Sunrise at Mt. Rainier

September 2, 2010 | Category: Driving, Mountains, Sunrises, Washington

Sunrise and an ice patch at Mt. Rainier

Sunrise and an ice patch at Mt. Rainier

After sunset the previous evening at Mt. St. Helens, I stopped about halfway between there and Mt. Rainier, wanting to get some sleep. That night I parked at a rest stop, one which had a sign that said you could stay for 8 hours max, far more than the typical hour or two you see at most rest stops. 8 hours? You know what that means! A place to get some shut-eye! I set my phone alarm that night to give myself just enough time to get going in the morning and make it in time for sunrise, but still with enough time on the clock to get as much sleep as possible. When I woke up in the morning and got ready to go, I looked at the clock and it looked like I would be cutting it reallllly close to sunrise. Would I make it in time to catch the most spectacular light? Let’s find out! Drive!

Now I like to get to a location not actually at sunrise, but at least 15 before, absolute bare minimum. Why? Well not only do you get a chance to scout a location and find your favorite viewpoint if you arrive early, but the light before the sun comes up over the horizon is often more beautiful than the actual sunrise itself! That’s the time when you’ll see the lavender skies and the pink glow on the mountains. Pre-sunrise.

Now as I was driving to Mt. Rainier, I knew I wanted to get there no later than 15 min before sunrise, to an overlook named, appropriately enough, Sunrise. Eyeing the ETA in my GPS and comparing it to the clock, it looked like I would be cutting it super close, perhaps actually being a few minutes late. The closer I got to the mountain, the more I started to realize it looked like I probably wasn’t gonna make it in time and so I started hauling ass up the mountain. At one point I hit a rock on the road I didn’t see and with the shake to my car and the loud popping sound, I pulled over and was relieved to find that I didn’t get a flat… Not sure how but woohoo!! I quickly marked this point on my GPS (so that I could stop and check the road on the way back and remove the rock for other drivers, a rock which would turn out to be little more than a small pebble, oddly enough…) and continued my way up the mountain, watching the light change in the sky as the sky grew lighter and lighter.

Closer and closer I got, racing the sun, until I started to see that the sun was winning. The clouds above the mountain were starting to light up pink and I could see the faintest pink glow on the mountaintop starting to appear… What to do? Find a place to stop here and pull over to start shooting, or keep going the few more miles and hopefully get to the Sunrise viewpoint in time? Argh… I stopped and quickly fired off a shot while there was still some pink left in the clouds above the mountain, then hopped back in the car and kept going up to the overlook.

A touch of pink light left in the clouds above Rainier

A touch of pink light left in the clouds above Rainier

When I got to the overlook, I was dismayed to find that it didn’t even offer all that great a set of views! What I had seen on the way up actually looked better! So I jumped back in the car, spun around, and starting driving back down the road I had just come up.

Driving down the mountain, I was not only racing against the clock, but looking for a suitable foreground for my shot. At one point I found wildflowers!

Hey, there's still some wildflowers left out here!

Hey, there's still some wildflowers left out here!

There was a big tree covering the main peak so I decided to keep going and see what else I could find. Back in the car!

Driving by Mt. Rainier at sunrise

Driving by Mt. Rainier at sunrise

Driving along, I also found a nice little ice patch remaining and the treeline started to dip down a bit, revealing more of the peak of Mt. Rainier.

Sunrise and an ice patch at Mt. Rainier

Sunrise and an ice patch at Mt. Rainier

Eventually finding a spot I liked and really enjoying the strawberry ice cream looking snow, I pulled out my telephoto to get some closer shots of the pink light on the mountaintop.

Strawberry ice cream atop Mt. Rainier

Strawberry ice cream atop Mt. Rainier

Oh hey, sweet snow formations! Reminds me of the  avalanche I saw at Pikes Peak in Colorado, but this is a bit different… Let’s take a closer look.

Close-up of the sweet snow formations

Close-up of the sweet snow formations

Check THAT out! There’s these sweet waves of snow on the mountainside, I’m guessing wind-created. Doesn’t this look amazing??

Zooming back out a bit, if you look to the left of the taller rounded peak of Rainier (you can see this in the pics above), there’s a sharp craggy peak. Let’s zoom in on there.

Admiring the craggy rock and cracked snow

Admiring the craggy rock and cracked snow

As the sun continued to rise, the sunlight started to grow lighter and lighter, changing from pre-sunrise pink to sunrise yellow.

Whiter light starting to hit the mountaintop

Whiter light starting to hit the mountaintop

Chillin’ here and watching the sunrise progress further, you could actually see the shadows move through the valley below as the mountain got lighter and brighter. 🙂

Mt. Rainier in daytime morning light

Mt. Rainier in daytime morning light

A beautiful mountain… At 14,411 feet tall (and it’s 1:14 am as I write this) it looks like a fun one to climb!! 😀

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