Looking Up

It’s been a hectic summer dealing with two new jobs, a new school, and life in a new town/state/ecosystem . . . but the chaos has (at least temporarily) calmed down now and it’s time to capitalize on that by getting back outside.

But how to transition this Mountain Woman’s blog into a Water Woman’s blog?

By writing about something that covers them both – the big, blue blanket of clouds and sky.

Many years ago I purchased The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, promising myself that “one of these days” I’d start using the book to refine my knowledge of the different types of clouds and their implications regarding weather.

IMG_1388

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney both teaches you about the different types of clouds (there are dozens) and provides you with journaling space so that you can keep track of what you’ve seen.  It even gives each type of cloud a different number of points, so you can keep score.

Well, folks, “one of these days” is today!  I turned 39 a few days ago and I’ve decided to spend my 40th trip around the sun quite literally looking up.

As if I ever needed an excuse to spend time staring into the sky.

I walked out my front door and took five steps down my sidewalk to capture the following picture of my first cloud collected.

IMG_1387

Cumulus fractus – the first cloud of a million-cloud journey.

It’s a simple cumulus – one of those bright white cottony puffs so familiar studding beautiful blue skies on happy, sunny days.  The Cloud Collector’s Handbook further educates me that this “species” is cumulus fractus – a broken cloud with ragged edges that appear as it evaporates.

It’s worth 15 points.

And, with those points in my pocket, I’m going out to enjoy the fair weather that those cumulus clouds indicate – it’s 75 degrees with 12mph winds (thank you, Hurricane Hermine) and a perfect day for gardening.  That is, if I can manage to keep my eyes on the ground.

My First Mountain Flood

The county’s public schools closed early yesterday due to safety concerns over widespread flooding.

After an incredibly dry August and September, nature is repaying her water debt with interest.

My rain gauge measured 3.5 inches of rain over the weekend.  On Monday and Tuesday we got another 4.5.

During a break in the rain my daughter and I walked down to see how high our closest creek’s waters were.

I suppose my preconceptions of the steepness of land and the lack of hurricane conditions (lived on the Gulf Coast for eight years) lead me to believe the flooding had been overstated in classic TV weather prediction (think “Snowmageddon”) fashion.

I was wrong.  Even as a seasoned nature lover and Master Naturalist, it seems I must continually re-learn Mother Nature’s most basic lesson:  do not underestimate her.

It does flood in the mountains, and I’ve never been more grateful to live at the top of a hill.

Here are some photographs from our walk:

This is an extremely high water level for Hethwood Pond. Normally there's several more feet of grass and then a few feet of large rock above the surface of the pond.

This is an extremely high water level for Hethwood Pond. Normally there’s several more feet of grass and then a few feet of large rock above the surface of the pond.

Our neighborhood pond may be small, but the number of creatures to be seen there certainly isn't!

This picture of the same pond (from a different angle) shows what the water level normally looks like.

This is the overflow from our neighborhood pond. It's usually dry as a bone, or maybe just a trickle. The rain made it a rushing waterfall.

This is the overflow from the pond. It’s usually dry as a bone, or maybe just a trickle. The rain made it a rushing waterfall.

Overflow from the Hethwood pond flows down toward Stroubles Creek by means of an overgrown ditch, so small a stream that, as far as I know, it doesn't even have a name. That stream got about 10x bigger today.

Overflow from the Hethwood Pond flows down toward Stroubles Creek by means of an overgrown ditch, so small a stream that, as far as I know, it doesn’t even have a name.

Here you can see that the little no-name drainage stream has risen to cover the walking path.

Here you can see that the little no-name drainage stream has risen to cover the walking path.

The tiny no-name stream has grown to flow over part of the path that is usually at least 4 feet above it.

The tiny no-name stream has grown to flow over part of the path that is usually at least 4 feet above it.  The water was ankle deep, enough for Abbey to pretend to surf.

This is that same path 35 minutes later and the water is still about three times its usual height.

This is that same spot 35 minutes later and the water is still about three times its usual height.

The walking and biking path takes a steep drop (really tough to get back up after a long ride) down to the bridge over Stroubles Creek. This is the view from the midpoint on that hill. Usually you can't even see the creek from here.

The walking and biking path takes a steep drop (really tough to get back up after a long ride) down to the bridge over Stroubles Creek. This is the view from the midpoint on that hill. Usually you can’t even see the creek from here.

This picture was taken earlier this summer, too.  It's from the "secret" spot on Stroubles Creek where my daughter and I go to explore and splash, about 100 yards upstream from the bridge.

This picture was taken earlier this summer, too. It’s from the “secret” spot on Stroubles Creek where my daughter and I go to explore and splash, about 100 yards upstream from the bridge.  For comparison, the floodwaters would be well over her head and into the pasture behind her.

Note the water level next to the high voltage box.

Here’s the water in the pasture.  Note the water level next to the high voltage box.  Compare it to the next picture.

This photo shows the same area earlier this summer.  The high voltage box in the lower left corner.

This photo shows the same area earlier this summer. The high voltage box in the lower left corner.

This bridge usually sits five to six feet above the surface of Stroubles Creek. The creek has risen to meet it.

This bridge usually sits five to six feet above the surface of Stroubles Creek. The creek has risen to meet it.

This field lies between the walking path and the drop off down to the creek. It's a great place where students living just up the hill in the town homes gather to barbecue and play frisbee. More importantly, it's a floodplain.

This field lies between the walking path and the drop off down to the creek. It’s a great place where students living just up the hill in the town homes gather to barbecue and play frisbee. More importantly, it’s a floodplain.