Snow On The Fourth Of July

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and a gut feeling kicks in and you have no choice but to follow it…

About a year ago I first heard of Fourth Of July Canyon, tucked away in the east Manzano Mountains about two hours south of Santa Fe.  A place with spectacular fall colors, Bigtooth and Rocky Mountain maples.  I was curious, but skeptical.  This is New Mexico after all.  Aspens? Sure. Maples? In New Mexico?

As summer faded and fall crept in I ventured into the mountains above Santa Fe a couple of times and walked among the aspens and took in their golden hues and breathed the crisp air, and yet my mind kept returning to the idea of going to Fourth Of July Canyon, of seeing for myself.

And so I woke up one morning with a gnawing feeling in my gut telling me it was now or never, reminding me that the dusting of snow from a day ago was the death knell for autumn, the ringing in of winter, the last call before the earth turned cold and the skies turned grey and the woods turned silent in their wait for spring.

So I dressed and drove south and turned east down a dirt road and headed toward the crimson swath in the distant mountains, not really believing, and as I drove deeper into this fold of earth, and pops of orange and red dotted the landscape, my eyes struggled to believe, but soon I approached the end of the road and skepticism quickly faded. I shot up the trail and then I stopped, turning slowly, taking it all in – yellows and oranges and reds and reds deepening to purple all resplendent against a thin blanket of snow.

The further up the trail the quieter things became, the handful of fellow hikers dispersing and out of earshot, and I was left alone with the rustling of the leaves and fluttering of snow flurries and the whispers of wind wending their way down the canyon.


And I took photos, almost frantically at first, trying to take it all in, but before long I settled in, relaxed, reveled in the cool air, let my ears listen to the leaves, let my eyes believe.


Among the overwhelming were small pockets, little tableaus, bits of beauty that stood alone, demanding attention.


Even the earth was a canvas, a medium for small arrangements.


In spots were magnificent bright pockets of red.


And the trail was a tunnel wrapped in the hues of autumn, a red carpet beckoning.


Sometimes you wake up in the morning and a gut feeling kicks in and you have no choice but to follow it…  Sometimes you get to where your gut led you and you wonder why.  Sometimes you get to where your gut led you and you know exactly why.

If you’d like to see more of my work, my online portfolio (where my work can be purchased) is here.  I post photos daily on Facebook, share my photography journey on Twitter (@KSchafferPhoto), and share iPhone pics from the road and around the house on Instagram (kschafferphoto).



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