Products of Environments: Icicles and Red Oaks
The highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is Apple Orchard Mountain, which is named for the trees at its summit. But the trees aren’t apple trees like the name “Apple Orchard” would lead one to believe. They are actually northern red oak trees. Exposed at an elevation of 4225 feet, they are subject to strong winds and ice. The grow short and crooked and as SummitPost.org describes they appear “as if they have been trimmed and pruned for decades.” Because of the conditions, they don’t look like the red oaks that they are:
Stunted Northern Red Oaks on Top of Apple Orchard Mountain and What a Red Oak is Supposed to Look Like (Drawing courtesy of GlobalForestScience.org)
The trees at the top of Apple Orchard Mountain are what they are because of where they are. They are products of their environment…
…and so are the icicles at Little Stony Creek on Salt Pond Mountain.
In December, Tony Airaghi and I hiked along side of the creek in search of Mann’s Bog. We never made it to our final destination, but along the way we saw a diverse display of icicles. These weren’t just simple columns of ice. Like the red oaks on Apple Orchard Mountain, these icicles gave us hints to the conditions they grew in– how the wind was blowing and where the water level was at. And some of them, were just baffling.