Thursday, October 10, 2013

After hiking back from Calf Creek falls I decide that I need to make a run to Cedar City to pick up some supplies; food and some extra clothing that I neglected to bring from home but will nonetheless need as the weather starts to get colder. A storm is supposed to come tomorrow which will likely make travel along dirt roads impossible for at least a day so I figure it will be a good day to waste on the trip to the city along the interstate, 3 hours away. Bryce Canyon is along the way to Cedar City and I’ll camp there tonight in the forest behind the park and leave for Cedar City first thing in the morning.

I stop by the general store in the nearly vacant Bryce City and the wind carrying in the storm clouds is blowing leaves and broken bits of brush across the empty parking lot. The dirt road that provides access to the forest behind Bryce Canyon breaks off from the main park road precisely at the park boundary, about 30 feet before the park entrance monolith and the current location of the law enforcement road block. As I drive by I try to see if any of the rangers I know are manning the gate. I don’t recognize anyone but decide against getting closer as I notice that they are now holding rifles at the gate; it seems that the situation in town has gotten a bit more tense since I last departed. I head straight down the dirt road into the forest and find a spot to pull off the road about a mile in. I fall asleep to the first raindrops falling from the imminent storm.

The next morning I wake up and looking up through my skylight I see that the glass has frosted over from my breath during the night. It’s still pretty dark out and I’m not ready to get out of my sleeping bag and into the cold so I go back to sleep for a while. After what seems like an hour I awaken again to find it still dark through my skylight; however out the side windows it seems that the sun has risen. I notice that my windshield is dark as well though. Taking a closer look out the side window I see about 5 inches of snow piled up on my side view mirror. Then I realize that the windshield and skylight are both buried under a snow that swept through overnight. As I look out at the sagging branches of the ponderosa pines I can see the faintest dust of flakes still falling as the clouds are beginning to break up.
Narrow tracks through the snow pass close to my car, signs of the ATVs that the local tour companies are using to secretly shuttle people into the back areas of the park during the shutdown. I haven’t planned for snow and only have my trowel to remove the heavy, wet snow from the roof and front of the car. My warm clothes are all still packed away in the drawer beside my bed, access to which requires the trunk door to be open which can only be done from the outside. I promise myself I’ll devise a way to make the door open from the inside soon as I jump out in shorts to retrieve my jacket and a warmer pair of pants.
By the time I’m ready to leave, the snow is already beginning to fall from the bowed branches of the pines in big, wet lumps. The paved road is completely clear and as I make my way down through red canyon towards Panguitch the snow disappears completely. To get to Cedar City I’ll have to drive over Cedar Mountain past Navajo Lake and hope that the roads are still clear up there.
This is the first snow storm of the year on the mountain and I’m surprised to find the faded yellow leaves of the aspen trees still hanging on. The downturned leaves of the aspen seem incapable of supporting even a single flake of snow. The hillsides suspend a blanket of snow over the valleys on the black branches of pine with the brilliant yellow alone untouched by the snow as if the blazing color had melted any frost that came to rest on those aspen.
I turn off to walk the trail around Navajo lake. The lake isn’t yet frozen and the canoe launch is still visible under the snow. I walk in the tire tracks of a truck that came through the snow earlier. There’s only been one other truck down this way since the snow. As I come into a grove of aspen the snow muffled silence of the lake is broken by the chattering of the dried aspen leaves trying to hold on through one last gust of wind. Snow starts to fall again and I lose sight of the hills in the distance and my world shrinks down to just this grove of aspen. The wind dies down and I can hear the big snow flakes hitting the leaves as they filter through the trees.
Just as I get over the mountain to Cedar City my phone rings. Not a North Carolina number but a local number. It’s Bryce Canyon…there appears to be a deal in the works that might open the park as soon as tomorrow. I had been planning my route along the Arizona border to avoid driving back over the mountain after dark but I tell them I’ll be there, ready and waiting to help open the park tomorrow. I rush through my shopping and get back on the road towards Bryce. As I climb into the forest again the clouds have returned. Rounding a corner I run right into a fog so thick I can barely see the lines on the road in front of me. The sun hasn’t quite set and I can see light overhead but down between the trees it is dark as night in the fog. 

No comments:

Post a Comment