High Desert Wildflowers

It’s been an uncommonly wet spring in the high desert of southeast Utah and the rest of the Four Corners area. The plants are making hay while the rains come, so to speak. As they are engineered to do.

Each spring I vow to learn the species as they flower, which gives one time to notice them, since they don’t all blossom at once.  Usually I fail to keep my promise.

This year, though, I have been doing quite well. Here are some of my favorites so far.

Cliffrose. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Cliffrose. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Blue Flax. San Juan County near Blanding, Utah.

Blue Flax. San Juan County near Blanding, Utah.

Cactus flower, Arizona Strip.

Cactus flower, Arizona Strip.

Narrow Leaf Yucca, Cedar Point, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Narrow Leaf Yucca, Cedar Point, Cedar Mesa, Utah.

Along the road to Hovenweep National Monument, Utah. Sleeping Ute Mountain, Colorado in the distance.

Along the road to Hovenweep National Monument, Utah. Sleeping Ute Mountain, Colorado in the distance.

Prickly Pear Cactus Blossom.

Prickly Pear Cactus Blossom.

Hopi Blanket Flower. Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Hopi Blanket Flower. Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Advertisements

Evening Rain, Cedar Mesa

Cedar Mesa sunset shower panorama.

Cedar Mesa sunset shower panorama.

Sunset colors–good ones–had been sorely lacking in these parts this spring. I’m not used to that. Not in the high desert, with all the clear air and clouds of an uncommonly wet springtime.

So when some rain showers approached in the evening, I thought it was worth another try. You never know what might happen. Never bet against sunset, that’s my motto. One of them.

So out at Maverick Point, with its splendid unobstructed view to the west, I once again set up the camera on tripod. A lovely rain curtain was falling toward distant Monument Valley, lit slightly golden by the low angle of the setting sun. A good start to the session.

Moss Back Butte and evening rain shower.

Moss Back Butte and evening rain shower.

Then another light gray rain curtain in between me and Moss Back Butte. I love to watch rain curtains in the distance. After a little while there was thunder, which meant I was in the danger zone for lightning. Me and my aluminum tripod. So after several more shots I retreated to the truck to watch the evening progress. Rain drops streaked down the passenger side window and the wind came up. See, I didn’t want to get my camera wet anyway. So much safer inside a vehicle when lightning might be about.

I drove up onto Maverick Point itself for a higher view. The sunset colors near the distant Henry Mountains was interesting. Not killer, but nice.

Henry Mountains sunset colors, from Cedar Mesa.

Henry Mountains sunset colors, from Cedar Mesa.

On the point was a new fire ring. Not the usual crude thing, but a work of art. Flat sandstone slivers made into a circular hearth. Another oblong rock across the top made it into a grill to cook a pot of stew on. It was new; I’d been back to this spot very recently. A very nice place to camp with a tent, not far from a parked vehicle.

Fire ring artwork on Photographer's Point.

Fire ring artwork on Photographer’s Point.

And I’ve dubbed this particular viewpoint on Maverick Point as Photographer’s Point. This is just between you and me, right?

Photo location: Cedar Mesa, San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Lee’s Ferry Again

Navajo Bridges, Marble Canyon, Arizona

Navajo Bridges, Marble Canyon, Arizona

Back to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River in northern Arizona. The gateway to the Grand Canyon via the river. The geologic break in the almost impenetrable cliffs the Colorado has dug for itself. It’s a crossroads: the road to the river bank, below Glen Canyon Dam, five miles upstream from the modern Highway 89A that crosses the gorge via Navajo Bridge. Which are twin bridges, the old one being a tourist walkway these days.

Lee's Ferry Boat Landing, Colorado River, Arizona

Lee’s Ferry Boat Landing, Colorado River, Arizona

Post Office: Marble Canyon, Arizona, at the Marble Canyon Lodge. An outpost in the high desert. And after all these years, one of my favorite places. A powerful magnet for me, photographically with its towering cliffs on both sides of the river. The river cold and deep and powerful. The people who visit, to run the Grand Canyon, or fish for trout. Or explore the historic buildings nearby.

Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, Marble Canyon, Arizona

Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, Marble Canyon, Arizona

I have seen Lee’s Ferry in most times of year. I hope to keep on seeing it awhile longer, to experience all of them. Photo location: Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon, the Arizona Strip, Coconino County, northern Arizona. © 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

The Sun Poured Through

One of my personal philosophies is to keep revisiting favorite places, especially in different seasons. Thus it was time to return to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

Though this post is not about my time inside the park. Oh, no. Because I feel like writing about what came afterward. It was that kind of day.

Beef Basin rain shower.

Beef Basin rain shower.

So I left the park and returned east on highway 211. A rain shower was falling up ahead and the afternoon sunlight was pouring through it. Naturally I had to pull over and do something about it. Photograph it, I mean.

It had been a rainy spring day, and so driving on the dirt roads branching off from the highway was nothing to be trifled with. On the way in I had tested out the lower portion of the Beef Basin road, and had quickly been sliding around, even with All Wheel Drive. But after a few hours things had firmed up. I found a nice camping spot and prepared to settle in for the night. Nobody around. Peacefully perfect.

Balanced rock at campsite.

Balanced rock at campsite.

And a very expansive view of the valley and red rock cliffs towering all around. I didn’t choose this spot for nothing.

The rare wet spring in the high desert had things blooming. Plus the wet earth and vegetation made the colors more saturated. I had water, food, music, and of course photo gear. I wouldn’t play any music until after dark, preferring the sound of the wind and birds.

Barrel cactus and grass.

Barrel cactus and grass.

The campsite was well used. And hadn’t been cleaned up that well, so I did. Leave a place better than you found it. A desert cottontail rabbit was comfortable sharing the spot with me. See what I mean?

Desert cottontail rabbit, guardian of the campsite.

Desert cottontail rabbit, guardian of the campsite.

At sunset time, the sun poured through a single hole in the clouds, lighting up the cliff across the valley. That was so awesome that if nothing more had occurred I would have been elated enough.

Sunset spotlight on the cliff base.

Sunset spotlight on the cliff base.

But no. More yellow-orange sunset light splayed across the cliffs, changing with the lowering sun and the shifting of the clouds. Incredible. And mine, all mine. For one special evening.

Blazing cliffs at sunset.

Blazing cliffs at sunset.

Photo location: Beef Basin, San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Return To Dolores Canyon

The Great Sage (now agricultural) Plain and Sleeping Ute Mountain.

The Great Sage (now agricultural) Plain and Sleeping Ute Mountain.

It was back to the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado. A little bit north of Dove Creek. Off the north edge of the Great Sage Plain and into the Ponderosa pine forest surrounding the Dolores River Canyon. An area I was coming to know better and better.

Dolores River Canyon side canyon, looking south to Dove Creek.

Dolores River Canyon side canyon, looking south to Dove Creek.

The first stop: to the Dolores Canyon Overlook. Which is actually on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. They have a very nice little park there, an easy walk to the overlook down into the canyon. And there’s usually no one there. Maybe a few locals on the weekends, but it’s too far from the beaten path, in a very rural area anyway, to be crowded. My kind of place.

Dolores River Canyon.

Dolores River Canyon.

After taking in the fine springtime afternoon at the viewpoint, it was time to decide on my camp location. Once there I settled in and gathered firewood for the evening. And also cleaned it up a little bit. Just a few things left behind by some other campers, nothing much. Following another of my principles: If you take care of a place, it will take care of you, too. It’s just sensible.

Early evening clouds towering over the Ponderosa pine forest.

Early evening clouds towering over the Ponderosa pine forest.

Time to sit back in my folding camp chair and savor. The clouds, the Ponderosa pine trees, the light, the delicious high country air.

Eventually evening light came on. Right on schedule. Though I had no schedule. Tough lighting for photographs, high contrast between the brilliant clouds and shadowed forest below. Dramatic lighting. Brilliant whites to blues, then sunset colors in the clouds.

Sunset colors in the clouds, framed by Ponderosa pines.

Sunset colors in the clouds, framed by Ponderosa pines.

Then dusk, finally. The fire died down, I did too, going to bed. Appreciation for another wonderful day.

Photo location: Dolores County, Colorado.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg.

Return To (Lonesome) Dove Creek

Dove Creek Superette, nice grocery store at the heart of town.

Dove Creek Superette, nice grocery store at the heart of town.

I love small towns. Always have. Probably because I grew up in one, and haven’t felt attracted to the noise and stress of living in a city. To each their own. And I know my own.

The outskirts of town: Dove Creek, Colorado.

The outskirts of town: Dove Creek, Colorado.

These days one of my favorite local towns is Dove Creek in southwest Colorado. It’s a small farming hamlet out in the middle of The Great Sage Plain (nowadays the Great Agricultural Plain to me) between Monticello, Utah and Cortez, Colorado. Dove Creek claims to be the “Pinto Bean Capital Of The World”. Despite such a lofty title (one wonders how many challenges they have to fend off), the locals have always seemed very friendly to me. Real salt of the earth types. But, trust me, a local business is called Adobe Milling, and they have some awesome food products. Including pinto beans, corn, and really great hot sauces. I use their chipotle-habanero sauce in my eggs in the morning. That’ll get your taste buds’ attention.

Vintage vehicles, edge of Dove Creek, Colorado.

Vintage vehicles, edge of Dove Creek, Colorado.

And Dove Creek does have–don’t even try to be surprised–a Lonesome Dove Bar. In the ugliest metal building, like something taken over from part of a warehouse. It could be really cool inside, I don’t know. I’m still trying to work up the nerve to walk inside like I belong there. Maybe to ask directions (“Which way to the pinto bean fields?” might be a big hit.)

To be sure, they have a sense of humor, even on serious subjects, to get your attention. I was in a local store and saw a breast cancer awareness sweatshirt for sale. It had the usual neon pink ribbon, but in an homage to hunting and other rural traditions, a pair of big deer antlers with “SAVE A RACK” in the middle. I am not making this up.

So it’s springtime in Dove Creek. Everything’s greening up, fields are planted or are in the process of being so. The air is clear and the skies wide open. And this week, after a springtime rain storm cold front had passed through, especially clear air and gorgeous cumulus clouds.

The Great Agricultural Plain, Dove Creek.

The Great Agricultural Plain, Dove Creek.

Me, I hunt photographs, and it was pleasant to drive around town and in the countryside (which is only a few blocks out of town). The brilliant skies made the place look even more squeaky clean.

It’s a wonderful place, and here are some choice photos to show you why.

Cumulus clouds across the Great Sage Plain.

Cumulus clouds across the Great Sage Plain.

Then it was north of town. To the Dolores River Canyon. But that’s another story, isn’t it?

Photo location: Dove Creek, Colorado.

© 2015 Stephen J, Krieg