May Snowfall

White over Green

We had the pleasure of awaking yesterday morning to three inches of snow in the yard, only a moderate number of broken tree branches, and flakes still falling. Though hardly an epic storm, this was the biggest snowfall we’ve seen in 14 months. It’s all melted off below 10,000 feet now, but the ground got good and damp and the air was full of the herbaceous smells of wet desert.

White Foothills

Snow over Circles

My ambitions did not extend beyond a casual ramble in the White Mountain foothills, but it was a delight to taste a little bit of winter.

White Ridges

Colorful Ground

Colored Hills

Badlands at sunset, Esmeralda County, Nevada.

Emigrant Palette

Sandstorm from Above

Nikolaus Eureka Windstorm

The folks who worked this mine above Eureka Valley had an amazing vista, but they must have suffered through some dismal weather. I was nearly blown off the mountain yesterday, timing shots between gusts of wind, until distant lightning sent me packing for lower ground. But the giant clouds of sand blowing into a hidden arm of the valley below added some fine drama to an already dramatic view.

Surprisingly, the main Eureka Dunes seemed unruffled.

Hidden Sandstorm

Artery of Fall

Artery of Fall

Turning aspens follow the water in Nevada’s Table Mountain Wilderness.

A longer view from the same area:

Clear Creek View

Roping

Last Saturday was branding day at Deep Springs. The calves seemed a bit feistier than last year, which resulted in lots of noise, copious clouds of dust, and some great cowboy action shots. The ropers were three friends who ranch near Lone Pine, CA, while the Deep Springs students and staff provided the calf wrestling, vaccinating, ear tagging, branding and other unmentionable services.

Squall

Westgard Squall

Afternoon light shines through a storm squall over the hills of Deep Springs Valley and Westgard Pass.

Blue Desert Water

Blue Pond

Even in midday light, a blue desert pond and golden grasses are photogenic.

Jimbilnan Evening

Cleopatra Walls

Evening light on the volcanic ramparts of Cleopatra Wash, Jimbilnan Wilderness, southern Nevada near Lake Mead. The volcanics here represent one half of the Cleopatra-Hamblin Paleovolcano, a Miocene stratovolcano that was pulled into two halves by the tectonic stretching of the basin-and-range country. Its other half is still to be found about ten miles to the west in Hamblin Mountain, separated from its formerly conjoined twin by a maze of sandstone ridges and valleys.

Jimbilnan Ridges

Rock Creek

Rock Lake Sunrise

Two more oldies from 2012: Sunrise in the Rock Creek drainage of Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness. Above is Rock Lake and Mt. Oso, below is looking down Rock Creek to the Grenadier Range.

Rock Creek Morning

Snowline

Snowline

Living in a relatively small valley like Deep Springs, one gets pretty familiar with all the surrounding landforms and their personalities. The southeast wall of the valley comprises much of the Piper Mountain Wilderness, a spur of the Inyo Mountains full of granite outcrops, folded paleozoic strata, small alluvial fans, fault scarps, pinyon-clad summits, vertical gullies, and steep canyons. The valley walls are often shy about revealing their shapes and textures in bright light, and fleeting glimpses late in the day usually just tantalize a photographer’s creative impulses. But in snow and storm is where they really shine!

Sadly, this is about as much snow as we ever saw this winter, and about as low as the snowline ever got. The entire American West is hurting for snowpack, but California’s drought this year is truly frightening, with only three of the state’s many watersheds even breaking double digit percentages of average snowpack. Living here in the desert is some consolation, at least, as everything here is more accustomed to the dryness and better able to ride out the tough times. But even the desert needs a little rain and winter, and winter simply never came this year. These few dustings of snow felt like nothing more than an apparition from the ghost of a dead season.

Snow Scarp Fans

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers