Backcountry Dawn Patrol

For the last handful of days, I have been dragging my butt out of bed at a time in which no human being should be awake, all for the sake of watching the sun poke it's head above the horizon. Why would you do this you ask? Well, I think the better question is why not? I really have nothing better to do, unless you count sleeping till a reasonable hour something better.

Here in Central Oregon, there are tons of smaller peaks that beg to be sat on as the sun brings in a new day. A lot of these peaks are within easy reach of a major highway and only take an hour or two of climbing to get to the top. And the best part of all, is that since it is winter, after the climb up, guess who gets to ski down? You guessed it...this guy. It just means that a whole lot of gear and weight gets packed up a mountain at an ungodly hour and in the dark. If the whole point is to watch the sunrise at the top, guess what time this guy has to get to the base of the mountain to start climbing? You guessed it again...really early.

Two of my favorite things are sunsets and sunrises. Sunsets are easy. You basically just have to keep your eyes open at the right time of the day and have a view of the outside and boom...the sunset has been seen. Sure, you can drag your butt to some special view point with your special someone and watch the sun go down, and there about a million of those viewpoints all over the world, but really, its usually not that much effort to watch the sun actually set.

Sunrises on the other hand, are much more difficult. Mainly because of the whole getting out of bed thing. I am going to go out on a limb here, and say that the vast majority of people are just like me in the morning, with not one ounce of motivation or civility. The other problem with watching the sunrise is that most people are so busy in the morning either racing off to work, getting the kids off to school, or walking the dog and waiting for it's morning constitution so you can carry that trophy around in a plastic bag, that you don't have the time to sit for the few minutes it takes for the sun to poke it's head up over the horizon.

Back in my working life, I was usually at work before the sun came up and home after the sun went down. I was lucky enough to spend a fair bit of my work day outside so I didn't have to stare at my office walls all day long, but for some reason, the start and end of my work days were all spent inside a box staring at a computer screen. Even though I was forced to get up early by the man, I still generally missed the sunrise. And on the days where I was lucky enough to see it, I don't think I usually had the mental capacity to appreciate it.

Now that we aren't working anymore, Brenda and I have made a point of watching the sunset. Again, the sunset is easy. Especially since we've been in some pretty amazing places in the last year and a half and a lot of our hiking has put us at some incredible viewpoints just in time to watch the sun go down. When we are out on the boat, it's not uncommon for us to go out of our way to find a beautiful bay to anchor in that has the perfect viewing angle to watch the sun drop behind the horizon. We can just sit on the boat and enjoy the sunset's beauty without moving a muscle. Yeah, the sunset is easy.

In the past year and a half, even with being in all of those amazing places, we just didn't watch very many sunrises. You know, the whole dragging your butt out of bed thing. It's much more difficult.

Last week I was talking with a good friend who asked if I was doing anything productive with my time. I've been skiing just about every day for the last 2 months and skiing is quite possibly my favorite thing on earth, so of course my answer was “Uh, not really. I'm having way more fun than I should be having, but I don't really think I'm being productive.”

Depending on who you talk to, fun is either extremely productive, or not productive at all. I think I lean towards the side that says fun is productive if it's done right. Spending time with good friends = fun and productive. Throwing snowballs at unsuspecting strangers = definitely fun and funny, but probably not productive. Skiing everyday for months on end = extremely fun but at some point, I'm not so sure if it's productive anymore.

After the conversation with my good friend, I guess I felt like I should be doing something more productive with my time than just tearing up the slopes everyday with skis strapped to my feet. I'm sure I could have found a hospital to volunteer at, but those places have way too many germs. I could have gone to the local old-folks-home and done some good deeds there, but old people give me the heeby-geebies. I even thought that I could just spend some time reading and learning about interesting topics, but after a couple of attempts at astrophysics, I realized that even though the books had lots of pictures, I just didn't get it. So, after I colored in all the pictures in the books (you're welcome Bend Public Library), watching the sunrise seemed like the obvious answer.

Getting to a trail-head at 5 in the morning, spending the next couple of hours carrying a heavy pack up a mountain by the light of a headlamp, and then plopping down at the tippety-top with a cup of coffee in hand to wait for the sun to poke out may or may not be productive. However, I will tell you that it is definitely rewarding. Sitting on the top of a mountain is always a good thing. And if you actually make it to the top of a snowy peak before the sun breaks the horizon, there is something incredible that happens. At the very moment when the sun's rays break through and bathe the earth in light, there is a magical glow that sets the world ablaze. It only lasts for a few seconds, so don't blink, but if you are lucky enough to experience it, it definitely leaves an impression. And after all that, since I packed my skis all the way up, I get to ski all the way down.

So, what did we learn today kids? Skiing everyday is fun, hospitals have germs, I'm pretty good at coloring but not so good at astrophysics,  climbing mountains to watch the sunrise is rewarding, and sunrises are better than sunsets because you have to work for them. I'm pretty sure that watching sunrises is a productive activity.

Below is a picture of Mt. Bachelor, unfortunately a few seconds after the magical glow of first light. There is still a remnant of it, but nothing like it was just a few seconds earlier. I was too involved in soaking up the glow to be bothered with taking a picture. Below the picture of Mt. Bachelor is a time lapse video of the sunrise on a different day and on a different peak. Around the 10 second mark, you'll start to see the glow come into view, but don't blink, it only lasts for a few seconds.

Mt. Bachelor at Sunrise


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