Posted by Bruce Siebold, Landmark Board Member
Many years have passed since I last visited the Punchbowl and like an old friend, she welcomed me back without judgement. With my camera in hand, I descended the well-worn steps hoping to hear her voice, understand her many moods, and capture her beauty. I vowed not to be the typical tourist who makes a hurried stop, snaps a photo and jumps back into their car and speeds away to their next destination. Rather I visited the Punchbowl several times over two weeks. I was there as the sun rose and set. I was there on both cloudy and sunny days. I was there when children’s laughter echoed against the walls. I saw the joy in the eyes of an eighty-year old couple who celebrated their victory over the steep steps.
I took dozens of photos during this time period. Reviewed them multiple times and asked… what stories does the Punchbowl want me to share? Finally, after days of head spinning and second guessing myself, I settled on only six photos. I believe these six photos represent the story the punchbowl wanted me to share with you. I call them, “The Punchbowl’s Summer Moods.”
The land speaks to each of us in many different ways and offers us entirely unique stories and lessons. If you haven’t been to the Punchbowl recently, I urge you to do so. No doubt the Punchbowl will warmly welcome all who visit and hopefully she will speak to you. Move slowly. Linger. Feel her spirit, gauge her moods and understand that all of us play an important role in protecting her for future generations.
Nearly 100 steps down to the punchbowl. You will quickly see that over the years the wooden steps have been repaired several times. Cement blocks, wooden braces, nails and screws all hold the cobbled steps firmly in place. But be careful, for all the steps are not of equal distance. Handrails and resting areas will help guide you to the stream, waterfall and rock formations below. There are no trail maps or signs to guide you. It is your own personal journey so you decide what direction to go and how long you will linger. All are welcomed!
A gentle stream flows through the base of the punchbowl. It seems not to have a schedule or be in a hurry to reach the Red Cedar River. Rather it moves slowly, meandering over sandstone rocks and dropping over tiny waterfalls. If you are quiet and listen, the river may share her many stories with you. It is here you will find the Punchbowl’s peace and tranquility.
The waterfall is the Punchbowl’s natural gathering spot. This is where the Punchbowl invites you to frolic, to laugh, to smile, to shout, to take the group photo, and get really wet.
During the night heavy rains turned the punchbowl into a raging river. The sound of the waterfall became a deafening roar as it hurled its water to the river below. Riverbanks and Punchbowl signage were washed away and the erosion turned the water into a caramel-like color. Standing near the waterfall, I felt the Punchbowl’s power and anger.
As you stand amongst the Punchbowl’s 500-million-year-old rock formations you will feel a sense of mystery. Stories layered within the sandstone. Secrets concealed. Fossils sleeping. Ancient mysteries known only to the land.
I often wonder why some Punchbowl visitors feel the need to leave their imprints and messages? From paint can graffiti, initials etched into the soft sandstone, soda cans and broken glass. A sacred place scared by just a few individuals but seen and felt by many.
Landmark Conservancy has significant maintenance planned at the Devil's Punchbowl in the coming 1-2 years.
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