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Photo taken from a mountain top after a sunrise hike

Sunrise Hiking

The Ideal, The Reality and The Truth

A OneAdventure Community Submission by Amber Harrison

Picture this. Sliding out of bed in the eerily silent gap between midnight and morning. Brewing a thermos of coffee and preparing your pack. You’ve laced up the boots on your feet and you begin your ascent. It’s time for a sunrise hike!

Really, who doesn’t like the idea of a sunrise hike? It sounds so exotic, so daring, so zesty! However, I’ve found sunrise hikes don’t always turn out as the Instagram utopia they often appear to be.

So here is the ideal, the reality and the truth of why I prefer to climb the peaks before the rest of the world is awake.

THE IDEAL

Living in Far North Queensland, it is always a good idea to avoid the outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. That’s why waking up and tackling a mountain in the dark seems such a great idea. It’s much cooler, much less sweaty and significantly reduces the chances of dehydration.

With the absence of the scorching sun, breath will come easier. Lungs will burn much less and the time taken to reach the summit will be greatly decreased.

There’s an incredible parallel worlds that emerges at night. Nocturnal animals come out to play. Sunlight sensitive fungus and organisms show their faces. Insects surface from the earth to join in the circle of life. And many of us rarely get the chance to witness it!

Who could not be drawn to being the only human awake? Breathing in that first morning air with not a soul around as you bravely conquer the day!

Or at least, that is the sunrise hike ideal.

THE REALITY

I walk out of my front door, pack on my back and boots on my feet. Then I am instantly slapped in the face by the evenings humidity. There is no sun, which is a blessing. But in the still of the night there is also no trace whatsoever, of a breeze. It doesn’t take long under this rain-forest canopy, until my body is drenched in sweat.

My head torch sends a dim pinpoint of light ahead of me. Barely illuminating a metre in front, I stumble over rocks and roots and find myself off course more than once.

I start to become anxious. What if I take the wrong turn? It is so very dark. What if I become lost and fall down a hole?

The nocturnal animals I had been anticipating seem to be limited to frogs or toads. Both species launch themselves into the dried leaves as I approach, causing my heart to leap into my throat. Only moments later this is followed by more rustling, and the unmistakable scream of a frog in pain. I guess it is not just the frogs and toads out here, there are also snakes.

I become even more anxious, more frantic as to where I place my feet. Avoiding any stick that looks serpent-like. With my eyes focused firmly on the ground, I blindly crash through giant, sticky spider webs that had been earlier that evening.

As I peel the webbing off my sweaty skin, and shake about, I am simultaneously ensuring not to step on any snakes or frogs. Then it occurs to me, I am the only person out here.

I am totally alone. The rest of the world is sleeping. It would be hours before they woke up, brewed a coffee, made some toast and realised I was missing. How long then would it take until they came searching, and found me off-course? In a hole, a giant spider nesting in my head, and a python treating me as a frog legged delicacy.

Needless to say breathing wasn’t coming any easier. The anxious state I am in brings on a mild panic attack. And I am not covering ground faster. With the unplanned detours, the metered froggy sacrifices, and the spiderweb shakedowns, I am taking much longer than usual.

Who in their right mind would think this a good idea!?

THE TRUTH

And then, a single Kookaburra breaks the silence. I gaze up to the sky and see that the stars are dimming as grey replaces black. I push on, I feel so alive! The sounds of bird songs filling the canopy comforts me. I know that soon the sun will rise and it won’t stay dark forever.

I pick up the pace on my sweaty, snakey, spiderweb mission. The sun will be up soon and I need to reach the summit. I don’t know if I’m nearly there, I cant see the end of the path, only what’s in front of me. My legs burn as I round corner after corner. One false summit after the next. Until finally, there is no further to go. I have made it.

I sit down, open my thermos, pour a coffee and watch the magic of life, time, and creation unfold before my eyes.

As the day arrives so does the breeze. It dries my sweat soaked clothes and brings me relief. I hear the leaves rustle in the trees, like an audience applauding my efforts.

And as I sit there, watching the watercolours unfurl, I feel so strong and powerful that I almost forget the ordeal I’ve just been through.

I finish my coffee, strap on my pack, stand up and scream “GOOD MORNING BEAUTIFUL WORLD” at the top of my lungs.

And then, I begin the descent. Back down past all those sticks that were actually only sticks. Past those giant anacondas and tarantulas which have now disappeared. The early morning light is popping with colour, the fluorescent green grass putting a spring in my step.

On my way down I pass some other hikers. They are just beginning their ascent. I greet them good morning with a hot little ball of pride in my chest. Yep, that’s right, I think, I did it! I got out of bed while you were still sleeping. I battled the darkness, I fought my fears, I pushed my body, lost my mind and sat and welcomed a brand new day!

The End

It’s that feeling, that burning little ball in my chest that makes me continue to undertake sunrise hikes. Maybe one day I will stop freaking out so much, maybe not. All I know is, as long as the world keeps turning, the sun keeps rising and the birds keep singing. As long as my body keeps working, I will not take morning for granted.

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