A Variety of Winter Weather

Flagstaff’s February weather has been very active with rain and/or snow recorded on seven days out of the first fifteen. Several days of snow on the Kachina Peaks covered the trees with a thick coating of rime ice and lots of new snow on the slopes.

Rime covered trees in the Kachina Peaks.
Rime covered trees in the Kachina Peaks.
"Flying Dutchman." It's steeper than it looks.
“Flying Dutchman.” It’s steeper than it looks.
"Allison Clay."
“Allison Clay.”
Weeds in the snow.
Weeds in the snow.

And then we had an “atmospheric river” that produced a significant amount of winter rain with about 1.5 inches falling in the Flagstaff area. The runoff in Oak Creek and its tributaries was impressive.

Pumphouse Wash—a normally dry wash—running at high volume.
Pumphouse Wash—a normally dry wash—running at high volume.
Oak Creek at Grasshopper Point: a popular swimming hole when quieter water prevails.
Oak Creek at Grasshopper Point: a popular swimming hole when quieter water prevails.

And the forecast for the next week or so is a continuation of stormy weather with lots of snow for the higher elevations. I believe the long-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived.

Autumn Colors in Northern Arizona—2018

The colors have peaked and the leaves have fallen across the higher elevations of northern Arizona. Here are some of my favorites from this season.

Aspen leaves on Weatherford Trail.
Aspen leaves on Weatherford Trail.
Waterline Road.
Waterline Road.
Inner Basin Trail after an early-season snowfall.
Inner Basin Trail after an early-season snowfall.
This is the classic shot along Waterline Road.
This is the classic shot along Waterline Road.
Waterline Road.
Waterline Road.
Near Arizona Snowbowl.
Near Arizona Snowbowl.
Snowbowl Road after an early-season snowfall.
Snowbowl Road after an early-season snowfall.
Weatherford Trail.
Weatherford Trail.
Frozen water droplets on a leaf.
Frozen water droplets on a leaf.
Colorful hillside along the Elden Springs Trail.
Colorful hillside along the Elden Springs Trail.
Reflection in Frances Short Pond.
Reflection in Frances Short Pond.
Inner Basin and the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Inner Basin and the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

 

Aspen colors 2017: Inner Basin and Arizona Trail

Some years it’s easy to get great photographs of the changing colors of aspen leaves in northern Arizona. The weather is good, the timing is right, you’re in the perfect place. It all comes together.

That wasn’t this year.

We set out several times on the mountain bikes to see and enjoy the color. First we were too early; then we were too late. We were out of town on a long-planned trip and the peak color season occurred while we were gone. It happens.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been able to get good photographs many times in the past and there will be opportunities again in coming years.

So here is a collection of pre-season photos, post-season photos, and a few from several years ago comparing colors in the Inner Basin on similar dates but different years.

Early season colors seen along Waterline Road (09/25/2017)
Early season colors seen along Waterline Road (09/25/2017)
Early season colors seen along Waterline Road (09/25/2017)
Early season colors seen along Waterline Road (09/25/2017)
Early season colors along the Arizona Trail near Bismarck Lake (09/29/2017)
Early season colors along the Arizona Trail near Bismarck Lake (09/29/2017)
Late-season aspen along Waterline Road (10/17/2017)
Late-season aspen along Waterline Road (10/17/2017)
Late-season aspen along Waterline Road (10/17/2017)
Late-season aspen along Waterline Road (10/17/2017)
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail (10/17/2017)
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail (10/17/2017)
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail (10/17/2017)
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail (10/17/2017)
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail in 2014 (10/14/2014).
Mountain biking on Inner Basin Trail in 2014 (10/14/2014).

Based on previous years, I thought we might still find some great color in the Inner Basin this late in the season. We certainly did in 2014—but not 2017.

And here are a couple from 2015—another good year for aspen photography.

Inner Basin Trail (10/07/2015).
Inner Basin Trail (10/07/2015).
Lockett Meadow and Inner Basin (10/08/2015).
Lockett Meadow and Inner Basin (10/08/2015).

An early snowfall on the higher summits juxtaposed with the aspen almost at their peak made an interesting composition. Getting this view required more hiking and climbing that anticipated—but ultimately worth it.

Powder skiing in the Kachina Peaks—Part II

The last major snow event around here was a multi-day storm from January 19–25 that put down about 36″ of snow in town. The Kachina Peaks received anywhere from 5 to 7 FEET of snow. Since then, the weather has been pretty quiet with no storms. The snow in town had melted away and the snowpack in the mountains had melted/sublimated substantially.

Finally, however, another snow storm moved across the area earlier this week bringing about 16″ in two days to Flagstaff and about 18–24″ across the peaks. Time to hit the slopes.

New snow on a toppled aspen tree.
New snow on a toppled aspen tree.

Our original destination was the area known as Allison Clay but that idea was abandoned because of the amount of trail breaking required to get there. Instead, we went for the nearer destination known as Flying Dutchman. A few skiers had already broken a trail to the top of the area so we had an easy climb. Thanks, guys!

Here are a few images from the downhill runs.

At the top of Flying Dutchman.
At the top of Flying Dutchman.
Lower glades before hitting the Humphreys Trail.
Lower glades before hitting the Humphreys Trail.

Will this be the last chance for good skiing? Or will we see another big event in March?

 

Clear, Blue Skies and Deep Powder

We had a nice snow storm earlier this week that brought a bit less than a foot of new snow to Flagstaff—but more than two feet in the mountains. Time to get out and ski some deep powder!

Snow covered trees in the Kachina Peaks.
Snow covered trees in the Kachina Peaks.

So off we went to ski the backcountry. Our destination was the area known as “Allison Clay” on the west face of Humphreys Peak. Getting there is not straightforward as there is no trail. One has to bushwack their way from the lower sections of the Humphreys Peak trail around a portion of the mountain before reaching the open slopes. Nonetheless, the trek can be quite beautiful when there is a lot of fresh snow on the trees.

While bushwhacking through the forest we spotted this yin-yang symbol on a tree.
While bushwhacking through the forest we spotted this yin-yang symbol on a tree.

Along the way we stopped at “Flying Dutchman” to survey the conditions. The old snow had settled so much in the past few weeks that the new snow was insufficient to completely cover the rocks and many were poking through the powder. After a quick stop, it was time to continue to our main destination.

First, we must climb this...
First, we must climb this…

Normally setting a trail through the forest and finding Allison Clay is not that difficult—but on this outing I aimed too low and we ended up below the normal ski zone. Not a problem! As it turned out, we found another nice gully with deep, untracked powder. Up we climbed—determined that we would return through this gully on our way back. Higher up, we broke out into the open and began the moderately steep climb up the west face of the mountain. Then it was time to convert all that potential energy into kinetic energy—in other words, let gravity do its thing.

...so that we can do this!
…so that we can do this!
Tree skiing in a wide gully.
Tree skiing in a wide gully.

And, oh, it was GOOD—especially the powder-filled gully! By this time, however, we were getting tired since we had to break a lot of trail through deep snow just to get here.

Look at that happy smile!
Look at that happy smile!

Next morning—same thing. We did all the work yesterday breaking trail so today would be easier. Unfortunately, winds had increased overnight and the avalanche danger began to increase so we chose to ski through the trees and away from the open slope. That turned out to be even better because the powder in the trees was simply marvelous.

Clear, blue skies and deep powder. Wow!

Edit: 01/25/2017…fixed broken link.