The First Snow of the Season

A Light Layer of Snow by Cheryl McDonald

My sister Denise called- ” Looks like the mountains are covered with snow, thinking about going to shoot clouds, would you like to go along?”

It had been cold and windy all morning, I managed to get some wood in the back yard sorted and stacked just before the storm hit here. Rain and Hail. I looked out at the mountains and said “sure let’s go!”

We packed our cameras, picked up some hot tea and headed for Walker’s Pass. It has been a long time since I lived this close to snow and I had forgotten how beautiful a first snow can be. The desert was still in Fall wardrobe, some rust colored dried flowers and dried yellow sages mixed with the Joshua trees that stand like sentries watching over the land. The air was crisp and cold, fresh and the smell of snow was in the air.

Snow Covered Desert by Cheryl McDonald

Joshua's in the Snow by Cheryl McDonald

Joshua Bristles and Snow by Cheryl McDonald

We drove about half way up the pass and the snow was getting pretty heavy.  We did not have chains or four-wheel drive and we didn’t want to chance not making it back down the mountain. So we had to be satisfied with what we found. No problem! The snow covered desert, the clouds rolling fiercely across the deep blue sky. It was all magnificent.

Branches by Cheryl McDonald

On our way back to town I decided that a sunrise trip North was in order. Denise was otherwise engaged- it being Monday and all, so Georgia my chihuahua and I set off this morning at 4am to capture the sunrise on the face of Mount Whitney.

Moonset, Sunrise over the Sierras by Cheryl McDonald

A beautiful drive in the dark up 395, the full moon was hanging over the Sierras ,and I was getting very excited, as I realized the full moon would be setting over the mountains and the sunrise in the east would be happening at the same time. I was suddenly grateful for the clear skies as I anticipated the photo ops to come.

Red Stone by Cheryl McDonald

When we got to the Alabama Hills behind Lone Pine, CA, the pink cast of sunrise was edging it’s way across the landscape turning the already red rock to a brilliant orangey pink. I don’t think it had snowed this low yesterday as the hills were dry, but the snow on the mountains was beginning to sparkle as the sun came over the horizon.

Golden Monuments- Alabama Hills by Cheryl McDonald

Mount Whitney at Dawn by Cheryl McDonald

And then the magic began to happen. The sky was turning pink and mauve and lavender and the brilliant fullness of the moon, clear as if it was hanging right in front of me, began to shimmer in the sky as it cast a beautiful clear light on the pink face of the Stone mountains standing before me. It was an incredible gift and I felt honored to be in the presence of such magnificence.

First Snow by Cheryl McDonald

As the sun continued to rise, the light turned to golden and a little further up the road we found snow on the ground and again we stopped and enjoyed. Even Georgia got out of the car and played in the snow. It was so cute to see her romping and playing in snow!

Careful Steps by Cheryl McDonald

Georgia in the snow- by Cheryl McDonald

Dressed for the Cold by Cheryl McDonald

Once we had our fill of morning light and 24 degree temperatures, it was time to head back home.

Mount Whitney with a sprinkling of snow by Cheryl McDonald

But as we drove down 395, I looked to the west to see the next storm making it’s way over the mountain tops.  More snow is forecast and a significant chance for a freeze here at home is predicted. Who knows, maybe there will be another roadtrip at sunrise tomorrow!

Another Storm Coming by Cheryl McDonald

Cheryl McDonald is a artist living at the base of the Eastern Sierras. She works is watercolor and photography and gives workshops and travel workshops in both mediums. To see more of her photography please go to


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