Dawn patrol is the practice of heading out before sunrise and beginning the day with a paddle, run, ski, hike, or whatever form of outdoor adventure you most crave. Crawling out of bed into the cold and making your way to the trailhead in darkness requires deep motivation, commitment and prior planning — but the payoff is enormous. Set the alarm, ready your things the night before, and see for yourself how dawn patrol sets the stage for a fulfilling and invigorating lifestyle. Here are ten reasons for Asheville explorers to head for the hills before daybreak.
1. You Don’t Have to Travel Far
One of Asheville’s greatest assets is its proximity to the wilderness. Your morning mission could take you as far away as Cataloochee Ski Area or as nearby as Richmond Hill Park. Ease yourself into the realm of dawn patrol with a sunrise run on a greenway, work your way up to a trail run at Bent Creek, or take an illuminated ride at Pisgah. When the Blue Ridge Parkway is shut down in the winter, it creates a beautiful track of clean snow (469 miles long) for hiking and cross-country skiing. Whatever gets your heart beating and fills your lungs with fresh air makes a suitable morning conquest.
2. Achieve the Coveted Work/Life Balance
Achieving a healthy work/life balance is very possible in a small city such as Asheville. When your life is partly defined by outdoor adventure, however, the limited daylight of winter does present a challenge. Practice alarm clock discipline, arm yourself with warm layers and a headlamp, and fearlessly face the pre-dawn darkness to infuse each day with outdoor endeavors before you even clock in.
3. Appreciate the Comforts of the Office
There’s nothing like coming in from the cold to help you appreciate everyday luxuries so often taken for granted. Those first few lungfuls of frigid mountain air might feel harsh, but dawn patrol will help you revel in the comforts of office life as you never have before: placid temperatures, hot water, your lumbar-supporting office chair. Even that brown bag lunch you brought from home will be a source of gleeful anticipation to your stoked appetite.
4. Catch a Blue Ridge Sunrise
Greeting the dawn is one of the healthiest rituals you can incorporate into your life, and the ethereal Blue Ridge Mountain range puts on a truly spectacular sunrise. Catch the show from Mt. Mitchell State Park, Sam’s Knob, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or any place where you can glimpse those first rays. The tranquility, awe, and invigoration you experience will fuel you straight through your 9 to 5.
5. Shoot Stunning Photos
Western North Carolina is photogenic. But Western North Carolina at sunrise is really, really photogenic. Dawn patrol can yield some breathtaking captures: silhouettes and sun rays, the delicate colors of dawn seeping through the forest or brightening the streets, and you (in a glorious selfie), looking burly and alive in the first light of day.
6. Stick to Your Exercise Plan
Experts agree that the most effective way to stick to a workout plan is to exercise first thing in the morning. So while you’re outside, being uplifted by nature and extolling in the many virtues of dawn patrol, you’re turning this healthy practice into part of your daily routine and upping the chances of meeting your fitness goals.
7. Avoid a Congested Commute
Don’t hit that snooze button: the earlier you’re up and at ’em, the emptier the roads. Asheville’s growing traffic issues are never as apparent as they are during peak commuting hours. By heading into the mountains before dawn, not only will you skip the morning commute, you’ll also save yourself from battling post-work traffic as you try to make it to Bent Creek before nightfall.
8. Coffee in the Mountains…
Coffee tastes better on the side of a mountain or sipped from a thermos as you stroll alongside the French Broad river. That pleasant caffeinated buzz hits you harder when mixed with fresh air and exercise endorphins. Simply put, dawn patrol coffee is one of life’s most amazing offerings. Enjoy it as often as possible.
9. …Espresso in the City
You’re back in town and ready to start the work day….but not until you’ve finished a second cup, this one purveyed at one of Asheville’s many coffee shops. Treat yourself to an espresso and a glazed twist; after all, it’s 9 a.m. and you’ve already earned it.
10. The Breakfast Beer
If your morning conquest somehow turns into a full blown snow day, this is the perfect time to try out a “breakfast brew.”
Featured image provided by Caleb Morris