24 Hours: Ice, then Fire

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We’re currently en route to Yosemite National Park in California. It’s a fairly long drive from Colorado, around 1200 miles each way, taking in some amazingly diverse scenery along the route (even when you stick to the major highways). Within the space of 24 hours, we passed from Colorado into Utah, then the next day through the northwest corner of Arizona and into Nevada.

Utah was something of a winter wonderland. It was snowing lightly in Grand Junction, CO as we left Colorado and the same weather continued into Utah, until, with 15 minutes before sunset, the cloud broke. We quickly pulled off I70 at the Cisco turn-off and grabbed a few photographs of the sunset. In the image below, you can see a “sun pillar” caused by the ice crystals in the atmosphere bouncing sunlight directly back at the observer:

San Rafael Ice Pillar

If you’d like to read more about these effects, Atmospheric Optics is a great site, with some wonderful images.

The following morning, we left Green River, UT with freezing fog hanging around town. Trees were coated in hoar frost from the moisture in the air. A short way west of Green River, I70 cuts through the San Rafael Swell. There was still fog hanging around the swell, and snow on the ground:

San Rafael Frost

Headed towards Las Vegas, we passed into Nevada by the early afternoon and decided to stop off at Valley of Fire State Park, a real gift of a place for photographers! Yesterday (Dec 27 2012) was the day before full moon, with the moon rising 15 minutes before sunset – ideal for catching an image with the moon rising through the twilight sky.

Ahead of moonrise, we explored some of the view and vistas of the park. You can really get a sense of how the park got its name from some of the spectacular formations:

Valley of Fire

Moonrise was not to be, with clouds blocking the sky just too long to catch the moon properly balanced against the landscape. However, last light on the Virgin Peaks east of Valley of Fire provided a great finish to the day’s impromptu photo opportunities:

Virgin Peak

Today we’re headed up to just outside Yosemite. Fingers crossed for some great winter weather conditions in the park once we arrive!