Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ice of the River

January 23, 2013
Ice Meadows on the Hudson River, Warrensburg, NY
Around 2 P.M.


2 P. M. - To Fair Haven Pond, on river:
They are very different seasons in the winter
when the ice of the river and meadows and ponds is bare, -
blue or green, a vast glittering crystal, -
and when it is all covered with snow or slosh;
and our moods correspond.
The former may be called a crystalline winter.
   HDT Journal, January 18, 1860

Let’s just say that my own mood today was tending toward the frazilline
that is, it was time for a visit to the Ice Meadows to see the frazil ice.

Evelyn Greene had invited Jackie and myself to join her today to see this brief yearly phenomenon. It’s a special sort of ice that forms when supercold air meets rushing water, and Evelyn is the go-to person to learn about it.
[Jackie has already blogged about this day and has a good description of frazil ice here.]

It was a beautiful clear day, but the coldest one yet, not getting out of single digits, and with a brisk north wind.
A day when most folks wouldn’t consider venturing outside, for any reason.

Jackie met me at the new diner, and we carpooled it, up past Warrensburg.
On our drive upriver, we pulled over to see the river filled with bunched-up ice.


Across the river, you can see Snake Rock.
[Here it is, from the west side of the river.]

Back in July, we had lunch on those rocks with the Thursday Naturalists. We were all grateful to sit in the shade, to escape the burning rays of the summer sun...... no danger of heatstroke today.

Evelyn met us and two other frigid-weather friends near the bridge at The Glen.
John’s wearing his Antarctic-tested gear. Jackie's wearing her "sleeping-bag" coat.
This is the North Country version of Dressed for Success !

Jackie swapped cameras to get a photo with yours truly in the lineup.
Why do I look like some sort of midget?
That’s what I get for hanging out with tall folks.

To begin our walk, we filed out onto the bridge that crosses the Hudson at The Glen,
to look upstream and see where the ice first forms.

Cars and trucks whizzed by, and the wind coming down the valley froze my exposed fingers within seconds,  as I foolishly attempted to take photos with gloves off.  
I soon learned my lesson, and kept hands inside gloves, and camera inside coat, in between snaps. It was bone-chilling, battery-sucking COLD out there.

Then it was just a short drive down River Road to a spot on the  west side of the river where the ice backs up. This is what gave the Ice Meadows its name.

As Evelyn explained, the icepack moves, then stops, then moves again, unpredictably.

The river continues to flow, somehow. I don’t really understand the physics of it.
But it sure is beautiful.

We stood in a spot that is lush and green and filled with rare flowers --  in the summertime.
Now, there were only fox tracks.

The obligatory posing-for-photos. We are tourists in our own town !

And Evelyn, our tour guide, is supremely at home here,
queen of all she surveys.


Evelyn had us listen to the ice.


It was making crinkling noises, and that, she said excitedly, was a sign that it might start moving again. That was something she had gone years without witnessing.
It’s truly an ephemeral wintertime event.
We were prepared to wait, to see if it would happen before our eyes.

We walked further upriver, and heard open water upstream.
It was shady now where we stood watching, and one of my feet was slowly turning into an ice cube.

Suddenly there was a small movement in the middle of the river ice, and a little wedge of frozen shards formed, forcing its way downstream. It gathered more ice with it as it moved along.


We stood transfixed (or maybe just frozen into place by now) – it was really happening !


Evelyn was thrilled to see it again. It was like getting a late, wonderful Christmas present.


Then the ice stopped moving, and  it was getting late in the day.
My foot went from hurting, to losing all feeling. Uh-oh.

Well, that would have to be enough fun for one day.
We got to play outside on the coldest day of the year, with other winter-loving friends, and see something really special.
As we drove down River Road on our way home, I swore Santa gave me a wink.