Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Spanish Peaks, Colorado

[The Spanish Peaks, from near La Veta, Colorado] 
Lonesome Valley Steve was in southern Colorado this time. On my way down into New Mexico. Just for a few days.

Across southern Colorado from Cortez to Pagosa Springs, across Wolf Creek Pass ("...way up on the Great Divide, truckin' on down the other siii-iiide..." if you know the song. If not, never mind.). 

[Blanca Peak, and neighbors, east of Alamosa, Colorado.] 
After Alamosa was Blanca Peak to the north. One of the Fourteeners, you know. A darn good looking peak, even if it had way too little snow for January. Climate change, get used to it. It's not going to go away. 

Refueled at Monte Vista, still shaking my head at how far gas prices have fallen in a year. Not complaining, though. 

Approaching Walsenburg and I-25, I saw the turnoff onto Colorado 12, south to La Veta and the Spanish Peaks. I took it. Seventy miles of slower mountain road south to Trinidad, but beautiful and...Lonesome lovely. Lonesome Valley Days for sure.

[Downtown La Veta, Colorado, January sunset time.]
La Veta is one of those tiny mountain towns that just make me want to up and move there. Even though all the side streets are unpaved. Which, between winter and summer means mud streets. 

Further south, after dark, I even caught the sight of a mountain lion that had just crossed the road, ambling on down to the creek bottom. Good medicine. 

Photo locations: Alamosa, Costilla, and Las Animas Counties, southern Colorado. 

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, January 18, 2015

High Desert Winter Sunset, Southeast Utah

[Navajo Mountain in the distance, from Natural Bridges National Monument] 
It's been so still here these winter days. For weeks, with not much breeze. Oh, one more winter storm to freshen things up, then back to stillness.

In the middle of winter, stillness has its advantages. Especially on the high Colorado Plateau in southeast Utah. Cold nights but sunny days. Without wind, the sun feels extra warm. 

An atmospheric inversion of unprecedented longevity has been around for something like a month. Nobody around here has seen this. Fog clouds hanging down in the river bottoms: Colorado River, San Juan River. It moves around a little without leaving. 

[Cedar Mesa Sunset panorama, from Natural Bridges] 
Up here on Cedar Mesa, we're above it. We watch it from afar. People call up here to see if it's foggy way up here, too. Nope, we say. Come on up and bask in the winter sun. 

Being a dedicated sunset watcher, I always find myself scanning the skies to the west in late afternoon. How will the sunset colors be? It all depends on the clouds, because they are the reflectors. Or they close the curtain completely. Or they are totally absent, in which case the sunset is merely, um, nice. 

[Navajo Mountain from across Cedar Mesa at sunset.] 
So here are some from a recent evening here. The inversion was still nuzzling about in the distance. It made the high buttes and cliffs even more prominent. 

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pondering The Ancient Moqui Queen

[Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Highway 95, North Wash.] 
January, following a snowfall in southeast Utah's canyon country. From the Colorado River crossing at Hite, further westward on Highway 95. Beautifully lonesome. 

An atmospheric inversion had kept the lower river canyons under wraps, low clouds and fog, for over a week. Which served to keep the virgin snow on the ground perfect. And peaceful: no wind. Just calm white beauty on the red canyon sandstone cliffs. 

I stopped to visit a panel of ancient rock art called the Moqui Queen. A pictograph (painting) on a smooth sandstone face in a huge alcove. It's not hard to find if you know it's there. And it's easy to miss if you don't. 

I followed North Wash down from the parking lot, per instructions from friends. The stream was mostly frozen, making it easy to cross, though it was not deep anyway. Up the far bank and into the yawning, cathedral-like alcove. The fresh snow was so perfect that I hated defiling it with my tracks. 
[Moqui Queen Alcove] 
Up into the alcove. Where was she? I walked along the base of the sheer face. There she was. A path led right up to her. People know about this rock art panel, but you have to seek it out. Those who love these kind of sites want to protect them from vandals, so they usually only share the knowledge with someone they trust. 

Which is why I'm not giving you specifics. You need to feel drawn to this kind of thing, to be interested enough to find out more. 

The Moqui Queen. What does this rock panel painting of mineral paint from at least 700 years ago signify? No one knows for sure, since the Anasazi, or Ancestral Puebloan, culture left no written language for us to decipher these things. 
[The Moqui Queen, from below.] 
"Moqui", pronounced "mo-kee", was a term applied to the natives in this area when the first Europeans and American explorers came here. It seems to have been a catch-all name for the pueblo tribes found in this region, including present day Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and other pueblo dwelling tribes into northwestern New Mexico. 

So what about "queen"? It's because of the regal appearing white dots at the crown of her head. Which are amazingly apparent after seven centuries. They have been described to represent white feathers. But then why round? I think they would have been white shells. Yes, this far from the Baja and California coasts. Because it's well established that their culture had such and extensive trade network. 
[Moqui Queen detail.] 
The robe, too, with the whitish streaks, looks quite ceremonial. 

As to the animal shaped figure to the lower right, well, that's been called her dog. Really? It looks like a bird to me. Some people think it's a turkey (which they cultivated), but the neck is too short. And the tail is too tall for a duck.
[Moqui Queen panel, with "bird".] 
So I think it's a grouse. Though why it's that large in proportion is...still another mystery. 

Prints and photo products are available on my Fine Art America sales website:

© Copyright 2014 Stephen J. Krieg

Monday, January 5, 2015

Moonset, Cedar Mesa

Moon setting over Cedar Mesa, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

I'd awoken early enough. Just enough time to throw some things together and hit the road. Three days off.

Leaving Natural Bridges as the dawn was turning toward sunrise, I rounded the curve I call Sunset Point because of its excellent wide open view to the west.

Almost rounded it. Pulled off on the wide outside shoulder, because it was time to photograph already. Oh, yeah. It was going to be a good day, already.

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

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg