Archive for January, 2013

Snow showers

After the beautiful weather on Sunday, we are now back to snow showers. Lots of them! But both yesterday and today, they left enough space for the sun to peek between them, and colouring the clouds in spectacular colours. I have 2 days off now (because I’m working in the weekend), so I was able to go out and take photos…

A glimpse of the sunset through the snow showers A very colourful sky - this is one of the first image of the time lapse

I also took a time-lapse of the snow showers passing south of Tromsø island. This gives a good idea of how quickly the weather changes here, and you can see from the sea surface that the wind picks up just before a snow shower hits. I took 3 photos per minute, for over an hour, to make this video…

Later that day I was looking out the window when I saw a bright flash – I was worried it was an explosion, and waited for what would happen next…. THUNDER! :D It’s not uncommon to have thunder in strong snow showers, but up here we get very little lightning activity so I wasn’t expecting it.

Today the sun was peeking between the showers again, and inspired by Espen Bergersen I set out to find pancake ice. Luckily, my first guess was right, there was a large patch of ice near Stakken, an area with lots of old boat houses. When I arrived, the sun had already disappeared behind the mountains, but the colours of the sky were very pretty…

Calm and clear water reflecting the sunset Pancake ice!

And of course the pancake ice was fun. It was in constant movement, and pieces keep breaking up and drifting around – I should try a time-lapse here one day!

Lots of ice, in constant movement - perhaps I should do a time-lapse here some time Snow showers passing in the distance

Several snow showers were passing in the distance, but this time I wasn’t hit by one :)

An accidental panorama, I found out that 2 images I took could be stitched :) A big snow shower to the right

We got lots of fresh snow in the past days, which is nice – except for having to clear the snow from the car and the doorstep several times a day ;)

The First Sunset

The return of the sun after the long mørketid is always something special. The top of the sun comes above the horizon on the 15th of January, but at first the mountains are still blocking the sun. In the following days, you can see the sun on the highest mountain tops, moving lower down day by day. “Soldagen” is celebrated on the 21st of January, but this day is defined as the first day the sun reaches the steps of the cathedral in Tromsø centre – usually you can see the sun a few days earlier if you find the right place. Troms Turlag organized a welcome-to-the-sun ski trip on Saturday, to Austeråsfjellet. The weather looked bad for Saturday, so we decided to copy their idea, but go on Sunday instead.

We woke up early, to a cloudless sky :) We went on snowshoes, as Paul wanted to try his new pair (bought on a hot day in the desert on our USA trip :D). The first part went through the forest, but we soon decided to walk straight up (a huge advantage of snowshoes) onto the treeless plateau on top. We didn’t want to miss the sun by being stuck in a forest! And wow, the views from the plateau were just amazing…

The sun ALMOST came out here, but it just didn't make it - which meant we had to wait until a while for the next opportunity to the west (right) of the mountain (Fløya) On the plateau - with these views behind you, you wish you could walk backwards on snow shoes ;)

We dropped the idea of going all the way to Austeråsfjellet – not that it was very far or difficult, but with those views behind us we kept turning around for another look ;) So instead we made our way to the highest point near us, and there she was – the SUN! :)

Nearly there - the pink part in the background is in the sun And YES, there she is :) - a fantastic feeling to see the sun again

Panorama with the sun :)

I waved hello to my shadow – long time no see :D and Paul opened the small champagne bottle that we brought to celebrate the return of the sun :)

A welcome wave to my shadow :) Time for champagne!

Liquid sunshine :) A toast to the sun!

We enjoyed the sun for about half an hour – you could actually feel the warmth on your face, wonderful! It’s funny how the seeing the sun again after such a long time can fill you with ridiculous happiness and energy and pure joy :D

After half an hour with sunshine, we had to say goodbye again. But with the shallow trajectory of the sun, it actually peeped out for another 5 minutes on the other side of the mountain - nice surprise! A lonely champagne cork in the snow

But the best was yet to come… behind us the mountains turned pink in the last sunshine, while the clouds that were moving south were turning spectacular colours…

The last sun painted the mountains behind us pink Just after sunset, the clouds were turning fantastic colours

Then the sky behind us turned a deep pink and purple…

And behind us the sky was turning pink and purple... hard to choose in which direction to look!

While in front of us, the sky seemed to be on fire! It was simply incredible…

Walking into the sunset Paul silhouetted against a sky on fire

I took so many photos, as it just kept getting better and better…

The colours of the sky were just getting better and better - I could hardly believe my eyes! Admiring the view

But eventually we had to leave the plateau and make our way down through the forest.

One last photo before we had to descend from the plateau into the forest Coming down through the forest after a perfect day :)

What a perfect day!! We couldn’t have asked for a prettier “first sunset” :) Let’s hope there’s many more to come!

USA Adventure Part 8: Highway 12 – Scenic Byway

Highway 12 is called a Scenic Byway, and runs from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon National Park. We were planning to camp somewhere along the way after leaving Cathedral Valley. The road is claimed to be one of the most beautiful roads in the USA, and it’s clear to see why… the views are fantastic and the landscape changes a lot along the way.

Impressive views from Scenic Byway 12 Autumn leaves moving in the breeze

The autumn colours were fantastic, a lot of the birch trees were a bright yellow colour.

Paul and the fantastic autumn colours Such a diverse landscape!

We stopped at nearly every viewpoint along the way and took LOTS of pictures :)

This road is popular with motorbikes, I can see why! A small village along the way

The forest was so pretty…

Me in the autumn forest What a beautiful day!

Later on, the road goes over a narrow ridge, with steep drops to both sides. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of that, but it was impressive. The landscape turned more desert-like again, and we saw a canyon from above.

Looking down into a canyon Panorama taken from one of the viewpoints near Escalante - if you look closely you can see the road winding through the landscape

Paul had been battling a cold for a couple of days now, and was tired after camping for the last 2 days. When I also started getting a cold, we decided we needed some more luxury that night, and we found a motel in Escalante. It turned out to be a very friendly town – full of outdoor shops, book shops and nice cafes – perfect!

The next day I wasn’t feeling well but Paul was lots better, so we decided he would hike to Calf Creek Falls, while I stayed in the shady picknick place next to the parking lot, reading a book.

Paul walked to a waterfall while I sat with my book in the parking lot. I was surrounded by birds and managed to take this photo with Pauls lens :) The path to the waterfall

Here are the photos Paul took of the waterfall… looks really nice, I think on a healthier day I would have liked to swim in the lake underneath :)

Calf Creek Falls Calf Creek Falls - beautiful! People were swimming in the lake underneath

Later that day we drove to the cabin we rented, between Bryce Canyon and Zion. Ready for more adventures :)

USA Adventure Part 7: Capitol Reef

After leaving Goblin Valley, we drove for about 2 hours, to Capitol Reef National Park. This is not such a well-known park, and it seems quite off the beaten track for some reason. This has its advantages, Capitol Reef is a lot more relaxed about permits and camping inside the park. In addition, we chose to visit an area called Cathedral Valley which is rarely visited, so we had a very solitary experience in this park. We stopped at the visitor centre for information and a backcountry permit, which they almost didn’t want to give us. You only need it for camping outside of the designated campgrounds, and they said we could camp outside the boundaries of the park without any permit – I think they were a bit lazy and didn’t want to deal with the paperwork ;) Eventually, we got the permit and were ready to go.

We first had to cross a river which was quite an adventure – but the car handled it without any problems. The dirt road was a bit tiring to drive, but the landscape was beautiful and we made lots of stops, for example at this well with an abandoned truck…

On old truck at a drinking place for animals - looks like it's sinking in! Paul and the old truck. Behind him you can see the drinking trough, which actually had water in it

Soon we came to the Bentonite Hills, with very impressive colours… in the last photo you can see a good example of cryptobiotic soil, which is a crusty soil that is “alive” as it’s made of bacteria/fungi/algae/lichens etc. Everywhere in Utah, there were warnings about this soil, as one footstep can take a hundred years to recover from the damage. I called it macrobiotic soil for the entire trip, as I could never remember the real name :P we made lots of jokes about it, but we did try to stay off it as much as possible.

Bizarre landscape - the Bentonite Hills Very colourful layers in the Bentonite Hills Cryptobiotic soil - it's alive and very fragile!

And although we were driving through a desert landscape, we still found lots of flowers – including the impressive Desert Paintbrush :)

I was surprised how many flowers there are in the desert: this is a Desert Paintbrush And some pretty purple flowers

We kept climbing, and suddenly we had this view right from the road… impressive!

Suddenly this view opened up - spectacular!

Shortly afterwards, we took a turn towards a viewpoint over Cathedral Valley. We were getting a bit carsick, so we left the car next to the road and walked the last bit to the viewpoint. There was a parking place and some picknick tables there, and for the first time we saw other cars (and people!). They must have been a bit surprised to see us arrive on foot ;) We got our first view over Cathedral Valley from here, and it was just SPECTACULAR… You look down on a green valley with several monoliths, it was so beautiful!

Our first view over Cathedral Valley - wow! The monoliths at Upper Cathedral Valley - with the colours and the green grass, I'd almost expect giraffes here :D

After the viewpoint, the road went steeply down to the valley floor. We talked to several rangers at the visitor centre, and one of them had said the road was impassible in this area. We had a suspicion she was just trying to discourage us from going there, but we were a bit nervous here – around every bend and especially river crossing we thought the road might become impassible. And although the road was a bit tough at times, with soft sand and several river crossings, some of which actually had water in them – there really was no problem at all. It was getting quite late, so we drove on to our destination: the Temples of the Sun and Moon. Actually it was after seeing photos of these “temples” that I decided we needed to visit Cathedral Valley :) And it was so worth the long journey, they are so impressive…

The Temple of the Moon (on the right) and the Temple of the Sun (on the left)

We took LOTS of photos, we arrived just before sunset so the light was soft and beautiful. We set up camp a little distance away from the Temple of the Moon.

The Temple of the Moon The Temple of the Moon seen from the other side Dinner at the foot of the Temple of the Moon, in fading daylight

We were all alone here, and far from anywhere – it was truly special. The night sky was incredible as well, this far from any light pollution. There were a lot of planes flying over though!

The stars (and Milky Way) over the Temple of the Moon. We were all alone here, and a long way from anywhere - it was very special Startrails over our tent :)

The next morning, I got up before sunrise and walked to the Temple of the Sun. It was so beautiful to watch the desert wake up, to see the colours change, to see a big red sun rising and to watch the changing light on the rocks. Magical!

The Temple of the Sun just before sunrise Here comes the sun... The Temple of the Sun just after sunrise... beautiful to see how the light was changing The Temple of the Moon just after sunrise

Meanwhile, Paul took these photos of the Temple of the Moon…

While I was taking photos at the Temple of the Sun, Paul took those of the Temple of the Moon just after sunrise Beautiful light painting the rock really orange Desert soil

In the morning there were lots of animal tracks in the sand. I was also amazed by all the plants that manage to live in the desert.

Animal tracks in the sand A tough plant braving the desert

After a beautiful sunrise, we took out tent down and made breakfast. We had to drive back the way we came, as the road became impassible just past the Temples. At least, according to the rangers at the Visitor Centre ;) but this time we decided not to risk it. We stopped at the Gypsum Sinkhole, which formed after the collapse of something called a Gypsum Plug – a hill formed out of crystallized gypsum carried in groundwater. The hole is 15 m wide and 60 m deep – impressive! We also stopped at the monoliths for another view – they are so pretty.

One last photo of Hanneke and our tent The Gypsum Sinkhole, formed by groundwater dissolving a so-called gypsum plug (a hill formed of crystallized gypsum). The hole is 15 m wide and 60 m deep! Another stop at the monoliths of Cathedral Valley

We took a short side trip to Morrell cabin (also known as Les’s cabin), it was used by cowboys passing through the valley with cattle between 1930 and 1970. Beautiful and remote place, you feel like you’re stepping back in time, and wonder what it would have been like here back then…

Morrell Cabin, or also known as Les’s cabin, it was used by cowboys passing through the valley with cattle between 1930 and 1970 Rusty artifacts on the table inside the cabin

After driving the steep road up, we turned away from the road we travelled yesterday, and instead took the Thousand Lake Mountain Road. Here you exit the National Park, and enter the National Forest Area – we were joking about that there surely weren’t going to be trees in the desert, but look here… These sudden changes in the landscape are very impressive!

We took a different road out of the valley, and the landscape quite suddenly turned into a beautiful autumn forest... quite strange after coming straight from the desert!

Cathedral Valley was one of the highlights of our trip, and if we’d ever come back to Utah, I think we’d spend more time in Capitol Reef. We never even got to see the Waterpocket Fold that the park is famous for – but I think Cathedral Valley is a real gem that you shouldn’t miss out on :)