Buzzards Roost Arch
December 22, 2009
For only a few days every winter, the sunrise is visible from underneath the Buzzard Roost natural bridge. Of course it was on my list of must-see events, and this winter I was up for the challenge of making the long hike in the dark to be at the stone arch before sunrise.
The first hurdle to overcome was getting to the parking area at 5 in the morning. My solution was to drive in the night before and sleep in the back of the Tahoe. I left home around 7 and reached the parking spot off of Maupin Flat Road around 9:30. I immediately got in the back; I was SO tired from only getting 3 hours sleep the night before. I took off my boots, crawled inside the sleeping bag, set the alarm clock and was asleep in no time.
Around 2:30 I woke up freezing to death. I hadn't zipped up the sleeping bag because I'd slept in my clothes. I was worried the cold would shorten the life of the batteries in my electronics, so I put my GPS receiver and headlamp at the foot of the sleeping bag, and I put the camera batterie in my pocket. I zipped up the sleeping bag and slept for a couple more hours.
When I got up at 4:30 the thermometer reported 18 degrees. I had problems getting my Trangia stove to light, I'm guessing because the air was so cold the alcohol wasn't creating fumes. Sparks from my Firesteel weren't working, and I had trouble finding a lighter until I dug one out from the camera bag. Of course that lighter wouldn't light for the longest time, but finally a tiny blue flame popped up.
I only had to heat coffee I'd made at home the night before (allowing coffee to cool soon after it's brewed keeps it fairly fresh). I ate a Clif bar, put on my boots, down coat and jersey gloves and headed down the 4-wheeler road. The last few hundred yards were a downhill bushwhack through the woods.
When I reached the arch and looked up, a million stars twinkled in the dark, clear sky overhead. As I set up the camera, I put on a down shirt to trap some of that heat I'd built up during the long hike. In one of the pictures I shone a light up on the arch to try to simulate what a campfire might have looked like long ago to native inhabitants who surely knew about this special place.
As the sky grew light and the clouds to the south started to turn shades of pink and purple, I moved to a spot behind the arch with a view of the horizon. I adjusted my location just a bit to get a view inside the arch as far east as possible, and waited for sunrise. It took forever for 7:17 to arrive.
Those clouds on the horizon really weakened the sunlight streaming in. I took a photo then moved around to find some other camera positions. I was able to shoot a few other scenes, though the sun quickly became so bright that any photos of it had a whole lot of lens flare.