Evening Snow Squall, Canyonlands

Evening snow squall clouds over the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

Evening snow squall clouds over the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah.

It was the afternoon before the January Full Moon, and the weather wasn’t looking good for my favorite time of the month: Moonrise over a wild landscape. Especially mountains.

Since I live only an hour away from the La Sal Mountains in southeast Utah, I always think of them for moonrise shots, especially since there are some great viewpoints on public land in which to position oneself.

But on this particular afternoon, January 11, another snow storm was headed our way. The clouds were wrapped tight around the upper peaks of the La Sals. And they didn’t look like they would dissipate around sunset time, either.

Still, I headed out toward the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, because the clouds were mixed with areas of blue sky and everything was in flux. Unpredictable light, often the best kind.

Wintry snow squall clouds over the Colorado River near Canyonlands National Park.

Wintry snow squall clouds over the Colorado River near Canyonlands National Park.

A viewpoint down toward the Colorado River and the distant Island In The Sky district of Canyonlands was a mix of shadow, sunlight, and snow squall clouds.

The clouds never did part over the La Sal Mountains, but I was out there. I was ready. And I enjoyed some spectacular views anyway.

Photo location: northern San Juan County, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Arches National Park, Utah: Fiery Furnace and La Sal Mountains.

End of December

Icicles lit up at sunrise, southeast Utah.

Icicles at Sunrise.

The last few days of 2016 brought cold and sunshine and a little bit of fresh snow. Not a bad combination.

Having icicles outside the bedroom window allowed me to watch them light up with the sunrise on a clear morning at close range.


Mr. Tiggs, through the window glass.

Mr. Tiggs, the neighborhood cat, jumped up onto the kitchen windowsill to make sure I knew he was thinking of me. He roams around all day checking up on everybody. If there are any people standing in the parking lot he saunters right over to see what’s going on. The big fluffy yellow ham.

Then it was an hour north to Arches National Park for some more red rock scenery. The edge of the Fiery Furnace, a maze of standing red sandstone fins, made for a nice panoramic composition with the La Sal Mountains in the far distance.

Arches National Park, Utah: Fiery Furnace and La Sal Mountains.

The Fiery Furnace and the La Sal Mountains in winter.

On the way back south from Moab town, the La Sal Mountains were looking extra fine after the previous day’s snow storm. The snow had not yet dropped from the foliage of the conifer forests near timberline.

La Sal Mountains, Utah, after a recent snowfall.

Mount Tukuhnikivats and the southern cluster of the La Sal Mountains.

From US Highway 191 you can pull over for a great vantage point of the southern end of the La Sals. A straight-on look at the pointy west face of Mount Tukuhnikivats (summit elevation 12,482 feet) with its distinctive pyramidal summit.

To the south of “Tuk” is South Mountain, which had a few lone clouds hovering over its summit, casting interesting shadows.

Clouds over South Mountain in the La Sal Mountain Range in southeast Utah.

Lone clouds over South Mountain.

On December 31 the length of the day was all of three minutes longer than it had been at Winter Solstice on December 21. The sun is on its way back north, but it takes its time at this time of year.

Photo locations: Grand and San Juan Counties, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Book Cliffs and Interstate 70, eastern Utah.

Hanksville to Thompson Springs, Utah

Henry Mountains, from Hanksville, Utah.

The Henry Mountains, from Hanksville, Utah.

I stopped in Hanksville, Utah to refuel. Both the gasoline tank and the stomach, the latter at Stan’s Burger Shak. The Henry Mountains were still shining with a nice snowpack.

The day was growing late. Onward. East (actually northeast) on Utah Highway 24 to Interstate 70.

The San Rafael Reef under rain clouds, from Utah Highway 24.

Rain clouds over the San Rafael Reef.

UT-24 in this long, 45 mile stretch mostly parallels the San Rafael Reef, a geologic picket line of jagged upthrust rock. The light was wonderful, but I didn’t have time to swing westward to shoot there.


Painted desert cliff formation just east of the San Rafael River, Hwy. 24 near I-70.

Sunset time was approaching as I sped eastward on Interstate 70, where the speed limit in Utah is 80 MPH, 75 on the Colorado side of the state line.

La Sal Mountains from Interstate 70 in Utah.

The La Sal Mountains from I-70.

To the southeast the La Sal Mountains were being teased by rain or snow clouds.

Book Cliffs and Mancos Shale hills, Interstate 70, eastern Utah.

The Book Cliffs and Mancos Shale hills along I-70.

To the north of the Interstate the Book Cliffs predominate the view.

Book Cliffs, Interstate 70, eastern Utah.

Book cliffs in cloud shadow shortly before sunset.

As the evening shadows grew longer, I made use of some of the exits that access nothing more than lonely ranch roads. “No Services” means no town, not even a convenience store. But they are handy for pulling off the Interstate to photograph the view. Services along this stretch are limited to Green River and Thompson Springs.

La Sal Mountains, Utah at sunset.

La Sal Mountains in sunset colors.

Finally, sunset lit up the La Sals and some isolated clouds, and the rest of the drive would be in the dusk and the dark.

Photo locations: Emery and Grand Counties, eastern Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg



Above Canyonlands – Part 2

La Sal Mountains from Hatch Point, Canyon Rims, Utah.

The La Sal Mountains, from Hatch Point.

After ogling the views of The Needles and the Lockhart Basin area from Needles Overlook, I drove north up across the mesa called Hatch Point. Canyonlands off to the west, the snowy La Sal Mountains to the east.

Hatch Point is a sagebrush mesa where I’ve often seen pronghorn (“antelope”). I wasn’t disappointed this time, either. And in this location I was once again lucky enough to have the La Sal Mountains as a spectacular background. But they weren’t going to let me get anywhere close to them, even with a long lens.

Pronghorn antelope at Canyon Rims, with La Sal Mountains, Utah.

A herd of pronghorn on Hatch Point, with the La Sals in the distance.

Pronghorn antelope, Hatch Point, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah.

Pronghorn moving away from me, just in case. Notice the blaze orange on the one’s neck; must be a radio collar for wildlife management monitoring.

At one point there is a sign pointing to the Wine Glass, a fantastical formation in one of the sandstone cliffs. Erosion is the process whereby the landscape weathers. Meaning it’s continually in a state of falling apart. It’s amazing how lovely things get by falling apart.

The Wineglass rock formation, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah.

The Wine Glass, Hatch Point.

Anticline Overlook trailhead, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah.

The Anticline Overlook trailhead, just a short walk from the parking area. Notice the Utah Juniper tree behind — loaded with cones!

Utah Juniper with berry-looking cones, Hatch Point, Utah.

Utah Juniper “berries”, which are fleshy cones that look like blueberries. They don’t taste like them, that’s for sure.

The Anticline Overlook looks down onto a paradox. One where the mighty Colorado River carved through the massive cliffs of the Moab Rim, instead of flowing around it. Of course there is a geological explanation for it! Or you can just forget about that and appreciate the sublime scenery. Especially on a late winter’s day with a storm front mixing sunshine, shadows, and advancing snow squalls from the north.

Colorado River from Anticline Overlook, Utah.

From the Anticline Overlook, it’s impressive how the Colorado River cut through the cliffs instead of being channeled along them.

I found my campsite for the night. It’s right on the rim of the Point, a priceless view, and free. None of your business as to exactly where it is!

Hatch Point, Canyon Rims Recreation Area, Utah.

The rim of Hatch Point.

I had a bite to eat while watching the snow squalls come at me and around me.

Rim of Hatch Point, Canyon Rims, Utah.

Campsite deluxe! So what if it’s going to snow?

Snow squall in Kane Springs Canyon, from Hatch Point, Utah.

Snow squall in Kane Springs Canyon.

Then it was sunset time. The dark clouds with the sunset spilling through made for a dramatic view of the cliffs and canyons.


Sunset from the Anticline Overlook area.

Part of my plan for this trip had been to be in place for a shot of the rising Full Moon over the La Sal Mountains to the east. I was in place, all right. I knew from the weather forecast that I was probably going to get shut out by the incoming storm. Sometimes you get lucky.

Alpenglow at sunset, La Sal Mountains, Utah.

Alpenglow on the flanks of the La Sal Mountains.

At sunset the clouds lifted just enough from the valley for the just-set sun to reflect on the lower slopes of the La Sals as alpenglow. No moonrise? No problem! It had been such a spectacular day.

Photo location: Canyon Rims Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah.

Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg


Spring Light, La Sal Mountains, Utah

La Sal Mountains, from La Sal, Utah.

La Sal Mountains, from Old La Sal, Utah.

It’s still early spring in the high country. It had been dry and warm, melting the snowpack. Too early. I had been wishing it would slow down.

I was camped in southwest Colorado. Warm for mid April, nice. During the night the cold front came in, hard. In the morning I had to change out of shorts and sandals. Back to long pants and hiking boots for a little while.

Coming back over into southeast Utah, the La Sal Mountains looked great in the crisp, clear air. Summer will be here soon enough, no need to rush things.

Photo location: San Juan County, Utah.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

February Begins: Moonrise Over The Mountains

Moonrise over La Sal Mountains, Utah.

February 2nd, the evening before Full Moon. Usually the best time of the month for moonrise landscape shots.

The weather forecast was quite favorable: mostly clear, and calm. The setting perfect: southeast Utah, south of Moab, within view of the La Sal mountain range, cloaked with winter snow only a few days old. All is well, very well.

Up it came. Of the several images I made of the scene, this is probably my favorite. Besides the peaks and the moon, the clouds floating above make for an even more interesting composition.