I have a confession to make......I love photographing sunrises, but hate getting up early. Yes, I realize these are two diametrically opposing goals. But I've discovered one of the wonderful perks of retirement is the opportunity to sleep in every day. And I love to sleep in. So although rising early to capture a sunrise seems like a good idea the night before, when the alarm rings at o-dark-hundred my drowsy brain says "what was I thinking?" and goes right back to sleep.
|Mt Jefferson view from Timberline parking lot|
Where I live January is a great month to catch sunrises. Not only are there interesting and often colorful clouds at dawn, the sun doesn't peek above the horizon until well after 7 am. You would think the day's later start would help with my rising early problem. However, in early January I really wanted to capture sunrise over Mt Hood. Reaching Mt. Hood required an hour and a half drive, which still meant a very early wake up call. I planned several sunrise photo sessions in January, only to talk myself out of it at when it came time to actually get out of bed.
|Pink skies at dawn|
But finally one Friday in mid-January I was successful. The weather looked promising for a colorful sunrise on the mountain. Inspired by the good conditions and fear of missing out yet again, I somehow got my lazy butt out of bed and into my car. I'd initially thought of hiking into Trillium Lake and capturing sunrise there, but decided I didn't want to hike to the lake in the dark (and it would take too much time, requiring an even earlier start). Instead, I decided to drive up to Timberline Lodge and capture sunrise there.
|Colorful skies above Mt Hood|
Although I thought I'd risen early enough to get to Timberline in time, when I pulled into the parking lot, the sky was already turning colors. Opening my car door, I was buffeted by a gust of wind. Not only was it frigidly cold, the wind was absolutely howling!
I hurriedly pulled on some layers and wrestled my tripod to the parking lot edge. I didn't have time to hike anywhere, the sunrise was already happening. With one hand on the shutter and the other on my tripod leg, I pointed my camera at the southern horizon, where the sky was turning a lovely shade of pink. Mt Jefferson anchored the skyline as the clouds above her began to display hues of pink, orange, and blue.
|Morning light turning the slopes pink|
Although my hands were freezing, I tucked one, then the other, under my armpit and kept on shooting. The sky was changing so fast I didn't want to miss anything. Fierce wind gusts rattled my tripod, and I had to hold onto one of the legs to prevent it from blowing over.
|Another zoomed-out view|
Not only was the show to the south and east. Looking behind me to the north, Mt Hood was beginning to show a bit of color. First, the sky above the mountain began displaying pastel hues of pink and blue. Then as the sun broke above the horizon, a tiny bit of pink lit up the snow just below the summit. Alpenglow!
|First sunrays on the mountain|
Finally the sun's rays crested over the foothills, casting dramatic light on the mountain's east side. This illuminated small clouds of snow whipped up from the strong winds. It was fascinating to watch and photograph.
|The morning fog has frosted the forest|
With the sun now rising in the sky, it was time to jump back in my car and warm up. Blasting the heater, I pondered my next move. The day was still early, so I decided why not hike into Trillium Lake and check things out? So downhill I drove, following windy Timberline Road to the main highway. From here, it was a mere couple of miles to the Trillium Lake Snopark.
|Beautiful icy trees|
During summer months, one can drive to the shore of Trillium Lake. In winter, the Forest Service closes the road, and people ski, snowshoe, or hike the two miles to visit the lake. It's easy access from the highway and short distance makes this a popular destination when the snow flies. But today I was surprised to find only one other vehicle in the parking lot when I arrived.
The Mt. Hood area hadn't received any measurable snowfall for two weeks, so I found the snowy trail to the lake well packed - solid enough that I left my snowshoes in the car and hoofed it on foot.
|The snow-covered sign|
I was surprised to find a thick fog bank had descended upon the area. From up high at the Timberline Lodge parking lot, I'd seen fog collecting the valleys but didn't realize it was at Trillium Lake's elevation. Good thing I didn't try and hike in here to catch sunrise! It would've been a long trek in the dark for nothing. But a wonderful effect of the fog had coated the trees in ice. The forest along this closed road had been transformed into a glittering, frosty wonderland! My camera came out right from the start, and let's just say I didn't make record time getting to the lake.
Winter storms the first week of January had dumped massive amounts of snow in the Cascades. Cold weather had preserved this generous snowfall. I was amazed to see the road signs partially covered up by the white stuff. I didn't realize how deep the snowpack was until I stepped off the well trod path into untracked snow and promptly sank to my hips. Lesson learned! Stay on the path!
|Classic Mt Hood view from Trillium Lake|
But finally I recognized the partially buried Forest Service sign directing travelers to Trillium Lake. Following the side road through the trees (staying on the packed snow, of course!) led me to the boat dock. Early morning fog now lifted, I was treated to a classic blue-sky Mt. Hood view from the lake.
|Last of the fog lifting from the lake|
In the summer Trillium Lake is a popular spot for fishing. The Forest Service built a large wooden dock near the boat launch to facilitate those fisherpeople lacking watercraft. Today I was very surprised to find the dock full to the railings with snow.
|The fishing dock is full of snow!|
It's been a tradition of mine to get a winter selfie on Trillium Lake's fishing dock. This year I was actually "on top" of the dock! I was thrilled to have the entire lake to myself for nearly 20 minutes while sitting at the dock area enjoying hot tea and snacks.
|Selfie on the fishing dock|
The views were so tremendous, I walked around the lake towards the dam for more photo ops. Although the lake appeared to be frozen over, I wasn't about to venture out and test the ice. I spied a small rift in the ice near the dam, and upon further inspection, was delighted to discover a reflection of Mt. Hood in the open water.
|Mt Hood reflection|
I began to see a few skiers sliding along the top of the dam. Then a group of snowshoers clomped through the forest to lake's edge. The world had woken up, and the masses were coming. Although I'd enjoyed my minutes of solitude at Trillium Lake, I took this as my cue to head back.
|Icy trees beginning to melt|
The road back to the snowpark was like a superhighway. A nearly continuous conga-line of skiers, snowshoers, and hikers (with their dogs) were heading towards the lake. Now I was extra thankful I'd listened to my alarm this morning. Not only does the early bird get the sunrise, she also gets Trillium Lake to herself!
I'd like to say this experience has turned me into more of a morning person......but I've risen early for exactly one sunrise since that day! Maybe posting my photos and writing about this trip will inspire me to take more early outings.