Cruising up this infamous PNW trail in time for sunrise
I'll go ahead and say I am not very good at waking up early. Not that I am actually bad at it — I do not tend to sleep through my alarm, and I can usually pull myself together enough to be in a good mood. But I am very bad at going to sleep early.
As I type this, it is one of the first 80º days in Seattle — the kind where my hands are sweaty on the keyboard no matter how many times I wash them. I am trying to write this post while the coffee high is still in effect, before it wears off and I lose all motivation.
Last week, I texted my friend Kirsten and asked if she wanted to do a sunrise hike at Rattlesnake Ledge. This hike is infamous in the Seattle region for being overcrowded — and if you check out the location tag on Instagram, it is definitely some kind of algorithm-exempt jewel mine. But I had hopes that if we left home at 3:30am, maybe we would not see too many others on the trail.
We arrived at the trailhead at 4:25am and the gate to the main parking lot was still closed. There is a small external parking lot but that was already filled up, so we parked along the main road. From the moment I locked my car to the instant we reached the summit, we covered the 2 miles and 1160 ft elevation gain in 45 minutes.
For the first 20 minutes, I was kind of cruising. The darkness of the trail felt like blinders to me, letting me not think too much and focus on putting one foot in front of another as fast as I could. Immediately, we passed 3 other groups — usually I am more of an individual achiever than a competitor, but I have to say, this was excellent motivation. The final 20 minutes however, were a bit difficult. Since it was so ridiculously early, I had not eaten much, and I started to get a bit dizzy, felt a little barfy, and definitely struggled mentally. However, we still managed to keep the pace up, cruising up the trail without a sound, save my heavy panting.
Nonetheless, we made it to the top. I thought the sunrise was happening right as we arrived, the sky already filled with muted pastels, but lucky for us, we had about 15 extra minutes to spare. I had looked up the sunrise time for North Bend but failed to calculate the exact time the sun would crest over the Cascade range from our angle of view up on Rattlesnake Ledge. There were quite a few other people up there enjoying the sunrise with us. Most were like-minded and drinking coffee — one cool woman took a snap of her croissant in front of the Cascade's silhouette. There were a few loud teenagers taking pictures for Instagram and one buzzing drone, but for the most part, the view and sense of accomplishment were too real to be impacted by much else.
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