Frost flowers explode out of dying plants at the first hard freeze. I learned about them from our campus Record. Alan Templeton has some wonderful photos of frost flowers and knows just where to find them. The only thing is the day you go is not optional: it must be after the first hard freeze. October 25th might be that day.
I got up early and headed out of town west on 44. Alone. I got off at the Six Flags exit just past Tyson. Fox Creek Road isn’t exactly an access road, though it more or less parallels the highway. I drove a mile and a half to the trailhead and parked. I crossed back over the freshly asphalted road and took the left fork of the trail, less used and narrow, curving up along a streambed.
I saw the impenetrable nuts of a black walnut, round as golf balls, green and bigger. I heard a chickadee, then two. I quickly identified a near constant rattle as the sound of leaves falling through the branches. The trail wound up to some shallow limestone shelves in the dry streambed.
Alan had not said exactly how far I needed to go to find the best plants for frost flowers. It seemed early enough, before eight in the morning. But the puddle in the parking lot was unfrozen. Maybe it wasn’t cold enough, though the reports had said mid twenties out here towards Eureka. I kept going.