Every new year my friend Audrey creates a bucket list of 12 things to do in that year. I believe this is her 3rd year doing this and her follow through record is pretty excellent. One year I joined her on a hike to Mailbox Peak (at the time the hardest elevation hike either of us had done). This year on her list was a sunrise hike. I immediately offered up my company if she wanted it. She did!
We wanted to do the hike before the time change in March (so we wouldn't have to get up insanely early). On a chilly dark January morning we set out in pitch black with headlamps to the start of the Heybrook Lookout trail (out just past Index, WA). This was my first time hiking in the woods needing to see by headlamp. The only other times I was hiking in the dark was in my teen years on San Juan Island. On the island it's not really hiking, more like walking slowly with your hands in front of you so you can feel your way towards wherever we were going (parties in the woods, beaches, walking down someone's long dark driveway towards the main road).
Anyway back to this hike. Audrey and I make our way to the trailhead at 6:20 and I promptly stick my left boot in a massive puddle I didn't see. I shake it off as I walk and adjust my headlamp so I can see 10 feet ahead of me and set the pace for us to hike. The hike is a short one at 2.6 miles roundtrip. There's about 850 feet of elevation gain so the trail is mainly uphill till the lookout. This was a blessing in disguise as we were focused on going up and up and seeing just a 10 foot stretch ahead of us at a time. This is a blessing because we were too distracted physically to let our minds go crazy with fear thoughts that appear for us female hikers alone in the dark woods.
Shot of Audrey behind me on start of Heybrook Lookout trail.
The view of the trail ahead of me.
The moon peeking through the trees on the trail.
It was actually pretty peaceful out there at that time. The moon was out and the birds were sleeping. Since it was too dark to take pictures or see much of the trail our focus was more in the moment than trying to capture the moment with our cameras. I liked that aspect. I love taking pictures and videos as I hike, but I would like to be more intentional about phone-free sections for future hikes going forward.
So there we were heading up and up in the woods. Crossed a couple little streams and went up many stairs (man-made and root formed alike). Near the top we got to the first clearing of the trail as it was starting to get light. The snowcapped mountains with the moon above was a great surprise to see.
View near the top of the Heybrook Lookout Trail.
Then to the left the lookout tower loomed above us in a big clearing. We stopped for minute to rest and turn the headlamps off before we set off climbing 89 narrow steps to the viewing level. The lookout climb is well worth it as you are greeted with 180 degree views of mountains and valleys.
Audrey readying her camera for a shot.
The view of the stairs leading down the lookout.
Lots of messages and names written around the lookout.
Since we knew we might be cold hanging outside on a January morning we made sure to dress warm, wear gloves, and heat up some tea while we hang out and watch the sky get colorful.
Boiling water for sunrise tea time.
Packing up this quilt was a great idea.
Hopping about to warm up.
Sunrise view from Heybrook Lookout
Loving the soft colors here.
This is maybe my favorite view.
And here comes the sun!
The sun took awhile to appear so we were very happy when it came on past the mountain and soaked us in its golden light.
In this moment I wanted to put on my sunglasses, but chose to take in the moment rather than rummage through my backpack.
We bid goodbye to the view and headed back down the trail a little after 8AM. On the way down it was like a whole new trail in the light of day. The trees were sunlit and I couldn't help, but snap my fave view of the trees against blue sky.
Sun dappled trees in full effect.
This view makes me so happy always.
All in all it was a great experience to catch our first sunrise hike. Worth the 4:30am wake up time on the weekend. I definitely want to do this type of hike more going forward as well as getting outdoors more in winter where the snow isn't (we're not experienced snow hikers, yet). It's been a rough January for me mentally speaking. Winter is hard for those of us with seasonal depression and getting out of the house and into nature really helps cure me of any negative mindset. This was our second hike this month when I tend to not hike at all.
As I walk on the soft PNW forest floor and breathe in the fresh air I feel my body and mind lighten. I feel energized and full of creative energy in the woods. I feel more connected with my true self, my soul, as I get out in nature. Little things that felt like troubles in my life tend to dissolve. I can be truly in the moment most of the time I'm hiking which helps me to connect to myself in a more powerful way thanI do sitting at home.
Since I feel so connected and grounded to my soul in these moments I decided that sharing these outdoor adventures here would be beneficial for me and you. I really do love to share these hikes with you and I hope that my sharing helps inspire you to do more of the activities that bring you closer to your soul.
Thanks for reading today! Look out for my next adventure with Audrey in February. Also if you'd like to see more pics of this hike you can check out my instagram highlight - Sunrise Hike - over on Instagram.