Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 28, 2013

The desert in winter: a good place to visit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:57 am
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Last traces of mesa-top snow melted in early March. La Sal Mountains 35 miles distant will retain their snowy caps into June.

Desert landscapes benefit from having contrast; Utah’s beauty is at its peak in the seasons where red is tempered by something else. In springtime, small flower blossoms accomplish that. Autumn brings golden cottonwoods, lighting riparian zones afire. Winter, however, earns the prize: white snow breaking up vast expanses of sandstone, looking for all the world like a layer of frosting on sedimentary cake.

Winter also reveals easy-to-read clues of wildlife activity. Tracks are far simpler to follow and identify in fresh snow, leaving my mind to imagine what that scurry was all about, or who ate whom, or who lives where.

This winter’s long stretch of bitter cold (continuous weeks below zero — an anomaly for southern Utah) left a new sensation underfoot when I returned. Our soil was broken up and fluffed by frost action, and it felt as if I were walking on sifted flour instead of packed desert sand.

Do consider visiting your national parks in the off season. It has become my favorite time to explore new places.

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