Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ice Cloud Run

In early January I traveled to North Carolina again, making the usual ascent of Mt. Sterling upon my early morning arrival after driving through the night from West Lafayette. That climb was followed with visits to hot spots in Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and some of my favorite trails in the area.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to climb up through clouds? Perhaps you have done that. Have you ever wondered what it is like to pass through clouds just after a precipitous temperature drop? If you have done that, then you are familiar with hoar frost and rime ice. I experienced both, but mostly rime ice.

Hoar frost forms when humidity in the air forms loose, snowlike ice crystals on the ground and flora after they cool below the freezing temperature. Rime ice forms when larger wind-blown water droplets in fog or clouds freeze onto ground coverings. The rime ice I encountered was dense and smooth, but some rime ice can be feathery like hoar frost. Regardless of the ice type, it created an aesthetic and occasionally transfixing scene.

It is worth noting that the temperature was 19F at the Baxter Creek Trailhead and -2F at the Mt. Sterling summit. The wind purred at 11 mph near the trailhead and blasted along at 44-59 mph on the summit - that's a -40 wind chill! (I have a Kestrel 4000 weather instrument, which is cool because I also have a Kestrel 4000 bike :)

Yes, it was incredibly fun, cold, slippery, and lonely. I did not encounter anyone along the trail. I wonder why?

Anyway, the run itself was encumbered by the ice and more than a dozen trees that had fallen along or across the trail. I mention those conditions because they are my excuses for having recorded my slowest round trip up and down the mountain. I have chosen to ignore the fact that a four month sciatic pinch left me the least fit I've ever been when attempting that tough 20K run.

Here are some of the photos I snapped before both batteries and all ten digits refused to work. Click on them to expand the view and create a slide show. Enjoy!

Entering the clouds.

Two huge blowdowns. Those trunks have
more than three foot diameter.

View from the tower. Mt. Mitchell is center.
This tree fell directly along the trail,
making it easier to negotiate than most.

Backwoods paparazzi shot
Just had to sit on top of the tunnel.
Closed BRP good for running and exploring.
Barefoot run on a frozen timber guardrail.

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