Monday, November 3, 2014

First Significant Winter Storm Of 2014-15 Season


Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:07 AM
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
High Knob Lake Shines Amid Rime Forest
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The surface of High Knob Lake shines near center of above photograph as the bright white area beneath rime covered ridges.  The southeastern edge of the massif's sprawling crest, known as Osborne Ridge, rises toward low hanging cloud bases in the distance.

The High Knob Landform

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The Appalachian Climate Center

This documents a journey to photograph the first winter storm of 2014-15 in the high country of the High Knob Massif.  A gorgeous sunrise, icy roads, brutal cold, orographic cap clouds, rime, snow, and pure majesty filled this Sunday adventure.


Flag Rock Recreation Area
City of Norton Park  

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:01 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Majestic Contrast Between Autumn & Winter
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Little Stone Mountain Gap, the dark gap near right of scene where visible rime-snow abruptly ends, is where U.S. 23 passes between Norton and Powell Valley near Powell Valley Overlook.

My friend & photographer Roddy Addington and I knew this trip was going to be a winner when the first stop of the morning offered a gorgeous sunrise and striking contrast between the seasons.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:02 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Majestic Contrast Between Autumn & Winter
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Although below cloud bases, which were still engulfing higher sections of the massif, it did not take long to also figure out that this was going to be a very COLD job as fingers numbed at Flag Rock.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:06 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Majestic Contrast Between Autumn & Winter
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:08 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Sunrise Above The Rugged Cumberlands
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Rays of sunlight illuminated small sections of 
Little Stone Mountain, in the foreground, and Black Mountain in the distance, to enhance the beauty of this view. 

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:08 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Little Stone Mountain of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

November 2, 2014
Roddy Addington HDR Photograph
Morning Sunrise From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rod Addington Photography

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:12 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Lower Northern Slope of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:13 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Looking Across Hoot-Owl Hollow Of Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:13 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Looking Across Hoot-Owl Hollow Of Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:13 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Rugged Hoot-Owl Hollow Spur Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The best light during the morning & evening is fleeting, and it pays not to waste time when it comes to getting the best shots if that type of 
light is your favorite.

Elevation 3200 feet
November 2, 2014 at 7:14 AM
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Majestic Contrast Between Autumn & Winter
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


Crest Zone of Massif
High Knob Lookout Tower

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Up In The Clouds At High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Visibility, light, clouds, bitter cold wind chills, all became a problem upon climbing upward into the clouds to the High Knob Lookout, where snow was wind swept but deeper than lower down and rime simply gorgeous when breaking out of the clouds.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:05 AM
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Northern Raven Being Chased By Flock Of Birds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Although hard to make out visually in this size of photo, a croaking Northern Raven ( Corvus corax ) was being chased by a small flock of birds ( to the lower right of my copyright ).

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:10 AM
Heavy Rime Along High Knob Meadow
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

It was difficult to see at times until periodic holes began to finally open up these orographic clouds forming on strong, gusty upsloping N-NNW winds.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:17 AM
Some Holes Finally Open In Upslope Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:19 AM
Rime Covered Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime BLAZES In Morning Sunlight
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

A serious BLAZE factor emerged as sunlight finally struck the summit, revealing portions of this great RIME FOREST which covers many square miles of the sprawling High Knob Massif.

The cloud shrouded Big Cherry Lake Basin set these views off with a strong contrast between blazing rime and it's background darkness.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime BLAZES In Morning Sunlight
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Rime & Wind Blown Snow At Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:25 AM
Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
A Little More Revelation Amid Upslope Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:25 AM
A Huge Chunk Of High Country Appears
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM
Miles Of Rime & Snow Covered High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM
Changing Light Amid Orographic Cap Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

By this point in time it began to get serious, that is the pain in my hands & face against 0 degree wind chill factors ( air temps in the upper 10s to around 20 degrees with 20-30 mph North winds ).

*I had gloves but could not work the shutter good with them on all the time.  It was so windy that leaving the camera standing by itself on a tripod was not safe, and conditions so come-and-go with visibility that taking shots on the fly was the only productive way.  Using my remote control release with the camera on a tripod would have been ideal, but conditions were just not conducive here.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:27 AM
Classic Postcard Winter Shot In Autumn!
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:29 AM
Looking Across Grindstone Ridge Dome
Rime-Snow Covered Head of Big Cherry Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:32 AM
High Knob Lookout Tower View
Sunlight "Lights Up" Distance Crestline
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

It is simply amazing how distant trees can barely show rime until the sun "lights them up."  Incredible!

Elevation 4223 feet
November 2, 2014 at 8:33 AM
High Knob Lookout Tower View
Big Cherry Basin-Powell Mountain Block
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


High Knob Lake Basin

November 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM
Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Significant Snow-Rime Along Icy Route 238
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

November 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM
Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Significant Snow-Rime Along Icy Route 238
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

November 2, 2014
Majestic Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

I took a snow core in Head of High Knob Lake Basin where I like to measure snow when air flows have northern components, and obtained 0.93" of water content ( * ).

*This snow core does not include the rain-snow that fell and melted before sticking began.  It was also not contaminated by rime drop from trees, as the photographs reveal, but likely was full of rimed snowflakes given persistent orographic clouds that engulfed upper elevations during this event.

This meant that more than 10" of snow fell since the snow density was less ( snow to water ratio higher ) than 10:1 amid these upper elevations where air temps from the surface upward were much colder than at lower elevations.

November 2, 2014 at 8:50 AM
Majestic Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

I made dozens of snow depth measurements which varied from wind swept ground to around 14", with rime accumulations of 1-3" being common on trees.

November 2, 2014
Crest Zone of High Knob Massif
Measuring Snow Depth In Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

November 2, 2014 at 8:51 AM
Majestic Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


Little Stony Creek Valley
Bark Camp Lake

Driving east from High Knob Lake Basin the snow and rime was abundant until dropping downward into the Little Stony Creek Valley, where much less was seen at Bark Camp Lake.

Water Elevation 2734 feet
November 2, 2014 at 9:51 AM
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Despite having a water elevation of 2734 feet above sea level, the lake is nearly 1500 vertical feet lower in elevation than the summit of the High Knob Massif.  The Little Stony Creek Valley can have considerable downslope flow when winds blow from the W-NW.

Water Elevation 2734 feet
November 2, 2014 at 9:51 AM
Bark Camp Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Oaks trees near the Lake still retained some color.

This section is under construction.  Check back for updates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Autumn Color Photographs In 2014


October 21, 2014
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Majesty Of South Fork Gorge In Autumn
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


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Introducing My Membership 
Forecast & Climate Website
Appalachian Climate Center

Gorgeous color remained in the more protected places of the High Knob Massif on October 21, with sections of foggy South Fork Gorge still holding onto some green in Oak species.

These first two photographs were taken only 2 minutes apart in time, revealing a magical dance of light across the rugged expanse of South Fork of the Powell River Gorge where brilliant autumn colors remained in more protected sites ( the peak generally passed above 3000 feet ).

October 21, 2014
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Majesty Of Changing Light On Autumn Leaves
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Lets break this journey down into sections.


Powell Valley
Early Afternoon

October 21, 2014
View From Mountain Empire Community College
Rugged Mountain Flank of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Mountain Empire Community College offers awesome views of the High Knob Massif, being nestled amid its rugged mountain walls at the southern end of Powell Valley in Wise County.

October 21, 2014
Looking Toward Long Hollow
View From Mountain Empire Community College
Rugged Mountain Flank of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014
View From Floor of Powell Valley
Rugged Mountain Flank of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

This view, looking toward Grindstone Ridge Dome, reminds me of the famous Half Dome in Yosemite National Park ( a forested and down-scaled Appalachian version of it in this case ).

October 21, 2014
View From Floor of Powell Valley
Looking Toward Grindstone Ridge Dome
Rugged Mountain Flank of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


South Fork Gorge
Big Stone Gap Water Plant

October 21, 2014
High Knob Massif
Whitewater In South Fork Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Water volume in South Fork Gorge on October 21 generated scenic views and sounds, unlike the torrent which ROARED through the gorge following big rains last week.

October 21, 2014
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Whitewater In Rugged South Fork Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Gary Hampton, Superintendent of the Big Stone Gap Water Plant, shot a short video last week showing the gush of whitewater coming down the gorge from Big Cherry Lake basin.

October 15, 2014
Whitewater Gushes In South Fork Gorge
video
Video by Gary Hampton - © All Rights Reserved.

A still iPhone photograph of this scene.

October 15, 2014
Whitewater Gushes In South Fork Gorge
Photograph by Gary Hampton - © All Rights Reserved.

Gary & staff measured 8.15" of rain at the Big Stone Gap Water Plant, nestled amid the mouth of South Fork Gorge above Cracker Neck of Powell Valley, during the October 1-19 period.

October 21, 2014
Large Cliffs In South Fork Gorge
Big Stone Gap WP of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Amid this beautiful cold air drainage corridor at Big Stone Gap Water Plant grow many tree species, including Yellow Birch ( Betula alleghaniensis ) and Yellow Buckeye ( Aesculus flava ) nestled among rugged cliffs.

October 21, 2014
Powell River of Upper Tennessee Basin
South Fork Gorge Below The Water Plant
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


South Fork Gorge
Lower Sections

October 21, 2014
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Mixed Forest In Lower Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Pat Murphy, Town Manager, and all the town council and residents of Big Stone Gap, should 
be commended for keeping this forest in tact.

It is a truly wonderous natural resource in so many ways, not the least of which is that it supports the most abundant water supply in the Old Dominion 
( and one of the greatest in the USA ) via this being part of the wettest terrain in Virginia. 

October 21, 2014
Lower Portion of South Fork Gorge
Powell River Watershed of Upper Tennessee Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The cliff line in far upper right of the above photograph 
is shown using a telephoto lens in the photograph below.

October 21, 2014 at 2:52 PM
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Cliff Line In Rugged South Fork Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014 at 5:26 PM
Looking Toward Little Stone Mountain
Heading Back Down Through The South Fork
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Little Stone Mountain featured a lovely purplish-blue color during late afternoon ( the color above being true to what was visible ) upon the return trip back down through South Fork Gorge.


South Fork Gorge
Upper Sections

October 21, 2014
Upper Portion of Gorge
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

A very wet and milder than average October has prolonged autumn color, especially amid the more protected places along slopes, coves, and gorges.

October 21, 2014
Town of Big Stone Gap Watershed
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The first significant color changes began approximately 1 month ago, in mid-late September, amid upper elevations of the High Knob Massif.

September 27, 2014
8th Annual High Knob Naturalist Rally

October 5, 2014
Autumn Color 2014 - High Knob Massif

October 21, 2014
Upper Portion of Gorge
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The most dramatic aspect of being in upper portions of South Fork Gorge on this afternoon was the interplay between changing light and autumn color, with a shaft of sunlight below illuminating colors behind the cliff line shown at 2:52 PM. 

October 21, 2014
Upper Portion of Gorge
Shaft Of Sunlight Illuminates Color Behind Cliffs
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The location from which this photograph was taken is nearly level with the top of the cliff line illustrated by the telephoto shot taken at 2:52 PM from the lower gorge.

October 21, 2014
Upper Portion of Gorge
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

This is a place with a view and sound ( churning whitewater below ) that never gets tiresome!

October 21, 2014
Upper Portion of Gorge
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

I put in some time, going up and down, taking shots at different angles and in different light amid this beauty spot ( capturing photograph number one which introduced this autumn update ).

October 21, 2014
Town of Big Stone Gap Watershed
Autumn Along South Fork Gorge-Big Cherry Road
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014
Town of Big Stone Gap Watershed
Autumn Along South Fork Gorge-Big Cherry Road
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


Big Cherry Lake
Autumn In Upper Elevations

October 21, 2014
Road Leading Into Big Cherry Lake
Autumn In High Country of Southern Appalachians
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

While there was still some nice color surrounding Big Cherry Lake, the autumn color peak has passed above 3000 feet in the High Knob Massif.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Low Overcast Above Big Cherry Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The best and most vivid colors above 3000 feet
were observed during the October 4-17 period.

Conditions at Big Cherry Lake were windy and notably colder than down in Powell Valley, with a stiff and shivering wind coming from the north-northwest across the Lake.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Thickly Vegetated Shore of Big Cherry Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

The shores of this high country 
lake are very thickly vegetated.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
The Old Dam Under Water At Big Cherry Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Gary Hampton measured 8.62" of rainfall 
at Big Cherry Dam during October 1-21.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Big Cherry Lake of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Edge Of High Country Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Shoreline Of A High Country Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014
Water Elevation 3120 feet
Shoreline Of A High Country Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.


Powell Valley
Late Afternoon

Powell Valley Overlook is always a favorite stop for photographs, with autumn being especially striking as colors peak amid the Valley to contrast with past peak conditions above the great band of calcareous cliffs ringing the High Knob Massif.

October 21, 2014 at 6:02 PM
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014 at 6:05 PM
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014 at 6:06 PM
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014 at 6:07 PM
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Previous photographs from southern portions of Powell Valley generally show more color than here in the valley head where colors tend to develop a little faster ( still some gorgeous maples were just beneath the Overlook ).

October 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM
Increasing Color In The Sky Nearing Sunset
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

October 21, 2014 at 6:40 PM
Classic Trail Of The Lonesome Pine Vista
Autumn Color At Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Reference This Section For More Photographs
Color Peak 2014 As Whitewater ROARS