An Adirondack Sunrise | St. Regis Mountain

By: Justin Levine – Adirondack Council Communications and Outreach Assistant
Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m., and I rather angrily sat up in bed knowing, that if I hit snooze, I wouldn’t actually get up again. Stumbling downstairs in the dark, trying not to wake up the rest of the family, I started the coffee pot and looked at the thermometer. It read a disheartening 39 degrees.

I’ve climbed St. Regis Mountain well over 100 times in the last 20 years, and it’s by far my favorite hike. But this was the first time I planned on hiking up in the dark (I’ve hiked down in the dark quite a few times), and with sunrise just a few hours away, I didn’t have time to dawdle. Or so I thought.

I pounded coffee like it was the Nectar of the Gods on the short drive to the trailhead and thanked the past me for being smart enough to pack everything I needed – including a headlamp and extra batteries, extra clothes, food, and water, and microspikes for traction just in case - and put it in the car the night before. I threw on my pack, fired up the headlamp, and double-checked to make sure I had a thermos of coffee for the summit before starting out.

Even with vast experience on this one particular mountain, hiking in the dark can be a little unnerving. Was that a stick that fell behind me or a blood-thirsty black bear trying to fatten up before winter? Was that reflection up ahead the eye of an animal stalking me or just a trail marker? Despite the mild heebie-jeebies, I made my way up the trail in the dark, honestly worrying more about slipping on some wet leaves than any maniacal killer.

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After making it to the top in good condition, I set my pack down and gulped some more coffee. It was cold and windy but pretty much clear as a bell with just some wispy clouds moving across the sky as an almost full moon shone brightly.

I figured I would have a little time at the top in the dark before the sun came up, but I ended up having more than an hour. I climbed the tower and walked around a little, and then set up my camera to take some night shots, all while still enjoying that coffee and thankful that I had gloves, a winter hat, and an extra fleece shirt to put on.

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At about 6:15, the sky in the east started to get a little lighter, and I didn’t need my headlamp to move around. I went up in the fire tower again and after a few minutes heard a couple of voices. Two women emerged from the trees and celebrated reaching the top before sunrise. I said “Hi,” and we all eagerly awaited the cresting of the sun over Whiteface and Esther mountains - me moving around to keep warm and take pictures, they snuggled cozily under a blanket.

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The sunrise was incredible, as expected. The leaves weren’t quite at peak fall foliage yet, but they were red, yellow, and orange. There was a layer of clouds filling all the valleys around St. Regis while the sky above had few if any, clouds.

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As the sun’s rays grew brighter and the air warmed up, the women said goodbye and began their descent, while I stayed at the top to watch the sun go up more and more. After about three wonderful hours on the summit, I packed up and made my way back down the mountain, satisfied with some great pictures and a new experience in an old favorite place.

The Adirondack Council is a proud Community Partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Please recreate responsibly, and help us protect the Adirondack Park for future generations.


Justin Levine

Justin Levine joined the Council staff in 2021 as the Communications and Outreach Assistant. He previously worked as a regional marketing manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and was an award-winning journalist and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News. Since graduating from Paul Smith’s College in 2004, Justin has worked in the environmental field in various roles in both the Adirondacks and Florida. When not working, Justin loves spending time with his family, running, and doing all the outdoor things the Park has to offer.

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