Natural Bridges: Snowy Wonderland

White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument

White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument

Finally, after three weeks of springlike weather, a good late winter storm arrived. Moisture, snow. Wet snow, clinging to everything.

Douglas-fir trees, White Canyon.

Douglas-fir trees, White Canyon.

After dawn, the cloud ceiling had raised just above Cedar Mesa. Just above us. The snow had paused. More was forecast to come in all day, so I saw it as a window to get out there and get some photos before the clouds closed again.

Stairway down Sipapu Bridge Trail.

Stairway down Sipapu Bridge Trail.

I started down Sipapu Bridge Trail. Even with sharp Yak Traks on my boots, it was slippery in places, because of the depth of the snow. But they were great overall.

I was the first one down the trail. I love being alone out there. So peaceful. I usually urge park visitors to venture at least part way down this trail. Getting below the rim of the canyon gives you such a better perspective. A better sense of scale.

Along the Sipapu Bridge Trail.

Along the Sipapu Bridge Trail.

But I didn’t trek all the way down to Sipapu Bridge. Sensing that the pause in the snowfall wouldn’t last long, I wanted to venture further along the Rim.

So next was the trail to the Horse Collar Ruin overlook. This has become one of my favorite trails in the park. It’s easy, but varied in scenery. And at the end it looks down into White Canyon at the alcove where the pueblos and granaries were built. And left behind about 800 years ago.

Snow flocked trees along the rim of White Canyon.

Snow flocked trees along the rim of White Canyon.

White Canyon isn’t white. The Cedar Mesa Sandstone is beige, at best. Visitors coming to see the Bridges often have trouble discerning them from the overlooks above. Down below, though, there’s no doubt.

Along Horse Collar Ruin overlook trail.

Along Horse Collar Ruin overlook trail.

But this day, with all the truly white new snow, White Canyon was softly, brightly awash with winter light. The sandstone cliff faces don’t accept the snow, making them stick out in visual relief all the more. And they overhang the ruin, protecting it from being buried in the white stuff. A natural shelter that not only avoids the snow, but accepts the low winter sunlight on sunny days.

Horse Collar Ruins, White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Horse Collar Ruins, White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Soon after, the snows did indeed resume. My window was closing.

Down into White Canyon.

Down into White Canyon.

I made some rather quick shots of Kachina Bridge and Owachomo Bridge, and then I was done for the morning. Finished with photography, but not appreciation for so many gorgeous scenes in such a short time.

Weathered Juniper tree trunk in snow.

Weathered Juniper tree trunk in a snow shower.

And all alone.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

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