Smoky Mountain Ice Curls

Ice curls are a common site on cold morning hikes.Smoky Mountain ice curls, whorls, tufts, feathers and mounds—all forms that natural ice can take on the ground under the right conditions. In an era of energy conservation, double-paned (or even triple-paned) windows, and thickly insulated homes and buildings—most of us no longer see ice in any of its patterns on our windows. But if you go hiking this time of year or even just venture into your backyard at the right time, you may well see ice curls.

Ice curls are varying shapes of ice that form on the ground under these conditions: typically a recent rain that has not been sufficiently absorbed into the soil, followed by a quick freeze, usually overnight. Our area is perfect for the formation of ice curls because our Tennessee red clay doesn’t absorb moisture very readily, especially when cold weather has made it even more dense than normal. Then, when a fast freeze occurs, the water left on the ground crystallizes into ice curls. The next morning as you are looking out your insulated window, these ice curls, which can take many shapes, may appear in the distance like tufts of cotton that, during the winter night, have miraculously bloomed in our yards, fields and woodland margins.

Often the ice curls wrap around blades of grass or the woody stems of other plants. In this case they appear like tufts or small white mounds—hence, their cotton-like appearance. But on closer inspection they are actually a collection of icy curls or feathers that have built on one another as the ground water gradually transformed into ice. Although less conspicuous, individual ice curls may also be seen on the ground. But it’s up close that the beauty of ice curls becomes clear—delicate, fragile structures of thinly formed, curling ice—nature’s own miniature ice sculptures, which disappear with just a touch from the sun!

So look for them on your winter walks. You’ll see them, especially in the mornings, after a recent rain or thaw followed by a quick freeze. Later in the day, if the sun has come out, they’ll disappear quickly in the sunny areas but will linger on in the shade. They’re worth your stopping and kneeling down to see them.

Ice curls can be found nearly anywhere from your backyard to the highest elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains. Mount LeConte is always a great place to find ice and snow this time of year. Meandering down any of the trails will afford a chance to find ice curls. Let’s get outdoors and see what we can discover!

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

 

More Hey Smokies Features:

Great Smoky Mountain Annual Festival Of Christmas Past
Great Smoky Mountain Annual Festival Of Christmas Past...
Great Smoky Mountain Annual Festival Of Christmas Past Saturday, December 14, 2019. The event will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center beginnin[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon
Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon...
Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon is on the rise! The final full moon for 2019 and the decade will reach its apex at 12:12 a.m. on December 12t[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Winterfest
Smoky Mountain Winterfest...
Smoky Mountain Winterfest begins November 22, 2019 and runs through February 15, 2020. This celebration of light gives our mountain communities [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe is the perfect side dish for any meal and sometimes it is a great meal all by itself. All you [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event 2020
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event 2020...
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Event 2020. It’s never to early to start making plans to see the Synchronous Fireflies (and the Blue Ghost Fi[Read More >>]
Biltmore Downton Abbey Exhibition Special Event
Biltmore Downton Abbey Exhibition Special Event...
  Biltmore Downton Abbey Exhibition Special Event will be featured through April 7, 2020. Costumes, sets and more are part of the new Down[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut...
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is heating up in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.The fall mating season begins each year around mid-September and is [Read More >>]
Dollywood Light The Way 5K
Dollywood Light The Way 5K...
Dollywood Light The Way 5K is scheduled for Friday November 15, 2019 at Dollywood. This annual event is celebrating its seventh year running. Th[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Full Beaver Moon
Smoky Mountain Full Beaver Moon...
Smoky Mountain Full Beaver Moon is set to rise November 12, 2019. There is no place more special to view the rise of a full moon than Great Smok[Read More >>]
Don't Feed The Bears Event
Don't Feed The Bears Event...
Don't Feed The Bears Event benefitting Appalachian Bear Rescue will be Saturday, November 16, 2019. The event will be held at the Enchanted Vall[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event...
Great Smoky Mountains Stargazing Event will be held at the Highlands Science Learning Center Friday, November 15, 2019 in North Carolina. The Hi[Read More >>]
Apple Dapple Cake Recipe
Apple Dapple Cake Recipe...
Apple Dapple Cake Recipe. Fall is one of our favorite times of the year in the Smoky Mountains. With the cooler temperatures comes the annual ap[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories...
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories. The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in strange and unexplainable occurrences that some say are supernatural. We h[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Campfire Ban Update
Smoky Mountain Campfire Ban Update...
Smoky Mountain Campfire Ban Update. As of October 22, 2019 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park backcountry campfire ban has been cancelled. [Read More >>]
Appalachian Bear Rescue's Bearly 5K Run/Walk
Appalachian Bear Rescue's Bearly 5K Run/Walk...
Appalachian Bear Rescue's Bearly 5K Run/Walk Saturday October 26, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. This fun family event will begin at the ABR Visitor and Edu[Read More >>]
Dollywood Fall Fun Events
Dollywood Fall Fun Events...
Dollywood Fall Fun Events! Everyone is invited to “get their fall on ya’ll” at Dollywood’s annual Harvest Festival. Dollywood’s Harvest Festival[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Hunter's Moon
Smoky Mountain Hunter's Moon...
Smoky Mountain Hunter's Moon is on the rise this month. This full moon is often called the Blood Moon, Sanguine Moon and the Full Hunter's Moon.[Read More >>]
Priceless Historical Heirlooms Return To Great Smoky Mountains
Priceless Historical Heirlooms Return To Great Smoky Mountains...
Priceless Historical Heirlooms Return To Great Smoky Mountains. Millions of national park visitors visit the Dan Lawson homestead in Cades Cove [Read More >>]
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Bans Backcountry Campfires
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Bans Backcountry Campfires...
Great Smoky Mountains National Park bans backcountry campfires. Park officials have placed the ban due to recent drought like conditions in the [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Poets
Smoky Mountain Poets...
Smoky Mountain Poets. These mountains have inspired generations to express themselves through songs, deeds and words. Remarkable words that tran[Read More >>]