Sunday, April 26, 2015

Snow in the Guadalupes

Fresh snowfall in the Guadalupes Mountains is a great and fleeting sight.  One you really need to be there when the snow falls, as it will likely melt the next day.  Such is the case for desert mountains.  The mountains are high enough to get the extra moisture to make the snow but also warm enough to melt most of it in a day or so.  If the Guadalupes were 1,500' higher they would probably hold snow like the nearby Sacramento Mountains do in New Mexico, but with the Guads topping out at around 8,900' they are just not quite there.

I have been here several times when it has snowed and in each time you had less than 24 hours to truly enjoy the sights before it was gone.

Arriving in the park with snow falling I knew I would have a couple of chances to see the snow.


After quickly pitching my tent (see two posts ago) I went around to Guadalupe Canyon.  Here I could see light from the west spilling through the clouds.  I hiked up the canyon to see if perhaps El Capitan might pop out in the light.

It was socked in.

However, light was filtering in lower and in the west so I started photographing dry rocky streams and yucca's.  After spending an hour hoping for dramatic light there, I decided to head down to the salt flats for sunset. There I found no snow but did see some great light. (Those images will be another post).

The next morning the front had passed and it was clear.  After spending several hours photographing the Milky Way and stars over the snow I watched the sunrise on El Capitan.

The mountains often glow at sunrise and sunset and the bright morning light made for some nice images, even if they lacked the clouds over the peak I normally want.

The temps were still cold and the wind had yet to kick up so I knew I had to try for McKittrick Canyon when it opened at 8am.  I was there at the trailhead and quickly moving.

I was a little worried there might be some ice but overall found the trail in good shape with only a couple of slick spots.

I moved quickly, as I always seem to when going here, since you cannot get into the canyon before sunrise, you have to hurry to beat the light getting too harsh.

I made my way in and found snow thick on the tree branches.  I hiked and occasionally stopped but wanted to get past the old Pratt Lodge into the heart of the canyon before really going into full photo mode.

I got up there and found I was right to get there.  I was the first one up the path and I had the place to myself.  I stopped, set up the tripod and went to walk and photograph. 

I saw some great snowy scenes.  I also found a few trees with the last of the yellow leaves still clinging to the branches.  This was right as the sun had crested the ridge behind and I was able to capture some night back lit shots in the canyon.

By mid morning the wind began to rise up and it was not long before the trees began to lose the snow.  Then a few other people arrived in the canyon.  Seeing that conditions were already past prime, I made my way out.  By afternoon you could see a huge difference as the snow was melting and almost all gone from the trees.  The winter wonderland of the prior day was already gone.

I had arrived at the right time and got those few fleeting hours to see the park with snow.

Life was good.


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