September 3, 2016
Day One of our trip started off like every other trip - endless flights, connections, and barely sufficient airport food.
Finally arriving in Seattle, we sped our rental car off to Federal Way to arrive at what would be our humble abode for the next week.
Day Two arrived far before the sunrise, as we were off to Mt. Rainier National Park to set foot in our first of three National Parks that week. Hiking around Mowich Lake, we arrived at the Tolmie Peak firewatch tower, granting us a breathtaking view looking out over Eunice Lake and providing us with our closest glimpse of Mt. Rainier yet- until the fog rolled in and obscured our view of anything more than twenty feet from us.
We descended Tolmie Pieak, hiked around Mowich lake, ate lunch, and headed to the next trail of the day: Dege Peak.
Dege Peak wasn't the most demanding hike, as it overlooked the snow-capped mountains flanking the Sunrise Visitor Center. About a half of mile into the hike, our visibility shot down to almost 0% as the fog rolled in yet again. Making our way to the top of Dege Peak, we were blessed with a beautiful 360 degree view of pure white. The fog was so thick, than even just peering over the edge provided nothing but thick, blinding fog.
Once we descended, we grabbed some coffee at the visitor center to warm up, got our plan together for the night, and headed back to the car to get some rest. The sun was fading, and the starts were about to appear.
Around 8 PM, we got our gear ready, checked our head lamps and flashlights, and set out along the Sourdough Ridge trail in search of the center of the galaxy.
Being the first night-hike we've done, navigating proved a little tougher than usual, given that most of our usual landmarks were now hidden under the dark, moonless night.
A few wrong turns and a couple corrections later, we had made it to the exact spot I had mathmatically and strategically planned out just weeks before.
Getting the Nikon all set up, I let my eyes adjust, and glanced up at the Pacific North West sky for the first time in my life.
What my eyes saw, my brain couldn't comprehend. We were covered in the thickest blanket of stars I had ever seen - there didn't even look to be any sky, the stars were so dense, that almost all of the night sky's darkness was completely covered with stars. After being captivated for a few seconds at the number of stars, by brain un-froze itself, and finally began to process something else, the one thing we came out here for.
Painting itself across the night sky like a brush of glactic paint swiped across a black canvas, the Milky Way was touting it's magic as it danced in the presence of a billion stars. Making some quick exposure adjustments, I fired away, trying to capture as many shots of this beauty as I could before our bodies began to turn numb from the wind and the cold.
Making our trip back to our car, we were followed by a set of glowing eyes, giving us either a stealthy goodbye, or a clear warning. Nothing could deter the happiness I had from what my eyes had just witnessed minutes ago, not even the mysterious creature stalking our hike back.