We are now wrapping up one of the coldest 2 week stretches in Arkansas history and central Arkansas is seeing one of its snowiest months ever. Many areas in central Arkansas have seen over a foot of snow this week. While Little Rock had about 20 inches of snow this week, Fayetteville's official temperature reached as low as -20 degrees. This is the new record for Fayetteville's Drake Field. You have to go back to 1899 when there was a thermometer at the U of A that recorded -24 to find the coldest temperature ever recorded in the history of Fayetteville.
During the second week of February, most of the state had not seen much snow. However, the higher elevations did see a significant amount of rime ice with a little bit of snow. Most of this was around and above 2,000 feet above sea level. After the entire state saw the first round of snow on Monday, I decided to take the slow, snow-packed road up to the highest point in Arkansas...Mount Magazine.
A thick coating of rime ice on the branches of every tree. Rime ice is created by an accumulation of water droplets in freezing fog.
After the second round of snow on Wednesday, I thought I would take advantage of the recent extreme cold and take a hike to Glory Hole. It is one of the more iconic waterfalls in the state. I usually get pretty bored with taking pictures of the icons that everyone else shoots, but I made an exception in this case. Most winters, you will just get at least some flowing water with occasional icicles on the bluffline in the winter months. However, it is a pretty rare occurrence to see the entire column of water freeze from top to bottom as a full cylinder of ice. It usually takes several consecutive days where it stays below freezing all day and a round of temperatures around or below zero for the entire column of ice to freeze.
The last time it was a frozen cylinder, at least to this extent, was in 2011.
On average, it looks like this only about once (maybe twice) a decade and it will only last a few days. While we still might see another snow later this winter or even early spring, I think it is safe to say that we are through the coldest part of this winter. Before long, it will be spring. After this 2 week stretch, many of us will be ready!
This week there was a winter storm that affected the higher elevations of the Ozarks. As time drew closer to the event, with the help of my experience in forecasting the weather in the state of Arkansas, confidence was high that this was going to be elevation driven winter storm. Below was a computer model (called the HRRR model) forecast from the day before that I based my decision on where to be for this event. It was suggesting that the highest snow amounts were to be in the higher elevations (around and above 2000 ft. elevation), particularly in/near Newton County and other of the highest mountaintops, such as Mount Magazine, in western Arkansas.
I made the decision to drive to Newton County and "snow chase". The forecast was pretty much spot on where the accumulations would be. With such marginally cold temperatures, it was a particularly wet snow that was pasty and stuck to the branches of the trees. In general, the warmer the temperature...the wetter the snow. With a colder temperature (roughly mid 20s and colder), the result would be a more powdery snow.
It was rather fascinating to see the difference in snow between the higher elevations and the lower elevations. The picture below was taken at about 2,000 feet above sea level but you can look down on the Buffalo River Valley at about 1,300 feet above sea level. Notice the difference in the amount of snow on the trees. Down on the valley floor, many of the snowflakes melted into raindrops. This is about the closest thing you can get to snow capped mountains in Arkansas!
I thought I would take a walk in the woods to a waterfall. However, as you drop in elevation, the amount of snow was lower and already melting. This waterfall in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness was at about 1,800 feet above sea level. Still, the water was nice and the beech trees (beech trees hold their leaves all winter) in the background added a little color.
Winter is almost half over, but maybe there will be more opportunities to photograph snow later in the season.
Happy New Year! Although I didn't do quite as much traveling this past year (in part to COVID), I did make it to the Pacific Northwest a couple of times this past year. I thought I would take one last look back to my journeys to Oregon and Washington in 2020. I visited a couple of new national parks this year (North Cascades and Crater Lake) but also visited a couple of familiar favorites (Olympic and Mount Rainier).
The western part of Washington and Oregon sees a lot of rain, especially in the colder half of the year. The terrain and high rainfall means there are numerous waterfalls.
One of the larger and more photogenic waterfalls in Oregon is located in Silver Falls State Park, near Salem. A 7+ mile hike on the Trail Of Ten Falls is the best way to see this beautiful state park. Above you can see a picture of South Falls, one of those 10 waterfalls. I was here in October, the best month to see fall foliage here. Although the majority of trees in Oregon are evergreen, there are some maple trees that make for some splashes of color in such a green forest.
Pictured above are Tokeete Falls in Oregon (left) and Falls Creek Falls in Washington (right).
Pictured above are Panther Creek Falls (left) and Christine Falls in Washington (right).
A trip to see Pacific Northwest waterfalls would not be complete without a visit to the Columbia River Gorge. Another large and photogenic waterfall in Oregon is Multnomah Falls. Because it is literally next to a rest stop on I-84 east of Portland, it is photographed hundreds of times a day. However, it was a must see for this first time visitor to the Columbia River Gorge.
Other waterfalls can be seen with a short hike from the road, such as this waterfall known as Fairy Falls.
The result is some of most lush forests in the world. Common trees along the Washington coast include Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. Many of these trees have clumps of moss hanging on the branches with numerous ferns on the ground.
I'm already thinking about another trip back to this part of the country...next time it will be to spend more time on the Oregon Coast.
Now is the time to order get those 2021 wall calendars and my photography has been featured in 3 different state calendars.
This image of Pinnacle Mountain was taken from January 2016, which was the last time central Arkansas saw a big snow. This was on a morning just after it had snowed about 8 inches.
Another winter picture of mine is featured on the February page of the Missouri Wild & Scenic 2021 wall calendar that can be ordered here. It was -4 degrees on this January morning at Grand Falls near Joplin, Missouri.
I am also featured on the April page of 2021 Oklahoma Wall Calendar from Smith-Southwestern. This image was from the grounds of the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa.
It's been a pretty busy couple of months for me and my wife. This fall, we completed a move together from our former home in Fayetteville to our new home in Rogers. I have also been working on a new project, which I will reveal to you in 2021.
Anyway, I'm finally getting around to working on my photos from my two trips to Mount Rainier earlier this year. A longer visit back in August and a brief visit again in October.
Early August is typically the peak of wildflower season here. My favorite hike was a destination on the Wonderland Trail known as "Indian Henry's Hunting Ground" where there were many flowers in bloom.
On this same 6-mile one way hike was The appropriately named Mirror Lake. Despite walking back to the car in the dark, it was worth being there during the early evening to see the beautiful reflections and flowers there.
I was also able to get some nice reflections with a thin layer of morning fog at Bench Lake.
At over 14,000 feet, Mount Rainier is one of the highest mountains in the lower 48. From base to summit, it is also the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. To me, Mount Rainier is the most impressive and beautiful mountain in the lower 48. A couple of times, I have found myself even startled when I first see the glaciated summit.
It is still potentially an active volcano that will likely reawaken in the future. Eyewitnesses in Seattle last reported eruptive activity in 1894, but it has been quiet since. Some of you can remember when nearby Mount St. Helen's had a violent eruption in 1980.
I'm glad that I made my visit shortly before all the Pacific Northwest fires that would occur later in August and September. Skies were clear for the majority of the time but I also had some occasional atmospherics such as fog and some light haze.
On my second trip to the Pacific Northwest this year, I briefly visited Mount Rainier, but this time after an early snow in October.
I have more pictures to go through from Oregon and Washington. On the next blog, I will be writing about the rainforest and waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest.
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