Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Thinking of stopping by woods on a snowy evening as Arrowhead and Jesses’ 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:

We did a sweep of the Bear Pen Run loop, which consists of Bear 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.

As 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.

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 as a measure to prevent hypothermia shunts blood away from extremities, thereby preventing a drop in core temperature, 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 because of the profoundly diminished blood flow. 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 thereby greatly reducing the time to tissue damage. 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.

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 called “The Stovepipe Effect”.

You 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:

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 throughout 2018. For that I will be immensely grateful !

With 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.

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 as 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

Watoga Trail Report December 30, 2017:

Bonnie, Busch Settlement, North Boundary, Buck and Doe and the completion of the loop on Bear Pen Run Trails were cleared of limbs and debris today.

Thanks to the efforts of Arthur and Dale the trees blocking the Greenbrier River Trail at MM 44 were cleared yesterday, and though the big rocks will not be cleared until the backhoe can be summoned to the site, bicycles can easy negotiate the trail there. (pictured)

Ice fisherman on Watoga Lake December 30, 2017

Well, the ice fisherman are back (pictured) in full force and they are after trout. I talked to 3 fisherpersons this morning and they report that the ice is 3 to 4 inches thick. The preferred bait for taking trout from under the ice is waxworms and Power Bait.

According to outsideonline .com If your reading is at least four inches, proceed with caution. Ice more than five inches thick will likely hold a snowmobile, and ice more than eight inches thick will likely support a car or small pickup truck.

I cannot attest to that personally so I am hoping our tenacious visitors venturing out on Watoga Lake are “proceeding with caution”.

Good Hiking,

Ken Springer

Watoga Trail Report December 28, 2017

Watoga Trail Report December 26, 2017:

Today the Allegheny Trail where it passes through the northern portion of Watoga State Park paralleling Chicken House Run Road was checked for hiking conditions. This section is admittedly seldom checked; there is a group that maintains the Allegheny Trail but it has been a few years since their last visit to Watoga. There are a number of trees down across the trail but it is all quite passable. When the Allegheny Trail leaves the park on this end of Watoga it spills the hiker onto the road for a short distance where it re-enters the woods of the Monongahela National Forest.

My visitors, who are always conscripted for trail work, noticed that certain sections of the early morning forest floor were crunchy this morning. This is due in large part to a fascinating phenomenon called Ice Needles, pictured below. Ice Needles are just one of many strange and bizarre ice formations including hoar frost, rime frost and black frost.

Ice Needles form in soil along Allegheny Trail Watoga State Park

Ice Needles form, usually at night, when liquid water in the soil that is above freezing temperature comes in contact with surface temperatures below freezing. Crystals form in a pillar-like structure sometimes lifting soil and duff in what can be described best as hydraulic force. As noted by one of my guests, walking on Ice Needles is like walking on chandelier crystals. Having less class I would have compared it to walking on potato chips. Either is an apt description of the feel and sound of treading on these delicate ice formations on otherwise cold and quiet winter mornings.

Safe and warm hiking,

Ken Springer