Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Making history at Letchworth State Park

The "cone" has become the icon for the brutal winter of 2015.

     Letchworth State Park, you invited us to be your guests and you dressed appropriately for the occasion in your best winter finery. Thank you. We were not disappointed one bit at the party you threw right in our backyard in Livingston County (co-hosted with Wyoming County).
      More than likely not a single one of us alive today will ever see Letchworth’s frozen phenomenon again. We are history makers in the true sense of the word witnessing an event recorded in the annals of time.
     Curious by nature, I made the trek over to the park last week to see for myself. Oh, my. No picture equals the real McCoy, the frozen crystal goblet five-stories high.    
     If I remember correctly, all the attention started with someone locally posting a picture on Facebook of the spouting water fountain encased in an iced wrapping near the Gen Iris Inn. It went viral thanks to the power of social media, and the next thing I knew the national news was there in droves.
     The “cone” became the icon for the brutal winter of 2015. Letchworth Park shed its normal winter dull grays, smatterings of snow and claimed something special that no one other geographical location could match in the entire country.
     “You outdid yourselves,” my Chicago friend told me. Frankly, I assume that she was delighted to give us the compliment. Chicago is known for its harsh winters, and often I hear her gripe about the icy winds blasting off the lake smacking her in the face.
     More and more pictures of the Park began appearing on my Facebook news feed, and the shots were impressive. My photographer friends were having a “field day,” especially the professional ones who knew to get out and about early in the morning challenging each other for the perfect one before the sun cast its shadows and the crowds spoiled the view.
    Our LCN’s Mike Carney’s approach is artistic through his viewfinder, and each one of his panoramic photos communicates a unique slice of winter’s unfolding story. Training his eye to visualize what no one else sees is a skill that Carney has learned over time. He places himself in the corner of a scene — usually never straight on, and his camera frames the composition.    
     After all, the majority of pictures from the amateurs are beginning to look a bit repetitious, and cell phones can do only so much justice for outdoor photography.  
     Don’t get me wrong. Every kid and adult needs to have his picture by the cone for posterity. Besides, it’s hard to explain how small you are in comparison to an over 50- foot ice volcano when you post to friends and family in warmer climates.
     Best of all, the majority of folks are taking time to appreciate the park in its winter splendor like never before tallied in attendance figures.
     There are excellent snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails through out the park snow enthusiasts have used on a regular basis for years. For others, this natural event is an introduction to the coldest season in the park, and proves that those embracing winter keep a better attitude to get them through to the next season.
     The massive cone cylinder is a sight to feast your eyes upon, and I won’t deny it. I did pose for a few pictures. Why not?
      It is a bit disturbing that kids attempt to chip away at the cone, and park personnel have to call out to them not to do it right in front of their parents. You would like to think differently, and wish that respecting nature did involve hands-off on ocassion.
     While I am standing there, I remember fondly my last visit to the Glen Iris for lunch with retired teacher friends back in the fall. We strolled aimlessly around the lawn without jackets, and not a one of us anticipated what lie ahead.
     Today it looks like I am walking in the tundra watching my step carefully and bundling up from head to toe like a snow bunny. What a difference a few months make going from a fall foliage show to a scene out of the Northern Kingdom wall in “The Game of Thrones.”
     When I first came to college in Geneseo, we were bussed over to the park for a recreation day, and I fell in love with the place right then and there. Over time, I can’t count the number of visitors I have brought to share such a lovely spot in nature.
     There is more to come after walking around the three-dimensional shape.
     My greatest joy is checking on the falls, and it is truly a magnificent sight. I have viewed the glaciers in the Inner Passage, and loved that experience. Seeing an icy familiar place is even better in my opinion.    
     The falls at Letchworth State Park snuggle deeply into its oversized winter cloak guarded by a speckled Gray morph Eastern Screech Owl slightly visible from its silver maple tree hole overlooking the gorge. Many visitors walk to and from their cars chatting away on trivial matters never noticing they are being watched, nor appreciating the stillness except for the sound of two minor cascades of water dropping below.
     A bone-chilling cold flowing through my body evaporates into a warm sensation as my eyes focus on the purity and brightness of nature's display.
     Well-done, Letchworth State Park.  We are proud of you. It’s a winter for the books.