Sunsets In The Desert = Nature’s Perfect Color Storm

Just another great afternoon show

Whenever I’m in the desert I can’t help but think of the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. The scenes in that movie were intense and captured natural beauty and panoramic vistas way ahead of their technological time. There’s a particular moment when the war correspondent Jackson Bently turns to the (by then) half-mad, arab-robed Lawrence and asks him “What attracts you personally to the desert?” and he replies quite simply “It’s clean”.

Apart from the urge to stride through the sand in long flowing garments, ride camels and wear massive swords (which surely everyone has out here), there’s alot of depth to this statement. You see it’s this very cleanliness that makes the colors in the desert so very striking. From warm hues in the morning, to deep blue afternoon skies, to cascades of fire in the evening. The fact that it’s so dry and so desolate is the very reason the sunsets are so rich and intense…it’s a dichotomy of extremes, and right here the opposites attract to make a most perfect whole.

The RV is bathed in a late afternoon light
High clouds reflect intense desert hues

In my geekiness I can’t help but think of Rayleigh scattering, the very thing that makes our day sky blue. All of light’s colors scattered and bent by the massive natural prism that is the atmosphere giving us the daytime blue that our eyes favor the most. And the effect so deeply blue in the clearest and weakest atmospheres (deserts and mountains). It whacks me out to think that some animals actually see the sky in violet or ultraviolet…what would that be like?

But where this manifests most strongly is later in the day, where the longer orange and red wavelengths finally emerge for their sunset show. This is where the clean, dry air crystallizes and saturates colors like nowhere else. Add to that the desert winds that whip up cirrus and altocumulus clouds high in the atmosphere, posed perfectly to reflect and amplify that light, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed 5-star view -> stunning horizon colors ramped-up ten-fold by the cloud layers above it. It aaaaallll comes together in the desert…nature’s perfect sunset storm, if you will, ready to give you a new performance every single evening.

And me? I just can’t get enough of them. Something about that afternoon fire in the sky penetrates deep into my soul and steals my heart. In that deep sea of color I happily drown. The sky expands before me and pulls me in, stilling my mind and bringing me in complete harmony, if just for a moment, with nature’s glory. It’s like a 4D IMAX movie, where all except the scene before you disappears from view and even the subconscious is taken in. And in that very instant the world stops -> a total calm, my entire life-force focused on the beauty that is the sky.

I love sunsets. It’s free mind yoga every single afternoon and it’s the kinda geeky coolness I can’t get enough of. Oh yeah and as a bonus, it makes for pretty neat pictures too :)

It’s a desolate beauty out here
No touch-ups on this photo…the colors were exactly like this!
A color blast reflects off the RV
High clouds promise a stunning sunset
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  1. says

    Wow! This post just got blew me away. We’re on our way to the desert in a few weeks (in fact eventually we will be at the very same campground you are now) and after seeing these pics I am so excited to arrive. Thanks for the visual tease. I cannot wait to see these sunsets in person!

    • libertatemamo says

      Well if you guys get here before the end of Nov look us up. The park is fairly empty at the moment and we’re one row from the back.

    • libertatemamo says

      It definitely has it’s own charm. I’m not keen on the desert in summer, but I sure do love it in winter.

  2. Rusty & Kelly Glen says

    And then you meet those others who say, why would you wish stay or live out there.
    Its so boring, sad they have no idea, maybe we should not give the secret away.
    Keep the nothing to those few who know and treasure whats really out there.
    Yet another awesome post
    Rusty & Kelly

  3. flyfishnevada says

    More fantastic photos! That shot of the rig with the with the sky all lit up behind it (third one down) should be in a brochure. Love the reference to LoA. I love that movie, but the kids didn’t get it. It does look like it was filmed last year. Amazing visuals.

    • libertatemamo says

      Everytime I see that movie I’m amazed at what they managed to get on film. From what I’ve learned everything was filmed live and on-site (with no special effects) except for a single scene of the sun in the noon sky (and only because they couldn’t work out how to get that one directly on the camera without burning the film!). Everything else was captured exactly as it was…amazing!

  4. Donna says

    You truly captured the feelings I had when I visited some of the outback deserts of Australia. Having grown up in the hills and mountains of NY state I never thought I could fall in love with the desert. I learned that the beauty is in the details. I look forward to someday visiting and spending time in our deserts.

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh yeah, the Australian outback. You know that was our very first RV trip many, many years ago. We rented a van and toured SE Australia (from Perth) for 2 months. What am amazing place!!

  5. says

    Great post – both the text and the pictures – think I’ll just go back and read it again. What a wonderful spot you are in. Sure wish I was there to have some of that calm and beauty.

    • libertatemamo says

      Glad I could bring a little piece of it into your living room. Lots of WIND here today, but that’s part of the ever-changing charm of the desert.

  6. says

    I too love sunsets and sunrises.
    When my Grandpa and Grandma Spino were alive, I stayed with them a lot. They came from Italy and LOVED cowboy shows. So many of the landscape scenery we saw in the desert reminded me of the cowboy movies my Grandparents used to watch. Made me feel cozy inside.

    • libertatemamo says

      I’ve always been a big cowboy show fan too. Don’t know what it is but strapping men galloping on horseback across the plains really do it for me :)

  7. says

    I love your portrayal of the desert…beautifully written. For those who have not had this experience, after reading this, I see folks streaming out to these barren lands to get their fix. Hope your ankle and knee are now healed and that Paul’s family situation is improving.

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m doing much better thanks. Walking normally again and have been spa’ing 2-3 times/day so getting very well taken care of. Paul should be home in ~10 days we hope.

  8. Bob Nuttmann says

    Our fixed house is in San Diego. I noticed a while back that you seem to get longer and more multicolored sunsets much more frequently at the desert than at the coast. I am not an expert, but my thought is that it is because at the coast, many times the sun sets into clouds. Whereas in the desert the sun sets almost always into clear air.

    I also really like the desert. My wife is not so much of a fan. But she originated in Ohio where it is green. Of course you are from Europe where it is green like Ohio, so what happened to you. I am from CA, and the desert comes naturally.
    I am not so sure about our local desert being so clean. Seems like there are lots of literbugs in our area. And in the desert the trash stays around for a long time.

    • libertatemamo says

      You know I have no idea what happened to me. I’m just a natural-born nomad and love wherever it is I’m at. Be it the beach, the desert or the mountains I love it ALL!!
      Do agree w/ the trash problem tho’. The air may be clean, but the desert floor is not always.I sometimes wonder why people would throw trash out here. Seems a darn shame.

  9. jil mohr says

    Great photos and of course my favorite subject….I love it here in Benson as we are on the outskirts of the desert so we get fabulous views every day/night…..thanks for sharing….

    • libertatemamo says

      Hoping we get to see your area of the world this coming winter. Expecting some GRAND sunsets in your town!

  10. jil mohr says

    will try to accommodate your sunset request….although yours are hard to beat…Q has some to die for ones too….

  11. Judy Hollinger says

    I can’t remember the name of it but there is a great little shop right in Desert Hot Springs that has a really good selection of reasonably priced bathing suits. It is right on the corner on the same street as the post office I think. Have fun and enjoy the healing waters.


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