Kentucky and Indiana.
The combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal, releases elemental mercury to the atmosphere. Once released into the environment, the most toxic form of mercury, methylmercury, is formed and can be passed up the food chain to humans.
For more information, please look here.

Tainted Snow

See more Skywatch here.

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hitch writer said...

Breathtaking and wonderful pictures.... the winter is going i hope now.....

btw i linked you in my last post !!

Sparverius said...

Tainted that little snowflake may be, but it sure is a pretty one.

I'm glad you were able to get out and explore.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Hitch writer--I am so glad that you take that sense with you from your visits here. Learning to see the inherent beauty in ANY place, as you have observed, would be my purpose.
I love to know you see it.

bobbie said...

Your pictures are always beautiful. The stacks spewing smoke really depress me, although even their smoke is beautiful in its way. The trees against the winter sky are so refreshing in contrast.

KaHolly said...

Thanks for taking us along on your adventure today! Beautiful pics, esp. of the limestone. (Disappointing news about the mercury...will have to read more about it.) Snow still too deep to hit the trails here. Gave up on x-country skiing! Glad to be able to "get out" courtesy of you!!

Deborah godin said...

I remember eating snow all the time when I was a kid in the 50s -probably not a good idea even then! This is a beautiful journal of your trip, full of your signature appreciation of nature, and elements of warning, too.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, things are only going to get worse before they get better, because people don't seem to want to change.

Ana said...

So nice pics and post. Thanks for sharing.

Sylvia K said...

I know we all get tired of gray winter, but like with everything else, there's beauty there if you look for it and you did and you found it! Your shots are lovely and I love the ice balls under the falls! Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing. Have a good weekend!

Photo Cache said...

I wanna take that trail. Lovely images.

Guy D said...

Excellent shots Nina, thanks for the tour.

Have a great weekend!
Regina In Pictures

imac said...

Wonderful colections of photos.

Kathy said...

Nina excellent shots. Looks like you have great places for taking pictures. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. =)

mon@rch said...

Tainted Snow or not . . . AMAZING photos! Keep up the great work!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Nina, you asked me once if I had been to Clifty Falls. At first I thought I had been but after reading this I know I haven't been here. I will go some day though. You made it sound so interesting. The place I had in my mind that I had been was Falls of the Ohio. Completely different place of course.

Janie said...

Sounds like an interesting place. I liked the ice balls and the icicle photo the best.
A shame about the pollution. Mankind is only slowly waking up to all the problems we've caused and have thus far failed to fix.

Susan Gets Native said...

I LOVE Clifty Falls. I wonder what it looks like now, with all the snow/ice melt? Must be ROARING.
(I've been there in droughts...not much to see then)

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That's a powerful post. The final photo gave me a "wow" moment, and give me great pause for thought. The snow falling down and the smoke rising up, then inevitably coming down with and in the snow. Just downright well done.

Robin said...

I'm long away, yet still from Kentucky.

It wasn't always like this.....

It Was Magical.


Larry Jordan said...

Excellent post Nina. The beautiful snow covered paths and the trails through the wilderness juxtaposed with the smoke spewing stacks. Very nice captures all.

Thanks for the information on the mercury poison. We have to get this country going on alternative fuel energy and get off the fossil fuels!

Pearl Maple said...

Lovely photos, it is a shame that something as pretty as snow is now tainted with polution.

indicaspecies said...

Beautiful post!

Weeping Sore said...

I'm struck by the almost monochrome of most of the pictures - they could be in sepia. It's hard to find pristine nature here in the lower 48. Enjoy it while you can!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Glad you had a chance to get out and take these great pictures.

Kelly said...

I LOVE Clifty Falls too. Last time we were there we saw the Turkey Vultures coming in. It was spectacular! Also saw a small covey of Bobwhites (have not seen or heard any since, sadly).

Pam said...

A really interesting post Nina. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Scary and sad at once. I hate seeing ugliness intrude into what should be quiet beauty. I'm probably unrealistic in my expectations, but I'd like to preserve enough wild places and enough natural beauty that we don't reach a point of having to make reservations for outdoor time.