I expect the countless eyes and cameras that have adored this place to have dulled it. But I see all colors in the desert; and they’re not tainted, as far as I can tell. I try to learn the terms and reasons for why it became the way it is. I don’t forget one name—desert varnish: the volcanic gleam over rusty red cliffs, as if spread by palette knife—and I repeat it in my head every time I pass it.
The day after Thanksgiving, my parents and I drive from Laramie to Winter Park in a rental Buick. We go to see what we hear is worth seeing in Colorado, and we confuse it for all that there is.
We stop in Walden, just south of the Wyoming border and the Medicine Bow mountains. I wonder if the name has anything to do with Thoreau, or if names in the West aren’t after names in the East like names in the East are after places and people in England. I need a bathroom break and my father says it’d be nice to stretch his legs.