While we are a few weeks away from the advent of wildflower season, I thought I’d spend a few words reminiscing about my favorite sunrises I’ve been fortunate enough to both witness and photograph. I do a lot of research before heading out to a location, and I check several weather apps (NWS, WeatherUnderground, Accuweather, and local forecasts), as well as windy.com. Planning ahead helps me mitigate the loss of time if the weather is bad. The forecasts are not always correct, but at least I have a good idea of what I’m preparing for when rolling out of bed or the sleeping back to hit the trail well when it is still dark outside.
That being said, here a few of my favorite experience, as influenced by both the sky’s color and the location and landscape …
5 October Autumn at Caldwell Pier
If you’ve been to Port Aransas, odds are you’ve strolled by Caldwell Pier. This icon of Port Aransas Beach attracts fishermen and sightseers. My favorite time to take in the sandy sights along this path is either early morning or sunset when the beach is less crowded. One cool October morning, I brought my young daughter out with me when it was still dark. Using a flashlight, she chased sand crabs as the light began to slowly creep above the horizon. The sky changed into wonderful tones of pink and purple. Both high and low clouds moved in different directions, soaking up the sun’s first light in creating an amazing start to a Port Aransas morning.
4 Late September Sunrise in the Hill Country 2
Closer to my home in the Hill Country, I love exploring the banks of the Pedernales River. Mornings are my favorite time here as anyone in the park is usually still sleeping and I have the entire stretch of river to myself. I know the area well, and I know where I like to photograph given different situations. On this morning in September, the air was calm, so I headed to quiet pools that almost always offer perfect reflections when the wind is calm. As daylight progressed, the first light illuminated the clouds while their reflection appeared in mirror-like fashion in the water. I love mornings like this. (*Unfortunately, now Pedernales Falls State Park has added a gate to their property, and locals like me are not allowed in before 8am despite the fact that I have a parks’ pass.)
3 Bluebonnet Glory, Big Bend NP 124
Big Bend National Park is one of my favorite places in Texas. The remoteness and rugged beauty appeal to me, and I love exploring the less-well-known areas. In the spring of 2019, the Big Bend region experienced a super bloom of bluebonnets. Longtime locals said it was the most prolific display of bluebonnets they’d ever witnessed. I was fortunate enough to spend nearly 14 days out there that spring exploring and take in the swaths of blue that flowed down the red-sandy slopes. One cold morning I knew the sunrise had some potential, so I headed to an area on the west end of the park covered in bluebonnets. The morning did not disappoint. With the distant Cerro Castellan rising over 3000’ into the early spring air, the sky above turned orange and gold for a few brief moments… not a scene I will soon forget.
2 Wildflower Sunrise 402-1
It was no April Fools on the first day of April when the sky above this ranch southeast of San Antonio turned all sorts of red and gold. With permission from the owner, I was allowed access to this private land on multiple occasions. On this morning, the temperature was near freezing, and some of the more delicate flowers were frozen in a thin layer of frost. Still, while my freezing fingers grew numb, the sky transitioned from dark to red to orange and into blue. The mix of wildflowers – bluebonnets, paintbrush, phlox, primrose, and many others - created a beautiful palette of color beneath a wonderful beginning of the day.
1 The Solitario from Fresno Canyon
I’d probably rank this sunrise as the best I’ve ever seen. Far out in a remote part of Big Bend Ranch State Park, the Fresno Canyon overlook offers an unparalleled view of the wide canyon below as well as the Solitario, a large geologic dome formation (laccolith) that covers about 52 square miles. This location is an 8+ hour drive from my home – not exactly an easy commute – and the last 30 miles is down a bumpy dirt road. I’d been to this area once before for sunrise, but the timing was not great and sunrise conditions not so conducive for photography. On this visit, I car-camped about 20 minutes from the trailhead in the back of my 4Runner while rain poured down and thunder rumbled across the Chihuahuan desert. Arising about 430am to a light sprinkle, but more importantly, clouds that seemed to be breaking up just a bit, I made the drive, then the 2.5-mile hike in the dark in order to reach the overlook. A short time later, a slit in the clouds on the horizon let through the first traces of light. From that point, an orange and red glow slowly spread across the sky and the heavens lit up like a furnace, blazing across the changing clouds above. The colors lasted longer than usual, and I had about 15 minutes to shoot several perspectives of this amazing morning. For more images from this morning, please visit my Big Bend Ranch gallery.
So many other beautiful sunrises come to mind when looking back over the years. The ones listed here are just a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy these views of Texas.
Safe travels, my friends.