Morning Animals

"I have been walking wide, leaping on the hilltops, since the grey dawn began, nosing wind and weather..." (Tom Bombadill)

Night still surrounds us as I roll out from under my sleeping quilt and clamber out of our little tent. Cedar is instantly alert with anticipation of early breakfast, I with anticipation of sunrise. Morning animals, both of us. Soon my headlamp is leading the way to our destination; today perhaps a high ridge, maybe tomorrow an alpine lake. I pick my way carefully through boulder piles or over heather fields. Cedar ranges confidently, investigating new smells, invisible in the darkness except when the headlamp beam picks out a pair of glowing eyes. Ahead of us is our sunrise spot, chosen perhaps months ago while poring over maps and trip reports or lunar calendars. We would have scouted it the day before, probably stayed to watch the sunset.
If we have planned well we arrive with the scene still in darkness. The mountains around us are black silhouettes, to the west outlined by stars, to the east by the glow of morning twilight. Cedar eats her breakfast and, recognizing a familiar routine, chooses a nap spot. I switch my headlamp to red light, set up my tripod, adjust the settings on my camera, and make a cup of coffee. We wait, but not for long.
Already, with sunrise still an hour away, the show is starting. The stars fade out as black sky lightens to deep blue. My furry companion still sleeps; "blue hour" provides no smell or sound to catch her interest. In contrast, I am wide awake, alert to the changing sky, alternating between bursts of creative activity and moments of quiet observation. Eventually the activity alerts Cedar and she noses around my legs looking for attention, or better yet, a treat. Getting no satisfaction, she flops back down to resume her nap, this time between the legs of my tripod.
An hour later, it is morning. Blue hour has passed, fires have been ignited in the clouds and then faded, sunlight has touched the peaks with pink and then flowed down the slopes, to finally warm our backs. We sit together for a while yet watching the morning develop, sharing an ear scratch, a face lick, a treat, another cup of coffee. Finally we pick up and head back to camp, Cedar running exuberant laps in the alpine meadow. Briefly she looks back at me, flashes her brilliant spaniel grin, then is off again, drawn by a new smell, a sound, or maybe just by the joy of a morning in the mountains.
Soon we are back on the trail, heading for our next destination, another lake, another ridge, another photograph, another morning.

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