Monday, February 20, 2017

Here Comes Spring

Rainbow Trout, February 19.
Until yesterday I had not caught any trout since January 5. The two times I had gone after that were brutal, the cold and wind. Oh, well. If this had been a normal winter here in southeast Utah the lake would have frozen much earlier and the snow much deeper than it has been.

East end of the lake from the dam, February 19.
Back then in early January the lake had opened partially. I had trudged along the part of the dam shoreline that was open, having to keep back from the thin shelf ice. I caught a couple of rainbow trout and then retreated first to my vehicle, then home.

Northeast corner of the lake, Jan. 5.
Over the past few weeks much warmer weather has taken hold. A few light snow storms, but mostly melting of the deep snows that had pointed the local mule deer down to lower elevations where their food would not take so much energy to get to.

Last trout of the winter, Jan. 5.
Yesterday the deer were back. Trout and deer, a good indication of early spring, even at 7,000 feet in late February.

Photo location: San Juan County, southeast Utah.

See more of my photography on my website at

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sand Island Petroglyph Panel, Utah

San Juan River, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
The San Juan River at Sand Island.
On a cold January afternoon I stopped by for another visit to the BLM's Sand Island Recreation Area.

Picnic area overlooking the San Juan River, Sand Island Recreation Area, Utah.
Picnic tables and shade shelters overlooking the San Juan River.
 There is a boat landing there on the San Juan River, a campground (self register and pay, year around) and picnic areas with vault toilets, and a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) ranger station (not open in the winter).

The campground has two loops. A small one with a few sites just to the east of the ranger station, and a much larger loop at the west end.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Interpretive sign for the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel, on the cliff face in the background.
 It is along the road into and through the west campground loop that the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel is located. An exceptional collection of ancient inscriptions pecked into the patina of the sandstone cliff there. The main panel is protected by a chain link fence, with an easy trail along it so that you can ogle the many figures and photograph them without touching them.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Petroglyphs etched into the sandstone cliff face. Notice rider on horse, which would be later than prehistoric.
 Most of the petroglyphs (pecked into the rock, as opposed to pictographs, which are painted on the rock) are prehistoric, up to probably a couple of thousand years old. They were made by what today are referred to as the Ancestral Puebloan culture. There are also a few that must have been made after the 1600s, when the first Spanish explorers introduced the horse to the natives in North America.

San Island Petroglyph Panel, Sand Island Recreation Area, San Juan County, Utah
Inscriptions of unknown meaning. But this must have been an important location, with so many of them.
 Photo location: Sand Island Recreation Area, southern San Juan County between Bluff and Mexican Hat, Utah.

See much more of my photography on my website at

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Friday, January 20, 2017

Winter at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon from Sunset Point area, framed by Ponderosa Pine trees in winter.
Talk about your Canyon Country Grand Staircase winter wonderlands. At the top of the list--including elevation wise--has to be Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah.

The colors of the Pink Cliffs change throughout the day with the sunlight and shadows, as they do year round. But when there is fresh snow to make each fin and hoodoo (irregularly shaped spires of rock) stand out, it's even more amazing.

Just after sunrise at Bryce Canyon.
 Bryce Canyon is high elevation. The rims in the park range from about 7,900 feet at the Visitor Center to about 9,000 feet at Rainbow Point at the south end of the drive.

Late afternoon sunlight and shadows at Bryce Canyon. The small tilted formation is called the Sinking Ship.
 The Grand Staircase is made up of all the layers of sedimentary rock that were eons ago uplifted from sea level to much higher in the sky. The bottom layers are exposed by the Colorado River at the Inner Gorge of Grand Canyon. The uppermost layers--the Pink Cliffs--are most spectacularly seen here at Bryce and at nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Douglas-Fir trees down among the glowing fins.
As spectacular as the views are from the Rim viewpoints, a hike down into the canyon makes for a whole other experience. The even cooler and moister habitats down among the fins of rock provide a habitat for huge Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees. The sunlight reflects off the orange limestone fins, contrasting with the clear blue high elevation Utah blue skies.

Moonrise just before sunset, from Bryce Point. On the far horizon is the Aquarius Plateau.
 And if you're fortunate to be able to stay until the end of the day at the right time of the month, you can watch the nearly full moon rise at sunset from Bryce Point.

Photo location: Bryce Canyon National Park, southern Utah.

© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bears Ears National Monument: The Bears Ears Buttes

Bears Ears Buttes and rainbow, San Juan County, Utah.
Rainbow and Bears Ears Buttes, from Natural Bridges National Monument.
Bears Ears National Monument was declared by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016. The new National Monument is comprised of 1.35 million acres in San Juan County in southeast Utah.

Bears Ears Buttes from Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, Utah.
Bears Ears Buttes from Natural Bridges loop drive along White and Armstrong Canyons.
 In the very center of the National Monument are its namesake, the Bears Ears Buttes, up on South Elk Ridge overlooking the northern edge of Cedar Mesa and Natural Bridges National Monument.

This post will introduce those not familiar with this area to the Bears Ears Buttes themselves. Subsequent posts will show the other areas of the Monument.

Bears Ears Buttes and moonrise, San Juan County, Utah.
Moonrise over the Bears Ears in winter, from Natural Bridges.
The designation of Bears Ears National Monument by presidential Executive Order, invoking the Antiquities Act, is contentious, as are all public land management issues. However, it is pertinent to note that Utah's "Mighty 5" National Parks -- Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon -- all started out as National Monuments declared by presidential Executive Order, as well. All five were later upgraded to National Park status by Acts of Congress, which has the sole power to declare National Parks. The "Mighty 5" are tremendous tourist draws for visitors from around the world.

Bears Ears from Highway 261 on Cedar Mesa, San Juan County Utah
Panorama of Bears Ears after a late spring snow, from Highway 261 on Cedar Mesa.
Bears Ears is of a vast size, with greatly varied life zones. They range from high desert to subalpine forest. In this area you can drive from the desert of the lower San Juan River valley to the Ponderosa pine, aspen and spruce-fir forests above 8,500 feet elevation in an hour or less.

East Bears Ears Butte from South Elk Ridge, San Juan County, Utah
East Bears Ears Butte from mountain meadow on Forest Road 88.
There are three main areas of Bears Ears National Monument. From north to south are the Indian Creek area bordering the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the Elk Ridge area of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and Cedar Mesa, home to countless Ancestral Puebloan sites.

Wintertime scenic of Bears Ears and Elk Ridge from Natural Bridges
Utah Juniper snag and Bears Ears Buttes in winter, from Bridge View Drive loop in Natural Bridges National Monument.
Both West Bears Ear (elevation 8,929 feet at its summit) and East Bears Ear (8,908 feet) are at the south end of South Elk Ridge, on the Manti-La Sal National Forest. From Utah Highway 275 (the Natural Bridges entrance road) you can drive north on Forest Road 88 (when the road is not muddy) and go right between the two Bears Ears Buttes on your way to accessing the rest of the Elk Ridge area.

Monsoon season thunderhead clouds over Bears Ears Buttes, Utah.
Bears Ears Buttes and South Elk Ridge with monsoon season thunderhead clouds.
The name Bears Ears came from Native American tribes in the region that consider these landmarks to be sacred, especially since they can be picked out on the horizon from as far away as Monument Valley and Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.

Bears Ears from mountain meadow on Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah.
Bears Ears Buttes from the north, in an alpine meadow on South Elk Ridge.
Except that the ears of bears are roundish, not flat! What gives? It has to do with an old Navajo legend, of which there are at least two variations. Perhaps the other area tribes have their own versions as well. The best known legend is a gruesome one, in that Changing Bear Maiden was killed by her brothers after she had turned to the "dark side" and had become an evil bear, after which they chopped off her ears. That's why the "Bear's Ears" are flat. Like many Indian legends, it is meant to teach the difference between good and evil, of choosing the right path in life.

Forest Road 88 at Bears Ears Pass, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah.
Forest Road 88 on the Manti-La Sal National Forest goes right through the pass between the two Bears Ears Buttes.
The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa area are beloved by locals and non-local visitors alike, for driving, hunting, hiking, and camping. The area is still used by area Native American tribes for collection of edible, medicinal, and ceremonial plants and their fruits and nuts. This will be the first National Monument to be co-managed by representative of those tribes, in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management and USDA Forest Service.

Bears Ears and Elk Ridge from Blanding, Utah
Bears Ears Buttes and Elk Ridge from Blanding, Utah.
Photo location: Bears Ears Buttes, Manti-La Sal National Forest and from surrounding public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service (Natural Bridges National Monument), San Juan County, southeast Utah.

Bears Ears panorama with rainbow, San Juan County, Utah.
Rainbow panorama, Bears Ears Buttes.
© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Winter Time at Arches National Partk

Visitors at Delicate Arch, December 20. 

Winter is the time to visit Arches National Park. The park has become so famous that it's almost un-visitable (if that's a word) for most of the year. Crowds, full parking lots, dumb visitors stopping their cars in the road to jump out and take pictures, blocking any traffic behind them. The National Park Service has weighed all options to relieving the overcrowding. Don't be surprised if they feel they have to go to a reservation system before long. Yes, just to drive into the park. That's how bad it's gotten.

Wintertime is much better, the only time I go there any more. The town of Moab is uncrowded, the motel rates are very reasonable if you're staying overnight, and the weather is not unbearably hot like in summer. Finally, in winter the distant La Sal Mountains are shining in the sun with a fresh coating of snow. Better photos.

From the entrance station at Arches (only one lane open, and I was the only vehicle at the time, giving me time to chat with the Ranger on duty) it was a 30 min. drive to the trailhead to Delicate Arch at Wolfe Ranch. The parking lot was only about half full. The weather was chilly but sunny, quite pleasant for a hike.

The 1.5 mile long hike took a leisurely 45 minutes to the arch. There was a small crowd of people there, but if you waited a bit you could get a closeup of Delicate Arch with nobody standing underneath it for their selfie picture. Or get one with a human posing to show the scale. Your choice.

If you use your imagination, Delicate Arch looks like a cowboy's legs, with leather chaps. Bowlegged and all. Nothing above the belt, though.

Delicate Arch and the distant La Sal Mountains.

Photo location: Arches National Park, near Moab, southeast Utah.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Trout Before the Big Freeze

Waldens Lake and Abajo Mountains, December 17.
December 17 was my last day of trout fishing for the year. I caught my limit of four rainbow trout as usual, despite the cold and bitter wind. It was beautiful in the high country sunshine at 7,000 feet despite the wind.

Rainbow Trout, the last catch.
The next day a deep freeze moved into southeast Utah. A couple inches of snow, no big deal. But then low temperatures in the single digits (F.). And perhaps more importantly after the storm moved east into Colorado, the wind died. For days. Calm, no real breeze stronger than about 5 MPH. Which meant that there was no longer any strong wave action on the lake to keep busting up the thin shelf ice along the shoreline.

Abajo Mountains panorama on the last day of trout fishing.

I knew it was coming sometime. That's why I was out there fishing every day. Because each day could be the last of the season.

This day turned out to be the day.

© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Choppy Lake Sunset Reflection

Sunset reflection and Abajo Mountains.
A cold sunset at the lake, wind whipping the water's surface to whitecaps. I had hopes for a colorful sunset -- the clouds looked to be positioned about right -- but the roiling lake surface would not do its part by providing a mirror surface reflection.

To my surprise, the sunset afterglow colors were so strong that it reflected off the waves, a wrinkled reflection of reds and blues.

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© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg