That's right! I finally did my "catch the sunrise" hike today! Even though my original plan was to get up by 4/4:30am, I ended up pushing it back to about 5am because I've been having some sleep issues lately. I was packed and ready to go the night before, so all I did was get dressed and grab a few waffles to eat on the drive there. It was pitch dark still, and I had to stop along the way to get gas and use a bathroom (separate trips, unfortunately), so I actually got to the trailhead a little later than planned.
The first thing I noticed was how *dark* it was. Turning my car off made everything go quiet and dark. When I stepped out of the car (I was the only person in the parking lot), I noticed how many stars there were! It's incredible how every time I get out of the city, I remember how beautiful it is to see the stars. Stargazing is another thing that just makes me truly happy. So I stood in the parking lot looking up at the stars for a good while after getting my things together. It was pretty cold, so I was glad to have my fleece, hat, and gloves. I also had stolen my roommate's little lantern flashlight, not really meant for the outdoors, but it was the best I could do on short notice. The moon was about half full, so there was also a bit of light from the moon as well.
It was interesting how quickly it got light. The first peeks of twilight happen far before the sun actually rises. Slowly the woods became less dark and scary and more bright with early morning light. There was actually one hiker on the trail ahead of me (he had been parking when I went back to the car to get my hat). I had tried my best to stay a good distance away from him mostly because I know that I don't like someone tailing me on the trail (and also there are too many stories about hikers and axe murderers. Next time I take someone with me). Eventually, however, I ended up catching up to him at the first mile marker because it ended up we were both trying to do the same thing-- make it to the best lookout point in time for sunrise. We talked and walked the rest of the way to the overlook together: he told me about the sunrise hikes he did often and where he went to school, and it was actually really pleasant. Whoever you were, Hiking Man (I forget your name now), thanks for the pleasant morning conversation and unofficial morning tour of the trail.
Seeing the sun rise over the horizon from a bluff overlooking the Missouri River is an experience I won't easily forget. First came the very first peeks of color, which had been reflecting off some of the clouds for a good deal of time before the actual rising of the sun. Then, the very top of the sun peeked out over the horizon. It's amazing how FAST it actually happens, that you can actually watch the sun physically rise from obscurity into view. I took about a million pictures, all of which look mostly the same but I can't bear to get rid of them because it is like a flip book of the sunrise. I stayed there for nearly 40 minutes after the sun actually rose, just watching the colors and the changing of position, and the river below. After I finally got myself moving again, I finished the Clark trail (decided on just the 5.3 mile option today) exhausted by extremely happy. I can see myself doing more sunrise hikes in the future!
I know the pictures aren't great: I don't have a good enough camera or good enough knowledge on how to take pictures in that kind of lighting. Hopefully one day I will! I am sure I will post most of the pictures, no matter how alike they all are, at facebook: hiking album on facebook