Saturday, January 19, 2013

Red Butte and Ft. Douglas: A Saturday Walkabout

Still so cold here; thankfully I am one of those people who doesn't mind the cold at all.
Saturday afternoon I shrugged into my knee  length down jacket, shouldered up my camera back pack, slung my tripod case over my shoulder and headed out to Red Butte Garden.
The downspout chains by the entrance looked like they had been overwhelmed lately.

As usual in cold weather, I had the garden all to myself.
In the Children's Garden area I enjoyed seeing wild life track in an area that in summer is more likely to carry  the tracks of the wild life that is commonly called "kids".
(Not the goat type.  The two legged kind.)

See where the bird landed then hopped to get a drink?
So cool...

The area had lots of extremely nervous birds flitting to three bird feeders.

This sweet thing was the least nervous of the group.

Even so you can tell he is keeping an eye on me.

"I think that is enough pictures for now Lady.  Move along...move along...."

Chickadees are the biggest Nervous Nellies; they land, grab a seed and are off again in the time it takes to just lift a camera to my face.

By comparison, the shrub jays were downright resigned to my company.

This one was kind of middling: he pecked around on the ground for a bit.

Winter Storm Gandolf's dozens of inches of snow is just beginning to sag off of things.
I still wonder how bird toes are not frost bitten in winter; the snow is pretty icy by now.

Shrub jay:  What a beauty!

I can't blame the birds for being "flighty" (har!)
The bare branches don't provide much in the way of a place to hide out.

Now doesn't this look exactly like the tree has gone and bought itself a nice white fur collared wrap to stay warm this winter?
Quite stylish, no?

Red pods against white snow:  Gorgeous.

Etched trees over head: gorgeous.

Frozen streams:  Oh yeah.

How about a frozen waterfall?
With animal tracks?
(There should be a "Like" button to push up in the air upon seeing such things.)

I once read a book about planning a winter garden.
There was great emphasis given to the importance of selecting colorful bark/branch color when selecting plants that will be bare in winter.
The above picture is a great example of the wisdom of such forethought.
I probably shouldn't have said I had the garden to myself.
While I didn't see anyone else as I walked about, clearly I was not the only one who has been enjoying walking in the snowy winter garden.

Deer trails left proof that the deer don't only hang around my neighborhood.
They must have a pass to Red Butte Garden, just like me.

Colorful bark: Now that's what I'm talking about!

More sagging snow, with a waxing moon above.

Doesn't the snow clumps in the tree look like birds?
The sunset was beautiful.

As so often happens on Saturday, I wanted to share what I was doing with Gail.
While the sun set, I sat in the car, gave her a call and we got in our weekly catch up chat.

We both enjoy getting out and enjoy having adventures large and small.
We both bemoan how difficult it is to find a friend to go adventuring with.
We ask women we meet at work, or in church, or neighbors to come along for walks or hikes or a trip to the movies.
Usually we are declined, or given a "maybe later"...
No one ever seems to think of asking us back.
I can kind of understand why maybe some women would want to avoid noodling around with me.
(Refraining from affirming my many drawbacks here...)
But Gail?
Totally don't get it.

OK...putting away the sad violin now.
One of the nicest things about a heavy snowstorm is the way it makes the area mountains solid white, which turns the most wonderful shades of apricot and periwinkle blue at sunset.
Alpenglow I think is what that is called.
I need to spend a serious evening photographing the mountains glowing in the sunset colors while the snow is still so deep. 

Red Butte Garden is just above an area that used to be a military fort called Fort Douglas.
The fort was established back in the 1860s and is still in use as an Army reserve training center.
There are lots of cute Victorian houses that used to be officer family quarters and such.
And there is a very quiet cemetery there too.

I had never seen the cemetery in deep snow before.

It looked so different than it does in the summer  when it is all grassy green beneath shady trees, or in the fall when the ground is littered with colorful leaves.
The cemetery was still being used until recently...and perhaps it still is used for contemporary burials.
The second row in from the front, the second from the left:
March 27 1967
Son of....
A soldier's wife bore a child that died before he was named.
Sad, even this many years later.

Does look some how cozy and peaceful, doesn't it?

How many are awaiting a Resurrection dawn?

If the snow hadn't been above my knees and I wasn't in snow boots, I would have loved to have poked around a bit more.

I once read a book where the question was posed:
Which time of day suits a cemetery best: sunset or sunrise?
The first thought was sunset; the end of a life.
But is sunrise that suits it best, if one believes the grave is just a pause before the dawning of a new day.

This is why I need a buddy to go along with me on these jaunts.
We could discuss these sorts of questions as we went along.
(And that is perhaps exactly why I do wind up being alone on my jaunts.)

Ft. Douglas is surrounded by the University of Utah; this is one of the resident halls with icicles that are reaching record breaking lengths.
There isn't a building to be found anywhere on the grounds that is not similarly sporting an icicle fringe.
The guy walking along was quite wise to steer clear of walking beneath those eaves.
I've lived in Salt Lake for four years now and I still have areas that are just minutes from my house that need exploring.
Ft. Douglas and the University of Utah grounds are one of those areas.
I think this quick pass through was a good beginning, don't you?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Surface Hoar: I had NO idea....

(This long post includes a little bit of education at the beginning which later led to a big WOW experience for me...)

Frost, or hoarfrost...basically they are the same thing that one finds glittering on surfaces on cold winter mornings.
I've been learning about the difference between snow and frost lately, HERE is the link to the site I am using:

 Frost is to dew as snowflakes are to raindrops.

 When water vapor condenses into liquid water, you get raindrops and dew.

 When water vapor condenses directly into ice, then you get snowflakes and frost.

(big Ah HA! moment for me.)

Snowflakes are not frozen raindrops, and likewise frost is not frozen dew.

When frost forms as minute ice crystals covering the ground, we just call it all frost. 

 But sometimes the frost grains grow larger and are called hoarfrost crystals.

 Good hoarfrost is not that uncommon if you watch for it. 

 Hoarfrost grows whenever it's cold outside and there is a ample source of water vapor nearby.

A closer inspection of the frost reveals the fern like shape of the frost crystals.
The frost may be crystals the size of sugar sprinkles or may grow to a size of a fingertip.
These were just a tiny bit bigger than the size of the colored sugar sprinkles that one usually use to decorate cut out cookies.
If one explores open field, one can find the rattling remains of summer flowers dusted with frost in the early morning.

The temperature may not rise much, but the slightest touch of warm sunlight melts the delicate frost cystals away.
Now I have always loved the sparkling snow "diamonds" that glitter so brightly in the sunlight.
Recently I learned that most of those diamonds are not actually snow.
They actually are something called surface hoar that has built atop of fallen snow.

The most common form of hoarfrost is called surface hoar.
 This consists of ice crystals that form on top of snow banks, usually overnight. 
 The sparkles you see coming from a field of snow are often reflections off the facets of surface hoar crystals.
Surface hoar typically forms when a snowbank warms up during the day and is then cooled again overnight. 

 The night air cools the surface of the snowbank more than the inside, so that water can evaporate from inside the snowbank and recrystalize on the surface. 
 By morning the snowbank is covered with a layer of faceted ice crystals, and they can be quite large. 
(Around here they typically are the size of  uncooked old fashioned oatmeal flakes.)

 These usually melt again once the sun comes up, so the best time to find surface hoar is early in the morning.

Lest you think I live in a world of unblemished winter beauty...
The photo above were all taken alongside this roadway.
(And humbling enough, while I was crouched down on my knees and elbows to take one picture, a car stopped and the driver asked me if I was OK.  I do appreciate that kind of driver and gave him my thanks for checking!)

Pristine winter beauty:
Not so everywhere...or at least not so close to the roadways.

So here is a close up of surface hoar atop old snow.

I have more disappointing reality for you, dear reader.
In the winter months, Salt Lake City's valley suffers from something that is called an inversion.
Basically it is smog...and the smog is trapped in the valley by the heavy weight of still cold air.

It can get so bad that the mountain across the valley floor disappear behind an off colored haze.
Usually one can see another entire mountain range across the valley.
The inversions presents breathing issues for the frail, and it can be so bad that we are asked not to drive if possible, and if one is especially unable to cope with the air quality, leaving the area in the winter months is advised.
If it is possible, it is also a good idea to live up above the valley floor, above the inversion layer.
We thankfully do live just above the problem.
But even so...somedays we feel like going even higher up to get away from the view of the inversion too.
So Thursday afternoon I asked Bernie if he felt like taking a little drive out to the Heber Valley, over the mountains and to the Provo river to see what it looks like right now.
He readily agreed after being house bound since Christmas.
Fly rod and camera bag were loaded into the car in nothing flat and off we went.
Now secretly I was curious about one line in the guide about frost that I had read:

One of the best places to find hoarfrost is on exposed plants near unfrozen lakes and streams.

As soon as we parked near the river, I pulled on my trusty powder suit and snowboots and headed off to the riverside.


Moments later I was in surface hoar and hoar frost heaven!
The edge of the river was frozen and on the frozen surface there were incredible examples of hoarfrost the size of my finger tip, just waiting for me to see, enjoy and photograph.

Awesome is it not?

Just created for God's pleasure and my pleasure, surely, as I seriously doubt that anyone other than myself (and now you, my dear reader) was likely to see it.

I suppose God knew you would see it too...

See what I mean about them being the size of my finger tip?
The fluffy looking stuff is the hoarfrost, the bubbly looking shiny stuff is frozen river water.

I was SO excited.
He...was done fishing after about thirty minutes.
Me...well, I would have stayed until dark.
Don't you love this heart shaped bit of lacey hoarfrost?

It really is a pity Bernie didn't have his camera at the ready to photography me kneeling on the ice with my camera and face just inches away from the hoar frost.
You would have laughed to see how silly I looked.

(I've been doing some catch up watching of the Downton Abbey series; the lacy hoarfrost structure reminded me of the all the lace trim that was used in the series costumes.)

I still don't scientifically understand how hoarfrost forms such intricate designs.
I think I have a new spin on a well known Bible verse though:

Consider the hoarfrost of the riverside; they toil not, neither do they spin.
Yet King Solomon in all his glory (and all the women on Downton Abbey) are not arrayed like one of these.

Surface hoar atop snow, in oatmeal sized flakes.

You can see where I was...the scuffed up edge near the flowing water on the right just before the snow.
I am about fifteen feet away from our car which is parked behind me.
Gosh I wish I could have had all my photo taking buddies along with me.
I will say this: If you do have a stream or a pond nearby on a cold morning, do go take a look around to see what you might find in terms of hoarfrost.
It might be simply amazing for you.
Give it a try.

The road out from the river.

We stopped at an amazing Mexican restaurant for dinner; it was just a couple of miles from the river; we had never been there before.
They had a salsa bar to die for.
Mango salsa, avocado salsa...I could have just slurped down salsa all night.
Hoarfrost may have fed my soul, but the Mexicans took care of feeding my body just perfectly!