Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cold front

One beautiful afternoon back in the mid '70s a good friend and I went hiking on Shumont Mountain.  It was winter, but the temperature was in the low 50s, and the sunshine felt warm to us in our lightweight jackets.  We made our first stop at Eagle Rock (You have to!) but then continued up the mountain.  Going up the old jeep road we took the right hand fork that goes around the Northwest side of the mountain to the Western end.  There is a little rabbit trail there that goes down to the top of a big sloping cliff.  (It's the one you can catch a glimpse of as you're driving up Shumont Rd.)

 That is a beautiful spot!  You have views of Little Pisgah & Bearwallow Mountains and all the upper Hickory Nut Gorge.  It was always quiet and peaceful, I don't think I ever met another hiker there.  
We spent a long time just hanging out, and of course exploring a little bit.  Then in the late afternoon it was time to head back down.  The sun was getting low and it was starting to feel colder.

When we got back to the Eagle Rock area the sun was setting, so we had to go back up on the rock to watch, even though it was getting cold really fast and we were dressed for warmer temperatures.  Eagle Rock faces the wrong way for a great sunset view, but we could see it through the trees, and the sky was lit up beautifully.  But as the sun went down so did the temperature.  Probably the fastest drop I ever experienced!  A major cold front was moving in, and wasn't wasting any time.  From where it had been around 50 degrees it went down through the 40s, the 30s, and on down into the 20s.  And of course the wind started blowing across that exposed rock.  Some other hikers came up to watch the sunset, and they were wearing parkas with the hoods up, gloves, the whole bit, and they looked cold!  They were looking at us like we were crazy for being there dressed the way we were, and we were trying to pretend we weren't freezing.  Of course we were, but we were in the midst of a spectacular event and couldn't leave.

I wish I'd had a thermometer with me, I guarantee you could have seen it dropping.  But what we did see was even more amazing.  There were potholes in the rock that had water in them from the last rain.  And that water started to freeze.  I've never seen anything like it!  You could see the white ice crystals form around the outside rim of the water and then start creeping in towards the center.  We could actually see it moving as we watched in amazement.  "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"  It looked like time-lapse photography.  

Finally as the sunset was fading we surrendered to the cold and did a fast hike back down to my van.  It sure felt good when it warmed up enough for the heater to kick in!  When we got back down the mountain and to my parents house in Fairview, a thousand feet lower, the thermometer was on 15 degrees.  That was one serious cold front!

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