There are two types of people in the world. Those that hate getting up in the mornings and psychopaths. I'm no psychopath. I hate mornings, but I get up anyway.
When you get up early you have the world to yourself. You get to break trail through fresh snow. You get to watch the sun defeat the darkness. Those are just your average mornings. Then there are the mornings that are magical. Mornings like this trip.
We started in the dark. It was cold with low clouds frosting everything. Nothing escaped the mid-eighties treatment. Not trees, not gear, not my hair, and certainly not Mr. Ice Beard. No, not me. Beards are too manly for me. KC was rocking it, though. (Treen was a little iced over, too, but she rolls in the snow so it doesn't really count.)
Along the road and then in the woods it was monochromatic. No color anywhere to be seen. We were completely wrapped in the clouds. There were only the faintest of tracks in the snow ahead of us giving us the freedom to head straight up the fall line.
When we did come out of the trees we were treated not to limited visibility on the inside of a cloud, but a rich dark blue sky lit by the rising sun. The clouds that had made us feel claustrophobic below were now a soft blanket filling the valley below our feet.
Our destination was still higher, but even the steep slopes felt easy to climb knowing what lay ahead. We topped out just moments before the sun rose over the ridge to the east and were able to watch as it lept into the sky.
Even though our destination wasn't a big secret (Kendall Knob) and it wasn't particularly difficult (4.5 miles, 1,600 feet of gain) we saw no one until we were within a half mile of the trailhead. By the time we were climbing into the car to head home most people were just arriving.
The secret to getting up early is telling people you're going to do it. It's even better if someone is counting on you for company or a ride. Find a buddy, make a plan, and set your alarm clock. It won't always be magical, but it'll always be worth it.