Hiking

Hickory Nut Mountain and Frost Flowers!

  • January 27, 2014

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One reason I love landscape photography is that it forces me to get outdoors more often. There is something special about getting away from a computer, phone, and the hectic pace of normal life. You can breathe… Oh, and even when it’s COLD! On my drive to Hickory Nut Mountain, my thermometer hit a low of 5 degrees! Brrrrrrr! When I arrived at the Lake Ouachita vista overlook, it was a balmy 7.

So, why would I venture out in such cold weather? I heard there was a spring-fed creek with some cascades and a small waterfall. I wanted to catch some ice and icicles if possible. 

The above and below shots are of Lake Ouachita at sunrise from the Hickory Nut Mountain vista point.

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The jacket and beanie worked wonders! I didn’t get too cold overall except for my hands. Can’t take pictures with gloves on. :-/

Ok, a little about this trail. I read that it was pretty steep and a moderate hike. I’ll agree! And I learned that when it is in the single digits, the knees don’t bend quite as well. To see my GPS track, click here. I didn’t hike the full length, but I went a total of 3.6 miles and ascended 965 feet before it was all said and done.

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I wasn’t seeing much along the first stretch of this hike, but I did like this old tree. Who knows how long it has been laying there eroding over time.

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Let me give a word of warning if you hike this trail. There are lots of rocks in some places on the way down. And when I say rocks, I’m not talking about big rocks you can walk across with ease. No, these are ankle-breakers for sure! They are about the size of your fist so none of them are stable and they roll around as you walk on them. Go slow and be careful here! I came through when there were a lot of leaves on the ground which made it even worse in some places.

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Ok, so the main reason I came down this long trail was to hopefully get some icicle shots of the waterfall. What did I find? Nothing really. Bummer! I saw this sign for “Hot Dog Falls.” Wait, what?! I’m pretty sure this one didn’t make it into Tim Ernst’s book of waterfalls! I explored around but there just wasn’t any water flowing.

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At least I found a few pools of water to play around with. I decided to capture the reflections and the ice patches along the edges.

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Ok, I admit. I was quite bummed with the whole hike at this point. That was all I found after hiking way down here in the cold? And now I had to hike back up the steep climb I just came down?! Super… Oh well, guess I can take a picture of another cool old, weathered tree. Blah.

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So, I was almost back to the top when I came across a park bench the forestry service installed with a decent overlook as scenery. I decided to stop and rest a bit. I was about to mosey along when I spotted something white on the ground. Wait…. could it be!? Frost flowers!!! I had never seen one before other than in photos! Yay!!! This made the trip worthwhile! For those who don’t know, frost flowers aren’t flowers at all. They are rare frost formations that shoot from the stems of plants. Conditions have to be just right for them to form. In about 12 feet of the trail I found 5 or 6 of them but none were to be found anywhere else along the way. Again, conditions have to be just right.

From my limited knowledge, frost flowers are formed by moisture from a plant being forced out through cracks in the plant’s stem. The moisture turns into frost but then it continues to flow out over time making very delicate, intricate ribbons of frost. The frost can form beautiful patterns looking like flowers, hence the name. All of the ones I found were covered in leaves which made it hard to get decent photos. Still, I was thrilled just to see them!

I realize I got carried away with the frost flower pictures below, but hey… I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity! Each photo gives you a different feel for how they are made and how fragile they are.

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This next photo does a good job of showing where the frost began coming out of the plant stem.

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So, yeah. I’m pretty excited about the find on this trip. The hike itself would have been a bust if it weren’t for the frost flowers. I do plan on taking this hike again sometime when there is more water flowing. Some of the areas at the bottom have potential for some pretty scenes.

 



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