Curled up in a blanket in the back of the Jeep, Casco lifts his head with anticipation, as he feels the gear shift into park. He looks forward to adventure as much as I do. We are running late after relying on bad GPS coordinates rather than utilizing the common sense of an atlas. However, a late hike trumps no hike.
Cracking with each step, I pause momentarily on the iced-over trail and watch the spider-webbing cracks before my weight breaks through. Comparatively to last season, we've experienced much colder daily temperatures and reached greater overnight lows. This should make for an ideal start to January ice fishing. Until then, I'll have to settle for standing on trail-side ice.
With elevation gain comes a bit of blowing snow. A mixture of fall and winter seem to greet hikers on each corner. One moment brings patches of mud. The next, frozen snow-covered ground.
An hour in, I pause to top off the Nalgene with ice-cold stream water. The section I dip the mouth of the bottle into is fast-flowing over rocks and white in color. This area is a safer bet than slow and stagnant pools.
Cone-shaped ice caps hang from a dead branch in the stream. Ice-caked rocks steadily sit in an ice bath.
Reaching the waterfall on Mt. Jackson, I hold my hand up between the horizon line and the setting sun's position. We have one hour of daylight left. If you've never used this method, each finger represents 15 minutes of remaining light. Unfortunately, we'll have to settle for this being our turning point of the hike.
I admire hundreds of icicles cleverly clinging to the rock face alongside the falls. Soon the flow will slow to a mere trickle and ice will consume the entirety of the falls.
A deep pool below the falls would make for an reinvigorating summer's swim. Full disclosure: Ms. Backwoods Plaid refused to take the dip today.
Nature is an amazing, always changing, and awe-inspiring attraction that keeps me coming back.