Monday, January 4, 2010

first curiosity

Ryan saw it first, when I was sleeping in. He took the dogs up to the bluff, a kind of regular weekend activity, and snapped a few blue-ish photos with his cellular phone. I couldn't make it out--just thought it was snowfall on top of branches. It was lovely, and I told him I'd get up early enough for another hike the next day.

But this was different--little ice crystals spreading on the ground, clinging to rocks and branches. I looked at my knit mittens and the same squiggly slivers of white were rising, catching the heat from my hands. My scarf was doing the same, turning into ice from my breath's condensation. Why, all you have to do is look at our dog Zephyr's snow-beard to see.

This one bush was really spectacular though--and when we looked at it with the sun behind it, we saw the steam rising up.

I squatted down, the cold earth reminding me not to dip too far, and snapped a few photographs of the dead leaves and bracken along with the strange snow-ice formations. I wasn't certain if the decomposing leaves were composting enough to heat the ground; we couldn't spot another explanation.

I've done some internet searching but can't seem to find the right combination of key words to reach possible explanations. Any ideas? The composting doesn't seem to stick for me, particularly due to the sub-zero temperatures. This bluff is used regularly by cross-country skiers in the winter, and in the summer, tourists drive up to get a good view of our town, but there are no usable buildings that would require pipes, etc.

PS: To see a full set of the hike, complete with a flying Zephyr, click here.

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