by Kevin McGrath
The last several days had been downright frigid, with temperatures hovering at zero and below. So when I looked outside on a mid-January Saturday and saw the sun shining, I knew I had to get outside to enjoy it. Twenty-three is what the thermometer was showing and like most of us living in these north woods would say, it felt like spring. So I jumped into my car and headed to the Dead River Falls where I usually enjoy a nice summer hike and also a fall excursion with all its colorful grandeur.
This was actually my first trip to this hidden gem during the winter months. I was excited so I eagerly proceeded, camera in hand, wondering what this season had to offer. After climbing the somewhat steep but level snow-covered path leading to the trail head, it was clear the snow surely made it slower going. Upon entering the beginning of the trail, I was greeted by a pileated woodpecker busily chipping away at a tree in search of a mid-afternoon meal. He was working so hard he didn’t even notice me as I got my camera out and took several photos of his colorful plumage. I knew at that moment I was where I needed to be.
Continuing on my way down the slope, I could hear the powerful flow of the water long before I could see it. Reaching the bottom of the hill, I entered an opening where the rushing life source was capped and blanketed with snowy-white curved and smooth drifts creating a beautiful landscape only seen in paintings. I took another picture. The air was fresh and pure, nourishing my olfactory senses as I proceeded upstream along the picturesque banks.
Navigating a steep climb, I maneuvered myself to the top of the first of a series of waterfalls. I sat there quite a while, taking in all the splendor of the moment. After snapping several more photos, I continued my uplifting journey in this postcard-worthy adventure, reaching another series of iced-over falls whose gurgling, powerful, fast-moving liquid is only visible here and there at the very bottom, where openings from windblown snow hadn’t yet created the ice shelves that encased the rest.
Wanting to get closer but not being able to judge clearly where water and land divide, given all the drifting and covered surfaces, I slowly, cautiously, followed others’ footsteps on the trail I sat and listened to the winter birds busy above in the treetops. Soaking in this fine day, I continue a little further before deciding it was time to turn back and retrace my steps as the sun began slowly to sink and a chill that wasn’t around at the start of this local thrill became a noticeable temperature drop.
Heading in the opposite direction brought new perspectives on this endeavor so I had to stop to take more photos. This popular summer haven for locals is now deserted, offering me this entire cornucopia of delight all to myself. I exited fully nourished, inspiration flowing through my veins like the water rushing over the hidden stones below.
Kevin McGrath seeks inspiration wherever it is calling from, but particularly enjoys receiving it from nature.