Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Morning Glow

For several years now, I have heard my kids plotting and planning and asking eachother on Friday and Saturday nights, "Do you want to climb M. Peak tomorrow?" What was this peak that could get them out of bed at 5am when I couldn't even do so with the aroma of frying bacon and waffles? What was the allure that would draw them to this place over and over again? Many times I was asked, and over and over again, I declined. After all, my getting up at 5am occurs once in maybe 2 years and I can recall those times pretty clearly in my mind -picking Robert up from Boy Scout camp, taking Jen to the airport to face the long security lines, etc. It certainly was not something I was about to make a habit of doing.

This year, my curiosity was peaked, and I began to consider the possibility of maybe joining them. "Winter-time", I told them. "When the sunrise is late in the morning." Friday after Thanksgiving, Jen began the usual question, "Do you want to climb M.Peak this weekend?" I had a few days to digest the thought. Having eaten so much in the past few days, I was feeling a bit guilty, and well, it is pretty much as close to the shortest days as we will get before the weather turns rainy and cold. It was basically this time or probably never. Departure time was set for 5:15am on sunday. My anxiety about waking up in time aroused me at 4am, when looking up, I saw the lighted wall switch-a dim pinkish halo and immediately thought it was Jen with a flashlight trying to wake me up. I sat up and mumbled something quite incoherent, to which Ray responded with, "What are you doing?" OOps! I went back to sleep and woke to the alarm at 5. The adrenaline flowing, I quickly became alert, and was ready to leave long before the designated 5:15. I loaded the backseat with a variety of jackets and stuck a banana in my backpack.

The city was dark, quiet and peaceful. As I mentioned, I am never up at this time, and so was intrigued by lights on inside a few shops - the beginning of a new day. We arrived at the trailhead to darkness and silence. I had my headlamp and strapped it on. We began to hike, a steady uphill climb that never flattened out. Turning around, I was caught breathless by the sight of twinkling lights from the city below and I found myself drawn to this sight, looking back on every bend in the trail. Large dark lumps on the sides of the trail turned out to be sleeping cattle. The trail continued uphill for about an hour and a half, 2.8 miles and an elevation climb of 2200 feet. We were warm from climbing and really did not need any jacket at all. The sky was crystal clear and the air crisp and energizing. "We're almost there", announced Jen. "The last part is the hardest of all." I was beginning to wonder why I was there and why on earth Jen and Julia find this climb so enticing. I was also beginning to relate to why Robert declines to go. The last segment looked fairly manageable, a short section which appeared to be a 60 degree grade; I began to climb. To my surprise, as we reached the top, another section appeared, and then another. Steep and rocky, it was very much a challenge. We had been climbing about an hour and a half by now. I plowed onward; I could see the protruding signpost now, and I was determined to make it up there before sunrise. One last burst of energy and we were there.

The first rays of sun were just beginning to shine through, casting a long beam of light on the backside of the mountain, and reflecting on one of the gently rolling hills. The backside of the mountain revealed rows and rows of rounded peaks, light green from the recent rains. The front side of the mountain cascaded down to the city below, and the swirling brown patterns of the baylands. The early morning light reflected off the water in the bay creating a magnificent sight. It was not long before many rays of sunshine burst down upon the distant peaks. The clear skies created a glowing effect to which Jen gasped, "Its like a religious experience!" Brighter and brighter the sun emerged, casting ribbons of light on the hillside. it was a beautiful sight, and I knew then that this would not be my only climb up this mountain. "It is never the same up here," said Jen. She described mornings where they sat above the cloud cover, with the rising sun shining down on the puffy layers. Other mornings, it is foggy and damp, and you don't see much. For me, it was a magnificent start to the day.

The wind began to pick up and gradually, dark clouds rolled in from the ocean. We began to hike down, watching the city come to life. For those just rising, it would be a cloudy gloomy day; for us, it had begun with a glorious sunrise. We ended the morning with a hearty breakfast of french toast, omelets and hot coffee. I was on an all day high, feeling completely energized-pleased with myself for having made it up, and happy to have had Jen's company. I am ready to make this a regular affair!


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