Ain’t it foggy outside?

“‘Cause if it is, I’m staying in my warm sleeping bag!”, I half whispered, half yelled to the annoying interruption to my sleep outside my tent. “No no, get up! I have a plan!” came the reply. Uggg. Really? It was serious pea soup out there last night, and conditions weren’t looking any better this morning – not that I could see jack in the predawn darkness as I peered out. “What’s the plan, Jeremy?” Jeremy always had a plan, and it was usually a good one, so I was paying attention to the best of my groggy ability. “Let’s get in the car and drive up to Sunrise and get above this fog.” Hmmm. I suppose that could work, I thought, thinking back to those images I had from earlier the previous evening, also near Sunrise. Sunrise is the highest point in Mount Rainier National Park that can be reached by car, at about 6,400 feet elevation. We only had one sunset and one sunrise on this short weekend trip, and heck, I was already awake anyway. It was worth a shot.

Our other two camp mates weren’t convinced. They must have been remembering our scouting trip in the Tipsoo Lake area later in the evening before, where we had so much trouble seeing with headlamps that we ended up on the wrong trail and almost went off a small cliff. So they stayed, and we went.

Mount Rainier by Moonlight, Mount Rainier National Park, WashingtonThe moon was full this weekend, and I had been fairly successful the night before with moonlit images of Mount Rainier above the clouds. So as we climbed higher and higher with Jeremy at the wheel, I searched for any sign of the moon peeking through the clouds. As we were just about to pull into the Sunrise parking lot, I spotted a glimpse of the moon, so we knew we were close – just not close enough. We both knew what we had to do.

Jeremy parked and we both threw on our photo packs and headlamps in the darkness. We were going to get above this muck one way or another. We headed up one of the trails to the north, gaining a tiny bit of altitude with each bootprint. And finally, there it was – a beautiful shining moon lighting majestic Mount Rainier and a thick layer of clouds below us. Now all we had to do was find a good composition and wait for the sun.

As it turns out, not only were the clouds below us, but above us as well – just not as a solid layer. This is important, because the best sunrises happen when there is just enough cloud cover to catch the sun’s light while it is still far below the horizon. And that’s exactly what happened this morning. Those higher clouds lit up in beautiful deep shades of pink, orange, and purple, and that light in turn was reflected on to the lower cloud layer as well as Mount Rainier itself. And it was gorgeous.

Sunrise above the Clouds at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, WashingtonAs we sat there in our giddy excitement, shooting away with different lenses and exposures, I thought about two other groups of people. The first was the climbers on Rainier that morning – we could see their headlamps periodically as they made their way up the glacier fields. What an amazing experience that must have been for them, the excitement of the climb combined with probably one of the most beautiful sunrises that summer!

Mt. Rainier and Full Moon at Dawn, Mount Rainier National ParkAnd then I thought of our friends back at White River Campground, fast asleep in their tents with no idea what they were missing. They weren’t alone, of course. The vast majority of humanity also missed it. Yes, this sunrise was reserved for a select few who happened to be in the right place at the right time. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? There are little opportunities that pop up around us all the time, and then they’re gone. To seize them, you have to be willing to crawl out of that figurative tent when you’d rather be sleeping and get out there. Sometimes the opportunities come to you, but most of the time, you have to go out and find them. It’s true for photographers, and it’s true about life.

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2 Responses to “Ain’t it foggy outside?”

  1. Priscilla says:

    My husband and I lived in Tillicum, a small place outside Tacoma, for a short two years about 50 years ago. I fell in love with that mountain. For the last few days my thoughts keep traveling back to that time, so I decided to search the internet for some pictures to support my memories. I found your pictures were exactly what I was looking for! I really enjoyed your personal story and applaud you for listening to your inner voice to seek a perfect moment in time and thank you for sharing.