Well, I cheated this one time by driving up the Auto Road for sunrise this past week. I have a friend who had never seen the sunrise from Mt. Washington, and the forecast looked good, so we decided to get up at 2:30am to drive to the base of the Auto Road and wait in line at 3:30 for the 4:00am opening.
When we arrived, there were already close to a hundred cars in a waiting quay. It was a pretty confusing mess, with only one employee at the entrance trying to direct all these cars into 4 lanes, that eventually became 5, that eventually would funnel down to one single line. Many cars arriving later, completely going around the other cars, negating ours and others early arrival efforts (yea, I would have liked another 1/2 hour sleep too). I must say, it was pretty poorly executed, but we sat and patiently waited in our row for the road to open.
Before long, you could see cars starting to parade up the road, but it takes time to process (i.e.: pay) each vehicle, so it was probably another 1/2 hour before we too joined the long conga line driving up the mountain in the dark. From that point on, it was pretty good, as visibility was clear and the cars moved at an orderly pace. About 45 minutes later, we were on the top…..with 100’s of other people. So, I turned around to accept a slightly lower vantage point with less cars and people.
Headlamp on, we climbed out of the car and strolled a short way along the high alpine terrain, being careful to step on the protruding granite, and avoid damaging any of the high altitude tundra. Her dog Teak followed, happily bounding in the dark, excited to be up high also (a seasoned hiking dog). Even though the sunrise wouldn’t be for another 1/2 hour, it was already getting light enough to see others on the small ridge in front of us. With a crystal clear sky, I knew the sunrise would likely be ‘less impressive’ (always impressive up high, no matter what:!), so I found a spot that would include the photographers on the ridge, to create a bit more interest in the photo (look closely and you can see them).
Yes, I’ve seen more spectacular’ sunrises, but it is always so serenely beautiful up high for them. The color gradient of the early morning sky is an amazing thing to see at altitude. We stood there quietly, with the wind blowing hard, watching the slow progression of the sunrise, taking intermittent pictures of the ridge, ourselves, and Mr. Teak. Eventually the sun rose above the horizon, and fully illuminated everything around us in it’s warm alpenglow. We stayed a bit longer to take it all in, before descending to another lower outlook over the Great Gulf. The expanse of the Great Gulf between Jefferson, Adams and Madison lit with early warm light, was equally beautiful, but we needed to eventually make our way down, again with the conga line, slowly to the base.
It is difficult to get out of bed at 2:30 in the morning, but the high alpine beauty at that time of day is so worth it:)! It’s also a great feeling driving home knowing that the rest of the world has been in bed sleeping, when you’ve already enjoyed a glorious morning. Back home to a breakfast of Eggs in a Nest, my famous home fries, and of course lots of coffee, before going in to my gallery and opening for the day. A truly wonderful morning:)