Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Weather Finally Arrives in Canyon Country

[Outside the snowy Visitor Center, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.]
I was up this morning well before dawn, as usual. Soon after I could hear the rain falling on the roof: the promised storm front had moved inland from California all the way to southeast Utah. 

But soon after...no sound. It was getting light, so I looked outside and saw snow falling. The rain had become the white stuff that quickly. Falling straight down, no wind. A wet, heavy, beautiful snowfall.

Russ and I opened the Visitor Center. Old Glory raised on the flagpole, cash registers open for business, visitor statistics logged on the clipboards. Lights turned on inside. Sidewalk shoveled. Soothing instrumental music playing. 


Nobody came. Not right away. That's all right, we're out in the middle of nowhere and it takes some time to get here. Meanwhile our erstwhile maintenance crew was running the snowplow truck, clearing the road in from Highway 95. 

Eventually the first visitor came. Then a couple more. Such soft glowing snow light outside, coming in through our floor to ceiling windows. Wet snow sticking on every piece of vegetation outside. 

I walked down to the house to eat lunch. The clouds were starting to clear. I had to get out there, had to do a rove, even though there were only two of us manning the Visitor Center. After all, we weren't exactly being swamped by visitors. Though the few that came enjoyed it: welcoming, peaceful, no lines of tourists. 

[Canyonlands Natural History Association Book Store, Natural Bridges Visitor Center, snowy day].
 So out the loop drive, Bridge View Drive officially, I drove. Stopped to take photos in the bright light, the reflections on the wet slickrock sandstone, on the surfaces of the water pockets. 

On the trail down to Kachina Bridge I met up with two young ladies that I'd talked to in the Visitor Center. "Did you come to check on us?" Well, yes. Maybe. I knew you'd be fine, the road is fine and it's above freezing so there will be no ice on the trails. Until morning. I came to check on the Park. On this fantastic place, the only place in the world with three mighty stone bridges within a few miles of each other. With fresh snow on the mesa rim. That's what I came to check on. 

[Walkway to Sipapu Bridge viewpoint, some blue sky already].
Meanwhile, back at the Visitor Center Russ and I wrapped up the day. I tallied up the sales. The book store proceeds go into the Park programs, not into some corporation's balance sheet. I gently point that out to visitors whenever I can, because they like knowing that. Give back to the park while buying something you like. It's synergy.

But the day was not quite done. Still on the menu: sunset. 

I drove out to the big curve I've dubbed Sunset Curve. Why? Because it's a big curve in the road. Ok, ok, but because it has a nice turnout spot which faces west for the sunset. Awesome view, no power lines, no nothing except clean air, high desert mesa, buttes and sky. 

As sunset colors go, it was muted. Which only served to not distract me from the foreground, the fresh snow on the sandstone boulders, the high desert mesa. I loved the soft light, I walked around with my camera and tripod all around.

[Snowy sandstone boulders at sunset].
If it gets much better than this, I don't want to know about it. I'm not sure I could take it. Though I'd try.

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Photo location: Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan County, southeast Utah. 

Click on each image for a much larger version.


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