Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 01-01-10 and fascinating forms of ice!

The "00" decade is behind us, I hope the "tens and teens" will be better for everyone!

Kenny and I (in the brown and blue jackets) went hiking in the Smokies with our long-time friends, Terri and Rod onNew Year's Day. We went to Tremont and hiked up the West Prong Trail. As many times as I've been to Tremont (the Smokies field school), I'd never hiked that trail. It was a steady climb, but it wasn't too bad. We saw lots of pretty lichens and mosses along the trail. It is always fun to finally convince skeptical friends that lichens can be pretty and interesting. After a short side trip to the Bote Mountain Trail to see the snow on the distant mountain tops, we went back down to Campsite #18 and Rod fixed hot water on his camp stove so we could warm up with some hot soup and chocolate. That was nice! We met a family on the trail who was taking their upper elementary school-aged girls backpacking for the first time. The low temperature was forecast to be 13 degrees that night! I wonder if those girls will ever go backpacking again after spending a miserable night in the woods like that?!

On Sunday morning I bundled up against the 13 degree temperature and went outside to see if Jack Frost had visited overnight. I was not disappointed, he had left his mark in the form of icy "feathers" and beautiful snow-like crystals. The most interesting ones (and easiest to reach with my camera) were left on Kenny's car. The ones on the windshield (left) were completely different than the ones on his bumper (right). I was amazed to see how the ones on the bumper were shaped like sector plate snowflakes. Some had formed only partway and were not perfectly formed. Here is a close up of a half-formed crystal.

Later in the morning we headed up to Cades Cove in the Smokies to see if there was any snow. When we entered the park on the Townsend side we saw a rockwall with beautiful icicles. We saw some snow along the roadsides and in the woods, which got our hopes up. Unfortunately, the most snow was on the mountain tops many miles away, so we couldn't hike in it while we were in the Cove. The snowy mountains made the views in the Cove even prettier than usual though. We saw more deer and turkeys than ususal on this trip. I guess the bitter cold made them hungrier and they had to venture out into the Cove to find food.

One of the "natural thermometers" in the woods is the leaf of the Rosebay Rhodendron. When the temperatures are below 20 degrees the evergreen leaves curl inward, the colder it is, the tighter they curl. I walked a short distance on the Abrams Falls trail along the creek. A family pointed out a Great Blue Heron that they had spotted along the bank to me. It was puffed up in an attempt to keep warm.

We stopped by the Cable Mill at the far end of the Cove. I enjoyed photographing the mill wheel frozen solid with icicles. Usually the wooden trough leading to the wheel has icicles too, but I didn't see them this time.

Just before we left the Cades Cove loop, I spotted a small, slow-moving stream with ice on it. I asked Kenny to pull over so I could go check it out. I was so excited to see the interesting patterns in the ice. The low angle of the sun made the lighting perfect! I just wish the camera could catch the beauty that I saw in the patterns.

Snow is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday later this week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a good, accumulating snowfall this time! :)

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