With the counterfeit promise of an Arctic spring dominating my thoughts, I turned from the old ship and marched back to the car without another glance. If this journey was to have any redemptive value whatsoever, I had to cling to those moments of hope, wherever and however they might be imagined.
Entirely on a whim, I chose to follow the sign at the next intersection and head to Ball's Falls. Why? I have no idea. The only thing a frozen waterfall can do is remind you of what February has taken from you - the sound and spray of the raging rapids - and what is continues to deny you - the chance to hike down to the water's edge and gaze up and the torrent of water above.
On first glance, the 'bowl' of Ball's Falls is just as sad and dreary as you'd expect. All colour has been washed away. There are no trees, no bushes, no flowers, no dirt, and no rocks to be seen - everything is shrouded in white. It's as if February has leached the life out of the scene.
Look closer, though, and something remarkable appears. The cold and snow may be able to disguise the beauty of the waterfall, but they can't destroy it. The top of the waterfall resembles a collage, with a still photo superimposed on the running water. You can see the frozen curtain of the waterfall, a thousand tiny icicles dangling inches away from the reduced, yet still raging water behind them.
Follow the water down, and the picture stops even as your breath does. Three months of cold and snow have sculpted the base of the falls into a layered cake, with three perfect plateaus. Look closely, and you can see the water swirling and cascading atop them, before over the edge and into oblivion.
Look closely, and it's almost alien in its beauty. The raging, bubbling, boiling caldron of icewater is something that looks entirely out of place in the drab, dreary, February landscape.
As the sun begins to set, and we take a step back, there is still beauty to be found in winter. The gloom may be back tomorrow, and will likely persist for another month or two, but there are moments where the veil is drawn aside and something of the real world emerges.