Sunday, November 30, 2014

I Got Yer Alpenglow Right Here!

For most of my hiking and backpacking career I kept hearing about this thing called "alpenglow". It apparently is this type of sunlight that can only be seen for a few brief and magical seconds every afternoon at sunset (and, some say, at sunrise). Since I'd spent my whole life in the outdoors here in the East I was told that there was no alpenglow. That it could only be seen in "real" high country, such as that in the American west, or in the European Alps (from whence the name), or in other such very high mountain regions.

Well, shee-it, I figgered. I'd have to hail for points far afield to ever see this here "alpenglow".

Finally, I got my chance to visit California in the 90s. Somehow, though, I never saw this magical light show. Well, I was in the peaks south of the Sierra, so maybe they don't have it there, I decided. Better luck some other time and some other spot.

In 2010 I went to Yellowstone. I intentionally hung around the mountains in late afternoon just a-huntin' fer that thar alpenglow. No luck. Well, shee-it. Perhaps the mountains have to be over 11,000 feet high and not the measly 10,600 feet where I was looking.

Then, in 2012 I went backpacking in the San Juans in Colorado. Peaks there higher than 14,000 feet! If I was going to be able to see this phenomenon in the lower 48, then this had to be the joint!

Finally, my hiking companions called out one late afternoon! "Alpenglow! On the peaks! Aplenglow!"

So I went a-runnin' with my trusty camera and looked up.

Okay. So that's it. Alpenglow. Yes, it's gorgeous. Yes, it's pretty. Indeed it is nice to see the red and orange and gold of the filtered sunlight striking those lofty summits.

And what a load of shit I'd been fed for fifty goddamned years. Alpenglow is nothing more than the same, exact sunlight I'd seen uncounted times when hiking in my native South or in the Northeast.


Fuck that shit.

Alpenglow, Chicago Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Alpenglow, Seneca Rock, West Virginia.

I got yer alpenglow right here! Sharp Top, Peaks of Otter, Virginia.

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