Products of Environments: Icicles and Red Oaks

February 3, 2009 at 8:00 am 3 comments

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 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:

Red Oaks
Stunted Northern Red Oaks on Top of Apple Orchard Mountain and What a Red Oak is Supposed to Look Like (Drawing courtesy of

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.

Mann's Bog - Tear Drop Icicles
Two tear drop icicles merge together

Mann's Bog - Rhodocicles (Cropped)
Icicles curve off the leaves of a rhododendron

Mann's Bog - Foamcicles (Cropped)
Ice amoung foam

Mann's Bog - Bellcicles (Cropped)
These bell shaped icicles hint to where the water level used to be at

Mountain Lake - Ice Claw (Cropped)
Um… yeah, have no idea how this claw of ice would have formed.

More pictures of our Little Stony Creek Hike and of Apple Orchard Mountain are available on my Flickr site.

Entry filed under: Apple Orchard Mountain, Hiking, Mountain Lake, Rhododendron, Salt Pond Mountain, trees.

links for 2009-02-02 links for 2009-02-03

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geekhiker  |  February 3, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Those icicle pictures are very, very cool!

  • 2. Birthday Hike 2008: Sinking Creek Mountain « TGAW  |  March 18, 2009 at 5:04 am

    […] trees at the top of Sinking Creek Mountain are particularly subject to the elements. Just like the Red Oaks on Apple Orchard Mountain and the Icicles near Mann’s Bog, the effects of the environment are documented in the trees’ […]

  • 3. Wedding Behind the Scenes: Tree Tablecards « TGAW  |  March 10, 2010 at 10:01 am

    […] Red Oak – the gnarled, mutated trees that show us just how rough conditions are at the top of Virginia’s Apple Orchard […]


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