Saturday, February 14, 2015

Glowing Ice on the Top of Roan

I have experienced lots of awestruck moments on the Roan Balds After going to the hike and presentations at the Roan Mountain Winter Naturalist Rally (It's really neat, you should check it out!), we drove up to Carver's Gap, a small nook in the cold spruce fir forests. Here's what it looked like:
Pretty snowy, can you tell? At first, the roadside was dotted with cheery, metal-roofed recreational cabins. Then, as the top of Roan neared, the trees bent with fierce winds that lashed at the side of the car. Snow made it impossible to see the mountain just across the valley. The dark spruce-firs sheltered the mountainside, and I beheld one of the most amazing sight according to my lifelong forest exploits. This was just as the fairly large snow of 2015 was starting. There, beside the road, was ice. The thick, and extremely cold kind of ice. Formidable, as tall as a man or larger, it clumped along the roadside at random intervals. A ghostly, light-blue glow was emitting from the very heart of the ice. I was struck with awe. Tunnels disappeared into the smooth surface, leading to lance-like icicles dangling downward from the mammoth forms. These, I now know, are called icefalls, the result of frozen seeps, springs, and small creeks. But this awesome glow was breathtaking to behold. But don't just believe me; look at the evidence:
Pretty amazing huh? It's glow is really prominent in the center and far left.
The strange blue glow here is rather mystifying. A similar occurrence seems to have happened on a small island called Capri, in a place called Crystal Grotto. At low tide, a cave is exposed, and inside, an opening from below lets light in through the water, creating a blue atmosphere around the finder. Maybe Roan's ice has the same capability?
Not all of the formations had highly visible glows, only a few blue-green traces are detectable in some of the central icicles. Another, more likely possibility is light being reflected from the ice, in the same way as the ocean or sky. These formations remind me, though, of the rare biodiversity of Roan Mountain. Spring salamanders (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) only live in this habitat, feeding on smaller salamanders that also thrive in seeps. It is hard to believe that they can survive this cold! 
Notice the traces of both green and blue amongst the tunnels and icicles. This truly gargantuan specimen was visibly as large as a car, or larger. These fantastic ice formations in pictures can't do justice to them. Go see them for your self! Just remember to be prepared for wind and cold, and a lot of ice!
Happy Trails,
Critter Cade

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