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A River of Ice

Living in the mountains produces opportunities to see truly spectacular scenery and to capture moments lost in the ebb and flow of years. As one who is particularly fond of mountains and their unique challenges, I must admit I am partial to the views they provide. Here you can turn a corner on the highway and come face to face with elk, deer, beaver, eagles, osprey, or a smattering of rodents, only to have them disappear as the motorized vehicle turns yet again.

Upon my first year living in the mountains, winter provided a spectacular view which I had the blessing to see for almost the entire season. The river.

In some parts of the world it would be considered a raging torrent, around here it’s just a creek. But in the winter, it can be as deadly as anything on this earth and my excitement to see it was kept at a respectful distance by the threat it promised.

In a word. Ice. Certainly not the most remarkable forms of ice, for I also have an abiding regard for the ice displayed in areas notorious for it. But truly, this ice was unique among anything I had ever seen before or since. I’m not sure what individual events formed this beautiful masterpiece, but, brushed by God’s own hand, it served to awe and inspire and I was mesmerized every time I stole a glance out the back seat window. It was a good thing I wasn’t the driver in those days, else I would have been split between beauty and necessity and being a reasonable, self-preserving sort, I would have chosen the later and missed this wonder and all its ponder.

The Ice began by building up on the rocks touched by the chilly air. It formed small shelves just on the points until it looked as if even a rock could be over balanced by the weight on them. As Water sloshed against these new encumbrances they grew larger, defying Water’s valiant attempts to quell their rise. I shudder to think what could happen to a body caught in that chilled water. Ice as slick as oil on steel, colder than a winter wind and mighty pools will surely outmatch even the most capable swimmer.

Once the battle started, there was no stopping it and soon the shelves, once just points of white in winter dark water, had spanned the river (creek) and joined with others to block water. But as belligerent as Ice can be, Water is equally tenacious. Under the weight and movement of the water, sheets of ice would sink into the bottom of the river (creek) and cling to the rocks there while the walls of Ice built up and mounted more water behind their works.

In the fall, what had been a creek, 3 feet deep at it’s deepest and wildest, was now a boiling cauldron of 5, 6, and 7 feet building and burying more Ice until both rose to meet the edges of the road.

The road was spared from this battle reaching it and the river (creek) overcoming asphalt by the warm breeze of spring. Ice was finally subdued by Water’s ally and great holes were carved under the shelves until there was no water piling up behind them at all. Then began a second marvel of this beautiful battle. The ice began to stand upright in great slabs, 8-10 inches thick and then they toppled, like dominoes, or rather books without a bookend. There they lay on the shoreline and in the Water a glorious testament to the fight they had put up, until they melted away, returning to the form they had fought all winter.

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