Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Early Summer 2019_High Knob Massif


June 6, 2019
High Knob Lake
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

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A cool and wet pattern has dominated early 
Summer 2019 with the highest temperatures observed through June 12 having reached only 
68 degrees on Eagle Knob and 70 degrees 
at High Knob Lake.

Highest temperatures observed so far in 2019 have reached 75 degrees on Eagle Knob, 76 degrees at High Knob Lake and 78 degrees on the southeast facing slope of High Knob.

*It is interesting to note that these highest readings observed on High Knob and Eagle Knob occurred at the beginning of May while trees were still bare (allowing more incoming solar radiation to heat the ground).

June 6, 2019
High Knob Lake Wetland
Clinch Ranger District_Jefferson National Forest
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Temperatures dropped into low-mid 40s, with wind chills in the 30s, during morning hours of June 11 and these were not the lowest observed so far nor will they be as chilly as those yet to come.

*Temperatures in high mountain valleys dropped into the upper 30s to lower 40s on June 4, marking the coldest temps observed since May 15 when readings fell into the upper 20s to middle 30s.

June 6, 2019
High Knob Lake Wetland of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Birds were active in the 60s of June 6,
with a few of the observed species including:

Cedar Waxwing
(Bombycilla cedrorum)

**Canada Warbler
(Cardellina canadensis)

*Veery Thrush
(Catharus fuscescens)

*Least Flycatcher
(Empidonax virescens)

Dark-eyed Junco
(Junco hyemalis)

*Black-and-White Warbler
(Mniotilta varia)

*Louisiana Waterthrush
(Parkesia motacilla)

*Scarlet Tanager
(Piranga olivacea)

Northern Parula
(Setophaga americana)

**Black-throated Blue Warbler
(Setophaga caerulescens)

*Hooded Warbler
(Setophaga citrina)

*Blackburnian Warbler
(Setophaga fusca)

*Magnolia Warbler
(Setophaga magnolia)

*American Redstart
(Setophaga ruticilla)

*Black-throated Green Warbler
(Setophaga virens)

*Red-breasted Nuthatch
(Sitta canadensis)

*Audubon Climate Threatened Species

** Audubon Climate Threatened 
Priority Bird Species

June 6, 2019
High Knob Lake Cove_Elevation 3500 feet
High Knob Lake Special Biological Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A significant aspect of the High Knob Massif is 
that it provides habitat for many species of birds, or avifauna, which are designated as being threatened by changing climate.  Many of these species are more common in Canada and northern portions of the eastern USA.

These are birds whose large-scale habitats, either 
in their summer breeding grounds, winter resident locations, or both, are threatened by the changing conditions due to global climate change as well as habitat destruction related to human activities 
(in many cases).

June 6, 2019
High Knob Lake
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A general 11.00" to 12.00"+ of rain from May 1 to June 10 have pushed 2019 precipitation totals into the 40.00"to 45.00" range in the high country, with 35.00" to 40.00" at middle elevations along northern flanks of the massif.

June 6, 2019
Beautiful Cove At High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This recent pattern has generated days of capping orographic clouds at highest elevations, featuring wind driven fogs, with standing wave clouds and occasional breaks on the leeside (with respect to 
SE flow) over Powell Valley in Wise County.

June 9, 2019
Looking South Toward High Knob
Orographic Clouds Capping High Knob Massif
University Of Virginia's College At Wise CAM

The weather research CAM at UVA-Wise has captured many extraordinary views during 
this wet June pattern.

June 10, 2019
Looking South Toward High Knob
Orographic Clouds Capping High Knob Massif
University Of Virginia's College At Wise CAM

June 10, 2019
Looking South Toward High Knob
Wind Shift To The NW-N With Cold Front
University Of Virginia's College At Wise CAM

June 11, 2019
Looking South Toward High Knob
Dry Air Advection Temporarily Breaks Wetness
University Of Virginia's College At Wise CAM

Dr. Phil Shelton and I did the annual 50-stop 
High Knob Breeding Survey Route between 0540 and 1140 hours on June 12, amid unseasonably chilly conditions, ending up at Bear Rock Heath Barren overlooking the gorge of Little Stony Creek.

June 12, 2019
Bear Rock Heath Barren
Little Stony Creek Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

A couple of notable features this year were noise generated by gusty SE-S winds at upper elevations and by water in mountain valleys and gorges (we barely finished before rain showers began to redevelop yet again).

Daytime temps did not rise above the low-mid 50s at highest elevations, so despite wearing a short-sleeved shirt covered by a thermal, long-sleeved shirt and a UVA-Wise pullover hoodie I had chills and was actually shivering with 3-layers in June!

June 12, 2019
Bear Rock Heath Barren
Turbulent Clouds With Developing Showers
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Bear Rock Heath Barren features sheer drops along 
both sides of a vertical cliff line, capped by many interesting species of flora, as well as birds, and a nearly 360 degree view of the mountain landscape.

This page is under construction.  Please check back.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Special Tribute To Addison Stallard


This page is being republished and updated as a tribute to Addison Stallard who passed at the age 
of 99 years on May 17, 2019.

High Knob Massif
Summer In The Head of Powell Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This photograph is of a great mountain, which rises above a man who knows it in a way unlike anyone alive today. 

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He's lived beneath it nearly his entire life, and portions of the Valley spreading out from it's great mass have been in his family for more than 176 years!

Interior Valley of the High Knob Massif
Morning Fog Covers The Floor of Powell Valley 
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In years past, this used to be 
the stomping ground of The Man!

This website does not typically recognize the birthdays of
family and friends, although all are treasured and respected.

It is not every day, however, that a friend 99 years old
passes from this Earth with such a strong connection to
the landscape of High Knob.  From Powell Valley to the
Big Cherry wetlands, Addison had a strong and unique
connection to this landscape.

Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
 Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

*Originally Published in December 2009

This is a special tribute to:
Addison M. Stallard

I really am not certain, even after all these years, 
of what the "M" stands for.  Perhaps, Methuselah, now that he's turning the BIG 90 on December 7 
in the year 2009.

All I know for certain, is that 
it stands for "My Friend."

Addison is a positive influence in my life and has made the world around him a much better place. That is the greatest tribute which can be bestowed upon anyone, since ultimately it matters not how much money you have or what rank you hold in society.

What matters, plain and simple, is that this world 
( around YOU ) is left a BETTER PLACE for YOU having lived.  Addison is an exemplary example from which we all may learn this most vital principle of human life.

If your life has not been what you wanted it to be, TODAY is a new day!  Everyone has special gifts, whether they are recognized or not, which make them UNIQUE.

Discover those gifts and use them to make the world around YOU a better place.  They may seem so little, but ultimately mean so very much to someone, or something. 

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Addison and his truly beloved Elizabeth are simply extraordinary folks, as anyone fortunate enough to know them can testify.

Elizabeth lived a while in Lee County, Va., before moving with her family into the Head of Powell Valley in Wise County at the sweet age of 15 
( time has only made her sweeter ).

Addison was not living in "The Valley" at the time Elizabeth initially moved there.  He had moved to another state with his family, after being born and raised in The Valley. 

Upon a return visit to see his Grandparents the beauty of The Mountain, The Valley, and the new "Girl Next Door" could simply never again be let go from his heart! 

Powell Valley Sunset
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Elizabeth & Addison both have strong, deep roots in the High Knob Landform that extend back to its original settlers, as noted in opening remarks.

The best way for those not knowing this Man, 
and the Mountain above, is to hear him speak in HIS OWN words via a composite of speeches he's given to various groups over the years ( ** ).

**I have selected portions from his speeches which I think will give you a feeling for why I have come to love this man, and to respect his life and wisdom so very much.

In these words you will learn of this wonderful man and his loves for this magnificent mountain landscape and his sweet Elizabeth, whose life ultimately made this tribute possible!

All the words below belong to Addison.  Only a few numbers have been changed to reflect the passing of time since these words were publicly spoken by THE MAN!

The Spoken Words of 
Addison Stallard

Addison Stallard
Photograph by Wayne Browning

Isaac Willis was my great-great-grandfather. Ora Willis Gilly was my great-grandmother and I was privileged to meet her once, when I was very young. 
I remember that occasion very well. 
She lived to be near 95 years of age.

Her son, George Melvin Gilly, was my grandfather. I was born in his home. He influenced my life more than any other individual. He taught me so much. And though he has been gone 62 years, it is the rare day when I do not mention his name. Elizabeth says he will continue to live as long as I live.

Summer Beauty In Powell Valley of Wise County
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I was born in the Valley and have never been happy when away from it. Though others have had title to most of the land, 
it has seemed like mine.

As a boy, I roamed and hunted over all 
of it without needing to ask permission. 
It belonged in the family!  They hunted 
on our land without asking.

As a boy, I could start at the eastern boundary of the golf course and walk, 
hunt or fish almost to the present quarry, without stepping on land that did not 
belong to a Jones, Willis, Collier, or Gilly.

As one drives up the new four-lane 
U.S. 23 ) highway from Big Stone Gap toward Norton, Powell Mountain is on the right and Stone Mountain ( Little Stone Mountain ) on the left. There are those who will not consciously see either mountain. They will look ahead and think only of their destination. Others will observe the Valley and the mountain beyond, and admire what they see.

View From Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Some will stop at the scenic overlook and enjoy the view without knowing who lives 
in the houses below, or anything about the small church. They may not see the little creek which divides the Valley. They will snap their pictures and drive away.

As Elizabeth and I drive up this highway, 
I look at the Valley and then the mountain. I see things which probably no other eyes see.

Small Lady's-slipper Orchids (Cypripedium parviflorum)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I see Sheep Gap and Beaver Dam Gap, Beaver Dam spring, where I've camped many times, the Jake place and the 
Jake spring.

As we continue, my mind's eye sees the hickory orchard, with its two-or-three-acre stand of giant Shagbark Hickory trees. A dim path, which may not be visible to other eyes, passes through trees which may no longer be standing, but still are in the corners of my memory.

Pink Lady's-slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The path winds around above the head of Sugar Camp Hollow where, in years long past, maple sap was boiled down to 
become maple syrup and maple sugar.

I see outlines of what once was Uncle Creed Collier's mountain pasture, now overgrown with trees & bushes. I wonder if the clear, cold spring still bubbles up from between the roots of the large ash tree in the pasture. Probably not; the tree may 
be long gone.

Mixed-Mesophytic Woodlands
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

My eyes pass over Uncle A Collier's cold spring. As mentioned earlier, he owned 
the farm adjacent to my grandparent's property.

As a boy of 7 or 8, I would travel out our 
dug road, past the "far spring," through our woodland and down the steep hill to where he lived. His unmarried daughter, Nannie, had remained with him.

We would sit before the fireplace in 
winter and he would tell me hunting tales. In summer the canopy of wild plum trees 
in his front yard provided a resting place.

When milking time was near, I'd go with him to bring in the cows, then I'd climb the hill, walk through the woods, go past the far spring, out the dug road, wash up and eat my evening meal, usually milk and cornbread. Grandma's molasses 
stack cake or apple pie were always 
there if one desired dessert.

As Elizabeth drives, if I look quickly I can catch a glimpse of my grandparent's home, and if one knows when and where to look, the High Knob Tower ( before it's burning ) may be seen.

Summer Clouds Above High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If we stop at the Powell Valley Overlook, I see much of that which others have seen, except I know something about the people in the houses.

I know the history of the small Presbyterian Church which I helped to build, and in which Elizabeth and I worked so hard for so many years. Our children grew up in that church.

As I think back 76 years, the scene below changes. Green corn fields and blue-gray oat fields appear. Wood smoke drifts up from the cooking fires as farm wives prepare the next meal. I visualize the winding, willow-lined creek with deep holes at every bend, washed out by current fed by spring rains, holes in which a boy could take a cooling dip after he filled his stringer with suckers and redeyes, with an occasional bass if he was lucky.

Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Head of South Fork of Powell River
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Long ago farmers cut the willows, dredged the creek and straightened it so there would be no more bends and deep holes. And why not? They needed the land for their crops, rather than a place for boys to fish and skinny-dip.

With no bend or deep holes to impede its progress, the water now swiftly goes its way and the creek is little more than a ditch.

The enitre Valley floor is as familiar to me as my own fields. I've tramped every acre, sometimes with bird dogs or Beagle hounds, other times with a fishing pole or just to be roaming about.

As I lift my eyes once more to the mountain I see not an inanimate object as one would see a pyramid or a monument or statue, but I see a living thing! The mountain changes shapes, colors, moods.  She sometimes flexes her muscles and sends large boulders crashing down from the cliffs into the trees below.

Changing Moods In The High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Her moods are at times bright and cheery, sometimes somber, even brooding. She may don a crystal cap embedded with countless jewels which sparkle with an unbelievable brilliance as she is greeted with a kiss from the morning sun. She may wave and sing as breezes play through her ledges and dance through her treetops. Or she may show anger as high winds lash the trees and 
roar through the cliffs.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectumof Spring
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In spring the mountain dresses from the bottom up. The green begins outside our window; the maples in the field above show pink. The green slowly creeps up the slopes and when it leaps over the cliffs, our spirits soar with it, for then Spring has truly arrived, and if the Wood Thrush is not already on the hill behind the barn, 
she will not be far behind.

Turk's-cap Lily (Lilium superbumof Summer
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In summer the mountain is dressed in numerous shades of green. These difference shades show where the tulip poplars, oaks, beeches and lindens grow.

Gorgeous Autumn Maples Of High Knob
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Fall, of course, brings the most spectacular dress. Color begins at the top, then moves down the slopes and continues until she is magnificently clothed.

Autumn Comes To The High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

All too soon she disrobes, from the top. Leaves drift down until only gray, barren limbs and the brown forest floor are visible.

Majesty Of Winter In The High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Occasionally she dresses in a mantle of white --- in my youth, a time to follow the tracks of a fox or mink while unraveling the story of a previous night's search for food and survival, now a time to look from my dining room windows --- and wish for Spring!

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus floridaIn Spring
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I am intimately acquainted with this mountain. Since early childhood she has drawn me like a magnet. I've touched every tree, rested on every mossy log, I've feasted on her bounty. I've gathered her walnuts and hickory nuts, her pawpaws and wild plums. I've quenched my thirst from her clear, cold springs, picked her berries and, yes, I've taken a few of her trees for my workshop. I've given little in return --- only my admiration and perhaps a special kind of love.

Sunset From High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Valley and the mountain have, in a sense, dominated my life. There have been times past when I gave more of my time to them than to Elizabeth, and sometimes I brought bouquets of wildflowers as penance offerings, or to soften my feelings of guilt, though Elizabeth never complained.

Cove of Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

There are those who find it difficult 
to understand the depth of feeling a mountaineer, such as I, can have for 
his land.

Elizabeth and I live in the home we began building when we were married 68 years ago. It is adjacent to my grandparent's farm which we bought many years ago. This land has been in the family more than 150 years ( as of 1993 ).

Three times each day we sit in our dining room, which is mostly glass, and admire 
the beauty around us.

We are blessed!

High Knob Massif
Sunset From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Spring 2019_High Knob Massif Area


April 27, 2019
Spring At Middle-Lower Elevations
View Below Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

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Spring conditions are now progressing rapidly at middle to lower elevations, below 3000 feet, to contrast with a continued early Spring state at upper elevations in the High Knob Massif.

April 27, 2019
Early Spring In Upper Elevations
View Above Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The first Bioblitz ever held in the Flag Rock Recreation Area was amid early spring conditions on April 27, with many species just emerging from their winter slumber.

April 27, 2109
Water Elevation 3318 Feet
Benges Basin of the Upper Tennessee River
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

April 1-28, 2019
City of Norton Water Plant
Daily Hand-Measured Precip
( 9:00 AM / 24-Hour Daily)

04/05    0.38

04/07    0.04
04/08    0.02
04/09    1.03

04/13    0.19

04/15    0.63

04/17    0.01

04/19    0.95
04/20    1.65
04/21    0.16
04/22    0.01

04/26    0.55
04/27    0.25
04/28    0.03

April Total: 5.90″

2019 Total: 28.04″

12-Month Total: 80.09″

16-Month Total: 104.73

An abundant flow of water into high elevation lakes was observed on April 27, as more wind driven rain showers developed prior to sunset.

This was no surprise, of course, given the past year has produced 80" to 100"+ of total precipitation within the High Knob Massif area (80.09" at the base in the City of Norton).

April 27, 2109
Water Elevation 3318 Feet
Benges Basin of the Upper Tennessee River
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The dual Norton reservoir system is nearly 1000 vertical feet lower than the summit level of the High Knob Massif, nestled within Benges Basin.

April 27, 2109
Water Elevation 3230 Feet
Benges Basin of the Upper Tennessee River
Lower Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Although several hundred vertical feet lower 
than High Knob Lake, all these high valley lakes experience conditions featuring later spring and earlier autumn arrival times than adjacent middle to lower elevations (below 2700 feet).

While this is partly due to elevation, it is really driven by micro-climatic factors created by geology and topography.  Nocturnal cold air drainage rules high valley basins embedded within the sprawling top of the High Knob Massif, along with lifting of air across the high country, throughout all seasons of the year.

April 27, 2019
Flag Rock Recreation Area BioBlitz 2019
Upper Norton Reservoir of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved
(Left-right: Wayne Browning, Dylan Richardson & Mollie, Kendall Morse)

We found 30 species of birds during the late afternoon, which added to a few different birds observed earlier in the day by Dave Skinner and others, including a Bald Eagle, to make more than 3 dozen total species.  Not bad given numerous species are not yet on territory at upper elevations, plus significant water noise and late afternoon-early evening rain showers may have limited activity and detection. 

April 27, 2019
Flag Rock Recreation Area_City of Norton
Looking Toward Little Stone Mountain Gap
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Given current wetness it will be interesting to see how hot Summer 2019 gets, with June-August max temperatures at High Knob Lake reaching 80 degrees in 2017 and 81 degrees during 2018.

*Max summer temperatures reached 78 degrees in 2017 and 79 degrees in 2018 within the more sheltered valley location at the head of Big Cherry Lake basin (3200 feet elevation).

This compares to June-August max temperature readings of 77 degrees in 2017 on Eagle Knob and 2018 on the peak of High Knob (76.8 degrees).

March 27, 2019
Water Elevation 3500 feet
Majestic Cove At High Knob Lake
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The naturally moist environments of these wetland settings feed abundant summer cloud formations and frequent rains, in most years, to keep temperatures lower than would otherwise be expected from latitude and elevation alone.

March 27, 2019
Sun Reflection In High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This plays a huge role in enhancing biodiversity, especially when combined with the unique geology and topography of this area, allowing many species with northern affinities to successfully live and breed here during summer.

April 21, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Undergraduate Kendall Morse
Photograph by Lynda Hubbard - © All Rights Reserved

This increases the importance of upper elevations and the need to protect and conserve these habitats which function as a buffer against the changing Holocene climate.

March 27, 2019
Water Elevation 3500 feet
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High Knob is a great sedimentary massif that rises on the Appalachian structural front as a tectonic mountain formed during the Alleghanian Orogeny, featuring a duplex-imbricate structure and karstic core that contains the deepest cave systems known east of the Mississippi in North America.

April 21, 2019
Looking To The Appalachian Structural Front
View From Ravens Next Peak Of Pine Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Grenville Orogeny laid the basement foundation and a major Mid-Ordovician unconformity marked the beginning of 13 third-order tectophases that would fill and overfill the Appalachian foreland basin, setting the stage for stratigraphic rearrangement that followed during the Alleghanian which reached a climax during Absaroka II (Sloss subsequence) with closing of 
the Rheic Ocean and formation of Pangaea.

Coal bearing rocks that formed adjacent to the High Knob Massif and structural front created a layered plateau, whose erosion, later rejuvenation and incision is visible today as nearly even-topped ridges separated by dendritic hollows to contrast with the higher, asymmetrically folded, northwest verging, massif of High Knob.

An amazing geologic history recorded in the rocks and weathered sands of this ancient mountain landscape.

April 21, 2019
High Knob Massif Rises Above The Coalfields
Looking Across Pound To High Knob Along Horizon
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Pine Mountain stands as the northwestern-most tectonic mountain of the southern Appalachian fold-and-thrust belt.

This section is under construction.  Please check back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Winter 2019_In The High Knob Massif

January 15, 2019
Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Beautiful Late Afternoon Light And Rime
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

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Late Afternoon of January 15, 2019
Heavy Rime At Upper Elevations In Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Although a recent Miller B winter storm system dropped very little snow, it left a beautiful winter wonderland in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif with prolonged riming as clouds engulfed the high country in sub-freezing air.

High Knob Massif
Late Afternoon of January 15, 2019
Heavy Riming At Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Rime accumulations of 1" to 3" were measured at elevations above 3300 feet, with lighter amounts 
of generally less than 1" below 3300 feet.

Rime Covered Pickem Mountain
Early-Mid Afternoon of January 15, 2019
View From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

For anyone who may doubt the importance of 
trees and rime deposition to the moisture budget 
of upper elevations, above 3000 feet, in the High Knob Massif please consider the following.

January 15, 2019
Late PM Light Illuminates Forest of Rime
Looking At Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Using a 4"-diameter NWS rain gauge I scraped rime off of a single, small limb approximately 18" 
in length and allowed it to melt to obtain the 
water content.

The result = 0.67" of water.  Amazing!

How could rime moisture ( and fog drip ) from trees not be important to the water supply basins 
of this massif and to its biodiversity?

January 15, 2019
Peak of High Knob Massif
Heavy Rime Formation In Upper Elevations
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 15, 2019
Majestic Late Afternoon Light
Looking Across Head of Big Cherry Lake Basin
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Big Cherry Lake Basin
UVA-Wise Field Trip_Week 1

Big Cherry Lake had mostly frozen 
over prior to the recent arctic blast.

January 26, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Ice Covered Big Cherry Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 26, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Late Afternoon Reflections On Ice
Big Cherry Lake of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

January 26, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Snow Covered Roads In High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Although snow had mostly melted away by afternoon hours on February 2, high elevation roads still had a little snow on them.  

This marked 16 consecutive days with snow 
cover on northern slopes at the highest elevations; however, snow was never very deep and the month of January ended having produced much below average snowfall across the mountain area.

High Knob Lake Basin
UVA-Wise Field Trip_Week 2

February 2, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Frozen Solid At High Knob Lake
High Knob Lake Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 2, 2019
High Knob Lake of High Knob Massif
Downed American Beech ( Fagus grandifolia )
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Scenes like this are common along the trail between High Knob Lookout and High Knob Lake, with numerous, large trees across the trail thanks to heavy icing, rime-snow, and high winds. 

February 2, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Frozen Cove At High Knob Lake
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

High-elevation lakes were completely frozen on February 2, with standing or running water found only on top of the ice (where snow had just melted) and where tributary creeks entered the lake.

February 2, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Looking SE Across High Knob Massif
Toward Mount Rogers & Whitetop Mountain
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

An array of beautiful lenticular clouds were observed along the High Knob Massif during late afternoon.  Such mountain waves are very common over this area and occur on many days throughout the year (along with standing waves and many other forms).

February 2, 2019
UVA-Wise Field Trip
Lenticular Mountain Wave Clouds
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Little Stony Creek Basin
UVA-Wise Field Trip_Week 3

February 9, 2019
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Upper Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Whitewater was gushing out of the 16.4 square mile Little Stony Creek basin in wake of a general 2.00" of rain a couple days prior to our third consecutive UVA-Wise Field Trip of the 2018-19 season.

February 9, 2019
Little Stony Creek of Clinch River
Upper Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Little Stony Basin contains an array of special habitats, including Spray Cliffs which could be 
seen and felt on this day with icing on vegetation downstream of the major water falls.

February 9, 2019
Little Stony Basin of High Knob Massif
Middle Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Little Stony Creek heads up near the eastern end 
of Bowman Mountain, within the Brushy Knob and Robinson Knob section of the massif.

February 9, 2019
Little Stony Basin of High Knob Massif
Middle Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 9, 2019
Whitewater Churns In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Whitewater is like the atmosphere, it is constantly changing and generating new flow lines in a chaotic array of beauty and power.

February 9, 2019
Whitewater Churns In Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Little Stony Creek National Recreation Trail has slid off just prior to reaching the Big Falls of Little Stony Gorge, so use caution in this area.

February 9, 2019
Little Stony Basin of High Knob Massif
Big Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Big Falls is nearly a straight drop of 35-40 feet.

February 9, 2019
Little Stony Basin of High Knob Massif
Big Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 9, 2019
View From Bear Rock Heath Barren
Little Stony Creek Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Bear Rock Heath Barren which overlooks 
Little Stony Gorge is a unique habitat featuring rare plants and a dramatic 360 view of the gorge and surrounding mountain landscape.

February 9, 2019
View From Bear Rock Heath Barren
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

It appeared that a few maples 
were beginning to bud.

February 9, 2019
View From Bear Rock Heath Barren
Little Stony Creek Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

February 9, 2019
Rugged Cliffs of Little Stony Gorge
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved


Too Much Rain = Flooding

Rain, rain, and simply more rain finally reached a climax with mud-rock slides and flooding across the mountain region during this past week.

Graphic Courtesy of the U.S.G.S.

Observe how consistently above the long-term 1921-2018 mean flow this past year has been, illustrating antecedent wetness that led to flooding during this month and that will lead to more flooding in coming months if this pattern does not relax and the mountain landscape dry.

The biologically diverse Clinch River exemplifies this pattern, with the 35,000 cubic feet per second flow achieved on February 24 being the highest since February 2018 when a discharge of 35,800 cfs was reached during flooding amid what became the Wettest February on Record in Virginia.


Height of 26.5 feet = 8.5 feet above flood stage

Who would have believed, only one year later, that February 2019 would challenge that record?


While flooding was generally considered only minor-moderate, one has to go back to March 2015 to find a significantly greater discharge and higher flow level at the Speers Ferry gage, then to March 2002 to find a major event where the flow was about double that observed on February 24, 2019.

The benchmark flood of record was observed in April 1977 when 89,000 cfs passed the Speers Ferry gage at an incredible 36.7 feet (18.7 feet above flood stage).

Height of 8.2 feet = 1.7 feet above flood stage

Steep creeks draining the High Knob Massif became raging torrents, making whitewater 
shots seen above in this section appear as mere trickles, which is always both awe inspiring and frightening at the same time as the ground vibrates next to these beasts as they exceed red alert stage.

Notable High Knob Massif Creeks

Big Stony Creek of Clinch River
2230 feet of vertical drop in 13 miles

South Fork of Powell River
1433 feet of vertical drop in 4 miles

Straight Fork of Clinch River
Chimney Rock Fork of Clinch River
1460 to 1505 feet of vertical drop in 4 miles

Little Stony Creek of Clinch River
780 vertical feet of drop in 3 miles

Guest River Gorge of Clinch River
100 vertical feet of drop per mile in gorge

Beaverdam Creek
Benges Branch
Burns Creek
Clear Creek
Corder Branch
Cove Creek
Devil Fork
Dry Creek
Glady Fork
Jasper Creek
Laurel Branch
Laurel Fork
Lost Creek
Machine Creek
McGhee Creek
Mill Creek
Pine Creek
Ramey Branch
Robinette Branch
Stock Creek

and many more add water to 
the Clinch-Powell river basins. 

This marked the third time in the past couple weeks that Big Stony Creek had reached flood stage.  Precipitation measured at the base of the High Knob Massif in the City of Norton reveals why, with even greater totals at upper elevations where fog drip and rime collection by trees also added to the moisture budget.

February 1-24, 2019
City of Norton Water Plant
Daily Hand-Measured Precip
( 9:00 AM / 24-Hour Daily)

02/05    0.03
02/06    0.06
02/07    2.14
02/08    0.63

02/11    0.58
02/12    0.37
02/13    1.01

02/16    0.38
02/17    0.14
02/18    0.95

02/20    1.09
02/21    1.19

02/22    0.50
02/23    0.99
02/24    1.86

February Total: 11.92″

January Total: 5.44″

2019 Total: 17.36″

December 1-February 24: 25.30″

13-Month Average Per Month: 7.55"

Most creeks in the High Knob Massif area achieved their highest stream levels since February 2018.

Black Mountain Mesonet
( Elevation 4031 feet )
Courtesy of Kentucky Mesonet_WKU

January Total: 6.49"

2019 Total: 19.45"

December 1-February 24: 27.84"

The general 25.00" to 30.00" of precipitation measured in the High Knob Massif-Black Mountain corridor, which includes the City of Norton, is now greater than observed last winter during the period of meteorological winter (Dec 1-Feb 28).

At upper elevations, above 3000 feet, it should again be stressed that these totals do not include significant additional moisture added by fog drip from trees and rime collection and drop by trees during many days and nights spent within orographic clouds.

Graphic Courtesy of the U.S.G.S.

Flooding within the Tacoma to Coeburn corridor becomes common when Guest River approaches flood stage, with input from creeks draining the High Knob Massif into Ramsey, Tacoma, Bond Town and the Town of Coeburn (in addition to those draining the Tennessee Valley Divide).

Courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation

While many state roads were closed across southwest Virginia due to flooding, or mud-rock slides, many more private roadways were impacted during this event (not listed).

Courtesy of Appalachian Power

Despite the return of welcomed sunshine, high wind gusts downed many trees with a widespread array of power outages resulting to complicate clean-up efforts (Old Dominion Power, serving much of Wise County, is not included).