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

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