Monday, February 09, 2015

Dorothy In Hoarfrost

The last several days in Southern Alberta have been foggy to the extreme, due to a temperature inversion we have been experiencing, causing the air near the ground to be colder than the warmer air above. Its not like we don't have foggy conditions from time to time, however when the temperatures are cold enough and the air is damp enough,we are treated to a beautiful landscape that is coated in a fluffy and feathery layer of white hoarfrost. Hoarfrost is formed by direct condensation of water vapor (fog) to ice at temperatures below the freezing mark and happens when air is brought to its frost point by cooling. Or another way of putting it, is when the air temperature and dew point temperature are the same or very close. Enough already, I thought to myself as I explained this creation of hoarfrost to myself while driving the 564 east of Calgary. I had heard on the radio that the fog was quite wide spread throughout Southern Alberta, and I could think of only one place that I wanted to be on this morning. That would be the ghost town of Dorothy located in the Drumheller Valley badlands along the Red Deer River.Once I reached the end of the 564, I made my way north down through the badlands and across the bridge that borders the remains of the ghost-town of Dorothy. I was more than pleased to discover that the fog was just lifting and the trees had a heavy coating of hoarfrost, as did the few remaining trees in and around this ghost-town. I quickly began shooting photos of the various scenes that were presented in the early morning light. As long as the wind stayed away, I was not to concerned that the frost would melt, as the temperature was near -10 degrees Celsius and probably would not warm up much. This was not my first visit to Dorothy, as my first trek out this way would have been many years ago, and I have visited numerous time since. My research tells me that Dorothy came in to existence near 1900 due to the interest in the coal deposits that are found throughout the Drumheller Valley. The Dorothy post office officially opened in 1908, and the hamlet grew modestly and enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the late 1920s, shortly after a railway line was built through the area. At one time the village had three elevators, although only the Alberta Wheat Pool is left standing and is in danger of toppling over. A school was opened in 1937 and lasted in the hamlet until 1960. The village also supported two churches — a United Church from 1932 to 1961 and a Roman Catholic church from 1944 to 1967. The two churches were considered the focal point for the entire region’s important social events. They still stand today, although they are slowly being ravaged by the passing of time. After a time, I headed west on the road that parallels the Red Deer river, and I made several stops for more photo-ops that I could not pass on, as I continued driving the winding road westward towards the junction of highway 56, where I planned on heading south out of the valley. I also stoped at the Star Mine Suspension Bridge, a 117 meter long pedestrian suspension bridge across the Red Deer River. Constructed in 1931, it was built for the coal workers of Star Mine located on the north side of the river. In 1958, the Alberta provincial government rebuilt the bridge to commemorate part of the colourful mining history of the Drumheller Valley. The bridge was gorgeous in the early morning light with its white frost covering. Pressed for time, I took highway 56 southbound towards the junction of highway 564 where I turned and headed west back to Calgary. As I drove westward I replayed my morning out chasing hoarfrost throughout the badlands of Southeast Alberta. Gotta love it.

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