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brigits_flame week 2: Dawn

Prompt: Dawn
Word count: 1050 words
Genre: realism
Warnings: none applicable

Summary: Photography is srs bsns.

The hills rolled silently and invisibly by. Michelle dozed in the passenger seat, awkwardly propping her chin against her hand, then giving up and resting her cheek on the glass. When the vibrations jolted her too much to sleep, she went back to trying to hold up her head.

When she cracked open her eyes, she could just make out the farmland and the darker blotches which must be the hay, bundled up in rolls. The car went down another hill, back up another, headlights illuminating a small triangle in front. Even at this hour in the morning, there were still cars around—trucks, mostly, but some hardy drivers were up too. The highway never slept, it seemed.

She sighed and wished, not for the first time, that she hadn’t been talked into this stupid venture. Photography was all well, but four a.m. was pushing it.

They couldn’t get into the national park at this hour, so Dahlia was driving them off to the provincial park, which was equally picturesque. Michelle’s last memory was driving onto the off-ramp, and then she finally fell asleep again.


“Michelle, we’re here.” Someone shook her shoulder, and Michelle realized that the car had stopped moving, and they were parked in what looked like the middle of nowhere. Well, that was to be expected, she thought blearily. Dahlia, seeing that Michelle was awake, hopped out of the car, letting a blast of cold air in.

The sun was still far from up; Michelle got out of the car, too, shivering as she walked across gravel. They had arrived in the parking lot, so that meant they’d gotten to some sort of provincial park or other. She retrieved her bag, heavy with bottled water and the camera both, and went to investigate the sign at the trail beginning. She swung her flashlight around, seeing only pine trees and rock, dirt and leaves.

“Elbow River canyon again?” she said, once Dahlia had caught up. She shone her flashlight on the rest of the information—the usual warnings about bears and wild animals was posted—and focused on the map. “That’s a long way to go, what time is it?”

“It’s—it’s just past four thirty,” said Dahlia, hoisting her backpack with an audible crinkling sound; they were both dressed in wind-breakers.

“Sunrise is soon,” said Michelle gloomily.

“All the better reason to get moving. Come on.”

Whatever else could be said of the mountains, at least the coldness of the air woke Michelle up. The wide dirt track swiftly narrowed and they walked silently single-file. Under the cover of darkness and trees, it was hard to see anything, although Michelle would flick on her flashlight occasionally to see what had poked her in the leg—the branches of bushes mostly. Her lungs and thighs were beginning to burn with the climb, the straps of her bag cutting into her shoulders.

The trail made switchbacks every once in awhile, and at one of these they rested for a moment, but just long enough to take a proper drink of water and breathe heavily a few minutes. Michelle, now wide-awake, felt all more keenly that the sun was coming, and they were still so far down.

One tiny mountain stream, two, three—the third one, she remembered, was the last one before the real climb started. No matter how many time they hiked this trail, the journey seemed endless. Michelle stared doggedly at Dahlia’s backpack as they climbed. Three streams, then some man-made wooden stairs (installed, perhaps, by the helpful provincial government?) and then they would be on the final stretch.

“Almost there, I think,” said Michelle, and Dahlia said something affirmative, maybe. It was hard to tell; this stretch seemed immensely steeper than all the rest. Even the little downward parts of the path seemed harder than the rest, because it only meant they had to go up again later. The darkness was not quite as opaque as it had been, and it was with immense relief when she saw, up ahead, the trail widening out again to embrace the lake.

In the dark the mountain peak across the lake was indeterminate in shape and size, but the last of the stars were reflected in the lake, so still it looked like a black sheet. Michelle peeled off her gloves and started rifling through her backpack, extracting her camera with some difficulty; it seemed to have gotten buried under everything else.

“We’ve got about fifteen minutes,” said Dahlia, pointing her flashlight at her watch and squinting. “At least if the paper was right.”

“Mmm,” said Michelle, extending the legs of the tripod. The lakeshore was a little too muddy to trust, so she backed into the foliage on the bank, looking for firm land. At least it was summer and there was no snow to contend with. She put the camera on and clicked off a few shots, all of which were black as pitch.

Dahlia was still fussing with her set-up, but Michelle leaned back against a nearby tree and stared at what she thought might be the top of the mountain. The longer she stared, the more she thought that that dark got darker, and she wondered if dawn wouldn’t come at all. And then that would be a waste of a trip, wouldn’t it be?

But it wasn’t, of course. No one had stopped the sun rising yet—by wishing for sunrise or by wishing for no sunrise. “Hey, I think the sky’s turning…something else,” Michelle said, and heard her voice echo across the lake. At this hour of the morning, no one but Dahlia was here to hear the stupid things she said, only the mountain and the trees. Dahlia looked up from fiddling with settings, and grinned.


“I’d better get good photographs,” threatened Michelle. “Or else you’re going to have to find someone else to do this with you.”

“That’s what you said last time.”

The sun came up with all the suddenness that she had never gotten accustomed to in the mountains, and she bent to look through the viewfinder, shuffling the tripod to the side with some awkwardness. “Yes, well…I was wrong, I guess. This is spectacular.”


Loosely based on Rawson Lake, especially the image of the lake and the mountains: here's a good photograph of what it looks like in the summer here. It really is as spectacular as it looks, and makes hiking there worth it.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:48 am (UTC)
Hahah, I was going to DEMAND pics... and then clicked on End Notes!! so THANK YOU... it was a lovely story... that AWFUL early bit... eeurrgh - the body all wrong and still asleep.

But.. then there was... those mountains. WONDERFUL. thanks so much!!!
Apr. 15th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
The best times for photography are supposed to be dawn/dusk, because of the light. But some places are just spectacular :)

I feel like such a Canadian. I miss the Rockies.
Apr. 21st, 2013 10:51 am (UTC)
But there is so much in Canada. From the rocky coastlines of the Maritime to the forests of the Laurentides Mountains of Quebec to the Sleeping Giant of Thunder Bay to the still awe of Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island. Sorry, I will shush now.

Edited at 2013-04-21 11:04 am (UTC)
Apr. 23rd, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, no, you are right! The place I live is still big city, but the lake's not far and the north is pure Shield country--lots of rocks, small lakes, really beautiful in the fall. I still like the mountains best though.

The forests in BC are jawdropping. With all the mist and fog, driving through them is exacty like a fairyland, complete with the requisite elf-wood.
Apr. 15th, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
Wow, that scenery is gorgeous. I'm not one for hiking, but that tempts even me to want to go!
Apr. 15th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
The scenery really makes up for the hike :)
Apr. 18th, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC)
I need to go to this place. Thank you for taking me there! Lovely!
Apr. 19th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
You should definitely go! Kananaskis country, Alberta - maybe an hour and a half's drive out of Calgary. Really, really beautiful. (But bring a bottle of water on the way up, because the hike always feels like foreeeeever.)
Apr. 21st, 2013 11:15 am (UTC)
dodos rolling out the edit wagon,he pauses
Good day then. Your friendly editor here, once again what one is to say. Especially after the personal memories the photograph brought back. Overall a well written piece so let me proceed to the quibbles,eh?

"the trail beginning." Something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to twist the words around to "the beginning of the trail." Or being more precise..the trailhead?

The lake looking like a black sheet. Would it not have looked more like a black sheet if there were NOT stars reflected in it? I used to get almost dizzy looking into glacier lakes on a cloudless night. It was though the sky itself was mirrored...ah but which was the mirror?

It also felt a bit like the story was in two parts. The hike and the photo session. The latter being much shorter. I would suggest (and this is just an opinion) either blending them more or extending the second part so it is as fleshed as the second. Just a thought.

Again, overall very well written, and made me a bit envious, stuck here in a city with no transportation to get out of it.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: dodos rolling out the edit wagon,he pauses
Thank you so much for the edit! You're right about the integration; I'll have to think about that.
Apr. 22nd, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
Editor Two Reporting for Duty
Just to say...sorry I'm wiped out today! Two emergencies in one day and I'm brain dead as a result. So sorry, but it means I'll be a day late with the editing comments. I'll be back tomorrow though, when I can do your story justice.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Editor Two Reporting for Duty
No sweat, take your time!
Apr. 23rd, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Editor Two Reporting for Duty
Editing Comments

This took me back (used to live in Calgary, so I know the spot)!

I've read your first editor's comments and won't repeat anything said there.


I enjoyed this. It is a complete story (which I always prefer to mere scenes). The reluctance to get up early and walk a cold dark trail comes through clearly; the reason - the utterly stupendous beauty of a mountain sunrise - also comes through. However, I wish a little more had been made of the sunris; the ending seems a little lame after all that build-up.

Specific Detals

She retrieved her bag, heavy with bottled water and the camera both, and.... I particularly liked the phrasing of this.

the usual warnings about bears and wild animals was posted This should either be 'warnings...were' or 'warning...was' - aswritten you have mixed singular and plural.

No matter how many time Should be 'times'.

she had never gotten accustomed Try 'become accustomed'. You used 'gotten' in a sentence above and it is better not to keep repeating the same verb.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Editor Two Reporting for Duty
AH HA, another Calgarian! I miss the mountains so much sometimes.

I think you're right about the ending. I actually think this would probably work better in visual medium--the payoff is the sunrise, but it's, hm, it's not coming through here, you're right.

Thank you for all your helpful comments!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



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