Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Thinking of stopping by woods on a snowy evening as Arrowhead and Jesse’s Cove were cleared of obstacles yesterday and today.   We cleaned limbs off of the Greenbrier River Trail from Watoga Crossing to Workman Road.

This will be the last trail report until early February.  I take this time each year to visit friends and family scattered about.  Before leaving I want to share one of my very favorite poems.  It is a wonderful poem by Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  It has a particular significance to me.  When I was a young man a good many decades ago I lived on an old farm in the hills of southeastern Ohio.  I had an aged Quarter Horse named Lady who had lost her zest for speed and spunkiness some years earlier.  She was nonetheless steady and dependable.

There was a deep woods between my barn and a small village called Lore City. It was 2 miles on an old abandoned road that wove through the woods.  My custom on Sundays was to ride Lady to a small café.  It was run by two sisters in their 70s.  The café even had an old metal tie-up post out front.  One of the sisters was a bit grumpy and if you tried to change your order, even before she left your table, you were likely to get a slap on the back of your hand.  Her idiosyncrasies aside, she made the absolute best Swiss steak and mashed potatoes ever shoveled into a human mouth.  And this does not even take into account the wondrous variety of homemade pies proudly displayed in one of those old pie safes situated on the counter. We’re talking fruit pies as well as the cream styles mind you.  So a slight slap on the hand was a small price to pay for the sumptuous fare that awaited me.

Yes, my sweet memories are in part based on the food.  In addition, also because I made this weekly pilgrimage on Lady every month of the year. And I still fondly recall many rides through those quiet winter woods in the snow as Lady made her sure-footed way back to the warmth of her stall.

Stay warm, hike often and every time the mood strikes you !
Ken Springer

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy EveningStopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

By Robert Frost

Watoga Trail Report January 6, 2018: More on Frost Bite

We did a sweep of the Bear Pen Run loop.  TheBear Pen Run Trail from the trailhead on the main entrance road up Bear Pen Run to North Boundary Trail to Buck and Doe, down the switchbacks to Bear Pen Run, then right returning to the trailhead.  All was clear except for a 8 inch tree suspended about 20 inches above North Boundary Trail.  More on frost bite.

The trail passed Watoga Lake, now safely frozen solid.  I observed an ice-fisherman very gingerly removing his gloves just long enough to bait a hook and drop it into the augured hole. This on a morning where the predicted high is 2 degrees F.  And gusts of wind that will bring anything above freezing down to the freezing point in a much accelerated rate. The fisherman was of course being prudent.

More on Frost Bite

Frostbite was discussed in the trail report a few weeks ago in some detail.  But it cannot be expressed enough how insidious this condition is.  It does not take long, particularly in weather like we have been experiencing of late, for the most vulnerable body parts to be frostbitten.  As a response to low temperatures the body shunts blood away from extremities.  This prevents a drop in core temperature in the area around the heart, lung, liver and kidneys.  Unfortunately those areas farthest from the core such as the fingers, toes and earlobes are at great risk.   Blood flow in the extremeties is greatly reduced.  It is important to reduce or eliminate exposure of bare flesh to extremely cold temperatures, and to keep these areas covered.

To protect hands and fingers there is an advantage to wearing a mitten over a glove.  Because a glove allows cold air to circulate between the fingers, the time to tissue damage is greatly reduced.  The warming pads help tremendously (pictured) and are quite inexpensive.  We used these this morning and the fingers were warm for the entire 2 1/2 hours on the trail.  The package did not exaggerate the claim that they stay warm for many hours.  They are sitting here beside me and are still toasty some 6 hours later.Hand warmers can help protect against frost bite

It goes without saying that a warm hat that covers the ears should be worn in low temperatures.  In addition to preventing frostbite it also helps prevent hypothermia because we lose a disproportionate amount of heat from the head and neck.  Sometimes this is called “The Stovepipe Effect”.

More on frost bite; fingers frost bittenYou don’t have to quit hiking in cold weather; just hike wisely.

Warm and Safe Hiking,

Ken Springer

Watoga Trail Report January 2 and 5, 2018

Attention was given to trails in the Arboretum on Tuesday and today the Mongaseneka Trail. Both trail systems are clear however Monongaseneka has just enough snow on it to make it slick with difficult footing in the steeper portions of the trail.

The continued single-digit temperatures this week require more preparation on the part of the hiker to stay warm, but ample rewards are to be found in the form of some beautiful and bizarre ice formations. Ice Crystals on Pine Cone Dragon Draft Trial Watoga State ParkThere is no better trail to view these oddities than Dragon Draft which follows Two Mile Run. Be prepared for a total of 23 stream crossings, mostly on dry rock but with a few locations on ice. For your safety you should at least have hiking poles or a hiking stick to maintain your balance – ice creepers are very helpful as well.

You can access Dragon Draft by parking at the Arboretum on the main entrance road. Dragon Draft, unlike the other trails in the Arboretum, offers a very moderate grade for its entire length. This is a family-friendly trail just keep in mind the current conditions of occasional ice.

Happy and Warm Hiking,

Ken Springer

Watoga Trail Report December 31 and January 1, 2018: Hoarfrost


Happy New Year to all the folks in the Watoga State Park Foundation, all the trail volunteers, employees of Watoga State Park and those who love and visit Watoga State Park.  I have long since quit making resolutions.  But my New Year plans are to continue getting out on those Watoga trails every chance I get in 2018.  For that I will be immensely grateful !  Today’s article is about hoarfrost.

Today I had much appreciated help from the “other mountain state”, Colorado. The following trails are clear for hiking.  In fact tracks in the snow reveal recent use.  Jesse’s Cove Trail, Arrowhead Trail, Bear Pen Run Trail, Lake Trail and Recreation Trail.

Hoarfrost Encounter

We encountered a real treat early this morning on Bear Pen Run Trail in the form of ” Hoarfrost “.  An English dictionary from the 1920s describes hoarfrost as ” expressing the resemblance of white feathers of frost to an old man’s beard”.  A more recent dictionary defines this delightful cold weather phenomenon as ” a white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc.”

Hoarfrost on pine Jesses Cove Trail Watoga State ParkTo delve a bit deeper into the formation of hoarfrost we need to look at the necessary environmental conditions. To produce any form of frost you need water in the form of a gaseous vapor and it must be suspended in the air over the ground that is at a temperature no greater than 32 degree F.  Today’s temperature clearly met that requirement.

When these water vapor molecules come in contact with a subfreezing surface, such as a pine needle, they jump directly from a gas state to a solid state. This process, known as “deposition”, leaves a coating of tiny ice crystals that sometimes develop into these beautiful feathery forms as you see in the pictures.

Hoarfrost found along Jesses Cove Trail Watoga State ParkNow a word of advice to those who attempt to photograph these ephemeral sculptures.  If you are being accompanied by a creature of the canine persuasion you would be wise to tie that critter off.  While conducting your photography session, they seem to be drawn directly to the object of your attention. This often results in a paw coming directly down on your specimen of hoarfrost before the shutter is released. Believe me, I speak from experience.

Happy Hiking,

Ken Springer