Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mid Autumn 2017_High Knob Massif Area


September 30, 2017
Rugged Stone-Pickem Mountain
Flag Rock Recreation Area - City of Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A chilly ending to September and beginning of October will help autumn color changes accelerate through coming days.

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Check this awesome drone video captured for the 
High Knob Hellbender 10K, to be run on October 7, showing the massive, spreading top of the 
High Knob Massif.

Hellbender 10K Finish Line
Check out the SWEET view you'll get after climbing 2,000 feet on Oct. 1. Register today at http://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=37753.
Posted by High Knob Hellbender 10k on Monday, August 29, 2016
Be sure to go full screen to fully enjoy the view.

( Drone Video by Robert VanGundy - August 29, 2017 )

A description of what is seen.

A great drone video that shows how truly massive the top of High Knob is as it spreads outward for miles ( thus the High Knob Massif ).  This is video shot for the 2017 High Knob Hellbender 10K.

The drone initially rises up for a view of the Big Cherry Lake basin, and high valleys, that spread out for miles with the Powell Mountain block in the far distance ( between East Stone Gap and the Duffield Valley ).  The top of the massif is all that can be seen when looking down the middle of Big Cherry Lake basin and adjoining Powell Mountain
on this morning.

The top of a fog layer, hovering over Powell Valley in Wise County, can just be seen on the right in between the mountain ridges as the drone hoves a bit in this direction.  The fog top is visible through Beaverdam Gap in the crest of the massif.  Ridges of Wallen Ridge and Stone Mountain are visible beyond the little rounded top of fog in this direction.  Note that the Wallen Ridge Prison site can be seen just beyond this rounded fog top as well.

The drone view turns left and shows Little Mountain Knob & Big Flat Top, as well as the top of valley fog lying over the Clinch River toward the far southeastern base of the massif  The large Straight Fork Gorge and far southeastern flanks of the massif, toward Devil Fork, are visible as the drone initially rose above the Lookout Tower and again here before it turns left across Little Mountain and Big Flat Top-Camp Rock.  Note at the beginning of the video that the U-shaped curve of the walk going up to the Lookout is pointed right at Straight Fork Gorge and a fog layer that is far in the distance over the Clinch River Valley.

As the drone continues turning left the High Knob Lake basin
comes into view, with the bowed-shaped crest line of Osborne Ridge, southeast of Bark Camp Lake, along the far horizon ( blocking the view of river valley fog over top the Clinch River Valley ).

As the drone continues turning left the Communication Towers on Eagle Knob come into view, with the sprawling eastern expanse of the massif seen partly to the right of the towers ( much of it is not visible and is being blocked by the high crest line that runs from Eagle Knob toward the communities of High Chaparral and Robinson Knob ).  Note a small, distinctly rounded knob that rises up to the lower right of the Communication Towers ( that is Little Eagle Knob at 3921 feet ).

The northern slopes of the massif, above Ramsey and the City of Norton, come into view to the left of the towers on Eagle Knob as you look downward.  The top of fog is again partially visible here over the Guest River Valley.

Note a separation in the trees up high on the massif as the drone continues turning left, that is State Route 619 as it comes across Chestnut Flats.  If you look off just right of this area you can see a long drainage going down toward a sharp topped peak, which is Benges Basin.  The Upper Norton Reservoir rests in a high cove along the front and side of that peak ( actually twin peaks that rise to over 3500 feet ).  The Norton Reservoirs are not visible.

As the drone continues turning left, U.S. 23 passing through the head of Powell Valley, near the Powell Valley Overlook, is visible through a gap in the crest that is locally known as Rocky Hollow. The dome-like ridge crest of Grindstone Ridge is then seen as the drone finishes its 360 degree rotation and looks back across lofty Big Cherry Basin.

The drone then does another 360 degree rotation which features a better, and more clear look toward the southeast and Osborne Ridge rising on the southeast side of the crest ( note how wide the mountain top is in this direction and how wide it is looking across the Big Cherry Basin and the Powell Mountain block ).

Note also how even-topped the valley fog layer appears over the
Clinch River Valley, as it has formed beneath a nocturnal temperature inversion.

It is good to know what you are looking at from such a great video, so I wanted to share this for the benefit of anyone interested ( the bird that flies by looks like it may be a Common Nighthawk, as it appears too big for a Swift, but I will have to look at it some more ).

This great drone video reminded me of the GoPro Video captured by pilot Harless Greear on May 16, 2014 as he made an awesome flight up and over the summit of High Knob.

May 16, 2014
Harless Greear GoPro Airplane Video

Another lingering nocturnal temperature inversion, so typical of this
complex terrain, can be seen during this flight up to the summit level.

September 30, 2017
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Brilliant Color In Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The brightest color, as of September 30, was developing along northern slopes of the High Knob Massif, with duller colorations at highest elevations where color was better during mid September.

September 30, 2017
11th Annual High Knob Naturalist Rally
Morning View From High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Eagle Knob of High Knob
September 2017 Temperatures
Elevation 4188 feet

Average Daily MAX: 63.8 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 52.4 degrees
MEAN: 58.1 degrees
Highest Temperature: 73 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 41 degrees
Total Rainfall: 3.50" to 4.00"

September 30, 2017
Elevation 3200 feet
Autumn In Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The first widespread 30s, with areas of frost, were observed in mountain valleys into morning hours of October 1.  Minimums varied from the upper 20s to 
middle 30s in colder valleys, with 34.8 degrees 
being the official low in Clintwood.

*A 26 degree low was recorded in Canaan Valley of the northeastern West Virginia highlands for the coldest valley temperature reported along the central-southern Appalachians during early October.

Canaan Valley was closer to the center of High Pressure, with efficient decoupling of boundary layer winds.  This is often a key factor for coldness in these high valley "frost pockets", with both Burkes Garden and valleys in the high country of the High Knob Massif having more turbulent mixing by wind during early October to limit their cooling potential ( to 31-32 degrees ).

September 30, 2017
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Brilliant Color In Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 30, 2017
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 30, 2017
Elevation 3200 feet
Flag Rock Recreation Area
Approaching Sunset Above The City of Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 30, 2017
Elevation 3200 feet
Flag Rock Recreation Area
Approaching Sunset Above The City of Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

September 30, 2017
Rugged Stone-Pickem Mountain
Flag Rock Recreation Area - City of Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

There remains a dominant green component upon looking downward toward Powell Valley Overlook 
in Little Stone Mountain Gap.

Observe the Black Mountain FAA Radar Dome 
is visible in the upper right corner of photograph.

September 30, 2017
Late Afternoon View From Flag Rock Overlook
Little Stone Mountain Gap-Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 4, 2017
The Nearly Full Harvest Moon
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Closing In On The Peak
Upper Elevations

October 5, 2017
Elevation 3318 feet
Autumn Reflections at Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

It is clear that color is approaching the peak at upper elevations in the High Knob Massif, with conditions varying from bare trees around High Knob Lookout 
to green trees mixed amid color in other locations.

October 5, 2017
Elevation 3200 feet
Autumn Beauty In Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Frosty cold nights during the past week 
have certainly enhanced color changes.

October 5, 2017
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Autumn Reflections at Upper Norton Reservoir
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The afternoon of October 5 was mostly ideal for photographing autumn color in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif, IF you were patient.  It took a while to capture clear water reflection shots due to wind that would erase the mirror-like palette of colors.

October 5, 2017
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Beautiful Mountain Maple ( Acer spicatum )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A diversity of species, many with northern affinities, add to the spectrum of color across middle-upper elevations in the High Knob Massif.

October 5, 2017
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Gorgeous Maroon-Burgundy-Purple of Ash
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

An array of White Ash Trees ( Fraxinus americana ) that display gorgeous colors every autumn, varying from maroon to purple, turn early and are long-lasting. 

A telephoto lens helps show the true beauty of these trees, which seem 
to always be most striking at elevations above 3000 to 3500 feet in the 
High Knob Massif on moist slopes receiving abundant sunlight.

October 5, 2017
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
White Ash Growing Above 3500 feet Elevation
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Brilliant Mixture of Autumn Color
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017
High Knob Massif
Color Mixture Along Cliff-laden Slope
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017
Upper Elevations of High Knob Massif
Brilliant Autumn Color Against Blue Skies
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017
High Knob Massif
Mirror-like + Ripples = Interesting Reflections
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 5, 2017
Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Colorful and Rugged Stone-Pickem Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The impact of heavy rain + wind with remnants of 
Nate will be detrimental to color at highest elevations, exposed to stronger winds, with affects on other zones being uncertain and dependent in part upon how bad conditions get during coming days.


Past Peak Conditions
High Crest-lines & Valleys
October 13, 2017

While some nice color can still be found, the peak has passed along highest crest lines and in the high valleys in wake of rain, wind, and early month temperatures that locally dipped to freezing or below.

October 13, 2017
Valley Floor Elevation 3200 feet
Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

An average nightly low temperature of 34.0 degrees 
was observed at the Big Cherry Valley 4 recording site during October 1-5, with 31.5 degrees being the lowest observed temperature.

This officially ended the growing 
season at 145 days ( 4.8 months ).

October 13, 2017
Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Sugar Maple Stands Out Amid Mainly Bare Trees
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Big Cherry Wetland 2
October 1-13 of 2017
Elevation 3248 feet

Average Daily MAX: 68.3 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 47.7 degrees
MEAN: 58.0 degrees
Highest Temperature: 73 degrees
Lowest Temperature: 37.3 degrees

A general range of conditions along the valley; although, 
it is unlikely that sensors are placed in either the coolest 
or warmest spots amid this large watershed basin.

Big Cherry Wetland 4
October 1-13 of 2017
Elevation 3186 feet

Average Daily MAX: 72.4 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 44.0 degrees
MEAN: 58.2 degrees
Highest Temperature: 77 degrees
*Lowest Temperature: 31.5 degrees

October 13, 2017
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 13, 2017
Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

When clouds form on upslope flow, and the high country does not actually become engulfed inside them, it is as if you can almost reach up and touch the cloud bases on days like October 13.

October 13, 2017
SE Wind Upslope Flow
Big Cherry Wetland Valley
Reach Up And Touch The Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Color Peak Yet To Come
Lower-Middle Elevations

The peak of color was yet to come, as of October 12, 
across lower-middle elevations along and north of the 
High Knob Massif.

October 12, 2017
Northern Dickenson County
Developing Color Along Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 12, 2017
View From Adam Childress Family Farm
Developing Color Along Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 12, 2017
Developing Color Along Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 12, 2017
Upper Big Sandy River Basin
Developing Color Along Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 12, 2017
Beautiful Skies Above Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Strange Color Season

Color changes this autumn have been disjointed, and never collected into a grand climax as occurs during the best color seasons. 


October 18, 2017
Beautiful PM Skies - Temp Upper 50s
Upper Norton Reservoir In Benges Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Although there is now more brown in the color palette around the reservoirs in Benges Basin of the High Knob Massif ( City of Norton Watershed ), it ranges from bare trees to lingering green in Northern Red Oaks ( Quercus rubra var. borealis ).

Even at upper elevations some hold out green is seen in the 
Northern Red Oak type typical of Northern Hardwoods.

October 18, 2017
Above Upper Norton Reservoir
From Bare Trees To Green Northern Red Oaks
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High crest-lines and the colder high valleys are past peak with many bare trees, while a significant amount of green remains into some lower-middle elevations below 2500 to 2000 feet above mean sea level.

October 18, 2017
Beautiful Skies & Water Reflections
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Some of the best color right now can be seen down in the gorges, such as Benges Branch Gorge which drains the dual reservoir system for the City of Norton.

October 18, 2017
Above Benges Branch Gorge
Rugged North Face of Stone-Pickem Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

It was a beautiful afternoon with temperatures in the middle to upper 50s, to around 60 degrees, at elevations above 3200 feet in the High Knob Massif.

October 18, 2017
Rugged Edge of Benges Branch Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 18, 2017
Powell River Watershed
Benges Branch Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Past Peak But Still Pretty
High Knob Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Past Peak But Still Pretty & Gusty
High Knob Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Late Afternoon Moon Rise
High Knob Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Nice Color On Northern Slopes Above Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

As of late October the best color is on slopes rising above the City of Norton, and along the Pickem and Little Stone Mountain ( toward Town of Appalachia ) flank of the massif.

It remains colorful along and below 3500 feet, with increasingly bare 
trees above this level as well as within cold air drainages of high valleys between 3000 and 3500 feet.

October 27, 2017
Mostly Bare Above - Colorful Below 3400 feet
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Nice Color On Northern Slopes Above Norton
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
Looking Toward Little Stone Mountain Gap
Approaching Sunset - Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
City of Norton Park
Majestic Sunset From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017
City of Norton Park
Sunset From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved