I was five years old in 1978 when my mom and dad took my brother and I to see the movie SUPERMAN.  Two years later, in 1980, our family drove to Altoona, PA to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.   Both of these pieces of pop-culture, one made me believe a man could fly and the other made me want to be a lightsaber wielding Jedi Knight, grabbed a hold of my  imagination and defined my childhood.  To this day, my favorite scenes in both of those movies involve icy, frozen landscapes.  As a kid I was mesmerized by Superman's "Fortress of Solitude"....and ice covered structure that often served as the Man of Steel's headquarters.  Then,  in the opening minutes of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, I sat on the edge of my seat as Luke Skywalker, on the frozen planet of Hoth, rode on the back of a beast called a Tauntaun, battled snow creatures, and fought Imperial AT-ATs.   

The view of the valley in Michaux State Forest.  The cold air settled in the valley turning the second half of our ride into an icy adventure.  -- January 2, 2021

The irony of it all is that winter ranks last in my list of favorite seasons of the year.  I'm not a fan of the cold, the wind, and the snow...especially after the township's plows make their way though the neighborhoods turning the pristine, frozen wonderland into a gravelly, muddy mess...but, ever since I was a child, winter has had the ability to capture my imagination and is, undoubtedly, one of the prettiest times of the year.  The first two months of 2021 have pretty much been, if not snow covered, frozen.  For someone like me, who really enjoys being outside, it can be easy to let winter get me down.  Therefore,  I try my best not to let the cold, snow, and limited daylight hours get the better of me. So, I bundle up and head out on my bike (or on foot) and enjoy and explore the frozen environment just like eight year old me would.

Dave Raymond and Chris Keller riding through an icy Michaux State Forest.  The ride started dry, but as we descended into the valley the trees were encased in ice...making for an absolutely surreal experience.  -- January 2, 2021

No snow, but plenty of frozen wind blowing on Robin and I as we hiked Sunset Rocks Trail in Michaux State Forest. -- January 23, 2021

Completely bundled up as I made my way up Sunset Rocks through the frozen January temperatures -- January 23, 2021

Heavy snow and wind forced me to leave my bike at home and lace up my hiking boots for some local outdoor exercise -- January 31, 2021

Plowing my own path through the snow on my Diverge. -- February 6, 2021

In early February, Winter (and yes, the Covid Pandemic), was really wearing me thin.   I needed to do something, go somewhere, explore outside, and just be present in nature. Robin and I decided to make the nearly 4 hour drive, on a Friday morning, to Ohiopyle State Park.  Ohiopyle has been a favorite place of mine ever since my childhood...but I had never...ever...seen it frozen.  I just wanted to see the waterfalls and take a hike and experience it in a way that I never had before.  The trip was just what I needed.  The time spent that day with my wife would have been plenty...but what we found at Ohiopyle was nothing short of spectacular.  The almost always crowded State Park was nearly empty and completely frozen.  Robin and I spend the entire day visiting places that we frequent in the summer time... Baughman Rock, Meadow Runs, and Cucumber Falls....places of immense natural beauty.  But on this particular day I think I may have found my "Fortress of Solitude" as we gazed over the Laurel Highlands from scenic overlooks, hiked through the mountain laurel in the Fern Cliff Nature Preserve area, and explored the immense cauldron of ice at the base of Cucumber Falls.  The whole day was relaxing, exhilarating, refreshing, and rejuvenating all at once.

OHIOPYLE STATE PARK --February 12, 2021

Robin and David Raymond taking in the view of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands from Baughman Rock Overlook in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021

The icy Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle State Park -- February 12, 2021

Hiking a snow covered Fern Cliff Nature Preserve in Ohiopyle State Park with Robin -- February 12, 2021

A great view of the main falls in Ohiopyle -- February 12, 2021

Meadow Run is also known as the "natural waterslide" at Ohiopyle State Park.  On this particular day it was a place of frozen solitude. -- February 12, 2021

A spectacular frozen view of Cucumber Falls -- February 12, 2021

David and Robin Raymond visiting Cucumber Falls -- February 12, 2021

The inner child came out!  I was completely mesmerized by the awesomeness of the frozen Cucumber Falls. -- February 12, 2021

A view from behind a wintery Cucumber Falls. -- February 12, 2021

Hanging out in my "Fortress of Solitude" in Ohiopyle State Park. -- February 12, 2021

Dave Raymond sitting at the base of a cauldron of ice at Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park.  -- February 12, 2021

Adult me still doesn't love Winter.  I am just not a fan of shoveling driveways and looking at the gravelly, muddy mess left behind from the snowplows.  The warm weather lover in me really despises making up snow days on a beautiful 85 degree Tuesday in June.  But yeah, that little boy who still lives within me...the one who gazed upon larger than life images of ice fortresses and frozen planets in the movie theater...still has an appreciation, and longing for, the pristine frozen imagery of winter.  I have to admit, it was quite nice, during this time of unusual stress due to Covid and quarantines, to get to experience it.  Just compare the smile and sense of joy on the face of the eight year old boy in the pictures below to the smile and sense of joy on the face of the forty-seven year old man exploring Ohiopyle with his wife.  It's the same, exact smile!  I guess you could say that it is frozen on my face.

Eight year old me sporting my Superman and Empire Strikes Back t-shirts! -- 1981

Life is a journey...not a destination.

David A. Raymond -- February 28, 2021

The frozen temperatures served as the backdrop for the filming of this years first episode of Cooking with Lewis & Clark.  Hoe Cakes were on the menu.  Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham -- February 15, 2021

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Here are the GARMIN maps and data from some of the adventures featured in this post.





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