Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Autumn Color 2020_High Knob Massif Area

Upper Norton Reservoir (14 October 2020)

         Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

As of 14 October 2020, autumn colors were passing their peak to well past peak (with many bare trees) within highest elevations of the High Knob Massif, in peak at the elevation of Flag Rock Recreation Area (3200 feet), and yet to peak at lower elevations below 3000 feet and Flag Rock.

Visitors and those associated with the annual Cloudsplitter 100 may have been disappointed that conditions in highest elevations were looking more like winter than autumn, versus most media reports and projection maps that only consider elevation (which is merely a single factor of many impacting autumn color change, timing, quality, and its duration).  

The nice aspect, the massif possesses a large vertical elevation range in combination with diverse terrain settings such that different stages of seasonal transition can always be found over a prolonged period of time.

NOTE: Flag Rock RA is approximately half-way up the massif, which means that the upper one-half of the mountain was past peak color as of 14 October (the peak being abruptly terminated by wind-driven rains associated with Delta).

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Upper Norton Reservoir (3318 Feet)

         Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Remnants of hurricane Delta and a subsequent cold front really did a number on leaves at highest elevations, with conditions beginning to look more like winter than autumn on peaks of High Knob, Eagle Knob and others above 3500 feet.  Colors already developed were also dulled across the massif area at lower elevations.

Although color will remain good on individual trees and in more protected sites, the general peak has passed at elevations above 3200 to 3500 feet (depending upon the location and exposure) with Flag Rock Recreation Area (highlighted below) being used as the peak zone in this update (14 October 2020).

Color In Middle Portion of Benges Basin

                     Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

These views generally show the best color, close to brightest extent, with degradation in days following the wind-driven remnants of Delta and subsequent cold frontal passages.

Water Reflections (Norton Reservoir)

          Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The canvas of Mother Nature's autumn palette remained majestic and colorful on both City of Norton reservoirs, even with color somewhat subdued from the incredible beauty of a typical climax.

Water Reflections (Norton Reservoir)

          Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Along main crestlines, one-half or more of trees were already bare or nearly bare as of 14 October, with the best color period being short in duration and mainly restricted to the first week to 10 days of October.

High Knob Lake Basin (Many Bare Trees)

         Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved


Flag Rock Recreation Area

Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Trees become increasingly bare beyond the ridge visible 
in above photograph, which is part of the Northwest Flank (or front) of the High Knob Massif.

Brilliant colors in Flag Rock Recreation Area, and locally within adjacent Benges Basin and its draining gorge along Benges Branch, were on display as of 
14 October 2020 (color dulled near ridge crests).

Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Best color is now in the protected sites and lower elevations, with development yet to occur within some locations having an abundance of oak species.

Benges Branch Gorge
Pickem Mountain of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Flag Rock Recreation Area is an ideal place to photograph trees which are back-lit during the 
late afternoon, as the sun lowers upon
the mountain horizon.

Flag Rock Recreation Area (14 October 2020)
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Flag Rock Recreation Area
Back-lit Trees In Late Afternoon
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Flag Rock Recreation Area
Back-lit Trees In Late Afternoon
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Flag Rock Recreation Area
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Flag Rock Recreation Area
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Maples In Flag Rock RA
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Color In Flag Rock RA
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Mixed-Forest on Northern Slopes
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Mixed-Forest on Northern Slopes
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Along Pine Mountain
(13 October 2020)

Adam Childress Family Homestead
South Mountain Road In Dickenson County
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Majestic Gap In Pine Mountain
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Peak Southwest of Birch Knob
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Peak Southwest of Jessie Gap
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Elevation 3149 Feet
Birch Knob of Pine Mountain
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Beautiful Landscape Along Pine Mountain
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Beautiful Landscape Along Pine Mountain
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

6 October 2020

Autumn color is approaching peak in the high country and is expected to offer some of the best color at elevations above 3000 feet through next week into the weekend of 17-18 October 2020.

Upper Norton Reservoir (6 October 2020)

                      Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved
     
High Knob Lake Basin (6 October 2020)

                      Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The most advanced colors, as of 6 October, were within high basins holding Big Cherry Lake, High Knob Lake and the Norton Reservoirs as expected and well documented over the past several decades.

Maples In High Knob Lake Recreation Area

                       Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

  Colors were at peak within high valleys upstream of Big Cherry Lake (not at the Lake) where cold air pools and air temperatures have been below freezing in both September and October, and were approaching peak in High Knob Lake Basin and Benges Basin (of the dual Norton Reservoirs).

Upper Norton Reservoir (6 October 2020)

Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

It is hoped that color will brighten (as typical) into this weekend, and through next week, and that wind driven rains from Delta plus a following upper air trough will not be detrimental.  Some trees are already bare at the summit level and locally within the cold air collecting basins (as noted in above photographs).

High Knob Lake Recreation Area

Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Yellow Birch, American Beech and various Maples and shrubs are showing the best color as of early October.

High Knob Lake Basin

                     Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

A cold May and near average September, in combination with excessive 2020 wetness, generally worked to delay color changes this autumn.

High Knob Lake Recreation Area

                      Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

These factors have been identified in a 2013 Harvard University Study on Autumn Color Changes amid a changing climate in New England.

High Knob Lake

                      Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Some leaf damage due to acidic clouds engulfing upper elevations appears to have been a factor as well, adding to the complexity already associated with changing autumn colors.

Upper Norton Reservoir & Reflections

                      Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

This section is under construction.  Please check back.

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