Wildwood 2001.03.16

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Snow is a funny thing. When the temperature is warm enough, snowflakes become absolutely huge, and they stick together (or "clump") a lot better. As a kid, I was more enthused about this kind of snow because it made it a lot easier to make snowpeople and snowballs. But now that I’m more mature (snicker), I’ve come to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the snow sticking to trees and bushes a lot more. And so when such a snowfall came this past March, I ran over to Wildwood to take photos of it for the site.

Sadly, with the temperature being what it is, that also meant that the snow melted when it hit the warmer ground, but then when the ground was saturated enough with coldness the melted snow reformed into ice. So I got my first taste of sliding around while driving just before I took these pics, as I was driving in to Wildwood. And the van doesn’t have anti-lock brakes or any of those modern creature comforts. Mind you, I was driving maybe seven miles an hour when it happened, and nobody was within eyeshot when it happened, but it was still not a fun sensation.

Still, walking in such a beautiful scene was very, very soothing. The only real problem I had with the hike is that my body doesn’t quite have the same amount of "natural insulation" as it used to, and so I was kinda cold. I guess the days of me getting by all but the coldest of temperatures with a lightweight jacket are over. The other problem I had was that at this point I had yet to celebrate my birthday, and so I was still taking photographs with disposable cameras. So the quality here isn’t as great as it could be.

All these shots are taken from the Prairie (Orange) Trail.

Somewhere in there I had a shot not come out that well, so the developers didn’t give it back to me. But then again, trying to shoot in the middle of a heavy snowfall with an el cheapo camera isn’t exactly a winning plan for great photography to start with. I debated about just keeping these shots to myself because the technical quality of them is so poor, but in the end I decided that the beauty of the scenes could overcome any flaws caused by the equipment.

And now that I have a real camera of my own, my future photos will look a lot better than these. I’ve already got two rolls back, and the quality is far above these. They’re not of the snow, sadly, but I like them anyway. And when everything starts growing back in, I hope to go over and take lots of snaps, to document spring coming to Wildwood. But enjoy this last gasp of winter.

Click on images for larger view.

01. What a Change
I decided to take this picture at the Trailhead to start out with, just to give you a point of reference from the last pictures I took. Right away you get a good idea of what the early and late snowfalls here are like, because the snowflakes have clumped up even on these meager bushes.

02. End-of-Winter Wonderland
This is at the start of the trail, where all but the Meadow trails share the same path. Because the roads were so slippery, very few people were at the park, and since snow was still falling the trails looked nearly untrodden. Thankfully the trails are maintained well enough so they’re still clear, even without footsteps to help guide you.

03. Wow
I wish the pictures were clearer than they were, but unfortunately my birthday was a couple of days later, so I was stuck with the crappy disposable camera. It also didn’t help that it was still snowing, and the snowflakes were melting on the lens. But even that doesn’t really detract much from the beauty of these scenes.

04. Duck
Well, maybe the trails aren’t perfectly taken care of, or maybe they’re taken care of someone who isn’t six feet tall like I am. But while having to navigate around branches like this can be a bit of a pain, they do make for nice shots like this.

05. Trees
In addition to taking care of the branches that grow in on the trails at Wildwood, the park rangers also have to keep the prairies and meadows maintained, and this particular section is occasionally subject to deliberately-set fires. But you wouldn’t know with the snow blanketing everything so nicely. And the whisper-like frames of these trees frame it well.

06. Typically Orange
This gives you a good idea of what most of the Prairie Trail is like: prairie on one side, woods on the other. Trails going through the prairie would of course be technically possible, but they would also likely disrupt the habitation of too many native creatures.

07. Clumping
This gives you a good idea of what I meant earlier when I was talking about the snow clumping. If I had taken these shots in January when it was much colder, these branches would be bare because the snowflakes would be too cold to stick to the branches. On the cusp of winter, though, things are much different.

08. Wild Animal?
You can see the footprints of the person who joined me on the trail in the upper-left hand corner of the picture, but the more pressing question is, what kind of creature was also on the trail before me? The answer: the person’s dog. Good thing I saw the dog too, because I’m no good at identifying animal prints.

09. Whispers
I really liked the irregular clumping pattern of the snow on these things. It kind of reminds me of how a thin tempura batter will fry up. Sadly, here is where the snow really became more of a problem with my camera lens, so from here on out the picture quality is going to decline even further.

10. Evergreen
My father’s advice to me, before going out to take these photos, was to try to find evergreen trees to take photos of, because they would have the most gorgeous clumping patterns. Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many evergreen trees at Wildwood, and this was one of the few I found. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t get far enough over to centre the picture due to the outgrowth of woods on the left.

11. Leaves
Some trees are more stubborn about removing their leaves in the winter, as you can see by this picture. And on a day like this, the snow makes the leaves stand out even more than they usually do in the starkness of Wildwood in the winter.

12. Just What I Need
This is a sports club that borders on the Wildwood property (the line in demarcated by that railroad track), and though you can’t see it well, one of the banners hanging off the wall reads "AIR CONDITIONED." And, of course, that’s a prime selling point for the club, especially on a freezing day like this.

13. Look Familiar?
If you go back to the first photos I put up here, just up ahead past this oh-so-helpful railroad gate is the University/Parks Trail, where I walked in from in that first set. This path is paved and connects the trail to the main parking lot at Wildwood, but it also bisects the Prairie Trail.

14. Did I Say Prairie Trail?
Alas, a good chunk of the original loop of the Prairie Trail is actually deep into the woods, as you see here. A few years ago they extended the Prairie Trail by adding another loop, turning it into kind of a figure-eight, and the new loop is much more prairie-like.

15. Still by the Railroad
Despite the woods looking deep in the last photo, for parts of this loop of the trail it’s still quite close to the railroad track. The new loop of the trail actually gets even closer, and for a long expanse of time; walking on the University/Parks trail, you can actually see past the railroad to that section of the Prairie Trail sometimes.

16. Close-up
I don’t know where I got the idea that my dinky little disposable camera could handle the intricacies of a close-up shot of the snow, but I tried it anyway and here was the result. Not too appealing, I know, but hey, I’m still learning this whole photography thing by trail and error.

17. Who’s Getting Hitched?
I really liked all the overhanging branches here, and they kind of reminded me of a Marine wedding and how the Marines would hold cross their swords forming a path for the newly married couple. Unfortunately this is where the lens was starting to really get bad, and the snowfall picking up didn’t help matters any.

18. To Everything …
One of the good things about this part of the trail is that it turns a lot, and because the clumping of the snow is obviously dependent on the wind, you can get quite different shots from two relatively close sections of trail, just by turning ninety degrees or so. Compare it to the photo above to see what I mean.

19. Those Branches are Huge!
Actually they aren’t, but because the snow blew head-on onto it, the clumping here was incredible. Layers built upon fragile layers, like cotton candy, and all of a sudden twigs that couldn’t be thicker than an eighth of an inch are now bigger around than your thumb. It’s quite a sight.

20. The Other Side
These are the same branches from the above photo, just shot from the other side. Hopefully now you can get an appreciation for how clumping works. This happens all over the place, of course, but rare is the branch that can take the weight of all this snow and still hold up. These held up nicely, as you can tell.

21. Extreme Close-up
Remember what I said earlier about trying to take close-up pictures of snow with a disposable camera? Sigh. It would have helped a lot if I’d had some sunlight to refract off the snow to bring the detail out, but this was a doomed effort from the start. Then again, had the sun been out, I’d probably have been taking photos of it, and not this snow.

22. Whoa
The Ottawa River borders the Prairie Trail for a bit, and while you don’t get a good sense of perspective from this shot, it’s about a thirty foot, very steep decline to the river from this point. And the trail is close enough to the decline that right around here is when you really start to become conscious of how good your footing is.

23. Free-Flowing
Because the temperature was so close to freezing, and because the Ottawa River runs so fast, the river wasn’t frozen over in the slightest. You think that’s something, I’ve once waded in a fast-running river in Michigan when the temperature outside was less than zero degrees. Talk about a shock to your senses.

24. Who’s Smarter?
My cheap camera couldn’t capture it that well, but right here is where the person ahead of me chose to walk to the left of those trees, closer to the edge of the Ottawa River, while his dog wlaked to the right, safely away from the peril. Makes you wonder which one has the brains, doesn’t it? Especially since all dogs at Wildwood are supposed to be leashed.

25. Back with Upland Woods
At this point I’m back on a section of trail the Prairie Trail shares with the Upland Woods trail, on the paved overpass of the Ottawa River. I took a shot from this position in an earlier set on this site, and I wanted to give you an idea of what it was like with the snow all over. Sadly, my camera was really starting to fail me here.

26. The Stables, redux
Heading back out to the van I decided to spend my last shot giving you an idea of how the snow made the Visitor Centre look. So this series ends just as the last one started: with a shot of the old stables. And me being scared about driving. Except this time, I think I had reason to be scared.

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