It was late February and the forecast called for a winter storm. The possibility of seeing snow in the desert was exciting! A measurable amount of snow in the desert is rare.
I was watching the weather radar to see where it was snowing. The Superstition Mountains were getting snow. Many photographers would probably be headed there. I wanted something different. Continuing to watch the weather, I noticed it was snowing on the mountains near Bartlett Lake. That was where I would go.
I packed my camera gear and started to load my small SUV. It would be cold photographing in the snow. Having grown up in the Midwest, this was weather that was all too familiar. Hat, gloves, heavy coat and even a scarf were pulled out of the closet. It was early afternoon and I didn’t know how long my journey to capture snow in the desert would be. Water and snacks were packed as well. With my SUV packed, I told my husband where I was headed.
Driving north, I could see snow on the mountains. It was exhilarating to see snow this close to my house. Traveling through Cave Creek and Carefree there was a small amount of snow. Then as I was almost out of Carefree the amount of snow was enough for someone to build a snow cowboy on the golf course. I stopped along the side of the road to take a couple of shots. This was certainly an unusual scene for the golf course in the middle of the desert.
As I neared the turn to Bartlett lake the sign said how far to Seven Springs. Hmm, maybe continuing along that road would be better views of the snow in the desert. I hadn’t told my husband that Seven Springs was a possibility, but decided to go. I was visualizing saguaros covered in snow. The road has many curves and hills and using the road as part of my image was a possibility. Continuing on my journey, the landscape was changing, less cactus. I really wanted cactus in my photos.
I made the decision to turn around and go back to Bartlett Lake, my original destination. As I traveled back the way I came, I stopped along the road to photograph the desert hills with cactus and snow. It started to snow where I was. Time to get back in my SUV and continue on. The snowfall was becoming heavy and coming right at me. I slowed down out of concern this curvy and hilly road would become icy. The thought of sliding off the road was scary as it was quite a drop off.
By the time I got to the turn off to Bartlett Lake I could hardly see where to turn. Time to pull off and stop. There was a sign that cautioned drivers headed to the lake that the road was icy. Driving on snowy, hilly and curvy roads is one thing, but ice, no way! What to do, wait out the storm or head back home. My SUV is only 2WD and the snow was piling up on the road. No snow plows in the desert to come clear the road. Better be safe and head home.
I called my husband told him I was headed back due to the road conditions. Then, driving through Cave Creek the snow had stopped! What was I thinking giving up and heading home? The thought of Don’t Get Caught Sittin’ on the Bus and missing out on this rare opportunity made me turn around and head back towards the lake. I was thinking about last summer at the North Rim and the amazing sunset. I wasn’t going to miss what may happen on this day!
The snow had moved past the turn off to Bartlett Lake. I decided to pull off the road at the turn off. There was at least 4 inches of snow and plenty of opportunities to photograph this rare weather. Many people were coming out to play in the snow. Several vehicles headed down the icy road to the lake. A few even stopped and then decided to continue on and their tires were spinning. So glad I decided to stop. However, would I be able to pull back onto the road or would I spin out and get stuck?
The skies were overcast and gray, just like I remembered February skies in the Midwest. It was cold, the snow not yet melting. Other photographers arrived along with families whose children were excited to play in the snow. It was still a couple of hours until sunset. Knowing that if it got too cold I could sit in my vehicle and wait for sunset, I stayed.
I chatted with another photographer for quite a while. He was originally from New Hampshire and was prepared for the cold weather. We kept our eye on the sky noticing the clouds to the west were breaking. They were actually moving to the southeast, which seemed odd. Would the sun shine through creating an amazing sunset? I was willing to wait! There were power lines in the way of some of my compositions, if only the sun would break through, better photos could be made to the south.
Then it happened, the clouds completely broke to the west. The sun was shining and getting low to the horizon. I was hoping to capture this incredible scene with a sunburst. I didn’t like my composition and turned around to see what the sky looked like behind me. It was incredible what I saw! Quickly grabbing my camera gear I moved and got down low. The snow-covered desert plants were glistening and the sky was changing color quickly! So fast that I was only able to get a few shots and the color was gone. I could hardly believe the sunset I had just witnessed!
The photographer I had been chatting with thanked me for talking him into staying. That was a compliment that made me glad I stayed too. But more than that, I was ecstatic to not have been caught sittin’ on the bus! We said good-bye and got into each of our vehicles. By this time the sun had melted enough of the snow I pulled out with no problem.
The snow would stay for another day or so in the high country. Would I venture out the next day for more winter photos and would there be bad weather? Well, that’s another story for another day.
©Tamara Becker and Different Isn’t Wrong, It’s Just Different, 2013. All Rights Reserved.