Before Sunrise

All, From the Field

When I tell people that I report to work at 6 a.m., I get a range of reactions from wild disbelief to groans of “I could never…” Admittedly, it takes a little adjusting to get up before 5 a.m. And like most modern human beings, I do my adjusting with coffee.

In Great Parks’ Operations department, we have to stay one step ahead of our park guests. Not only are we maintaining high standards at facilities, playgrounds and wet playgrounds, we’re ensuring that the parks and roads are safe. Trees fall across roads and powerlines during the night and animals do animal things like strew trash about, leave droppings on the pavement and occasionally eat one another, leaving a furry or feathery mess behind. Inclement weather often blows in just before dawn, and we’re not far behind it, loading salt into the hopper and connecting the plows.


Sunrise from a park road at Woodland Mound (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

While all of this sounds exciting, to be honest, most mornings are pretty routine. We go about unlocking gates and buildings, turning on lights, rounding up tools and materials, checking oil, filling tires and adjusting the cut of a reel. When the weather turns cold, our keys pause before ignition to pre-heat the diesel engines, clicking away until the yellow indicator light fades when the block is warm enough to turn over.

Sunrise at Steamboat Bend, Woodland Mound (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

A winter sunrise at Steamboat Bend, Woodland Mound (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

Of course we are doing these routine things in remarkable and often awe-inspiring settings. I am particularly fond of those cool, crisp autumn mornings when Venus and the Moon are paired closely on the horizon. Even after all these years, peering up into the Milky Way on a clear morning still fills me with wonder. If you time it right, you can see the International Space Station pass overhead.

I’ve seen all manner of wildlife before sunrise. Foxes, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, owls and bats. Driving in through the park, you see the reflection of eyes on the tree line of nocturnal species heading back to the nest, calling it a night, tails disappearing into the brush. In the morning, the spider webs are undisturbed and the dew hasn’t burned off yet. Your footprints are the first across a green, except maybe for a rabbit or deer.

A morning guest at Woodland Mound (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

A morning guest at Woodland Mound (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

In the heat of summer, before dawn can be the coolest hours of the day and a much-needed respite from the blazing heat and humidity. And I have no doubt that we see way more sunrises that the general public. All of those pink, red and orange displays keep me getting out of bed.

Getting up before sunrise isn’t for everyone. I know not everyone is wowed by my nature musings or our maintenance duties, so I tell those folks that getting up before five has other advantages, including light traffic during the commute both ways, getting home earlier than most, eating lunch well before noon and, consequently, being ready to eat dinner at four o’clock.

The day begins for Operation staff well before dawn (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

The day begins for Great Parks’ staff well before dawn (Photo courtesy of Dale Steele)

There’s that thing that Ben Franklin said…how does it go? “Early to bed, early to rise…” I think I speak for my Operations sisters and brothers when I say that the hardest part about getting up before sunrise is…going to bed! But for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Brad Salyers, Crewleader, Woodland Mound