Sunday, July 17, 2016

White Oak Canyon

Just back from Charlotesville, where I attended the 50th birthday celebration of an old friend. He and I started the day on Saturday by meeting at White Oak Canyon in Shenandoah National Park and hiking the 7.3 mile circuit trail.

Because the Park Service parking lot was full, we had to pay $10 to park on the land of a neighbor, whose yard contained an interesting collection of Appalachian folk art.

It's a rigorous hike, up and down more than two thousand feet, but worth it. We were sitting by this pool on Cedar Run, watching trout swim lazily around, listening to an unseen raven croak. Then a big bird-shaped shadow passed over the water and I looked up to see the raven flapping over our heads. He gave us a friendly croak as he disappeared into the trees.

Waterfalls on White Oak Run.

Locals use the pools as swimming holes, and on this hot day many held bathers.

But they call these mountains the Blue Ridge because of the rain clouds that usually hover around their summits. Saturday one of those clouds turned dark as we headed back down and then unleashed torrential rain, through which we hiked the last mile and a half or so back to the parking lot. At first this felt good on such a hot day, but after my feet got soaked it was a chore. Still, it was an amazing day. Above, lower falls during the downpour.


pootrsox said...

Beautiful pictures and wonderful narrative :) Thank you!

But I thought they were called the Blue Ridge because they always *look* blue as you approach them (at least on I-64 heading west)!

G. Verloren said...

As pootrsox says, I'd always been lead to believe (and believed myself from personal experience) that they were the Blue Ridge Mountains because the ridge of the mountains itself is tinged blue against the sky.

...much like how the nearby Great Smoky Mountains appear to be wreathed in smoke, with a far hazier, grayer color to their atmospherics.

John said...

Yes, they look blue. Because there are usually clouds around their tops. In some seasons in rains almost every day.

G. Verloren said...

The effect I've personally noted is present even on perfectly clear days, with seemingly no clouds at all, so I'm skeptical.

A bit of quick googling seems to confirm the notion that clouds are not the culprit - apparently the heavy forestation of the mountains is the cause. The thick vegetation results in a lot of hydrocarbons being released, chiefly terpenes from the abundance of pines. Apparently these hydrocarbons result in the atmospheric scattering of light that results in the blue hue, and the effect happens elsewhere in the world for the same reason, at similarly named mountains such as the Blue Mountains in Australia.