As Notes for Next Year continues, it occurs to me that it could easily be subtitled Adventures of the Luckiest Person Alive. I’ve gotten another chance for a trip out the Columbia Gorge, and this one was as wonderful, if not more so, than the last. My last two were sunny, which was fun, but this time I left the sun behind as I headed up the Hood River Valley into an inversion that kept things cold, foggy, and cloudy at our elevation of about 2,000 ft. I was happy to give up the sun and warmth, though, for the hoarfrost we got in return.
I had never seen frost like this before. Everything, even the pine and fir trees, and even the leaves on the manzanita bushes, had needles of frost coming off of it. Because we were underneath a blanket of fog and clouds, it didn’t melt off in the course of the day, either. It made walking around in the woods even better, and we had plenty of adventures as it was. Lots of bobcat and coyote trails, a couple bird kills, snowshoe hare and squirrel tracks galore, and even a debris trail left by a skunk dragging dead fern insulation back to its hollow-log den.
I’ll admit, my grasp on the meterological concepts involved in hoarfrost and inversions is shaky at best. Inversions happen when the air closest to the ground is colder than the air above it, and they keep the valley or whatever land they’re covering cold and cloudy. They aren’t usually so deep, though, that you can’t escape them – had we gone a few thousand feet up Highway 35 onto Mt. Hood, we probably would have been in the sunshine. I’ve read about this repeatedly, but can’t say I understand it. But maybe I will next time I read about it.
It makes sense that so much fog and moisture and sub-freezing temperatures would provide great conditions for frost, but I don’t know why this frost crystallized the way it did. Preliminary research didn’t turn anything up, so I’ll just chalk it up to magic for now, because that’s what it looked like.