A Reflection on Early Morning Hikes

I took sips of my lukewarm coffee as my sleepy eyes struggled to focus on the road. It doesn’t matter what time you wake up in the morning, if it’s still totally dark outside…it still feels like the middle of the night.

As I pulled into the empty parking space, with half of my coffee still left in the cup, I hesitated for a moment. I lacked the energy and silently debated, chugging the rest of it. But as I looked up and saw my sister’s white pickup truck parked ahead, I figured the rest of my caffeinated drink could wait until I returned.

“Hey Mel,” I greeted her as I stepped out of my car.

“Hey Al,” she replied, walking towards me while a woman with a headlamp, lightly jogged past us.

Together, we walked away from the main road along the outskirt of South Mountain and began heading for the dirt trail along the side of the neighborhood.

We didn’t make it far when we came up upon the sign. It read:

Area Closed
Trail Construction in Progress
Do Not Enter

Beyond this sign, laid out a wide dirt trail heading towards the base of the mountain.

“Do we take it?” Mel asked.

I stood there, not really knowing what to say. This was our plan and now due to my weariness, I couldn’t think of any other trails in this area.

 “Fuck it…. let’s just see where it goes.” Mel answered to herself.

“If it gets to look shady, then we’ll turn around.” We both agreed.

 As we defyingly walked forward and away from the streetlights, I stretched my headlamp across my forehead. Along the desert floors, lays gravelly pebbles and low laying shrubs where birds and desert mice take shelter from their stalking predators known as the coyotes and rattlesnakes.

The further back we hiked away from the main road, the darker it became. Every so often I purposely turned my head to flash a light on the world around me. You never know if a desert animal is eyeing you from a distance.

As the trail began to climb up, more warning signs appeared.

This time, tied between to light green palo verde tree a plastic yellow caution tape was wrapped around both trunks, creating a flimsy barrier wall along the trail. We came to a stop and shined out lights along the rest of the trail.

A clear and steady path laid out before us.

“Let’s just keep going.” Mel suggested as she stepped over the knee-high wall.

Hesitant for a moment, but I shrugged my shoulders and followed her lead. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I thought as I stepped over.

This route led into a small canyon area. The mountain ridges began closing in with the canyon’s walls rising tall around us. Feeling like sheep being herded into a single path line inside the mountain ravine.

The view of the sky above now narrowed, with only signs of the bright full moon that hung above.

This is what it means to feel alive. Images of coyotes running around the wide desert under the glow of this moon stealthy hunting for prey flowed through my mind. And now, for a moment, I was one with them.

The trail abruptly came to a stop, only about 100 feet away from the top of the ridgeline.

The construction crew creating the trails, had their tossed rakes and shovels along the side of this stopping point.

As we gazed up towards the ridgeline that was so close, we noticed a lightly formed carved path, only about the width of a single footstep leading up towards the top. This must be their guide, I thought thinking of the workers.

We didn’t come this close to turn around now, and with that Mel began following the path. As she reached the top, she proclaimed, “It meets up with it!”

This was part of the plan. Mel had figured that this new trail we were on, had to meet up with a familiar established hiking trail…and now here was the proof that she was right. Good thing we didn’t veer away from the plan.

I followed the faint path up towards the top, carefully avoiding the cholla plants along the way.

Now at the top, the sky opened back up only by this time, the glow forming along the horizon, like a candle lit in a dark room.

It’s a funny thing to be walking along the top of mountain during this time. On one side, you see that bright full moon. And on the other, you see that orange ball appearing, overtaking the night and eventually silencing the moon. For those few minutes, we were walking right in between those two worlds of night and day. Soaking in the energy from both.

The Full Moon hovering above
The glow of the sunrise

As we walked along, now heading in the direction of the glow, watching the sleepy still desert awake with the growing light. The sleepy birds awake from their nests and begin greeting the day with their sweet songs. Every so often one of the birds fluttered from branch to branch, getting in their morning wing stretch, before taking on the day. The silent wildflowers that only a few minutes ago looked grey under the moonlight, now shined their colorful pedals from the sun’s glow.

And even butterflies are awakened at this moment, and began fluttering from flower to flower, looking for their breakfast.

Shadows now begin appearing darker, as the light grows.

And my sleepy eyes are now fully awakened and wide appreciating this daily scene of real life.