Nature’s Paintbrush: Monadnock Sunrise

3:30 AM

It isn’t normal to wake up at 3:30 in the morning and decide to head out on a hike, but there I was.

I wasn’t in a high mountain camp, setting on on a pre-dawn summit push. I was laying in my comfortable bed staring into the murky darkness debating what to do with my unplanned free time.

4:45 AM

I pulled into the parking lot at my favorite trailhead, surprised to see several cars and string of bobbing headlamps headed up the trail. Turns out I’m not the only crazy person that chose to experience a sunrise from the summit of the second most climbed mountain in the world.

Time Unknown

I quickly passed the handful of hikers I saw at the trailhead and made my way up to the old half way house site without my headlamp on. There is something peaceful about hiking in the dark. The lack of vision opens your other senses, it is an excellent way to feel the forest and I highly recommend you give it a try at least once.

Past the half way house site the trail becomes much more rocky and climbs into a dense conifer forest. Hiking in the dark is fun, but stumbling over boulders and roots you can’t see is not. I opted to switch on my headlamp and continued to power up the trail. I passed a few groups of energetic hikers on their way to greet the sunrise.

Closer to Sunrise, but still dark

The last quarter of the trail (maybe less) is above tree line. This is due to centuries of uncontrolled burns on the top of the mountain that have stripped almost all the top soil away, leaving a crown of exposed slab and massive boulders.

The scramble over all of this exposed stone in the darkness was both exciting and invigorating. Spurred on by the soft pre-dawn glow that wrapped around the summit I made quick work of the last leg of the climb and crested the summit well before sunrise.

When I reached the summit there were already dozens of other hikers. Some sitting together in pairs or small groups; others off on their own. All facing the distant eastern horizon watching nature’s paintbrush layer colors across the sky.

20 minutes to Sunrise

I arrived about 20 minutes before the big show. For those that have experienced a sunrise hike, you have some idea of the play of emotions and senses these moments before the rising of the sun can have. It is a moment of such awe, so overwhelming, there is no word I know that can satisfactorily capture what you are feeling and sensing. You want to hold on to it and extend the feeling forever.


As the colors brightened and spread across the sky I thought about how lucky we all were to be able to experience such awe. And, as the first rays of the sun danced over the distant hills I was inspired to share these moments and encourage others to experience them for themselves.

Mike lives in Southwestern New Hampshire with his wife, teenage child, dog, and cat. He leads guided hikes for all ages and skills levels around the region and volunteers his time with trail maintenance, planning, and promotion with various local trail organizations. Mike has put his outdoor knowledge and experience in courses which he offers both online and in person. You can follow his adventures via You Tube, Social Media, and this Blog

Share this post

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com
Verified by MonsterInsights