April 21, the day before Full Moon, and I was — as usual — plotting where to photograph the rising moon over the desert landscape. It had to be somewhere reasonably close to home, say 30 miles, or I wouldn’t be able to get there in time after work.
So I chose the southeast rim of Cedar Mesa. Although I greatly prefer situating myself so that the moon rises over some prominent landscape feature such as mountain peaks, this was not going to be one of those times. So instead I chose a yawning expanse of southeast Utah canyon country, overlooking the Valley Of The Gods and the lower San Juan River valley, with Colorado’s Sleeping Ute Mountain in the far distance.
I had heard from a local about a couple of dirt roads leading to the rim in that area — facing east — that I had not explored. Now was the time.
On my second try I drove out a road that soon came to the rim, the edge of the 1,000 foot drop the southern escarpment of Cedar Mesa provides above the Valley Of The Gods. No one was there: perfect. Cape Solitude.
To my left was a south facing cliff wall, the north side of a short side canyon. I was interested in the house sized chunks of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that had fallen onto the next shelf of rock just below the mesa top. Being south facing, I wondered if there were any Ancestral Puebloan ruins among them, or rock panels with inscriptions such as petroglyphs and maybe pictographs as well.
The lowering sun warmed the red buttes of the Gods far below. As I sat in my chair, camera on tripod in front of me, watching the golden hour show, waiting for the moon to show (which is also the name of a favorite Bruce Cockburn song).
Then I glanced at the opposing cliff face again, now that the sunlight was off it. There it was, an ancient cliff dwelling ruin in an alcove about halfway down the cliff. Plain as day.
On with the sunset show. The redlands below were glowing warmer and warmer.
The eastern skyline was fairly hazy, so that when the moon did creep into view just before sunset it had a slightly pink cast.
Sleeping Ute Mountain had fallen into a deep shade of blue. The redlands were now burnt red in twilight, no longer glowing.
With the sun down, the rising moon turned from pink to yellow, a product of the haze. And finally to white after it was above the haze.
I made a variety of wide shots, closeups, and overlapping images for panoramas.
Finally it was dusk. Time to retire to the vehicle for the night.
My “Cape Solitude” was also Cape Serenity. An exceptional spring evening on Cedar Mesa.
Photo location: Cedar Mesa, San Juan County, southeast Utah.
© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg