Monday, January 15, 2018

Pouring Rain, Bitter Cold, Icy Beauty

Oh boy, was it cold this morning, just a few degrees above zero when my pal Sue and I set off across Moreau Lake to climb a streambed that tumbles down a mountain. But just a few days ago, the temperature had soared into the high 50s, followed by pouring rain.  That warm heavy rain and consequent snowmelt had caused many area rivers and streams to flood, so we were confident that there would be water in this stream that usually runs dry by this time of year.  And with temperatures plunging back below zero once more, we were also confident that there would be gorgeous ice formations along this splashing creek.  And we were not disappointed.

We started our climb where the creek runs under the road, and then proceeded up the mountainside, following the creek as closely as we could.  That rainy stretch of unseasonable warmth had severely depleted the snow cover in the woods, so we were able to make our way without snowshoes, wearing only ice grippers to keep us from slipping on the icy crust that lay beneath a dusting of new snow.

We marveled at the many ways flowing water and bitter cold could create fantastically beautiful ice formations.  Some of those formations were glassy and globular.

Others were opaque and milky white.

The splashing drops from the tumbling stream had created curtains of icicles hanging from limbs that had fallen across the streambed.

Bubbles had formed in the splashing creek and had then frozen clear as crystal.

This little twig protruding from the water had sprouted feathery crystals of hoarfrost.

We also found rounded mounds of feathery hoarfrost here and there, where springs well up on the forest floor.

It was truly a splendid day to be wandering a sunny winter woods, where a fresh coat of fluffy snow revealed the travels taken by the many wild creatures who inhabit this mountainside. We found the purposeful trails of solitary foxes, coyotes, and fishers, in addition to the ubiquitous scurrying tracks of multitudinous squirrels and mice.

This is the trail of a fisher, a weasel-family predator that preys on the porcupines that live among the limestone caves up high on this mountain.

We were gifted this beautiful sunny day with jewel-like colors flashing forth from the glittering snow.  This phenomenon, while obvious to the naked eye,  is very hard to capture in a photograph.  When I first looked at this photo, I could see no color at all, but when I boosted the saturation in my computer photo program, the colors emerged in all their technicolor glory.  Someday I hope to discover why we see these colors only on certain days and not on others.

We followed the creek back down to where it flowed into the lake, observing how the torrents caused by the previous rains had cut a channel right through the foot or more of solid ice that now covers Moreau Lake.

In this final stretch of the creek, where the ground levels off and the splashing calms, we find more beautiful ice formations, like this shelf of frosty feathers hanging over the watercourse.

This frieze of frozen droplets, formed when more water filled the stream, was hanging over a streambed that now contained only a trickle.

I have yet to understand how these particular "isobar" ice formations occur.  They form a plate suspended above the now mostly dry streambed, and these plates are so thin and fragile I could imagine that they were formed from freezing vapor instead of liquid water.  Maybe one of my readers knows and will tell us how they form .

Here's one more fantastical ice formation that just amazed me:  clusters of frozen bubbles encased in clear crystalline ice.

When Sue and I started out this morning, we were just miserable, with the frigid air stinging our cheeks and numbing our fingers when we poked them out of our mittens to try to use our cameras.  But it wasn't long before we forgot our discomfort, at least in those brief moments when we gasped in delight at all the ways water and freezing cold could render incredible beauty. (The sun climbing higher and warmer helped, as well.)


Anonymous said...

Nice pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm cold too ... but happy to have been taken along.

The Furry Gnome said...

Love those ice formations! I must go looking for some myself. We had the same thaw and refreeze

catharus said...

Lovely pictures! Those glistening colored facets of the snow are just amazing! So wonder-full! (....full of wonder....wonderful)!


Woody Meristem said...

Beautiful ice formations, hard to beat for winter beauty.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for great ice I'd recommend checking out the Christman Preserve off of Schoharie Turnpike. The area around the falls last week was spectacular.