Going Outside: The Sunrise Edition

I don’t know anyone who likes to get up before dawn.  I’m sure people like that exist, I just don’t know any of them.  So when I say that being up to watch the sun rise is one of my favorite things, please know that this is not because I’m some kind of mutant who loves it when the alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning.

Delicate Arch at sunrise after a storm
Delicate Arch at sunrise after a storm
Sunrise in Arches National Park. Good stuff.
Sunrise in Arches National Park. Good stuff.

I am no kind of a morning person (I’m no kind of a night owl, either.  Is there such a thing as a broad daylight person?).  My reaction to the alarm going off varies from “oh, good, that’s finally over” if I’ve had a bad night to a violent gasp of panic during which I seriously question my grasp on reality and my life choices.  The best that can be said about my mood in the morning is that I have yet to seriously injure anyone. Strangely, my morning crankiness actually provides me with motivation to roll out in time for sunrise, basically because I figure I’m going to be cranky for the first little while after waking up anyway, so I might as well watch sunrise while the crankies wear off.  Other tricks I use to cajole myself out of bed include asking myself whether I will look back in old age and be happier to have the memory of sleeping in or the memory of sunrise.  It’s like that meme about yoga (“I really regret that yoga class,” said no one ever)–I have regretted sleeping in, but I have never regretted getting up for sunrise.

So why do I do it? Some of the perks include getting an early start, avoiding crowds at popular destinations, the chance to see wildlife before other people are around to scare the animals away, and knowing that I’ll sleep better that night if I get up super early and then hike all day. Those perks fit right in with being super picky–it’s much easier to find my preferred conditions very early in the morning.  There are generally not many other people around, and those few who might be out and about are either too sleepy to be jerks, or busy taking pictures and being unobtrusive. I have yet to meet any of my least favorite types of hikers on a sunrise hike.

Sunrise at Spirit Lake, Ashley National Forest. Soul renewal at its best.
Sunrise at Spirit Lake, Ashley National Forest. Soul renewal at its best.

Mostly, though, I drag myself out to watch the sunrise because it transforms me every time I do it.  Yes, every time, even the times when it’s overcast and there’s not much to see. Sometimes sunrise is stunningly beautiful and photogenic, and other times the sun just comes up with no fanfare, but I am somehow restored every time I see it.  I’m restored to a version of myself who isn’t cranky all the time, restored to someone who actually looks forward to the rest of the day.  My soul is renewed in a way that only watching the sun come up can do.

It helps that the light at sunrise is like nothing else.

Sunrise in Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Sunrise in Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

It’s my favorite light, even more than sunset.  Being awake for sunrise gives me a sense of calm and peace that carries me through the day and works into my memory more deeply than other experiences. I’m generally pretty fuzzy on specific details of past trips, but the sunrises all stand out. I remember them more clearly than the sunsets, and each time I remember them, a little piece of calm happiness returns to me.  It’s good stuff.

I’d like to see more sunrises, but right now it’s an occasional treat I only do on camping and hiking trips. I’m not sure it would be the same experience if I just randomly got up on a Tuesday before work. I suspect that the isolation, the scenery, and the break from routine are part of what make the experience so special.

I am not a photographer, but I have found that the only people willing to get up with me for sunrise are photographers, so if you’re looking for sunrise buddies, they are a good bet. As much as I love quiet and isolation at sunrise, it’s also good to have trip companions, especially the kind whose only noise is the click of shutters.

Sunrises: 10 out of 10 stars, highly recommend.

The view from morning yoga in Arches National Park.
The view from morning yoga in Arches National Park.

If you go: bring a morning beverage, a snack, a camera, and a yoga mat if you like that sort of thing.  Maybe sleep in if it’s pouring down rain.  Or not, there’s always a chance that you’ll get a lucky break in the clouds at just the right moment.