Snow cover defines the landscape once I leave the Kiowa Grasslands southeast of Santa Fe and reach the Colorado Plateau northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our Southwest colors present magical contrasts to the virgin snows. Near Aztec the road enters into a pleasant touch-and-go relationship with the River of Lost Souls, the Rio de las Animas Perdidas. More commonly known as the Animas River. The waterway is the last free-flowing river in Colorado. The lively stream is my gateway into the San Juan National Forest and foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Durango, Colorado. The Rockies loom majestically against a backdrop of ominous clouds on the northern horizon. I veer west through Cortez and by the time Arches National Park near Moab, Utah breeches skylines the vaporous gloom starts to release oodles of white down. Fortunately, twenty-degree temperatures keep the snow dry and even light traffic blows the fluff off road ways. I settle into overnight accommodations at a roadhouse in Green River.
Daylight oozes onto the Columbia Plateau of Eastern Oregon through shrouds of ice fog and sleet. A half-inch glaze of frozen water on trees, power lines, roadways, and cars glistens under street lights and in the head lamp beams of intrepid motorists. I delay departure. By mid-morning warmer temperatures and road crews make roads passable. The Columbia River Gorge awaits.