Last week I was able to spend a few evening hours wandering around in Bryce Canyon National Park. Snow still lingered in the upper elevations of the park, but the weather was very Spring-like. Despite visiting this park several times in the past, I never ventured down the road toward Fairyland Trail, one of the first and lowest access points. I actually found this one of the best areas to get out and among the rock formations, without having to deal with a lot of people. The sun was rapidly setting, so I was somewhat limited in my exploration, but enjoyed my short time there.
Southern looking panorama of the Amphitheater at the Cedar Breaks National Monument, near Parowan, Utah. The Dixie National Forest encompasses this region.
To view an interactive panorama of this scene, click this link: Cedar Breaks Amphitheater – Dermandar. You cursor or mouse will allow you to scroll anywhere within the image, and double-clicking will zoom into the scene.
It is about time to bring our southwest trip to a close. Beginning in Phoenix (Arizona Birding), we made our way to the Grand Canyon (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), then Zion National Park (Shroud over Zion), and finally arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park. Except for gale-force winds, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to welcome us to this geological wonderland! Some fresh snow from the previous night lingered, while the clouds were working their way in an easterly direction. The biting wind-chill kept many of the tourists at bay, so those of us that braved the day were rewarded with a peaceful visit. As astounding as the hoodoos, cliffs and weathered mountainsides were, the cloud formations were amazing, and really enhanced the breathtaking landscapes. Unfortunately the images posted below don’t do justice to the scenes, but if you haven’t yet visited Bryce Canyon, they might at least give you some encouragement to make it a destination on your bucket list. All of the images will open to a larger format if you click on them.
The first four images are the result of High Dynamic Range (HDR) composites, which I often utilize for scenes with a lot of contrast. In many ways, HDR helps photos look more like what our eyes see, which a single photographic exposure cannot create. However, this same technique can also be used to add some artistic flair, which you may particularly notice in the second image.
As mentioned previously, the clouds from the departing storm system really made this an awesome time to visit Bryce Canyon. Because we see clouds so often, we may take them for granted most of the time. If we do actually think about them, oftentimes our thoughts will relate to impending weather. I’d like to propose that clouds can, and should, take on a more profound meaning, serving as a call to action and a reminder of a promise made. Clouds are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, sometimes literally and other-times metaphorically. Three of these instances I’d like to briefly call to mind.
In the Gospel of Mark, after ministering to the multitude for several days, Jesus spends a little quiet time high on a mountain with Peter, James and John. For a short while Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, prompting some intrepidation on the part of the disciples, when; And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). God used a cloud as a vehicle to get the attention of the believers, so they would focus, listen and hear the words of Christ.
Let’s jump ahead a little to the Book of Acts. Just to set the stage, Christ had already been crucified, risen from the dead, and was wrapping up forty days of ministering about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Jesus shares some important final words with the Apostles, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Again, a cloud was used as an apparent door through which Christ entered as He ascended to Heaven to join the Father.
Finally, consider what we should expect upon Christ’s return to earth, as He promised to do. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:16-17). This isn’t going to be a quiet affair! Indeed, I think it is going to be a grand reunion, of sorts, where all those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will be joined together with Him. And where is the reception hall? It is in the clouds! And from that point on, we will be with the Lord always!
Putting these three sets of Scripture together, we can see the clouds as 1) a reminder to focus on Him and abide by His instruction for our lives, 2) a doorway to Heaven which Christ used when He departed, and 3) that same door is where we will enter into eternal communion with Him upon Christ’s final return. So, the next time you see some clouds and think it might rain, perhaps you’ll consider some other things that those clouds might portend!