There are few beauties in Utah as graceful as late fall in the Oquirrh Mountains.

I know, many of you will look east, to the craggy massifs and snowy peaks of the Wasatch, and you will think I am stupid. What have the Oquirrhs to compete with such majesty? Mines? Brown weeds? A robust market for bullets and “keep out” signs?

Well, yes.

Those things are in the Oquirrh Mountains. And they’re all perfect right about now.

These odd hostilities have drawn me west, to the Tooele Valley, in late November and early December nearly every year I have lived in Utah. I wait for a silvery day, a day when it’s chilly and dry. A day when the sky taunts the limits of monochrome with clouds of every density, layered in ribbons from heavy, dark gunmetal to a bright, icy almost-gold white wherever the sun is about to break through.

On the ground, on a day like that, the west slopes of the Oquirrh Mountains showcase every texture of decay. The rabbitbrush have faded from yellow flowers to blondish fluff over foliage that shifts from green to brittle gray. The plumes of virgin’s bower drape over ravines like mounds of fairy skeletons.

Driving into Ophir Canyon, a mostly collapsed train car and a tilted loading chute appear along the road, remnants of a boom-and-bust silver mining history. Ophir town, 6,000 strong in the 1870s, is mostly shuttered. The one business — a shop called Minnie’s — is closed for the season. A bulletin board on the western false-front clapboard facade of city hall contains only a notice that locals voted 11 to 7 last year to disincorporate the town.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ophir is pictured Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017.

When the snow falls, all of this will be blanketed into wintery conformity. For now, it is the perfect haunting between death and sleep.

Ophir will wake back up, sort of. In between mining relics and aging outbuildings are new summer homes that will show signs of life when the snow clears (one has a sign that warns “WE DON’T DIAL 911″ with a picture of a gun). In May, Minnie’s will reopen, as will a small village of historic buildings that townspeople have renovated. Guests can visit them on Saturdays until September, or arrange tours at 435-882-4256. There are two campgrounds north of town and trails for motorized and nonmotorized uses in the mountains above. The foothills south of town are well-tracked by ATVs, which keep the valley buzzing through summer.

But I prefer to go now, when it’s quiet. When every branch is bare. When every scene is pre-sepia’d. When the sense of vacancy is palpable, and the only sign of life is the strange proliferation of brightly colored “No trespassing” signs, which occur at a greater density in Ophir Canyon than perhaps anywhere else on Earth — despite the fact that I’ve hardly seen another soul there in several visits.

This week I finally found a local to chat with. Max Hunt, whose family has a cabin at the edge of town, assured me that the copious boundary-marking signage doesn’t reflect the whole community’s sense of welcome. He and other residents gladly host campers and other visitors throughout the summer, when “old timers” meet for chit chat at Minnie’s and enjoy showing off their lush, green corner of paradise tucked in the tan of Tooele County’s desert heat.

“Come in July; it’s just gorgeous,” he said, beaming at the now-gloomy canyon walls.

I say make two trips to appreciate the difference. Every time I come here in autumn, I’m caught off-guard by the stark beauty and glorious weirdness of this old canyon, from the stony cliffs that once hid lodes of silver to the inexplicably recurring display of howling dog statues and skulls near mine adits.

Grab a camera and some hiking boots, and go take in the peaceful deathiness of this time of year.