Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Desert Winter Solstice

Significant events are competing for the higher recognition on this late December day. On the annual occasion of the least amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere, we are left to wonder which has the more significance – it being the Winter Solstice (at 2230 Mountain Time), or it being National Hamburger Day. 


Trail into Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
I personally am left to wonder about this circumstance because, while I was outdoors enjoying this briefest of winter daylight in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, my brother was spending quality computer time perusing Food and Wine’s web site for the 25 best burgers in the U.S. Most selections sounded pretty good to him (especially if it included a hefty slab of bacon) but there were a few distinct exceptions in this list of culinary creations. One burger on his won’t–ever–find–me–eating–this list is “accented with thin cut zucchini strips pickled in apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds and turmeric.” Another has added bone marrow and dehydrated miso. Whoa!

But I digress. 

If you happen to find yourself in southwestern Utah during the next winter solstice, you could do much worse than to take yourself to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. I write a lot about the Reserve because I go there a lot, especially in the cooler months. Tilted tiers of multi–hued red Kayenta and white Navajo sandstone swathe the base of Pine Valley Mountain. Boulder-strewn canyons and sandy washes snaking their way downward from the highlands into the lower elevations leave many options if you have a couple hours or all day.

IMG_0519 CottonwoodWashRedCliffsDesert Reserve
Cottonwood Wash

Handle in sandstone

IMG_0536Standing InSandstone
Standing in sandstone

There are a lot of trails to choose from in the Reserve, and the wonderful thing is that on a winter week day you can hike here and see maybe one lone mountain biker besides yourself. You could not pay me enough to be out hiking inside the overheated radiator of a southern Utah summer afternoon, but winter is sublime as a 25°F crystal clear morning shivers its way to a luminous sunlight hovering low on the horizon. 

Lowlands of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Zzzzzip! Off comes the fleece after crawling around in the warm sunshine of the boulder–littered canyon. Zzzzzip! The fleece comes back on in the chilly shade of the sandy washes. Zzzzzip! Off again. Zzzzzip! On again. Zzzzzip! Off again. Zzzzzip! On again. Not to worry, though. All this zipping just gives another reason to stop and admire the view. I’ve been out here so many times but I never tire of it, the reason being the season this time, of frigid shadows and warming sunshine. 



  1. Happy Solstice! I look forward to the days getting longer.

  2. Hey look! The days are getting longer! Must mean our jobs are posted again.