Why dawn patrol’s got nothing on heading out at dusk

At some point, dawn patrol became a part of proving that you were a “real mountain person.” If you lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you ate Glory laps for breakfast. If you lived in Denver, you’d skin up Berthoud Pass before you went to the office.

Getting up early and getting your skiing time in (or biking time, or climbing time, or surfing time) moved past bragging rights into something standard.

Sunsets outrank rises. Photo: Nitish Meena

Sunsets outrank rises. Photo: Courtesy of Nitish Meena

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But as someone who really loves early mornings, I think dawn patrol comes with some downsides. Even if you’re the kind of person who likes to get up early, it automatically puts you on a schedule. You have to be back at some point, so you’re fighting the clock.

Every sidestep, or stop for coffee, cuts into your fun time. There’s some underlying stress.

And then there’s the fact that you have to go to work. Sure, there’s some nice smugness in showing up at the office in your ski gear or salty from the ocean, but that means you have to sit around in salt and/or sweat all day. (Or shower and change in a manky work bathroom.)

Waiting to go down in the dark. Photo: Nitish Meena

Waiting to go down in the dark. Photo: Courtesy of Nitish Meena

You also have to fight commuter traffic, which is notoriously bad in a lot of mountainside cities (looking at you, Seattle).

But I get the desire to get out on weekdays. I’m not bashing people who are devoted to dawn patrol; I just think there’s a better way to do it than being slimy and hangry at your desk.

Recently, I’ve switched modes to dusk patrol: I ditch out of work a little early and head to the closest mountain or trail.

I have friends who do the same for mountain biking. When the days are shorter, they set out with bright lights so they don’t have to worry about when they come home.

When I was a kid, we used to go night skiing on tiny New England hills after school, and this kind of feels exciting in the same way, like you’re getting a mini vacation.

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Getting out when the sun is going down instead of coming up frees you from time constraints and from having to fight traffic. You can take another lap, hit another trail if you want and have as many beers as is sensible. (Which I guess you could do before work. I guess.)

I’d even recommend taking it a step further: Bring out a grill and a fire pit, and set them up in the parking lot. It’s the perfect way to cap off a workday, and I’m pretty sure you won’t think about the work you have to do the next day at all.