Best Laid Plans


It wasn’t a cloudless day like early in the week, but that meant it wouldn’t be blazing hot either. It’s been wonderful to know there is some transformation happening in our house. It’s been a long time coming and to do all of it over the course of two weeks is ideal in some ways, a slow fraying of the nerves, in another.

By today, I needed to get out. Exercise and fresh air are hard-wired into my system and adventure, a part of my DNA. I thrive best with the scent of alpine fir. A walk in the woods or on the mountain, truly has a restorative property you can’t pay for and that is saying a lot in a world where you can just plop down a credit card and buy most anything.

I was reading yesterday about a “cashless society” and how we are moving in the direction of trackable, electronic everything. That is a frightening thought and yet one can see the opportunity to reinvest in a barter system or a gift economy where we might create a whole new ‘value for giving’ in more unique ways. : I’ll make you a painting if you sit my dog overnight. Or I’ll make you a week worth of dinners if you’ll mow my lawn and tend to my landscape. It’s a shame we don’t do more of that now.

But I digress. The hike. It would be, believe it or not, my first at sunrise AT Dege Peak (Sunrise). A 2:15 am wake-up alarm and a 2:45 am departure. I have attempted this once before but never quite made it to the peak in time. I can’t complain. The path is like walking straight into a fire. As Mount Rainier shows off her alpine glow behind me, the horizon to the east is ablaze and a riot of color.

The sounds on the trail before first light can be a little creepy. Sometimes the air is full of a musky scent; a wildness, like there are animals nearby. I don’t think bear have been spotted on this trail but I’ve seen deer and mountain goats and they can be scary enough in a close encounter. I remember my first hike here in the dark of the blue hour. My headlamp fell upon bunches of what looked like fur. I imagined a bear was about to jump out at me and I open-carried my bear spray and hummed a little tune as I walked. I later discovered it was Horsehair Lichen ( the scientific name is Bryoria Fremontii. Named for the botanist/explorer John C Frémont, Mount Fremont lookout was named for him as well. ) I still laugh when I see it scattered on Sourdough Ridge. There are things you learn no other way than by seeing/doing. These are the lessons of my solo sunrise adventures. I’m still working on my “blue hour courage” for this year, but I am ready for what may come.

” Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity. ” -Gilda Radner

Amen to that.

On the drive I’m not concentrating on the book I’m listening to. It’s called The Starless Sea and I can’t afford to miss any of it, so I turn it off. That leaves me with music or my thoughts. For better or worse, I choose my thoughts.


I won’t listen to news any more than I feel I have to, to remain diligent and informed. During the days at home I check in with NPR or CNN just twice, because that is all I can bear. If I’m checking online, I notice a new and ridiculous headline each time I log in. We are, I think, becoming numb to the outright dangerous message of this president. Every time I think we have reached the bottom, another floor drops out from under us.

Again, I digress. ( But Vote )

The hike.

I make it to Sunrise at 4:30 am but I hesitate to head up. The sky looks like it will open up with color, but the blue hour is just stunning here. I forget a flashlight, but use my phone. A hundred feet in I abandon it anyway. The unnatural light seems intrusive. Good god, it’s beautiful. I arrive at “the bench” in time to head to Dege Peak, but I change my mind. I want to watch the alpenglow hit the mountain from here. There is a pool of clouds below me and it feels like the mountain is being lifted by softness. I love it here.

I linger as the sun rises in the east. It is sharp lines of red and orange and when it fully rises and the light falls upon the mountain it is like a radiant tint. I wait until the sun is ablaze and I can head back down to my car. I’ll do the Silver Forest trail. It’s short, but probably the best kept secret at Sunrise on a clear day. This morning, however, is cold and the clouds sit stubbornly over the mountain after sunrise.

Watching birds these past few months has given me an uncharacteristic patience. I noticed it today as I waited for the clouds to burn off. As the heat of the day begins to catch up to the light, the clouds disappear like vapor and there are peekaboo views of Her Majesty. It doesn’t last, but it’s like a rolling cloud bank and if you blink, you might miss a clearing. The birds have been evasive but I’m not giving up.

My lessons today are all about patience and attentiveness and presence. My reward is the riot of color that lines the path. Lupine, paintbrush, pasque and phlox. Many more are pictured here and I’ll be sure to dig through my wildflower book later to learn them. But not everything has to be named to be felt. On my walk back, my battery exhausts itself. Lucky for me I brought my spare !

Another trip to the car and then I head toward Sunrise Camp. I stop and take in Shadow Lake before reaching the camp. From there I decide to head part way up the Sunrise Rim trail. Just part way. The viewpoint is spectacular today with more peekaboo mountain views and billowy clouds to the east. Maybe just a bit further …

Before I know it I’m slipping across snow and climbing toward Burroughs Mountain. It was cold and windy and beautiful ! I had no desire to head to Second Burroughs. There was a steady stream of people by then and I decide to make it a loop and head towards Frozen Lake. I made the right choice for sure !


About thirty of them ! Scruffy, intense creatures for sure. The babies were romping around and the parents were wary of all the people. I was about twenty yards away at one point, unsure how they would react. A couple bolted down the hill and crossed the trail but the rest meandered back up the hill. I worried about the ragged look of some of them but I read (after arriving home) that they shed their coats in July. When they molt, the old fur is rubbed off on trees and brush with a new coat growing in by September. Whew !

And a few other creatures too ❤

A perfect day !

(And I think my friend Di visited me on more than one occasion …)


12 Comments on “Best Laid Plans

  1. To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour
    — William Blake

    • I love William Blake. His “true God was the human imagination”. Thanks for the note and the nod to Blake 😊

  2. Gorgeous day! Thanks for the trip. I love the weaving of real world happenings. We are so lucky to have opportunity to leave it all behind for a few hours. And goats! I saw goats up there last summer, right beside the trail toward Berkeley. (I really hate I can’t go for a hike this coming week. But I will be at Baker the next!)

    • Thanks for coming along. I’ve seen goats several times on the way to Fremont, but never this many, this close ! It was a treat for sure, among all the other treats these hikes provide. I guess I should call it a bonus. Yeah, that’s it. A bonus. I’ll look forward to hearing about your adventures up north !

    • Thanks so much for reading. I so love my mornings at Sunrise. It is not only my happy place but also ground zero for gratitude. We are so lucky to live here !

  3. Great photos, great writing. Related to that fear in the darkness.

    • Thank you ! It can be empowering to walk outside in the blue hour. Stepping into your fear and walking into the light is actually a great metaphor. 😊 Thanks for reading.

  4. Amazing images, but I had trouble getting beyond ‘the blue hour…’. Those images just captivated me! But so many more kaleidoscopic colors and images, goats, creamsicle clouds, riotous flora, and goat fauna! What a day! Knocked this outta the park, and took us all along for the ride. ♥️

    • Thanks, Mare. The “blue hour” arrives just ahead of my favorite time: civil twilight. I love all the things that come alive on the edges of a day. And that mountain, those flowers, those goats ! A stunning summer morning for sure.

  5. This line reverberated with me: “But not everything has to be named to be felt.”

    Beautiful pictures. Beautiful writing. Beautiful spirit. Beautiful wildness.

    • Thanks Jennie. I usually walk around on mornings like this full of gratitude for the place and whatever little miracles have allowed me to be there to see it. I shake my head a lot in amazement ! (As it should be.) Thanks for sharing.

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