Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Last Great Sunrise

Any fool can stay awake to watch the sunset, 
but it takes determination to see the sunrise,
especially from the high country.
Peice of Flare

This is a way way tardy write up, but given the long late wonderful fall, how the rain has now returned in force, and the fantastic trip it turned out to be I figured I'd write this up anyway. Here goes....

For those looking back years from now reading this, and I surely hope that this stuff is still around for you to read, I'll give you a bit of insight into some of my motivations. I realized in my 30's after very little activity over the last 15 years that I'd become, in the word of Paul Simon, "soft in the middle". I needed to get into shape. I didn't even consider a gym, I'm more of a private person and none of the machinery and "working out" in public was appealing to me at all. I started riding my mountain bike along the paved trails that ran beside the waterways in Pleasant Hill. I remember the first time I started out, exerting myself too hard and leaning over the bars dry heaving. I thought to myself, "clearly I am doing something wrong". I kept at it. Shortly thereafter a friend, Becky Johnson, took me and my family on a hike up to Briones Regional Park, which was maybe 3 miles from our house. A whole new world opened up to me and I started mountain biking on the trails. I began to realize that I could not only exercise but at the same time take journeys through beautiful landscape. I mostly did this before work as it was the most convenient time, as after work was about fixing dinner and being with the family. The morning time became my time and I liked it. The world is fresh and new when its waking up; the light is nice, but most importantly I enjoyed the solitude whether alone or with a few close friends. Most people don't seem to like mornings, but I relished in them.. Soon thereafter I augmented my biking with a weekly hike with Becky's 70 year old Father Curg. He could hike circles around me in my out of shape state, but I slowly improved. A couple of years later we moved to Seattle. One of the reasons was the outdoor activities that our specific little town, Issaquah had in the local "mountains" of Cougar, Squak and Tiger and the larger area of the Cascades. Because of my location, I-90 became my main corridor of exploration, I could get up and out quickly and back.

Ridgeline of PromiseLast year, at least from my perception, rain and snow invaded early, and cut the fall short. This year the long sunny and dry spell has allowed the leaves to fully mature and the color and the weather has been amazing for Seattle. I've tried to get out and take as much advantage as possible. Looking at the forecast for the last week in October, I saw three clear days and decided to try for one last non-rainy Dawn Patrol. One benefit of pushing daylight savings all the way to November is you get some ridiculously late sunrises. Sunrise proper was 7:50 am, but it was getting light around 6:45-ish. I wanted to get away by 4:45 am, which is almost sleeping in from the 3:30 am start I had in June. The destination was Snoqualmie Mountain, because its one of my favorite hikes along I-90, mostly because it has so few people and such great views. JK was the only taker and we met at Target and by 5:30 we were starting up the trail in the dark under the bright full stars.

Flames of RedI think Dawn Patrol in the dark would be difficult if there isn't a well defined trail or you haven't been down the path before. Luckily I've been up Snoqualmie Mountain many times and the "trail", what there is, is well defined; mostly following the snow melt creek and boulders up to where you cross the creek above the waterfall. At the falls the creek was bone dry, not a drop of water trickling over the rocks. I don't think I've ever seen it without water, a testament to the dry fall we'd been having. We crossed and made our way up through the steep rooty forest band above the dry falls and started climbing what you think is the last long ridge to the summit. Finally the sky began to lighten and it was clear it was going to be a great sunrise. We stopped a couple of times for a brief moment to capture the silhouette of the sky as the morning dawned, but mostly we just hurried to try to reach the summit by the time the full color came on.

Dawn PatrolWe made it as the to the summit as the sky lit up in bright red, as Red Mountain was dark with its distinctive triangular profile. The gendarmes along the ridge from Snoqualmie toward Lundin stood in dark start contrast to the dawn. We put on a warm jacket and enjoyed the world waking up in a fantastic display around us. We scrambled all over the summit area taking photos of the sea of peaks around us. I kept waiting for the strong alpenglow to hit Rainier, but it was a bit muted. Glacier Peak though was majestic draped in sunrise pinks. After the requisite jump shot, we packed up and started thumping quickly down the trail to try and make it into work by 10 am. Took us around an hour to get down, and by 9 am we were in the car listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack riding back down the highway. My legs hurt a bit the next day from the constant pounding of the down down.

As the rain and gray returns, I often think of that sunrise. We saw it from a vantage point that very few others did that day and we still made it into work. The early start and effort were worth it, but then when it comes to early in the mountains they usually always are.

Photos and Video

Snoqualmie Mountain Sunrise from mbgriffi on Vimeo.
Set on www.flickr.com


Blogger thom said...

Great writeup and pics - love that soundtrack as well. And I have to give you credit, I am so not a morning person - but there is something incredible about witnessing the sun rise, and most particularly out in the mountains.


11:14 PM  
Blogger staceygriff said...

you need to frame the first photo for our house. It's beautiful. also it's a great post.

11:10 AM  

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