Australian Geographic

Desert brushstrokes

The first rays of sunlight are washing across the Painted Desert.

What had been dull pre-dawn outlines of weathered hills are now coming to glorious, vivid life. As the sun hits the peaks they turn pink and gold, seeming to catch fire as iron deposits react to the soft, creeping light.

Quickly, we park our SUV in the designated area and follow the well-defined path towards the nearest summit. My guide is Nick Crase, a retired geologist, who’s spent much

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