Goodbye Monticello

Springtime scenery photo of Loyds Lake, in San Juan County, southeast Utah.

Loyds Lake, Monticello, Utah

As things have turned out, it was time for me to leave southeast Utah. It had been a wonderful three years, first living at Natural Bridges National Monument at the north end of Cedar Mesa, then a half year in a town, Monticello, Utah.

My time in Monticello started in this past fall, my favorite time of year. Warm days, crisp nights at 7,000 feet. A lot of trout fishing at Loyds Lake. It soon became my Walden Pond, now that I was officially retired.

Being free of a job, of somewhere to be each day, was liberation. At first. But as the winter wore on and the lake froze over, it was less and less fun. I needed something to do.

So now I work at Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, a mere 60 miles east of Monticello. I help to raise money for the park, working for the Mesa Verde Museum Association, the nonprofit partner of the park. It provides structure for my life, even though I do have to be certain places on certain days at certain times. It’s a heck of a lot better than being fully “retired”.

Panorama photo of springtime green agricultural fields near Dove Creek, Colorado.

Springtime on the Great Sage Plain, Dove Creek, Colorado, between Monticello and Cortez.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com

Abajo Peaks, Sunset Sunbeams

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Sunbeams over the Abajo Mountains, just east of Monticello.

Driving west from Colorado into Utah on highway 491, I was watching a small storm front approach from the west.

Snow showers swirling around the Abajo Mountains, which are often called “the Blues” by the locals in Monticello, Utah.

Almost sunset. The sun too high for colors, but it streamed through the shifting clouds in dazzling fashion.

I had to pull over to the side of the highway to get a shot. It’s what I do, after all.

Photo location: Highway 491, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

See more of my photography at www.NaturalMoment.com.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg | Stephen Krieg Photographics

Sunset to Moonrise at the Lake

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December sunset afterglow backlights a cloud bank over the Abajos.

Another chilly early December evening. Fishing was good at the lake, a nice chop to the water but not so strong as to make conditions unsavory.

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Panoramic view, minutes later.

From atop the dam I made overlapping images to merge into a huge panorama file later using Adobe Lightroom CC.

Then, looking over my shoulder was the nearly full moon rising above the Earth’s shadow and the Venus Belt.

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Rising moon, two days before Full Moon.

Photo location: Monticello, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Inspector Of Storms

Snow squall over the lake seems to be swallowing the late afternoon sun.

Snow squall over the lake seems to be swallowing the late afternoon sun.

“For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms, and did my duty faithfully….” –Henry David Thoreau

A cold, blustery afternoon in late November. Sunlight and snow flurries. Not bad. Lake fishing for trout is much better when there are ripples or even small chops on the water’s surface. When it’s calm the water is glassy and the fish can see the line and they think: “That doesn’t look natural. I don’t think I’ll eat it.” They do. They may have tiny brains, but they know what they’re doing.

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Snow showers around the Abajo Mountains.

But the fishing action was slow on this wintry afternoon. The limit for trout in Utah is four fish (you can catch more as long as you release them immediately), and it was taking me a long time to reach my limit. I probably wouldn’t have stuck it out for more than about an hour if it weren’t for the snow showers over the Abajos and the lake. The light was constantly changing as the clouds shifted around.

Late afternoon sun reflection and snow showers.

Late afternoon sun reflection and snow showers.

The snow squalls would wreathe the mountain peaks, then dissipate for a bit. The wind was coming across the dam behind me, making for a sheltered spot where I was fishing. The calm water at my feet made for a wonderful mirror for the dramatic display in the sky to the south. I would cast my lure over and over, and when another intriguing photo presented itself I set down my rod and reel and got the camera out of the camera bag. I would shoot the scene, then go right back to fishing.

Blue and white clouds, blue and white lake.

Blue and white clouds, blue and white lake.

Finally, after two and a half hours in the cold, I had my limit of trout. And the light display was winding down, too. There would be no gold and red sunset colors this evening; the clouds on the western horizon had cut off any chance of that. But the light show of whites to blues to dark blues had been quite mesmerizing.

Rainbow trout on a snow patch.

Rainbow trout on a snow patch, new snowflakes decorating it while I continued to fish.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Abajo Peaks and December Sky Reflection

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Early evening sky reflection, Monticello, Utah.

Early evening at sunset in early winter, December 1st. The snow covered Abajo Mountains, which the locals usually call the Blue Mountains or merely “The Blues” look small in this ultra wide angle panoramic composition. That’s because the clouds stole the show, spread  across the sky from north to south. The lake was mirror calm and so doubled the effect.

Photo location: Monticello, San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Early Fall Colors, Abajo Mountains, Utah

Abajo Mountains, early fall colors.

Abajo Mountains, early fall colors.

A slow, glorious autumn has been progressing in the Four Corners region. Cool nights and warm sunny days. No big cold snaps yet.

I have heard reports of terrible (almost nonexistent) fall colors in much of Colorado, other than the San Juan Mountain Range. The early summer rains — so appreciated for making the region so lush this growing season — was also good for an aspen leaf fungus to prosper. Nothing serious, it’s temporary. But it affects the aspen trees, making them feel like dropping their leaves early. We shall see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks.

Quaking Aspen foliage, Abajo Mountains, Utah.

Quaking Aspen fall foliage, Abajo Mountains, Utah. 

This week I went to the Abajo Mountains, a very small but beautiful mountain range within the Manti-La Sal National Forest just west of Monticello, Utah. The higher forest stands had some nice colors going, especially on the north side of the range.

Thunderhead cloud over the Abajos.

Thunderhead cloud over the Abajos.

Afterward, climbing up onto Cedar Mesa, large raindrops splattered my windshield. So I pulled over to get out an enjoy the spontaneous shower, and the gorgeous clouds that produced it.

Rain cloud over Cedar Mesa.

Rain cloud over Cedar Mesa.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunflower Power, Southeast Utah

Sunflowers and Abajo Mountains.

Sunflowers and Abajo Mountains.

It’s getting to be late August. In southeast Utah, the monsoon season rains have been disappointing so far. Though in this almost record breaking wetness that was the late spring and early summer, it’s still way green around here for the high desert. So there is much left to appreciate before fall creeps in.

On this particular evening, there was a thunderstorm cell moving through. So I chased it. Got underneath some fat rain drops, some small hail. Then nothing more than overcast skies.

Not to worry. I was still in one of the most awesome places on Earth. Such flat evening light can have its own advantages. Like lowered contrast. Like light breezes instead of strong ones.

West of Blanding I pulled over to see what I could do with some sunflowers along the road. Their bright yellow petals gave a splash of bright color even in a soft contrast scene. The distant Abajo Mountains formed a nice distant horizon. You can see why the locals also call that mountain range “the Blues”.

My favorite image from this brief stop turned out to be this vertical composition. The sunflower plants dominate the foreground, the Abajo Mountains the far skyline. And somehow the red dirt county road gets in there at the upper right. You can usually count on a lonely county road to do things like that. I don’t know why.

Sunflower cluster along Highway 95, west of Blanding, Utah.

Sunflower cluster along Highway 95, west of Blanding, Utah.

Photo location: San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg