– by Gary Marks
The Risks We Take
The whirling lights of a Sheriff’s vehicle were planted in the middle of the road as an ambulance waited off to the side. A large flatbed tow truck lies cross ways in the road backing up to get in line with a red car that has plummeted off a steep embankment. A long cable is wound out and a bundled up man makes the slippery trek down to the immobilized vehicle.
My windshield wipers once again strip the small chunks of wet snow from my view, allowing me to follow the progress of the events occurring before me. Snow fell at a slight angle as it had turned the black asphalt into a white roadway. I was felling a little anxious about my decision to get out and explore today.
Snow Today, Gone Tomorrow
This morning, I awoke to a thin layer of snow beginning to take hold. I was actually quite surprised to see it. Yesterday, most of the snow that fell on Saturday had already succumbed to the warmer temps that approached the mid-40’s. I had headed out just early enough Sunday to take in the final white remnants of the event at Cove Hollow. Here the world started weeping as the full force of the sun shone on the reflective sandstone bluffs. Icicles over four-foot in length began to detach from their temporary homes, reverberating like thunderous gunshots off the stone walls. The world was thawing and it was making a big deal of it.
As we headed back to the truck, I was a little disappointed that I was not fully able to take part in this winter event. For most of my adult life Saturdays had been for working and I had missed an excellent day to hike and photograph the winter spectacle. As Sunday morning gave way to Super Bowl Sunday, I begun to forget about the time missed and enjoyed the game.
The tow truck had pulled the car up and secured it to the flatbed. I noticed out my rear view mirror a vehicle in the distance. I watched as it slowed and saw that it was skidding off to the right side of the road. The front-wheel drive car slid off the asphalt onto a gravel driveway averting disaster. The person behind the wheel pulled back on the main road and inched closer to the rear end of my truck. As the driver once again stepped onto the brakes the vehicle began to slide. I had left plenty of room between myself and the accident so I edged forward to prevent playing bumper cars with the stranger.
The car came to a stop, as the tow truck moved off to the side as the ambulance headed in the opposite direction, with little fanfare. This was a good sign, because I do not believe anyone was seriously hurt. A man in a stately police hat exited the sheriffs’ car and looked both ways and waved us on to continue our journeys into different parts of Southern Illinois.
Grip Tightly and Go
My hand tightly gripped the steering wheel as I descended a steep grade into Tunnel Hill. Just beyond this small town, known for its biking trail, was my destination, Cedar Creek. It is a place that I have visited many times over my decade long explorations of Southern Illinois and even now as I write am reluctant to disclose.
As I make a sharp turn onto Gum Springs road, I remember the times this spring and fall when I photographed and filmed the area never releasing them on this website. Did I want to protect this area as long as possible or was I just being selfish? A little of both maybe, but there is never any real protection of a natural area unless people know about a place and wish to preserve it.
I pull into a slushy parking area, observing the best place to park as the snow began to pick up momentum. I wanted to be able to pull out easily after I finished exploring. I back the truck in to an area out-of-the-way so it would not become a target if someone else decided to join me.
As I gather my backpack and equipment and slip on my well-used Yaktrax’s, I look around in amazement. The blandness of a bare and leafless environment has been transformed into a vision of white with earth tones scattered throughout. I had made the right decision to come here.
I hit the trail that paralleled Cedar Creek on the right. The warmer temps from the day before had released most of the creek from the grips of a strangling ice. The water flowed freely in audible gasps as the grayish winter sky gave the water a dark color contrasting it almost perfectly against the freshly fallen snow. Within in feet from the trail head I set my tripod up to photograph a bend in the creek. As I looked at the photo in the display, I knew that this was going to be a great hike.
Next Post – Cedar Creek Part Two venturing into the depths of the Creek
This website is for entertainment purposes only. The author and Shawnee Hills Outdoors disclaim any liability or loss either financial or accidental loss incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application on any information contained in this blog. If you do attempt to explore any of these areas make sure you are have the proper knowledge to survive in the woods, do not rely on a cellphone for help. Please check ranger stations and park superintendents for latest information regarding these areas.
Directions Coming in Next Post!