This Moment
McClennen Park Daybreak

Whipple Hill Sunrise

A couple years ago I stopped making New Year's Resolutions, and started making a "Wanna" list, as in,

This year I "wanna":

  • visit Acadia National Park
  • make bagels
  • see the sunrise
  • figure out the logic of knitting sock heels
  • give blood often
  • join a book club
  • explore all of Lexington's conservation land

Today I crossed an item off the list, one that I've been thinking about for ages, and as is so often the case, it was so easy I don't know why I didn't do it earlier. 

Sunday is typically the one day each week that I don't wake to the sound of my alarm, but today I was actually awake before it went off at 4:45 a.m.  The world was much lighter than I'd expected.  Had the sun already risen?  I'd gone to sleep the night before imagining making my way up the trail to Lexington's highest point by flashlight, and shivering in the darkness until the first rays reached out over the horizon.  The dusty blue reality of predawn light and temps in the high 70s did not fit my expectations at all.

Clouds 071810

With one eye on the sky and the other taking in the phenomenon of Main Street without a single car in sight,  I hurried over to Whipple Hill Conservation Area.  Along the way I had one of those "if a tree falls in the forest" moments and wondered if traffic laws still applied when you're the only person on the streets.  Feeling a little foolish, I dutifully stopped at the red light and waited for it to turn.  

Whipple sign 071810

The trails of Whipple Hill are popular with dog walkers, so as I made my way up the short ascent, I half expected an off-leash dog to come bounding out of the semi darkness and knock me over.  Happily, the only sounds I heard were the wind in the leaves and a few drowsy birds. 

When I got to the highest point, just 374 feet above sea level, expectations were trumped by reality again.  The last time I'd been to Whipple Hill was in the spring.  Back then, it had been possible to make out the sky scrapers of Boston.  Now the height of summer, the trees had filled in and blocked a lot of the view from the top.

5am 071810

Fortunately, by retracing my steps a little way, I was able to find a view out to the horizon. 

Waiting 071810

At 5:28 a.m. a faint glimmer of something bright flickered on the horizon.  It was so thin that I thought my eyes might be fooling me; a picture provided a second opinion. 

Glimmer 071810

That tiny glimmer was the actual sun.  As I watched it grow on the horizon I had for probably the first time in my life, a sense of the Earth as a moving object.  That moment brought life to countless diagrams in musty science text books.  Instead of knowing in a cerebral way that it was true, I felt it!  From that moment, I was tempted to keep my finger on the shutter button so I wouldn't miss a thing.  Even the birds stopped to take notice of the rising sun.  For a short while, the birds and I were the only living things in creation, and this show was just for us. 

Bird 071810

How is it possible I sleep through this every day?  Even as the thought formed in my mind, I knew that my alarm would be back to its regular time the next day, but for now I would soak in every bit of it.

  The sun 071810
Dawns light 071810
I sat down to watch the sun's glow stretch over the landscape and enjoy some breakfast.  I'd brought cold water and Zucchini Carrot bread, my variation on a recipe I found through the Simply Recipes blog. It's an incredibly easy recipe, it freezes well, and unlike many fruit breads, a slice holds its shape well enough that it can easily be eaten on the go.  I like to walk first thing in the morning, so I'm always on the lookout for healthy breakfast options I can take with me.  In my version I add three or four grated carrots and decrease the butter to 1/2 a cup (the recipe makes two loaves).

As the sun rose, the number of birds singing did too.  I heard a Mourning Dove low and far away, the baby-like chirps of a Nuthatch and everywhere the animated chatter of Chickadees (checkout the links to hear examples of their calls).  Soon all the trees around my little clearing were filled with Chickadees, bobbing from branch to branch, landing for just a moment then on the move again. 

Standing on my parents' dresser to see the Chickadees at the backyard feeder is one of my earliest memories.  My brother has always sworn that he trained Chickadees to eat from his hand when he was around 11.  Being the younger sibling, and never having seen the trick, I'm highly doubtful.  Still, I often wonder when I see a Chickadee sitting just out of reach, if he might be telling the truth. 

Today, the tables were turned and the Chickadees' antics lead me to an early crop of wild blueberries.  I'm not a fruit fan, but I love wild berries.  The ones in stores are always too plump and too mushy (otherwise known by fruit lovers as "juicy").  Wild berries on the other hand are small with one sweet splash of juice snuggled inside their sun-warmed flesh.  Of course, the thrill of finding edible food in the woods and snacking on it like a frontiersman, is one of the best garnishes there is.

Blueberries 071810
Perfection 071810

Just be sure the berries are high enough or far enough back from the trail that they are unlikely to have been "watered" by passing dogs.  

With a hand full of berry perfection, and plenty of sun shine to light my way, I started down the path to the tiny parking lot.  I'll be back to see the sun rise again, in the autumn when the leaves have fallen.  Of course a winter visit has the advantage of happening much later in the morning.  I think I see a new tradition starting. Sunlight trail 071810


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It is said that the Indians gathered on Whipple Hill at the summer solstice to watch the sun set directly behind Mt. Monadnock. Using the "Hey, what's that link" on the site as well as other astronomical information, I was able to confirm that this actually is where the sun sets.

Perhaps next June, you can profide confirmation with one of your excellent photos.

T. Crockett

Thanks Don. I had no idea you could even see Monadnock from here. I certainly see more exploring of Whipple Hill in my future (especially with the help of the map on your blog).

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