Stealing a Sunset from 14,000 ft.

On the third day of our expedition to the Big Island of Hawaii, Bobby, Allie, and me traveled up to the top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s largest mountain and the tallest mountain in the world from base to top.  The journey to the top, being above the clouds, seeing the observatories, and experiencing what it was like at that altitude is a story in its own right.  The most surreal part about being up that high was watching the day slowly turn tonight as our planet’s star slowly sank into the horizon.

The three of us were standing at the summit of the mountain when the Sunset began.  We rushed down the roughly 100 foot slope to what I would describe as the main top section of the mountain where all of the observatories were.  On our way down the slope we turned away from the Sun to the east to notice the shadow of the mountain being cast on the clouds behind it, by the light of the Sun.  It was like we were viewing a phantom mountain, for it looked so much like another mountain that appeared out of nowhere.

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The Shadow of a Mountain

Bobby and me actually ran back to our car which was parked in a spot reserved for cars at the main top section of the mountain facing West.  It was interesting to run in this elevation and feel the reduced oxygen and the thin air.  When we got to our car a small crowd began to form, all gathering to say goodbye to our life giving star.  We were standing above the clouds, and because of the amount of clouds below us I would assume that at ground level it might have been a cloudy day, but to us it was clear and bright for we had pierced through the lower cloud level.  As time slowly moved forward, more and more colors started to become unleashed into the Earth’s sky, like the Earth and the sun were collaborative painters and the sky was their canvas.  There were clouds below us and above us as rays of light danced in between the two layers of clouds with opening of blue sky to add to the array of color in the air.  The clouds soon changed color from white and grey to orange, yellow, and pink, reflecting the light with vibrant luminosity and the scene soon became something straight out of a sci-fi movie and we were on a different planet.

Bobby and me taking everything in (photo by Allie)

We could viewed distant island mountains in the distance whose peaks where breaking through the lower cloud level, the crimson of the mountain soil shined with brilliance, observatories where scattered all over and it was a sight that was truly something beautiful and I would have been perfectly okay if the world stopped turning for a bit.  It wasn’t much longer before the sky became a slightly darker shade of blue and purple allowing the Moon, Venus, and the brightest stars to make their appearance in the spectacle that was being put on by the Universe at this very moment.  It was a dream-like moment, that had a emotional and spiritual impact on me.  To see the planet that we live on and call home in this way and view so much beauty in such a relatively small area of the planet, I have no words for it.  It is one thing to live on a planet that can support Life, but the fact that it is at wondrous as it is shows God’s Love for us.  The best part of the whole thing was who I got to share the experience with.

Keck I & II, NASA IRTF observatories and Maui in the distance.

The best view came when the Sun had set below the horizon but still lit up a s section of the sky between the cloud layers with a white-yellow light and the higher cloud layer with a soft orange color.  The ground turned dark, the sky a certain shade of dark blue, the silhouettes of three observatories sat peacefully in looking out, and a distant island mountain broke through the clouds to the south west.  The picture of this moment can be viewed above and is the feature image for this article.

It was amazing how such a routine thing as a Sunset seemed so miraculous and beautiful.  Perhaps it was the elevation, the people I was with, and where I was, the moment was just pure magic and something heavenly.  I hope that one day I may be able to venture back to Mauna Kea to watch the Sunset again.  The Earth really is a beautifully bizarre planet and I Love it. Getting the chance to steal a sunset on the top of Mauna Kea with the best kind of travel companions, just might have been the most beautiful thing I have experienced, so blessed…

– Dustin


4 thoughts on “Stealing a Sunset from 14,000 ft.

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