In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan laments that she always watches for the longest day of the year, and then misses it.
Not this year for me.
I told my friend Emily of my plans to scale Ely’s Peak to watch the sunrise on the solstice, and she joined me. Saturday, after I finished watching the marathon, I drove out to Gary New Duluth to give the little peak a test climb. It started pouring just before I got there, so I decided to sit in my car and wait it out. It’s one thing to keep hiking when it starts raining, but another to start hiking when it’s already raining. I only sat in my car for 20-30 minutes.
Once the rain reduced to a little drizzle, I got out of my car and headed up the trail. It’s a detour due to construction from the railroad (even the parking area is not the traditional lot, but a temporary one just down the road), but it is still a nice route. There’s a steep uphill right away, up some stairs, and then onto a gravel road just about wide enough for an ATV, where railroad tracks used to be. As the trail turns off toward the end of the road, there’s a cave, where the railroad went through the rock. I didn’t explore it because I was by myself and I couldn’t tell how deep it was at the time (I couldn’t even tell that it was a tunnel), and because I was timing how long it took to hike to the top. I went slowly, no running, because we wouldn’t be running the next morning. I ran a little bit on the way down, but the rocks were a bit slippery at times, plus the trail up to the peak is fairly technical at times.
I set my alarm for 3:30 in order to give myself enough time to get ready and to wake up before Emily arrived at 4. She was a little early, and petted my cat for a few minutes while I finished gathering things together. I guess this is why people lay out their clothes and gear the night before an early race. It took us about 20 minutes to drive out to the parking lot, and we sat in her car for awhile. I had planned for us to take about 30 minutes to climb up there, and the sunrise was predicted for 5:12. I think we hit the trail, headlamps blazing, at 4:35 or 4:40. We didn’t really need the headlamps, as it was already light out (but misty), but they helped when we were amid the trees and the morning light wasn’t filtering through strongly enough. Every bird in the area was singing, and beyond that there was no sound til a train rumbled through.
Once we got to the first clearing where we could look out over the city, it was pretty amazing. Emily kept stopping to take pictures, which she hasn’t uploaded anywhere, or else I’d be posting them on here. I kept asking her the time and pressuring her to keep going (especially because the tunnel freaked me out a little, I was pretty sure people were sleeping in there, and I didn’t want to startle them. I was glad sleeping was all that was going on.) We made it to the top at 5:08. I planned well, patting myself on the back right now.
Then we waited for the sunrise.
It was pretty crazy because for a few minutes, there was just this little sliver of light, and then all of a sudden, there was the sun. I thought it would be a little more gradual, but *poof* there was a good portion of it. We watched for awhile, as the mist dissipated and we could see more of the trees below us, and then hiked back down.
We drove back into town, where the mist had migrated, and the sun was glowing behind it, the clouds making interesting shapes across it. At home, I fed my cats, ate some chips, wound down, and went back to sleep for 5 more hours. It was the weekend, after all.