Sunrise Hike // McAfee Knob, VA

I’m 25, and I’ll admit it - I’m still afraid of the dark. Especially hiking in the dark. There’s something that makes me uneasy about how the woods are so big, yet full of endless hiding places for creatures. Headlamps almost make it worse, because if you do see an animal, their eyes light up like they’re possessed. But despite these fears, I knew I wanted to hike to McAfee Knob to see the sunrise because I’d heard it’s just too darn good to miss.

With our packs loaded down with hot tea, water, snacks, and warm layers, we three headed up the trail under the stillness of a starry sky. Fain and Peyton didn’t seem to be bothered by the darkness at all, so I tried to follow suit and put on a brave face.

For a couple of reasons, I could hardly believe we were actually doing this. First, too often in life we talk with friends and say “We really should get coffee sometime!” Or, “Let’s get together sometime soon!” and those plans never manifest. We never get coffee, we go months without seeing that friend again. Hiking together could have been one of those unfortunate plans that never made it past a good intention. But, with determination and a little luck in our schedules aligning, we did it. We were there, making it happen.

Second, hiking three and a half miles to see a 6:50AM sunrise is just an ambitious plan in general, especially for me. But it was completely worth it. Sometimes, waking up early or going out of our comfort zone can seem so scary, but really the scariest part is just deciding to go for it. Once it’s in your mind, it almost feels natural. You just do it. At least, that’s how I felt about this hike. As soon as I picked up Peyton and she handed me a mason jar with ginger tea, I realized I had been silly to ever question the decision to go on this adventure.

At the top, a cloudless sky greeted us in our triumph. The rising sun was bright and warm, glazing any remaining leaves on the trees with golden light. It’s a magical moment when the light of day first touches the earth, and that feeling was compounded by the fact that we’d earned our front row seats. Peyton, Fain, and I found ourselves a nice little rock to share as we drank tea and passed snacks around. The only sounds were the crackles of biting into an apple and the crinkle of Pop-Tart wrappers. All was still, all was quiet around us as we watched the world wake up.