“Damn!! I must have screwed up setting the alarm.” is what I said to myself when it jolted me out of a sound sleep. But no, it really was 5am, the time I had set to start packing and heading out into the Bisti Badlands in the dark.
It was the best nights sleep I’ve gotten so far on the trip. I had two destinations today, The Egg Factory, about a two mile hike and what I called The Little Wings, which were just a bit before The Eggs. My goals were to get to the Little Wings just as the sun first broke the crest of the cliff just to the east of them, get the shots I wanted and then race to the Egg Factory just as the light began to hit them as well. It was a tall order, but I knew exactly what I was looking for since I had scouted the area last Thursday when the trip began. I began hiking in complete darkness because the moon that was so bright last night had already set and I couldn’t even make out my first marker: the twin red cliffs, but I just kept trudging along in the direction of the GPS and little by little, as the sky began to lighten just a bit, I could make out my second marker: the two flat tops. In the darkness, I passed an area that seemed to have black and white swirls that I didn’t notice on the previous visit that I thought might make a good abstract and I marked the location. Continuing on, I finally came to the Little Wings and I noticed that the western sky hadn’t even begun to lighten much, so I checked the distance to the Egg Factory and found it to be only a bit over 1/10 of a mile. I decided to get over there before the alpenglow in the western sky showed up, take a few pictures, dash back to the Little Wings for the shot and back again for when the sunlight began to shine on the eggs. In fact, I did manage all of that, reaching the Little Wings with just about 5 minutes to spare. I took several shots as the light worked its way down the hoodoos, and then headed back to the Eggs just before the light hit them. I couldn’t believe that I got them all in. After that, I just sat on a rock for a self portrait to prove that I was actually there and then retreated to a place overlooking the eggs in the shade and had breakfast as I watched other people approach as little specks in the landscape and finally arrive. I rested there for quite a while, putting some tape on the bottoms of my feet as they felt a bit like a pre-blister, before heading back to the car. I took some pictures along the way, one at the swirls I mentioned earlier, and another spot I had marked on the previous trip where there is black dirt with bright red rock shards strewn around; both were beautiful in their own way. Finally made it back to the car around 1pm and saw two young guys tailgating with some good food and beer. They offered me an ice cold beer and I enjoyed every bit of it while we talked for quite a while about photography and places we’ve visited. They were going out into the Bisti overnight to do some light painting. Me? I went to the car, opened up all the windows to air it out, laid in the back by the tailgate and had lunch, followed by a short power nap and rest before heading out again for the late afternoon around 330pm.
I tried getting to the Wings again, but had a lot of trouble finding them, and found them to be too tough to get to once found and really didn’t want to “put all my eggs in one basket”. I wandered a short distance and found the “Rock Garden”, a large flat area with loads of individual rocks just sitting on the ground, took a few shots nearby, and decided to start making my way back toward the car which by now was about two miles away. Just as the sun was getting close to the horizon, I saw it hitting some unbelievably red stones and a small butte behind that was side lit. It turned out to be the shot of the day just as the sun dropped below the horizon and the light was gone on the rocks.
But the light show did not end there. The alpenglow in the east showed some unusual individual rays that spread out across the sky. It was incredible but I couldn’t photograph it very well, and in the western sky, the fading light of the sun had some rays of it’s own, trying to outdo the eastern sky. All the while, the moon was overlooking the whole show. It was a great day!
Got back to the car, unpacked and had some trail mix and water since that was all I wanted after the late lunch. Tomorrow I’ll head out early again in hopes that there might actually be a cloud in the sky for a bit of drama instead of the blank skies I’ve seen for the last few days. I guess I’m never satisfied; clouds or no clouds. But we’ll see if something shows up in the sky tomorrow.