When A White Christmas Won’t…(Part 2)

Snowstorm interlude, Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Snowstorm interlude, Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

So, wearing my self awarded title of Modern Day Mountain Man, I’d driven all day from central Arizona up to the top of the geologic Grand Staircase to Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. To be there when a snowstorm arrived. It’s what I do, don’t try to dissuade me.

Christmas morning tourists at Bryce Point.

Christmas morning tourists at Bryce Point.

Still surprised by all the Asian tourists that had been at Bryce Point for the sunrise (such as it was, through the snowstorm), the clouds had closed back in. Let it snow. But no sense in going to my other favorite Bryce Canyon viewpoints to wait out the storm. Not since I had to drive all day to get home to southeast Utah, to San Juan County. This was a hit-and-go sojourn, to my chagrin.

Ruby's Inn parking lot, Christmas morning.

Ruby’s Inn parking lot, Christmas morning.

Yes, I would have loved to have lingered. Being back at Ruby’s Inn at Bryce was so nice. I’d gotten in late and barely had time to sleep in such nice lodging, every detail attended to, and modestly priced. The front desk staff had given me a flyer for the Christmas morning breakfast buffet, only $5.50. As I passed back from my early morning photo shoot I was so tempted to indulge in the food. Rest a bit, eat, savor. But instead I rolled. Many miles to go, you know.

Ruby's Inn lobby on Christmas morning.

Ruby’s Inn lobby on Christmas morning.

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When A White Christmas Won’t Come To You…

Christmas lights, morning, Courthouse Square, Prescott, Arizona.

Christmas lights, morning, Courthouse Square, Prescott, Arizona.

I was back in northern Arizona two days before Christmas. As always it was good to be back. But even Flagstaff hadn’t gotten much snow, except for up on the San Francisco Peaks. Bah.

From there I descended another 2,000 feet to Prescott, which rightly bills itself as “Arizona’s Christmas City”. Courthouse Square is always lit up in its small town All American way. Two years ago I was fortunate to be there with snow on the ground, which adds so much to the lights. But not this year. I could have gone out that evening and done some night photography of the Square lit up, but I didn’t feel enough motivation. A bit too road weary.

Looking into Hotel St. Michael's lobby, Prescott, AZ.

Looking into Hotel St. Michael’s lobby, Prescott, AZ.

As it turned out I had to stay there a  second night. My business was complete at 1 PM. What to do next?

No snow in the forecast down here. Maybe an inch up at Flagstaff. But…all the way up at Bryce Canyon in southern Utah, several inches coming in. A long ways from Prescott. Very long. But do-able. I was feeling good, and the prospect intrigued me. A dangerous combination, but also sometimes very productive. If you pull it off.

If you don’t know someone who would purposely drive toward a snowstorm instead of avoiding it…well, now you do. And I made it. I hate driving through the dark in beautiful country, because I might miss something. But sometimes it has to be done.

In the morning I was ready well before dawn, checking the updated weather forecast and radar images. Yes, it was coming in, a dusting of snow outside with more approaching from the west.

Morning, Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Morning, Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

As it got light I drove into the park. Several cars were ahead of me, judging by the tire tracks in the thin snow. It was now coming down hard. I went to Bryce Point, where a busload of Asians were already swarming about on the trails to the overlooks. I set up my tripod to steady the camera in the not yet bright light of the storm. An Asian woman tapped me on the arm, asking “You wait for sunrise?” They were all excited to be there. The sun was already up, though struggling to make itself visible through the snowfall.

Snowy sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park.

Snowy sunrise, Bryce Canyon National Park.

I wasn’t in the mood to be tourist-sociable, because the light was closing fast. The snow was shutting the curtain, for who knew how long. As the rest of the tourists boarded their bus, an elderly passenger hung back, alone. He held his smart phone above his head and slowly circled around the scene, apparently videoing it. And singing, some kind of religious song, I guess. I almost turned my own video recording function back on to capture him doing it. But I demurred, thinking it too intrusive. I was quite satisfied with what I had.

As early as it was, I had to make some tactical decisions. Wait out the storm, or travel on?

Wish you were here (to scrape the windshield).

Wish you were here (to scrape the windshield).

Photo locations: Prescott, Arizona; Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

© Copyright 2014 Stephen J. Krieg

Ice Is Nice

Mouth of side canyon, and Sipapu Bridge.

Mouth of side canyon, and Sipapu Bridge.

Down in White Canyon at Sipapu Natural Bridge, for further exploration. This trip I started to explore a side canyon that emptied in just above the Bridge.

After pushing through a short of section of brush and young cottonwood trees that screened off the mouth from the trail, and might discourage most casual hikers to stay in the main canyon, I was delighted to find it open into a wonderful U-shaped trough carved out of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone.

Cedar Mesa Sandstone formations, White Canyon.

Cedar Mesa Sandstone formations, White Canyon.

It was easy walking, a trickle of water flowing down from the snow still melting up on the rim of the canyon. The overlapping layers of cross bedded sandstone (indicating that they had been laid down as desert sand dunes) made for a nice design.

Retreating ice, canyon pool.

Retreating ice, canyon pool.

Several of the water pools still had ice floating on their surfaces. But they had melted along the edges, and so moved about slowly with the tiny stream’s current. The last leaves of autumn had fallen on the surface, still slightly yellow, and since they are darker than the almost white ice they absorb more heat from the sky, even in such a shady spot. They were slowly melting into the surface of the ice.

Cottonwood leaves on ice, White Canyon.

Cottonwood leaves on ice, White Canyon.

Further up there was a pour-off; a ledge with a high waterfall. End of the trail, at least for now. Too high to climb around without a lot of trial and error. Besides, I was feeling done for the day, having already hiked up the main canyon. This was merely a side trip on the way back out. A very gratifying one. I would be back.

Sandstone bowl near the head of the side canyon.

Sandstone bowl near the head of the side canyon.

Photo location: White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, Utah. Click on any image to see a much larger version.

All content © 2014 Stephen J. Krieg.

Canyon Cloud Shadow Mosaic

Grand Canyon from South Rim, summer thunderstorm

Summer rain, Grand Canyon

Cumulus clouds above, out of sight as I try to comprehend the patterns they break the sunlight into on the improbable canyons below.

My eye doesn’t know where to dwell. Or is it my mind, my brain? My soul hanging back, seeing what we might decide to appreciate at this time.

I don’t know enough yet to know much of anything, seemingly. I’m merely an artist, I think. Hoping to figure it out later. Betting on later.

Standing back after the photograph. Despite instant gratification technology, nothing really has changed. Not for the artist. Not really. Despite distractions, confusion, diversions.

He or she can always come back home. Must. Shrug the other shit off and get back to the real stuff. “Social” media? See where that gets you.

Meanwhile, back in the high desert, the sandstone and canyons and deer and cactus and Pinyon pine and Utah juniper care only for…those who care.

Because if you care for a place, don’t be surprised if it will take care of you, too.

Something to ponder.

Cedar Mesa Sunset Cloud Bank Panorama

Cedar Mesa sunset panorama, Utah

Blue-black above, black below, gold in the middle. A sunset sandwich. [Click on image for much larger version].

Thanksgiving Day found me restless. The fifth of five days off, that’ll do it to almost anybody. I had spent two days camping up in the snowy San Juan Range in southwest Colorado. Now, back in San Juan County, Utah (lots of San Juans here in Four Corners Country, including the river) I was ready to be outside again, if only for half a day.

So I drove up Deer Flat Road. Never got all the way up to Deer Flat, but that was okay since I didn’t want to go that far anyway. I wanted to explore the area near the head of Deer Canyon. I liked that area the first time I saw it. Nobody out there, lots of wild country to explore.

On the way back out of there, just before sunset, I saw the colors shaping up. The clouds were just right: heavy clouds over the western horizon to reflect the sun’s colors just after it was below the horizon. But not so far “down” as to cut off the sunset completely. Moss Back Butte was on the skyline, about ten miles away. Plus some other high desert buttes and ridges that I haven’t been around long enough to identify yet.

A really wide bank of clouds, top notch. One super wide angle shot would not portray this. So I made a number of high resolution overlapping shots, then merged them to a giant panorama master file in Photoshop. Click on the image for a much larger version.

Photo location: Cedar Mesa, San Juan County, near Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.