Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birthday Hike 生日快乐!

A final look back after our morning adventures
It is the monumental tenth birthday of the new boyscout, and we arrived at the Iron Mountain trail at 5:03 for a sunrise hike as the first order of business on the big day.

The predawn air was warm, pitch black and slightly damp.  We turned on the flashlight to see the trail was flat, straight and wide, more like a dirt road than a hiking trail but we couldn't see anything beyond the first few feet.  Stars draped all around us, including the low hung big dipper, and the dusty milky way stretched out above eastern sky. 

We set off cheerfully, though my heart raced against the darkness.  It pressed onto us from all sides, threatened to trip, stumble or hurt us with its invisible yet manipulative fingers.

sliver of moon
"Don't aim the light too far or we can't see what is in front of us".
"I am glad we both got our own lights."

Our chatty banter broke the grip of fear and stillness.  Soon we were onto real trials, with lose rocks under feet and tall bushes flanking either side. We became tentative, touching the ground with our feet a few times before stepping, talking less though we hate submitting to the silence even more.   But we soon had something to talk about, as the only way forward -- a few huge rocks down to a hard right then twisting left into a path that may exist beyond shadowy shapes, which for the moment had defied our puny lights.

I ventured left where it was higher and brighter,  but "it is too grassy! So it isn't a path." decided the boyscout, and he was right.  This was a well groomed trail according to some helpful hikers I've consulted at work, so we tentatively walked toward the dark shapes again, but quickly turned back as it was "too spooky".  We rest for another minute before deciding to give it a third try.  It was a charm, as once we got close enough, we saw a small but clear path beyond the overgrown plant looking oppressive and larger earlier, and just a few steps ahead sat a well groomed trail leading upwards.

The darkness would not relent.  Quick, furry(, we assumed), and dark figures zoomed pass our feet now and again, causing a rustle as if from a soft breeze.  We told ourselves that must have been a cute bunny.  Once, we came to a mouse sitting in the center of the path staring at us, its ears larger than normal, and eyes friendly rather than beady. "Maybe that was Despereaux, the mouse that is different!"

Now and again, we dropped into "mini valleys" where we had no reference vistas except the stars above.  To find and focus on the next step and next foot of light was all we could do and all we wanted.  Then there were more oppressive shapes dressed in the inky uniform of the night, forcing us to pause, hesitate and second guess.  But we got used to the routine after a while, as they were after a pattern and once we recognized their bag of gloomy tricks, they became beacons for our trail marker rather than road blocks.

A sliver of moon hang just above the plateau in mid mountain, sparkling like platinum set against velvety cushions.  In the black backdrop, even the shadowy part of the moon shone in dim silvery hue, forming a circle of shadow and light.

With every elevation rise, stars blinked a little less, a little more slowly, seeming to fight off sleep.  Pulling back their flashing lights, they lingered in softer hues as we ascend quickly towards the peak.

Just before sunrise
Time seemed to be moving faster as more and more light escape over the peaks, soon in colors, a deep dark orange, nearly brown at first.  Then burnt, sienna, terracotta,  and the eastern sky turned brighter with our steps upwards, and the arrival of more colors: silver, gray, palest cream, blue,  against the dark brown mountain peak backdrops. Daylight was upon us, though the sun was still snoozing behind this curtain of changing colors.

Half a mile from the peak, we could see the city lights below.


"Wow, I have never seen a sight like this! Not even on an airplane. "
"The lights are so bright and seems so close!"
"Yeah and it's so much better when you climbed up (to see it) yourself!"





Another hiker on his way down informed us we were "7 minutes away".  Looking back at the eastern peaks, we saw they have turned almost completely red.  We nearly jogged up the remaining trail, forgetting sore feet, sharp rocks and tired legs for the moment.   We arrived on top to see a viewing telescope which stole the attention of the birthday boy.  He turned it this way and that, with light growing more abundant, exclaimed: "I can see our car!"

The sun, still behind shadows of the mountains, suddenly slowed down now that we are watching intently.  Finally,  the top peeks out and suddenly light was everywhere, the sky turned a bright blue, the stars had completely retired for the day, and warm rays dressed us and everything around in golden sparkles.

"The sun!"  was all we said,  breathless and mesmerized in its radiance.  As light poured over the mountain top,  a glowing red ball leaped up to overcome the final peak as we just did,  flashing its golden gleams of smile at the waving, jumping, shouting, dancing, howling, and early rising partners in this early dawn adventures.


1 comment:

  1. The hike was gorgeous in the end as you can see from the pictures, but quite scary almost all the way up. It was nothing short of a small miracle that everything worked out so perfectly in the end, though I did get lost on the way over, and we nearly stayed put on the lower mountain several times, thinking "maybe we will just see the sunrise here, it seems high enough".

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