In the summer, when the monsoon rains come to the mountains of northern New Mexico, mornings are typically clear and bright, clouds start to build by lunchtime, and thunderheads burst sometime in the afternoon. It often clears again later, but the evening and night air hangs humid and heavy over the mountains, ready for the next day’s cycle. In the coolest temperatures just before dawn, as the air moves across the mountains, this moisture condenses into thin layers of broken clouds, and the sky is primed to catch the light of a new day. To see the sight, one only need rise with the sun and look out your window. But to truly grasp the magnitude of the spectacle of a northern New Mexico sunrise, I prefer a loftier perch.
I usually get up about an hour before sunrise, make a quick mug of coffee, take the short, 15-minute drive up into the mountains, and start hiking just as the sky is starting to show light. I’ve got the timing down now, so I usually hit the far east side of the mountain, a little below 10,000 feet, a few minutes before the first shades of orange appear on the horizon. With an unobstructed view, out over the valley to the Sangre de Cristo Range, I watch the purple sky in the east begin to stretch west and encroach on the last remnants of night. And the slivers of orange and yellow and pink on the horizon burst forth, setting fire to the sky and creating a textured patchwork of bright orange and shadowed purple pastels on the underside of the clouds, while the earth remains a black and blue layering of silhouetted landscapes. It only lasts for a few minutes, but in that moment, it is easy to forget your trials and troubles down low, and lose yourself in the diverse color palette of a new day.
Sunrise from Pajarito Mountain; Jemez Mountains, New Mexico
NatureSkyscapeSunriseMountainsJemez MountainsNew Mexico