The Almost-Sunrise Hike

My first time walking up Mission Peak in the wee hours of the morning.


Anybody who ever attended high school in the Bay Area has heard of Mission Peak. Famous enough to earn its own Wikipedia page (which is really a feat when you consider exactly what you’re dealing with here), Mission Peak is a hiking mountain near Fremont, CA. Depending on the trail chosen, it is 5 to 6 miles long.

I’d done the hike twice before, but both times were during noon. This third time, we went in the wee hours of the morning. The Spanish have their own word for this forsaken time of day.

Madrugada.

Along our first mile, we saw the East Bay slowly wake up. A handful of cows who enjoyed living in a tourist location took no notice of said tourists as they grazed and pooped against the panorama.

I rather liked the juxtaposition on this one. It makes me chuckle.

As we continued the second mile, we realized we weren’t going to catch the sunrise. Huffing and puffing, we reached the cloud line.

There were four of us, and our party’s most athletic member had brought his eleven-year-old dog, Gretsky. Gretsky wasn’t a real bother, especially given the fact that he’s close to my grandfather’s age in human years.

So the five of us, counting our wise elder who sometimes needed to be carried, made our way up the mountain. The trail really makes you feel like a man worth your salt. Regardless of how cold it is (and it can be freezing), you’re bound to break a sweat.

Before we knew it, the cloud line was gone. And this is where things got poetic:

It was as if the white of the fog separated into its thousand disparate and distinct colors, and each individual color splayed itself vainly across the stunning panorama.

As it turns out, we had missed the sunrise by about twenty minutes. And I bet it was a beautiful sunrise. Instead of the sunrise, we got this.

And it wasn’t a bad deal. While I am proud of these photographs, they are but a two dimensional sliver of what graced us that dawn.

It was the kind of view that made you smile despite yourself. It made you grateful for your eyes. It convinced you we all saw the same blue.

I hiked that morning because it was their idea. In a way, these pictures will be a tough act to follow when I return with the same expectations.

I’m a firm believer in holding no expectations. The imagination comes up with wonderfully fantastic versions of reality, and the reality presented to us either falls short of our versions or is too different for us to enjoy. When I went with no preconceptions, Mission Peak had nothing to measure itself against. It was not limited by my projections of it.

It was an unprecedented experience.

If I had imagined lush, green fields under a bed of clouds, I would have been disappointed. I would’ve seen the gold and thought “Hm, it would look better if the scenery was greener.”

In Marathi, we have a phrase for this kind of thinking.

नको त्येव्डी हुशारी

It translates to, “An unnecessary amount of intellect.” ( It’s also a sign that this post is longer than it needs to be).

I don’t know if Mission Peak is this pristine every morning, if we went on an exceptionally stunning morning, or if this is substandard.

In that singular moment, I was just glad to be on top of one of the islands in the sea of fog.

I hope I keep my intellect on a leash the next time I go.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Nikhil Kanthi’s story.