Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 23: Sun-less Sunrise

Blue Hills Reservation, Canton, MA 5:30am-7:30am
cold, some shifting clouds, mostly clear

Hats off to my hiking companions this morning, Andrew and Rane, who got up in the four o'clock hour to join me for a hard-core sunrise expedition.

Make that the sun-that-didn't-rise expedition, or the sun-less sunrise expedition. And I can't blame the clouds. The dawn was not imperceptible, it was simply not perceived.. by us...

Let me explain - I had the perfect hill in mind, one I had climbed last summer. I knew it to have a clear, 250 degree, eastern view of the Boston harbor, downtown, and much of the reservation. It is the perfect sunrise spot.

However, the difference between finding a perfect summit by leisurely daylight and finding it again, one year later, by headlamp, is vast. Too vast- my memory and I couldn't close the gap.

A little run-down of our morning:

5am: We leave my house in Jamaica Plain

5:30am: Arrive Blue Hills Reservation; begin hike by headlamp (thanks to Rane's foresight!) and a practically-full moon. It is a gorgeous night sky, complete with stars.

6:10am: Arrive at top of a hill! But IT'S THE WRONG HILL - trees and a further hill block our view of the eastern horizon. We explore a bit, then decide to try to reach that next hill to the east, which looks higher and more promising.

7:00am: Arrive at second hill. IT'S STILL THE WRONG HILL. Beautiful, but with tall trees obscuring the horizon. We wander off the path, padding on deep forest-needle carpet, and find tiny patches of impending dawn sky through dense branch lattice. Can't quite see the sun yet, but it's too cold to stay still. We head down, and I can't stop apologizing.
It is one thing to fail yourself at 5 in the morning; it is exponentially more painful to have dragged others along with you.

7:05am: The birds begin to talk.
I am tickled by the conversation of this funny colony of little ones, though I can't catch sight of them. They sound like cartoon characters beeping back and forth at each other in, awesome multi-speaker surround sound. (The faint rubber-squeaky sounds are the "tree-clinging" birds I actually did see. Andrew thinks they were nuthatches):

7:10am: Bird of the Day announces himself from a nearby tree! AWESOME-sounding creature. Again, I couldn't see him, but loved his distinctive mini-machine trill. (I hope it wasn't actually a squirrel...)

Here are two snatches:

7:30am Three half-frozen hikers pile into the car and have consolation snacks (rice-cakes with cream cheese, apples) during the car ride back to JP. They were very gracious about the sunrise-less expedition. I owe these guys big time!

8am At home, I sketched ideas for an improvised piece based on three hikers sharing one headlamp.

Here is an excerpt:

**UPDATE 11/12: The beepers were White-Breasted Nuthatches, and the Bird of the Day possibly a downy or hairy woodpecker. Thanks, Haynes!**


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