Taking pictures at sunrise always seems like a better idea the night before than it does when the alarm goes off in the morning.
Sunrise was at 6:19. I’d been through this drill before when I was in Washington DC in July, so I knew how painful the waking up was, particularly after just five hours of sleep. Why I had only five hours of sleep involves Steve Martin, bluegrass, and a dead car battery. That is a post for another time.
I looked out the patio window and it was dark. Really? The sun would be up in 80ish minutes? In Alaska, the sun lights the sky for up to an hour and a half or two before the sun comes up. At 5 it was still darkest before the dawn.
Fortunately Starbucks was open for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I figured we would be the only ones there, but a man getting three coffees and some pastry had beaten us.
Evan fired up the Saturn Sky and we were off. As we crossed the desert to I10, the full moon to the west was casting a shadow of the car. To the east, there was little hint that the sun would soon be up.
Riding up to Joshua Tree in a convertible in the wee hours of the morning is the only way to go, especially under the full moon. I felt as though I was in that Volkswagon commercial from several years ago when the group is driving in a convertible at night with the Nick Drake song Pink Moon playing. Even though the sun was coming up, I could have ridden in the car for hours under the full moon and stars.
Darkness remained until he wound up highway 62 into Morongo Valley. In the west, color was beginning to fire up the sky.
The air also cooled considerably as we drove into the high desert. The once warm air took on a coolness. Even so, it was 80 degrees.
As the sky lightened, the silhouettes of the Joshua Trees began to take shape on the surrounding hillsides as we zipped up the highway to Joshua Tree. They are marvelous wonders-something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Evan delivered us to Joshua Tree National Park right as the sun was coming up, at about 6:15. It was glorious. We stopped at the Quail Springs pullout, a couple of miles in from the West Gate.
The first thing I noticed was the top of the mountain beginning to take on a reddish color. That’s when I got my camera out. Little by little, all the surrounding ridges began to catch the glow of the rising sun.
Before long the light was descending from the hillsides down onto the surrounding valley floor. The Joshua Trees were lighting up one by one. It all seemed to happen so fast, like an explosion of light. I used to love watching the sun set slowly over the Minto Flats in Interior Alaska. A sunset seems to be a quiet and slow thing that brings a day to a peaceful end.
A sunrise is quite the opposite. The light happens fast and wipes away the darkness quickly. It’s all about energy and light. Everything was changing so quickly as the sun mounted the sky. I felt it hard to focus and concentrate as I walked back and forth across the desert trying to find the best view.
To be in a natural setting for the sunrise was quite remarkable. There were no buildings to stand in the way of the light. And it was so quiet. Even in a National Park, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.
One the sun was up, I tried to take advantage of the golden hour. In Joshua tree where so much of the landscape is golden, the sunlight just enhanced the already beautiful colors.
We spent a few more hours in the park taking pictures and hiking up Ryan Mountain.
It was a glorious way to spend a morning.
What’s your favorite place to watch the sun rise?
Here are a few more pictures from the morning.