Bryce Canyon, Zion, Death Valley National Parks in Winter
The rim for Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is at more than 8000 ft above sea level. At mid-winter it IS cold! The lodge run by the National Park Service is in fact closed for the season, but that does not stop it from looking very pretty:
Bryce Canyon itself has a great sense of fragility and the snow just enhances it. The eroded columns have the same delicate look as stalagmites and stalagtites. The main sight is the "amphitheatre" but it's very difficult to convey a proper sense of its panoramic expanse with standard camera lenses. To do it justice one would need a super wide angle lens, or even better, an Imax movie! Anyway here are the two ends of the amphitheatre:
Next stop was Zion National Park, named by Mormons "Zion" (God) for its aura of godliness and deep serenity. It is typified by huge, what, rocks, rising steeply from the narrow valleys.
In particular the redness of most of it is truly memorable.
OK, I confess. The above photo is a composite. The landscape was taken from a small parking lot at Zion, reddish mountains and all. I rather like the way the snow-covered peak shows through. But the sky was rather plain, a boring, over-exposed, very pale blue. So I put in a Milky Way photo that I had shot in Oman. Actually, I am rather pleased with the way the lighting blends. An interesting aside about Utah. I rather like the notices they have on restaurant walls that say something to the effect (can't remember the exact wording) "This establishment will sell you alcohol despite its being evil and it can make you do evil and nasty deeds". Being a non-drinker myself, I wholeheartedly agree! But let us move on, to California and Death Valley. Here's me, waving at you from Zabriski Point (what was the movie about?):
Very strange to walk on this promontary. Like walking on foam rubber. Like dry peat moss. They have rather fancy names for the various locations in Death Valley. The Valley itself got the name because in the 1849 California gold rush a number of "Forty-niners" died of thirst when their wagon train got lost and they could not find a way out. Today you can motor across in an hour. Below is Dante's View! There was snow at this level. There was also a bunch of tourists who had come south for the warm weather, wearing shorts. Well, what a surprise. We were standing on snow and they were having their knees rattling in the cold. Straight down is Badwater (which is below sea level) and the temperature increases by 14 deg C as you descend. Talk about summer madness. The second hottest place on Earth is Furnace Creek, extreme right in the photo.
An enterprising soul actually built a hotel at Furnace Creek (and it seems to get fully booked all summer!):
During my visit the weather at the bottom of Death Valley was very pleasant, in the 20s Centigrade, like for Oman winters. It is claimed in the tourist brochures that the highest temperature ever recorded (back in 1922) is somewhere in Libya (at nearly 58 C), with that at Furnace Creek being the second highest. Has anybody recorded a higher temperature at the Lekhwair Oilfield in North Oman? It routinely goes above 50. If it ever touches 58 C perhaps we can build a hotel there too. But California does have amazing extremes. Besides the Baywatch beaches of Los Angeles and the heat of Furnace Creek, there is also plenty of good snow skiing in northern California. In fact, my attempt at visiting Yosemite National Park was thwarted because they close the place in winter, for too much snow :-(
I hope I have convinced you to visit these places in cooler weather. Perhaps not necessarily mid-winter but definitely not mid-summer. Let your brother-in-law go during the summer madness!
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