Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Adventures with Ice

Most sensible people head south when the weather turns cold. Not me. I'd heard that with all these below-zero days, the frazil ice had built up in the Hudson all the way to The Glen (about ten miles north of Warrensburg), so I had to drive up there to see it. Here's what the river looked like today from the Rte. 28 bridge, looking downstream.

For comparison, here's the same scene three days ago. You can see the loose, slushy frazil flowing downstream, since it had not yet clogged up the river.

A distinctive property of this special kind of fluid ice (which is formed in agitated water from droplets freezing in the air) is the way it can clump together and accumulate downward until it completely dams the flow of the river, causing the water level to rise and deposit the masses of ice along the shore. By the end of winter, these ice deposits can reach a depth of ten feet or more.

When deposited along the shore, frazil ice looks like snow, although its crystalline structure is quite different from that of snow. Looking straight down from the bridge, I could see how the fluid ice had swirled around the piers of the bridge.

If you click on the above photo, you might see the trail of clustered footprints bounding across the ice. Here's a closer view of them.

While looking down at the river from the bridge, I suddenly noticed a dark furry creature climb out from a hole in the ice near the bank and bound across the ice and run under the bridge. For an instant I thought I had witnessed a squirrel escaping from drowning, but then I realized that it must have been a mink. Of course, my camera was still in my pocket!

I decided to return to Warrensburg along the west side of the river, hoping to snowshoe out onto the river banks where I find such a marvelous variety of rare wildflowers in summer. I wanted to photograph the site and compare those photos with what the banks look like in summer. Unfortunately, I never made it. The road was slippery and my car skidded into the ditch. From this photo, you'd think I could just drive out of the snowbank, but my wheels were stuck down deep in ruts and the car wouldn't move.

Thanks heaven for TracFones and AAA! And wasn't I lucky I could find cell service there? Just barely, but enough to summon help, which arrived in less than an hour. Turns out, there must have been something hard under all that soft snow, since my car's radiator is now leaking fluid and my heater doesn't work. Uh oh.

Ah well, maybe it was my guardian angel who pushed me off the road to keep me off the river bank. Walking on frazil ice can be very dangerous.


Louise said...

I was going to ask if it was safe to walk on that frazil ice. I'm sorry that you got into an accident. But, I'm very glad that you weren't hurt. And, yes, thank goodness you had your phone. I'm very guilty of forgetting mine quite often.

Paul said...

Glad your guardian angel is still working.

Woodswalker said...

No, Louise, it is NOT safe to walk on frazil ice. There are hidden holes and weak spots where you can fall in. I probably wouldn't have ventured out on it, but I did want to see if I could climb on the rocks along the shore. And yes, thank goodness I had my phone and that it was charged and that I could locate a signal. Otherwise I would have had a long hike to get help.

Thanks for your good wishes, Paul. Are you keeping warm down there in Florida? Don't you miss all this cold and snow and slippery roads?

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you are OK! Your guardian angel must be used to your daring ways. You are such an inspiration to those of us who enjoy reading about your adventures.

Ellen Rathbone said...

Bummer about your car! But you sure got some nice shots of the ice! Hope the repair bill isn't too horrid.

suep said...

Ice and angels, thank goodness you are OK ... want to go up there again soon? (we can take my car & I promise no off-roading !)

Jackie C said...

Wow! What an adventure! I told you you're adventurous!Lucky for you you got cell service, I know it's scant coverage up there. The frazil ice was very interesting...and beautiful!

squirrel said...

You are really getting good at tracking. I'm so impressed. I also love your photos, very artistic. Hope your car is fixed now. Have you seen this video on frazil ice?

Anonymous said...

Your blog is so beautiful I could read it every day. I love your attention to the little jewels in nature and for taking me to your river and sharing with me.
I am so glad your Tracfone made came to your rescue, I also have one and I believe everyone from 10 years and up should keep one on them for emergencies such as this one.
Tracfone has the free 911 emergency location assist feature that you can dial in an emergency such as yours and they will send help soonest.
Tracfone cells phones for as little as $10 and their cheapest prepaid phone plan is $19.99/60 min/90 service days. If you want double these minutes for free every time you buy a new top up plan just buy the once off plan of 'double minutes for life plan' also costing $19.99.
Tracfone is the correct phone to carry with you but its not recommended for people who use their phone allot.