Chasing Moonrise, Valley Of The Gods, Utah

Full Moon rising over Cedar Mesa, from Valley Of The Gods.

Full Moon rising over Cedar Mesa, from Valley Of The Gods.

So it was Full Moon time again. I schedule my life around it. Doesn’t everybody?

For the March Full Moon I decided to change scenery. Though not too much. After all, I live at the Center of the Universe: southeast Utah. Four Corners country, some of the very best of the Colorado Plateau.

I hate to brag, so I don’t. I show.

South on Highway 261, bisecting the high desert Pinyon pine-Juniper country of Cedar Mesa. A clean air, open sky, lonesome (not lonely) emptiness into which tortuous and amazingly beautiful canyons have been carved. Still wild, no roads down into them. Wilderness areas waiting for formal designation. For further protection. But that’s another story.

At the south edge of Cedar Mesa, one drives down the steep gravel road switchbacks of the Moki Dugway.  It frightens many people. (Though not most Colorado residents, they shrug it off).

The top of the Moki Dugway,  Cedar Mesa.

The top of the Moki Dugway,Cedar Mesa.

So 1,100 feet lower in elevation in less than three miles, I’m back onto the San Juan River valley not that far from Mexican Hat. A dirt road to the left is the western entrance to Valley Of The Gods. The road has dried out nicely. I’ve chosen it in part so I could report to tourists how it is after the most recent snowstorm.

Oops, the Dugway just got narrower here. Stay on the road. Or else.

Oops, the Dugway just got narrower here. Stay on the road. Or else.

I pass the Bed And Breakfast ranch inn there. I’d stopped at its locked gate during the winter and noted its sign: “Always open”. Except when it wasn’t, like when I passed by this winter. Still, it looks like a cool place. I hope to stay there one day. Maybe this year. Spend your money locally whenever you can.

Valley Of The Gods Road. Wide open high desert spaces.

Valley Of The Gods Road. Wide open high desert spaces.

Across the up and down dirt road across ‘Gods’. Nobody around, unless you count me. Some of the hills and curves in the road are blind, so go slowly. Trying to take it all in, yet again. Red sandstone buttes and spires at the foot of the towering escarpment of Cedar Mesa that I’d come down.

Sandstone spire at sunset, Valley Of The Gods.

Sandstone spire at sunset, Valley Of The Gods.

All the while calculating exactly where moonrise would occur in relation to the most dramatic features in the eastern horizon. After a few more miles, I decided to backtrack. I found the best spot available, and stopped. Time to wait. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but around here second best is still really good. Alone in the high desert red rock country, clean air, etc. Peace.

Over the ridge, moonrise at sunset.

Over the ridge, moonrise at sunset.

Some more photos of the moonrise before it got too dark to be more than a yellow circle on a black background.

Moonrise at dusk, Valley Of The Gods.

Moonrise at dusk, Valley Of The Gods.

Then back up onto Cedar Mesa. Back up the Moki Dugway. One more evening of trying to be slowly immersed into this silent, powerful landscape done.

Photo locations: Cedar Mesa and San Juan River Valley, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

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2 comments on “Chasing Moonrise, Valley Of The Gods, Utah

  1. Gorgeous country. We usually overnight a couple of nights at Goosenecks on our way back to CO. The RV is a little to long to get into Valley of the Gods. Love those buttes. Beautiful photos.

    Like

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