Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Beauty Of Winter Amid The High Knob Massif


January 31, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Winter Beauty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Pristine beauty was on majestic display in Benges Basin of the High Knob Massif on this final day of January 2016.




January 31, 2016
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Reflections of Light Upon Ice & Water
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Run-off from a melting snowpack was just enough to spread a film of water over top of a shield of ice that covered the entire lake, enhancing reflections of trees, sky, and clouds.

January 31, 2016
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Reflections of Light Upon Ice & Water
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The only fault to this day, ROARING SW Winds.  Gusts of 30-50+ mph made it sound like a JET had landed atop the massif.  As later shown, this made for some nasty summit level conditions.

January 31, 2016
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Debris On Lake From ROARING SW Winds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Yellow Birch ( Betula alleghaniensis ) trees are among my favorite, so I was in hog heaven with the afternoon light, snow and icy lake reflections in these scenes ( I show only a few of many I took ).

January 31, 2016
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Yellow Birch Trees & Reflections Upon Ice
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

My friend-photographer Roddy Addington and I had arrived here by chance, as we had initially started to leave the summit along Route 238 past High Knob Lake toward High Chaparral but the road became snow-ice packed, so we decided to turn around and return by State Route 619.

January 31, 2016
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Yellow Birch Trees & Reflections Upon Ice
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A general 3" to 12"+ of snow depth was along the Reservoir trail, which was no guess since I had an official NWS yard stick and was measuring all along the way.

Afternoon of January 31, 2016
Powell River Watershed of Upper Tennessee Basin
Snow Along Trail Around Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This amount of snow was WAY down from big depths observed a week earlier, but remained impressive given a prolonged period of above freezing temperatures along with recent rain that featured obscuration in orographic cap clouds.

*Being in the fog of clouds, in above freezing air, is one of the most rapid ways to melt down a big snowpack during winter as mild, humid air is a much more efficient "snow eater" 
than is mild, dry air.

Afternoon of January 31, 2016
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
An Interesting Break In The Lake Ice Shield
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

One of the most interesting aspects here was the continuous bobbing up and down of the lake ice sheet in strong SW winds.  No doubt this probably contributed to an interesting crack that formed like Roddy ( a carpenter & home builder ) had used his skill-saw to cut it open!

January 31, 2016
Frozen High Knob Lake In Valley
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A portion of ice covered High Knob Lake can be seen near lower left center of photograph, amid the high valley with a water elevation of 3490 feet above mean sea level.  Temps out beyond this cloud deck, into the Great Valley, were MUCH warmer and had actually reached into the 60s during this final weekend of January ( by contrast, temperatures in the lower 40s, with wind chills in the 20s & 30s, were felt taking these photographs a mere 30 or so air miles to the north ).

Conditions up top had been much different into 
the early afternoon, with orographic clouds and a persistent deck that combined with ROARING SW winds to make conditions feel much colder than the sunshine at Upper Norton Reservoir ( sunshine finally made a return into mid-late afternoon ).

NASA Visible Image At Noon on January 31

A photography Note: While it might appear that I had either the wrong strength of a graduated neutral density filter in front of the lens, or held it in the wrong position, the sharp cloud line above truly existed and showed up beautifully on NASA visible imagery ( above ).

January 31, 2016
Orographic Wave Cloud Visible
Frozen Big Cherry Lake In High Valleys
Looking Across Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If you know where to look, a tiny portion of ice covered Big Cherry Lake can be seen in this photograph ( water elevation 3120 feet above mean sea level ).  Nice orographic wave clouds were also visible in this direction as very strong SW air flow pushed across the sprawling mass of high country.

January 31, 2016
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Snow Depth Along Trail To High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Snow depths were not trivial, with widespread 
6-10" amid general 1-2+ foot drifts which were widespread ( locally up to around 3 feet ).

January 31, 2016
Peak of the High Knob Massif
Measured Snow Depth On High Knob
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Lines of deep, wind blown snow were widespread along the high ridges with depths figured to be only around a third to one-half, at very most in spots, of what they were a week earlier when roads in the main crest zone were blocked by drifts. 

January 31, 2016
Peak of the High Knob Massif
Wind Blown Lines of Deep Snow
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Nearby Route 237 into Big Cherry Lake basin remained blocked by snow drifts into January 29-30, to illustrate 
how bad conditions were in the massif.

January 31, 2016
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Endemic Southern Appalachian North Woods
Snow Along Route 238 In Northern Hardwoods
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The City of Norton Water Plant obtained an excellent storm total down at the base of the massif by using the official NWS method of measuring snowfall every 6-hours during this event.

City of Norton Water Plant
Andrew Greear, Caleb Ramesy, Wes Ward
Elevation 2342 feet

January 22 at 9:00 AM
4.0″

January 22 at 4:00 PM
1.8″

January 22 at 9:45 PM
6.0″

January 23 at 3:40 AM
2.0″

January 23 at 9:00 AM
2.8″

January 23 at 3:00 PM
1.5″

January 23 at 9:30 PM
1.0″

Snowfall Total: 19.1″

The water equivalent total ending at 9:00 AM on January 24 was 2.32" for this event, with 13.3" of the snow accumulation coming after winds shifted northerly at the Norton Water Plant.

*The only measurement that had to be partially estimated was the first one due to a tremendous amount of SLEET which tended to bounce off of the measuring surface.  After each measurement the surface is swept clean and made ready to collect what falls during the period until the next 6-hour measurement can be taken ( do not measure more often for the official record ).  An exception includes if snow sticks then melts, it is good to measure before it melts if possible.

Morning of January 31, 2016
Northern Base of High Knob Massif
Road Into The City of Norton Water Plant
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I measured a general 4" to 6" of snow depth at the Water Plant during the morning before Roddy and I headed up to the summit level, some 2082 vertical feet higher than downtown Norton.

January 31, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Winter Beauty At Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

How would you like to photograph in a place 
where a bear uses an electrical pole like a cat 
uses a scratching post?  

Winter 2015-16
Electrical Pole - Scratching Post For Mr. Hoss
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If nothing else, Mr. Hoss ( don't never forget to 
call him Mr. ) will keep one on "his toes" and 
paying attention to the surroundings!

Winter 2015-16
Electrical Pole - Scratching Post For Mr. Hoss
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Recent melt of the deep snowpack combined with rain to cause water to flow out of every nook and cranny, not to mention ROAR on the many steep creek draining the High Knob Massif.

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Hemlock Spiral & Rugged Cliff Laden Woods
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A few patches of snow remained in the woods 
on February 4, amazingly, after 2.00" to 3.00"+ 
of rain fell to open up the month.

February 4, 2016
Benges Branch of High Knob Massif
Yellow Birch Betula alleghaniensis )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Benges Branch of Powell River
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful whitewater was gushing on Benges Branch, way downstream from the lower 
Norton Reservoir, during February 4

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Benges Branch of Powell River
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2015
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Rugged Cliff Laden Mesophytic Woods
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Waterfall Over Colorful Rock Outcrop
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Tributary of Robinette Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Tributary of Robinette Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Whitewater On Tributary of Robinette Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2015
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Rugged Cliff Laden Mesophytic Woods
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
City of Norton Watershed
Waterfall Over A Weir Dam On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
City of Norton Watershed
Waterfall Over A Weir Dam On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
City of Norton Watershed
Waterfall Over A Weir Dam On Benges Branch
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 4, 2016
High Knob Massif
Beautiful Setting In Benges Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This section is under construction.  Please check back.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Weather Pattern Begins The New Year


January 1, 2016
High Country of High Knob Massif
Majestic Rime Capped Grindstone Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved




Rime coated high gaps and peaks along the windward front of the High Knob Massif into 
the first day of 2016, from southwest of historic 
Big Stone Gap to south of Coeburn.

More rime and snow will soon coat the high country as the first in a series of Arctic air masses invade the mountains.  This first blast being timed for Monday ( January 4 ) with 
a second, potentially Major Arctic Outbreak, surge of bitter air looking increasingly likely about a week later in time.

An important snow, or snowstorm potential, will also have to be monitored in advance of that beast.  Odds of this occurring are high given that all major teleconnections have trended or are moving into favorable phases for very cold conditions 
east of the Rockies.  A major pattern flip from December! 

January 1, 2016
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Orographic Cloud Above Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Gorgeous scenes were captured during the afternoon despite abundant haze and low-level moisture trapped beneath a day-time inversion.

January 1, 2016
Hazy Head of Powell Valley In Wise County VA
Rime Capped Massif Above The Lonesome Pine
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 1, 2016
Head of Powell Valley of High Knob Massif
Rime Above Great Belt of Calcareous Cliffs
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The distinct nature of this inversion was noted upon looking south from the High Knob Massif where a low cloud deck covered the Tennessee Valley, with the blue crest of lofty Roan Mountain standing above the inversion layer along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

January 1, 2016
Looking South from High Knob Lookout
Crest of Roan Mountain Above Inversion Layer
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Roan Mountain is around 70 air miles SSE of the High Knob Massif and is not nearly as close as the above photograph might suggest.

January 1, 2016
Hazy Beneath Breaking Inversion
Nice Way To Start The New Year
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Lighting was beautiful despite an atypical amount of haze for this time of year ( that mixed out for a very cold night with MINS into January 2 dipping into 10s across the high country of the massif ).

January 1, 2016
Looking Southwest From High Knob Lookout
Majestic Orographic Clouds Above High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 1, 2016
High Knob Lake Visible In Lower Center
Looking SE Across Sprawling Crest of Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Water on High Knob Lake was either reflecting light brightly or had some ice forming on its surface ( difficult to tell from that distance ).

January 1, 2016
Looking SE Across Sprawling Crest of Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The High Knob Massif is full of rock formations, with my friend Jerry Rose of the Crab Orchard community pointing out some that I had not photographed before.

January 1, 2016
High Knob Massif
Rock Formation In Big Stony Creek Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 1, 2016
High Knob Massif
Rock Formation In Big Stony Creek Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The rock formation above had previously been used as a water source with an old pipe sticking out of its base.  The flow of water has long since abandoned the pipe and now runs out below it.

January 1, 2016
Rock Formation In The High Knob Massif
Near Divide Of Clear Creek-Big Stony Creek
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Powell Valley Sunset

I was blessed to catch a gorgeous sunset from Powell Valley Overlook in wake of day-time flurries, snow showers, and squalls that 
produced a dusting up to 1-2" in the area.

January 4, 2016
Powell Valley of High Knob Massif
Gorgeous Sunset From Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Wind chills were so low that my fingers got numb taking
these scenes, but were well above the sub-zero chill factors
across the High Knob Massif summit level during Monday 
into early hours of Tuesday ( January 4-5, 2016 ).

January 4, 2016
Powell Valley of High Knob Massif
Gorgeous Sunset From Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Gush of Whitewater from Massif


December 26, 2015
Little Stony Creek Basin of High Knob Massif
Spray From Upper Falls of Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved




December 26, 2015
Little Stony Creek Basin of High Knob Massif
Spray From Upper Falls of Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Spray spread out from falls in Little Stony Gorge 
as whitewater gushed once again from the great 
High Knob Massif in wake of heavy Christmas rain.

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Moss can be seen undergoing sexual reproduction, amid this wet and unseasonably mild December, along bottom of the above photograph.

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

An interesting rock below the Middle Falls made for a beautiful set of photographs as whitewater ran around and thinly over the rock to reveal distinct flow lines amid this turbulence.

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The many steep creeks draining the sprawling High Knob Massif generate not only majestic whitewater but also powerful water, filled with turbulence, that can easily sweep anyone off their feet and quickly downstream.

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
Up Close View of Turbulent Whitewater
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
Looking Downstream From Above Middle Falls
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A rather amazing scene at the Middle Falls found an upturned tree laying down across the falls with 
a large rock in base of its trunk.

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
Large Rock In Base Of Upturned Tree
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Middle Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
( Taken 53 minutes before next Photo )
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Middle Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Middle Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Water was running into the gorge from many places, and down the trail as well, to illustrate that the ground was full beyond capacity in wake of yet another heavy December rainfall event.

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
Water Running Out Of Everywhere Into Creek
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Whitewater Gushes from High Knob Massif
Heavy Spray At Upper Falls of Little Stony
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Abundant spray generates natural communities that are now recognized by the Virginia DCR Natural Heritage Program as being part of important life zones.

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Beautiful Whitewater In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Looking Down From Top of Upper Falls
Turbulent Mass of Churning Whitewater
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
Not Icicles But Water - Wet December 2015
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015 at 4:43 PM
Upper Falls of Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Creek of Clinch River
Upper Falls of Little Stony Just Before Sunset
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If you find yourself near the Upper Falls at sunset the best place to go is the open heath barren along Bear Rock ridge, which offers outstanding and rather unusual views amid the upper gorge.

December 26, 2015
Little Stony Creek Basin of High Knob Massif
Looking Southeast from Bear Rock Heath Barren
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Heath Barren of High Knob Massif
Sunset Above Bear Rock of Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Heath Barren of High Knob Massif
Sunset Above Bear Rock of Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Heath Barren of High Knob Massif
Sunset Above Bear Rock of Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Heath Barren of High Knob Massif
Sunset Above Bear Rock of Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Heath Barren of High Knob Massif
Sunset Above Bear Rock of Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Bear Rock of High Knob Massif
Post-Sunset Sky In Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

December 26, 2015
Bear Rock of High Knob Massif
Post-Sunset Sky In Little Stony Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved