"Cold Winter Morning"
January 2005, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
After being stuck in my motel room for three days due to inclement weather, I decided to cut my losses and give up on my winter photography trip to Bryce Canyon. The park's elevation starts at 8000' at the northern entrance and ascends to 9000' at it's southern terminus. If there is bad weather anywhere in the region, it will usually be even worse at Bryce. Such was the case this January trip. The temperatures had not not been unbearable, with the mercury never dipping below zero the entire time. The problem wasn't the temperature, but rather a thick layer of fog that had engulfed the mountain for three straight days. It just wouldn't lift. In addition to the fog, it would snow heavily at night and then sporadically throughout the day, making access to the park viewpoints possible only when snowplows had cleared the roads. Because it was off-season, the two plows I saw working were not doing so with any degree of urgency. After all, there were probably less than 50 visitors during the middle of that stormy January week, so why go to all of the trouble of plowing the roads when snow was in the forecast for several days?
The weather forecasts were precisely what lead me to Bryce in the first place, but I had not anticipated that it would be quite so relentless and foggy. After deciding to go back home to Southern California, I packed up my truck and checked out of my motel room. I decided to head into the park one last time before beginning the 550-mile drive home. Once again the fog gripped the mountain, but at least the road into the park had been plowed since it was already after 9:00 am. The fog only grew heavier as I drove further in, gaining elevation with every passing minute. I said enough's enough, turned around and headed for home. On my way out of the park, a snowplow had just cleared a small roadside turnout, barely big enough for me to park my truck in. It had stopped snowing for a few minutes. Finally, unbelievably, the layer of dense fog slowly began to lift, revealing a row of previously hidden trees standing on the edge of a large snow-covered meadow. I hurriedly set up my panorama camera and shot the above scene. The resulting image has become one of my favorites and most popular. I was thrilled to have not been going home empty handed.