Tanyard Creek

_MG_2069.JPGOn Sunday we emerged from the deluge: six straight days of showers and storms that dropped as many inches of rain, more than double the typical February. It caused flood warnings and left the ground a squishy muck. It also meant, of course, some good waterfalls. I took the chance to introduce myself to Tanyard Creek, a strong waterway known for its falls that flows through Bella Vista just off Interstate 49 near the Missouri border. A nature trail runs up and down the Tanyard valley. The woods are dense and Bella Vista is diffuse and quiet enough that I could almost forget I was right in the middle of town.

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_MG_1891.JPGAs with the rain, we seem to be emerging from winter itself as well. Spider silk drooped over the trail, weighed down by dew. The forest seemed more alive, with crimson flashes of cardinals, a heron, a quick glimpse of a bald eagle flying overhead. Excitable daffodils already poked out of the fallen leaves. I’ve been hearing frogs again around my apartment.

Still, the nights below freezing show winter’s not quite done. The cold night before my hike filled parts of the Tanyard valley with thick fog that shrouded the falls at one end of the trail, which are this park’s centerpiece. I might’ve waited for the fog to burn off, but I sort of liked the mystery of it. I’ll come back when everything’s green.

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_MG_2014.JPGThanks for looking.

Marching on

_MG_1416.JPGSaturday afternoon was misty, dreary and below freezing, and it turns out it takes more than that to stop Fayetteville’s Mardi Gras parade. This one was the city’s 27th and my fourth. The weather certainly cut down the size of the crowd from past years, but everyone who came out cheered extra loud, decked themselves out in extra color and dove for thrown beads and candy with extra enthusiasm in spite of the gray day.

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_MG_1581.JPGHere’s to a happy official Mardi Gras this week and a happy Lent after, for those observing it.

I meant to end here, but all of that mist and drizzle spend the evening and overnight freezing to every surface. Roads and sidewalks this morning around my apartment were too slick for much more than slow hobbling. The grass was crunchy. This wasn’t frost; it was a half-centimeter or so of solid, unadorned ice. I had to see more.

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_MG_1692.JPGThanks for looking, and stay warm out there.

A dry cold

_MG_1315.JPGIt’s the middle of winter and we’re in a drought, so much of the visible life around here is dry and dormant. Beaver Lake’s down enough to expose black swirls and patches of leafy lake bed. I went to its Lost Bridge Trail a couple weekends ago to find some life that hasn’t hidden away for the season. Some of it was unexpectedly and lusciously green, no matter how many times we’ve dipped below freezing. Then there’s the life of the water itself. You know by now that I love a lot of things about water; one of them is how it can be such a perfect canvas for color and gradient and energy.

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Sorry for the long wait; I got bad food poisoning a few hours after this hike, and even after that I felt a little nauseous looking at these pictures. Stay healthy out there, and keep an eye out for the color that’s still around.

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Ghosts

_C1_9921.JPGThe past few days have been a battle between air, water and light. The recent cold snap that broke today kept northwest Arkansas below 20 or so degrees, freezing over creeks and ponds pretty easily. But even that kind of cold yields to the warmth of daylight. Water, meanwhile, is good at retaining its heat and can stay liquid in lakes and stronger streams for days of subfreezing temperatures. But the sun sets and the cold air can triumph over some of those waters, at least for a few hours. Back and forth the energy goes.

The constant exchange of heat molds the area’s water into all sorts of ice. I think it helped grow the frost flowers.

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These ghostly ribbons grow from the stems of certain plants. I never expected to see them on a morning hike around Lake Wedington, but whichever plant grew these is apparently all over that area, especially on its dam.

The water in the plants’ stems freezes and expands, splitting their sides. Water from the roots keeps coming out and freezing, slowly pushing through the cracks like icy noodles. The process leaves delicate bundles that seemed to glow in the early light. Though they’re made of ice, these flowers can only bloom if water in the plants and the ground under them is still warm enough to be liquid. Without all of that warm sunlight, in other words, they might not have formed.

I probably have that warmth to thank for my other discovery this morning: singing ice. Turn up your volume for this one:

 

The layer of ice along just one corner of the lake trilled, like dozens of frogs singing to each other, as liquid water jostled it from beneath. I suspect the cause for the trilling is the same as the one behind the strange noise that sounds when you throw a pebble or stick onto a frozen lake. A smack or a cracking sound contains higher and lower pitches that travel at different speeds through the ice layer, so they reach the ear at different times. The result is a chirp. (The same principle is behind the sound of “Star Wars” blasters and the rainbow created by light through a prism.)

This all goes to show how much the characteristics of ice depend on where the water is and what it’s doing when it freezes. Flowing water, for example, might freeze clear and smooth but often becomes opaque white from bubbles if it’s tumbling down a fall. Peaceful water freezes into sheets that sometimes overlap in abstract patterns or fit together like angular puzzle pieces. Wedington and Lake Fayetteville provided examples of them all.

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_C1_9939.JPG(Lake Fayetteville shots begin here:)

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_C1_9754.JPGIce’s variety and beauty will forever mesmerize me. Thanks for looking.

Dan