End of a year, start one anew

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time for the best holiday: New Year’s.
A time of endings and of beginnings. When you get to reflect on the past year and hope for next year. A time for great personal reflection in the hopes of being better than you were yesteryear and to be better than you are now in the future. I have always been a fan of New Year’s time, not the ball drop or the late night parties, but the recognition of a great change. Likewise I am a fan of the solstices and with the Winter Solstice now behind us, we are moving towards longer days here in this Northern Hemisphere. 

With the combined effort of a major change and the lengthening days, things are really looking up. But there’s also pressure about whether you are starting the year off right. Thankfully, I believe our state of Maine has the coolest way to greet the New Year!

All that the light touches (or first)

Our little state has the distinction of being the Easternmost part of the United States. This affords us certain privileges such as subscribing to Eastern Standard Time even though Atlantic Standard Time would be better for us, being thought of as a piece of Canada, we are the first US state to see the sun. In the summer, the sunrise can be seen first from Mars Hill, Maine. But in the winter that honor goes to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park! That means that we get a chance to greet the New Year before anyone else in the country, how empowering.

Why would I ever want to do that?

In 2017, I was enlightened to this information and decided to drag my friend Douglas with me to see the first sunrise of 2018. No ball-dropping, New York centric party for us. No classic Belfast Bonfire. We slept through Midnight and drove to Bar Harbor in pursuit of a more tangible start to the year. All those winter hiking tips were fully enforced and a billion layers were worn. But Doug and I were determined to freeze our butts off with a big crowd of other crazy people who wanted this experience!

Walk me up it pal

Doug and I left Belfast at two a.m to arrive for a 7:08 sunrise. The early morning proved no issue and thankfully it was late enough that the crazies were off the road (or were we on it?). Finding where to park certainly wasn’t an issue because plenty of other people have made our same pilgrimage. We decided to walk up the road as it afforded better footing and was a faster ascent and when we started breaking treeline it was as if we had run into everyone. There was a whole crown of folks trudging up the road to get to the top in preparation for that sunny goal. Little did we know, the smart ones stayed under the treeline until the last minute. 

We, being the not smart ones, ascended to the peak and enjoyed the brisk breeze. A brisk breeze which continued to get colder and faster as we waited. Temps around 0 F and a wind which pushed it to somewhere around -30F, we should have waited out of that wind. But stubborn and close to our goal we ignored the inside of our mittens freezing and the buffeting gusts. Thankfully, we were not the only hooligans with little care for the temperature because all around us were people in small groups chilling out.
The sunrise took longer than we had hoped for, but it was better than you can imagine. Getting to see the light break through the darkness and experience a wave of warmth, from the light and the excitement of the crowd was a magical experience. Slowly at first and then all at once the sun rose from the horizon in a deep orange that turns the blackest night purple as it opens up the sky. The hooping and hollering of our fellow silly folk was electric and one group had saved their New Year’s champagne for this chance. 

A different way to see the change

Doug and I were so excited to feel the change of the year. A change that actually happens every morning, but theoretically breaks anew on January 1st. More tangible than our clocks striking midnight in the pitch dark, our internal clocks struck a new year with raising of our hopes with the sun.

But I do have to say, we were pretty quick to run back down Cadillac Mountain in the hopes of warming up. I ditched my frozen mittens for two layers of wool socks on my hands and I cradled my icicle hands well as were hiked our way down. One thing you wouldn’t think when you wait so long in the cold is that the sun rises so quickly once it breaks the horizon. The change in the sky that we had watched for hours broke into clear blue in a matter of minutes as we started our journey back down Cadillac.

Change for the Better

This was a fantastic experience that I hope to do again. I’m hoping to try again this year if I can make it to work on time! Getting to welcome in the New Year outside and in the light is a fundamentally different feeling than waiting for the clock to strike midnight. It feels like a tangible change by coming together to celebrate and seeing the shift in your environment. A tangible change that will start the year on a high note and encourage a wonderful New Year. I hope my story has inspired you to check out the first sunrise of the New Year.

 

Ethan Merrifield is a reader, a runner and, now, a writer. Always active and looking for ways to challenge himself – outdoors and intellectually – he has returned to Midcoast Maine after college and is searching for his next adventure.

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