October 31, 2011
Another Mark Rothko sunset yesterday. Very intense colors in the sky about 5 to 10 minutes after the sun goes down. It doesn’t last long, and at the same time the west-facing hills glow in the light. It’s also quite serene since I’m alone in the park after it closes.
I’ve included a map with today’s photos to give you an idea of where I’m going. The park drive, the mainly north-south road, is 28 miles long. So the park itself isn’t that big, and it’s shaped like an hourglass. The apartment I’m staying in is at park headquarters, located at the Painted Desert Visitor Center, just to the north of I-40.The squiggly road heads north, then south, with several viewpoints looking out to colorful hills that give the Painted Desert its name. These views are supposed to be great at sunset; I’ll have to check them out this week.
Lately I’ve spent lots of time in the Crystal Forest, toward the southern end of the park, which has a big collection of petrified wood; just across the road is Battleship Rock, which was in the moonset photo from yesterday. North of here is The Tepees, which has two big hills and some smaller ones with distinctive layers of sediments, where the Mark Rothko sunset was taken.
There is more light each night from the moon, making the photos better. The petrified wood can be quite dark, and that was a problem because the sky can be much brighter. I’m in a small window of opportunity now that lasts only a few days. The landscape looks very alien, similar to what I saw at the Grand Canyon at night. When the moon is near the horizon, it becomes very orange, like the sun setting. It casts an orange glow over the wood and hills.
On the drive back to the apartment I see small rabbits dart across the road; sometimes they stop by the edge to watch me pass. I’m hoping I don’t squish one.