Friday, December 18, 2009
I know, I know, I asked for it. Winter is here, for sure. But with the thermometer reading five below zero this morning, I almost canceled the hike I had planned to take with Laurie today. But when I called to beg off, she sounded so eager to go, I couldn't back out. And I am so glad I didn't. What a glorious blue-sky morning it was, the air so clean and fresh and cold you could feel it hit the bottom of your lungs (even if you couldn't feel your face after only five minutes). My lungs got quite a workout today, as we trudged up the mountains overlooking the Spier Falls Dam, our destination a series of waterfalls at the top of the ridge. (That's a photo of one up there.)
What's great about cold, cold days this early in the season is that the mountain streams are still full of flowing water. Mist rises at night from the stream and freezes immediately on every blade and twig and berry and boulder along its borders. Everywhere we looked we found feathers and needles of frost.
On clumps of moss:
On bittersweet berries:
On fronds of evergreen ferns:
Creating ferns of frost along blades of dry grass:
Coating the undersides of boulders with shaggy carpets:
Creating spangled garlands on old spider webs:
In spots where the water had slowed and pooled, it had frozen hard and clear overnight, the dark surface littered with shards and stars of pure white:
We even found needles of frost had formed at the bottom of deer's hoofprints:
The higher we climbed, the more the snow was criss-crossed with dozens of deer trails. We found where they'd pawed the snow away to hunt acorns among the oak trees, and other spots where it looked like they'd bedded down among the hemlocks. The deer always know the best way to get up a mountain, so we followed their trails all along the streams and across the faces of slopes. At last we reached a place of gigantic heaped-up boulders, now covered with cascading icicles as ornate as wedding cakes. We stopped to listen to the music of water rushing and gurgling and splashing and plunking around and under and over those ice-covered boulders.
Laurie explored the boulder heap, hoping to find a way to climb above them. But the going got really rugged up there, and we decided to turn back.
Sometimes climbing UP a snowy slope is far easier than climbing down. In this photo I look like I've fallen, but I've just gone down on my bottom to slide down an icy patch. Wheeeee!!!
The whole morning our hike had been shadowed by the mountains above us, so when we reached a part of the trail where the sun beat down, we turned our faces to take in its welcome warmth. The little bit of warmth that there was. Now, in the waning days just before the Solstice, the sun is as low as it's going to get. Here's a photo of our shadows at mid-day.