Waking up for sunrise has always been one my favorite things to do. Today was no different.

We had an almost 700 mile drive ahead of us and it was 4 AM. Coffee was brewing, our car was packed to the brim. Our plan was to stop at Maryhill Stonehenge for sunrise on the way out of Portland, for our long journey to Glacier National Park. With coffee mugs in hand, we got out of the door around 4:30 AM.

The Gorge is one of the most beautiful drives and it’s right outside of the city. The only problem with the drive during this hour, it was dark. Really dark, like pitch black dark. Regardless, we threw on some music and were on our way. Neither of us had ever been to Maryhill Stonehenge so we were beyond excited. This entire trip, we would visit all sorts of places neither of us had ever ever been. We felt this would be a great beginning to a trip full of new experiences.

As we passed Hood River, the sky slowly filled with a cool crisp glow that would soon be followed by what we call “first light.” Watching the sky get brighter and brighter, I come to the realization that we wouldn’t be able to make it to our initial sunrise destination. Shortly after a minor panic sets in, I see signs for Rowena Crest. This was a location I was overly familiar with. I knew exactly how to get there and what to expect at the viewpoint. This is one of the most photographed roads in the Pacific Northwest. So much so that it has it’s own tag on Instagram, #thatnwroad. Regardless of how much a specific location is photographed, I’m still constantly amazed by its views. Being in nature really is something special.

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Fueled by excitement we made it to the parking area. I loaded up my camera gear and we walked up to the viewpoint. The sun had just peeked out from behind Mt. Hood. The first bit of light had cut through the trees and covered part of the road in this warm orange light. Feeling the cold breeze against our faces, we sat there and watched the sun rise. This is always my favorite part when I’m out on an adventure like this. It’s totally quiet. Pure silence. No sounds of cars honking, construction trucks beeping or engines roaring. So quiet you can hear yourself think. It really is amazing. Feeling the stress lift off your shoulders and forgetting any problems you might have in your life at that moment.

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These are the moments I want to capture with my photography. When I look back at my photos, I want to remember this. I want to remember the peacefulness while we watched the sun wash over this beautiful scenery, filled with running rivers and green forests. This world is filled with beauty. Remembering moments like these reminds me of how much of that beauty I still have yet to explore.

Words and photography by Silas Sao