In Search of the Abominable Snowman of Cleveland
The day after Janet and I saw Ich Troje in Concert a couple of blocks from my sister's house in Independence, Ohio we set out on expedition in the near by forest where I grew up to attempt to make contact with Zbigniew Białypalec the legendary Abominable Snowman of Cleveland.
Adventures are always exciting. I think that perhaps in a prior life I was Skuba Dratewka the shoemaker who slayed Smok the Wawal Dragon by loading a sheep’s stomach with sulfur. That made the dragon explode after he ate it, thus winning the hand of King Krak’s daughter Princess Wanda. In this life however I am only interested in preservation of endangered species.
The last time I think I caught a glimpse of the old creature was the winter of my senior high school year decades ago when a few friends and members of my polka band had a Mid-Winter's Eve krupnik party in the dangerously deep crevasse near Deer Lick Cave. Brecksville Reservation, largest of the Cleveland Metroparks, is deeply carved into seven separate valleys and has many different trails throughout its beautiful forested land. But, like Hansel and Gretel, you'd be advised to sprinkle some bread crumbs behind you if you ever hope to find your way back home.
This photo shows Janet mugging for the camera as we make our way down the treacherous rocky path to the bottom of Devil's Pocket. The elevation at the bottom of the pit could be the lowest point in reference to sea level in all of Ohio.
Notice Zamrażana tęcza (frozen rainbow) caused in cold weather by bio-force energy of the human body when passing two magnetic boulders. Also note szpada stycznia (swords of January) hanging precariously above head on the narrow trail.
Taking a rest to warm our toes near a natural cascade about 140 meters down, Janet's artistic eye catches an opportunity for an interesting picture composition of the seasonal elements. While snapping photos, we heard loud echoing moans and growls that ricochet off the stone faces of the canyon.
The time is just before 2 o'clock and the winter sun is nearly directly perpendicular to the earth's surface providing light into the crevasse. We have scant time left before the sun's angle darkness what light is available.
We frantically rub our Popsicle toes for the last time before trudging down another 100 meters to the floor of this frigid wonderland of snow and ice. The temperature at this depth was minus 10C but we are lucky there is not much of a wind chill this particular day.
Since there are no doorbells or doorknockers to announce one's presence in Zbigniew's neighborhood, one must look in each cave or recess to see if anyone is at home. This picture shows me making a hasty retreat and slipping on shiny ice exiting from a small cave after detecting methane gas. Though methane is usually orderless, there is a faint smell of kapusta, signaling that Zbiggy was in the area not long ago.
Notice the funny headcover. Janet let me use her knit babushka to keep my ears warm as they were beet red and felt like they would actually fall off.
Besides the hypothermia affecting either side of my head, I now have another injury to contend with in a rugged environment where balance and agility is mandatory for survival. Cell phones are of no use to call for help this far down from the thick forest floor nearly 3 football fields in height above us. Yes, I started saying the first of many Hail Mary's....
Both Janet and I marvel at the naturally formed ice wall in front of this particular cave. Notice the small window opening that looks like the State of Idaho upside down conveniently allowing for ventilation and the supply of oxygen necessary for mammals - even abominable snowmen to breathe.
We are sure Zbigniew must be inside. Peering into the dark cave, I see what appears to be the glint of a pair of illuminated eyes. It is very strange and eerie that as cold as it is neither Janet nor I can see our breath. But, there seems to be a little steam coming from a nose or noses inside the cave. To top that off - we can detect an ever so faint sound of a clarinet playing what we think we recognize as the Fleet Avenue Polka. We strain our ears to listen, but the sound mysteriously stops like the hejnal played from the spier of St. Mary's in Krakow at noon everyday.
Here I am seen offering a package of Sliwka Naleczowska w czekoladzie to the occupant(s) inside the cave through the window of the icy facade. The idea of an offering was entirely Janet's idea. Initially I thought that would be a great good-will gesture and would be an "ice breaker" (no pun intended). Then I thought...Why isn't Janet doing this??? I got my hand out of there fast.
Sunlight was staring to fade and we knew we had to head back up the trail or be forced to spend the night huddled in a cave without heat or indoor plumbing. So, we started to pack up and turn towards the trail of crumbs we laid down on our descent.
As we started climbing the first set of stones we heard a big crash. Sounded like a huge sheet of ice crumbling down with deafening noise. The echoing sounds and the tons of falling ice shook the ground like an earthquake. As the chunks of ice hit powdered snow on the floor of the pit white out conditions bellowed as if a blizzard of blinding snow instead of falling from the sky went in reverse from down to up. Janet snapped this shot as we made our hasty retreat. Can you see a faint outline of a snowy looking creature?
Well, let me tell you boys and girls, that was one heck of an adventure. Legend has it that Zbiggy came to America from the mountain areas in Galicja around the year 1911. The winter when Niagara Falls even froze. It was so cold that year a solid sheet of ice extended from Poland across the North Pole and down into North America and Zbigniew walked the whole distance.
Maybe next year we'll try again to visit with Zbiggy.