I awoke sharply from the null of my alarm echoing in the illuminated corner of the room. I Quickly hoisted myself out of my sleeping bag, and strode across the cool cement floor towards the blinding light. The light revealed the large wooden beams of the frame structure in our rainforest bungalow room. After turning my alarm off as to not wake my roommates, the room fell into complete darkness and the heavy morning rain echoed throughout the space as it bounced off of the paper thin metal roof. The shrilling cry of a flock of cockatoos brought me into full consciousness as I began getting dressed for my early morning Australian adventure.
I slid on a pair of running shorts, a lightweight long sleeve tee, and grabbed a handful of bandaids to patch up my blood blisters covering my feet before slipping on my hiking shoes. I slid my daypack containing my hydroflask, a rain jacket, my Go Pro, and bug spray over my shoulder. Before stepping out the door, I fastened my headlamp around my forehead and ponytail, then flickered on the highest setting. As my hand quietly turned open the hatch door of the bungalow, a gust of misty and cool air immediately brushed against my face. I paused on the deck of the bungalow for a moment to get my bearings, and then peered at the large leafy plants and palms in front of me. The light from the moon above was absorbed in the large leaves, and helped guide me down a rocky path to the Magnetic Island hostel main area, where I would meet up with others in the group.
Not everyone from our original group of 6 who committed to the hike showed up, but Jess and Max arrived and we prided ourselves in waking up despite the strong urge to stay in our warm beds. In a drowsy but ancipating state, the three of us took off in the van towards the Fort’s Walk trailhead, a quick 2 km drive up the road. As I struggled to keep my eyes open, I ate an apple and granola bar to ensure I would have the energy I needed to complete the hike ahead. On this day, we decided to race the sunrise up the popular Fort’s Walk trail to a viewing area surrounded by old WWII military forts and infrastructure. (This trail is on Magnetic Island: an island 8 km off the coast of Townsville, Australia. This island is impressively home to one of Australia’s largest koala populations.)
As we took off for our race to beat the sunrise to the top of the Forts Walk, we ascended up a very steep inclined and winding trail for 4 km through thick bushland containing “dry wattles” and pockets of eucalyptus trees. With headlamps on, we struggled to keep conversation as we were all short in breath and quickly grew accustomed to a burning sensation in our calves. As we strode at a quick pace in order to ensure the ability to have a perfect sunset viewing location, eucalyptus trees and long grasses against the hillside starkly contrasted against the brightening sky in shades of pink and orange. We looked for koalas in the tree tops, but were unsuccessful in our search. Max revealed to Jess and I a trick for spotting spiders with our headlamps during the night, which I quickly learned was a piece of advice I could definitley live without!
Finally, after a long hike up we arrived to a group of rounded stones under the base of the military forts on the island. We turned our headlamps off, and waited facing the horizon for the sun to break over the ocean. However, as our surroundings started to be revealed by the bright light, huge thick storm clouds dominated the sky overhead. Tones of pink slowly began to show in the clouds, and we were hopeful for seeing a sunrise, but still nothing. As we sat in silence taking in the 360 views of the island, we soon realized that maybe our chances of seeing a sunrise were limited due to weather constraints. We then made our way up winding rock staircases to the actual forts and old command posts. These cement buildings blended in well to the granite island, and were well concealed with large trees surrounding them.
As we sat atop the forts, the sky began to take on shades of pink and orange. The colors then spread to the rocks, the cement buildings, and even our clothing and skin. I looked down at my hands, and then over to the skin on Jess’ face, and our tanned skin suddenly looked light pink. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and although it only lasted around 10 minutes as the sun was rising behind the clouds, it was the most memorable sunrise hike I had ever experienced. We took in the 360 views of the fringing reefs, boulder strewn headlands, hoop pines, and sandy beaches. A light misty rain covered our rain jackets in small droplets.
There’s something special about the connection to nature you can experience during early mornings in the outdoors. The sense of clarity of thought in the morning is incomparable to other outdoor experiences.
Although we had done everything right in our power to experience an amazing sun rise over the ocean that day, it just wasn’t in the cards for us. However, we did get to experience a magical morning light, and we also gained a new perspective on Magnetic Island. Things don’t always turn out the way you would expect, but regardless, morning adventures and early starts never disappoint.