The sight of hoar frost makes me smile because it brings a memory to mind, one with imagery that could have been ripped from the pages of a fairy tale.
Hoar frost happens when fog freezes on the trees and other things that collect condensation during the pre-sunrise hours. It’s not a phenomenon that happens every cold morning, but only when conditions are just right.
As those of you who have followed me here for a while know, I have two horses. It hasn’t happened in a long while, not since we finally did some fencing work summer before last, but I used to often go out in search of my wayward horses.
The ridgetop you see in that photo above is a few miles to reach by dirt road, or a few miles to reach by hiking up the mountain behind our house and then following an old logging road along the ridgetop. In the photo, the dirt road would take us to the right hand side of the hoar-frost ridge and the logging road hike comes in from the left.
There is a large grassy field on the top of that ridge. That is where the horses tend to go when they’ve escaped their confinement. They get there by hiking up the mountain and following the old logging road, and that’s the way I normally go to retrieve them when it happens. There’s a gate on the road entrance and fences connected, and no way for me to get the horses out that way.
One time in winter the horses got out and I went off in search of them. As usual, I did find them on that ridge. But it was a hoar frost morning and the entire scene was made up of tiny light-catching ice sparkles. Every tree was coated, every shrub and blade of grass. There were even sparkles floating in the air.
I felt like I was walking the horses through an enchanted forest. Even the horses seemed to step gently as I led them back toward home. No camera with me on that hike. It’s enough to just carry myself, some water, and the horse’s halter up and down the hills like that, but on that day I wished I had brought it. I’ll never forget that sight.
Here’s another close-up view of how the trees look when coated with hoar frost.