Hoarfrost is probably my favorite of winter’s many presentations. It’s way better than the presentation where you and your buddy get a four-wheel-drive truck stuck in deep snow halfway to the middle of nowhere. And way better than the one where your big sister talks you into sticking your tongue onto a metal post in subzero temperatures.
The “hoar” in hoarfrost, near as I can tell from slipping around on the internet, is derived from the Old English term “har,” meaning gray or white with connotations of old age.
Hoarfrost develops on almost anything upright when ideal conditions persist: trees, grass, and fences. Overnight, a brilliant white sheath of scales grows on every exposed limb, every post, and every wire. Even overhead powerlines become enveloped in frost.
So far as frost goes, hoarfrost is easily the most fragile of formations. Shaking a heavily bejeweled tree or bumping against an encrusted fence will cause the frost to detach and spill down wholesale. The entire coat of frost will instantly shed as sparkles of so much fairy dust. A brisk wind will clear an entire landscape in a spectacular wash of sparkles.
Yesterday morning came with heavy hoarfrost and a cold inversion pressed against the prairie south of my home. As soon as the sun cleared the hills east of my house, I ran outside to capture images. The last photograph features my house when the sun, as it does, finally scoured the frozen mist from the earth.
-- Mitchell Hegman