In Between the Colors: Out Of Winter

 

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu Natural Bridge, early March.

Being well into my second year of living in southeastern Utah’s canyon country, I feel qualified to express a few things.

My favorite seasons of the year, as always, are autumn, spring, winter, and summer. Yes, in that order. I appreciate them all. But I sweat heavily while hiking in summer, and it can sometimes seem more like a bridge between the new life of spring and the glory of autumn colors. I love it too, even so. I am experienced enough in the high desert climate to take lots of water and salty snacks (electrolyte replacement, quite important) when I hike.

Stream pool reflection, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Pool reflection, Serenity Canyon, Natural Bridges.

This past fall, after a glorious spring and summer here in the high desert canyonlands, I suddenly felt blue. I wasn’t expecting to feel that way, it just happened. Such an amazing visual ride for months…and then…suddenly the last leaves of the cottonwoods, Single Leaf ash trees, the shrubs, the brown grasses from earlier in the season…gone.

My awesome canyons seemed so drab all of a sudden. I longed for the first snows to brighten things back up. They came, and early, thankfully. Gorgeous snowstorms which I have documented on this blog a while back.

Then the winter moves on, but the green of spring has yet to arrive. The second in-between the colors time. The spring version. Early spring, late winter. However you’d like to frame it.

Serenity Canyon in early spring, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Serenity Canyon panorama.

But as always there was the ace in the hole: the trademark Utah high country blue skies.

With that in mind I once again descended the trail down to Sipapu Natural Bridge — second largest in the Americas, sixth largest in the world.

To see how things were. In a place as special (and relatively unnoticed) as this you can almost have the canyons and cliffs to yourself. Especially at this time of year.

Five hundred feet down in elevation to the bridge. Done. Appreciating it again, with my camera in addition to my soul: done.

Serenity Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Serenity Canyon, early spring.

Beneath the mighty bridge, the trail takes the casual visitor downstream. It’s a great hike. But I had a different date. I turned hard right up an unnamed side canyon that I love. Since it has no name on the map, I am naming it Serenity Canyon.

Few people go up there, despite the ease. I had walked it last year, and I felt slightly guilty that I’d procrastinated this long before returning. We all have our faults, our distractions.

I could tell nobody had been up there by the well weathered tracks in the sand of the canyon bottom. And there were few, even so. I was the first on this early spring afternoon, and I intended to make the most of it.

Serenity Canyon erosional pool in Cedar Mesa Sandstone, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Swirly-whirl pool in Cedar Mesa Sandstone, Serenity Canyon.

I was soon halted by a big pool of water. The snowmelt had filled it, and I was captivated by the reflections of the canyon walls. Tough lighting: deep shade and bright canyon walls above.

I was able to skirt the pool to the left, ducking beneath some cottonwood branches. Gradually up the canyon floor.

Eventually I was halted by a pour-0ff ledge. The remaining ice blocks were on the floor. I chastised myself for not being up there earlier.

2016_UT-1988

Last of the ice waterfall, Serenity Canyon.

Looking back downstream, I admired the bands of Cedar Mesa sandstone seemingly swirling around the pool of water. I made a number of exposures. Experimenting.

Then back down the canyon. And came upon some wildflowers that I’d walked past while going up the canyon, gawking at the stone walls above. Embarrassed that I’d missed them. But why should I be?

Parry's Biscuitroot, Lomatium parryi, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Parry’s Biscuitroot, Lomatium parryi

Back underneath Sipapu Bridge, I enjoyed some reflection shots of the mighty stone arc. While my boots slowly sunk into the mud of the stream.

Sipapu Natural Bridge, White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Mounument, Utah.

Sipapu Natural Bridge, from upstream, White Canyon.

The afternoon was late. I needed to say goodbye to the canyon bottom (for now) and hike back up out of it. Only 500 feet up to go, I reminded myself. What goes down into the canyon must go back up. I love the exercise. In my soul I like to feel that the canyon likes me, too. The appreciation. The alignment in energies.

What a beautiful, inspiring place. The relatively few visitors express amazement. They vow to come back, to spend more time here. They often do.

Meanwhile, I’ve had the extreme privilege to live here. Season after season.

Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

 

 

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