Sunrise Formals Fiasco | Mountain Car Break-In

Feb 14, 2024

Imagine this. You are driving up the side of a dormant volcano somewhere in rural Idaho. There is a deep glow of orange and pink on the horizon, the tease of a fiery sunrise about to appear. You woke up at three in the morning to make it to this spot in time for the sun to rise, and you are almost there. As you crest the last turn of the steep drive, you all of a sudden come upon the most epic and surreal sunrise of your life. In the excitement, you all jump from the car and run to the cliff’s edge to get a better look.

That is not before you hear an ominous *click* of all the car doors being locked automatically behind you, the keys, phones, the wedding dress, and the camera still in the car. The three of you slowly turn around in horror, the realization hitting all at once.

Emma is one of my best friends from birth, so there was not a day more exciting for me than the day she got engaged and I knew she found the forever love of her life. When we talked about wedding photos, I brought up this cliffside I had found on one of my scouting drives in Idaho, and she was all game. The first plan was to do it on a Friday night. We drove up that evening and were all ready to go when a freak hail storm stopped us in our tracks, halfway up the mountainside, without the visibility to turn around. We ended up shooting just a few photos in the rain for a first look before we deemed it too dangerous to make it to the mountain summit.

With only two potential days to shoot before Emma and Ethan drove back down to Utah, we were on a time crunch against a stormy weekend. When I saw that there was one clear sunrise, on the day they were to head home, I knew we had to take it.

So I launched the plan. We would have to get up around 3:00 AM and be on the road by 3:30 in order to make it up the mountain in time for the prime lighting. I knew there would be no one else there on this early Sunday morning (because who is insane enough for that??) and was really excited to have the mountain to ourselves. We would all drive in the same car, Emma’s car, since there was no service and I didn’t want anyone to get lost on the drive up the dirt road.

Whelp, flash forward to driving up the mountain, and seeing the most epic sunrise ever. When we realized our mistake of locking ourselves out of the car, I felt the immediate dread rise up in me. Not only were the keys, dress, and camera in the car, but also all three of our phones, and we were at least twelve miles (and an arduous hike in bear country, unprepared) away from the the nearest potential sign of people.

After a few minutes of deliberation, and the sunrise coming fast, we came to the conclusion that nobody was going to be coming up this mountain until MAYBE the evening, as I had seen some people recreationally Razor up the mountain on previous trips up. So unless we hiked down the mountain, that would be the first chance we’d get to get back into town to call a car company to unlock it, and with no food, water, or way to tell our families why we were going to be gone all day, the crazy decision was made to break into the car.

Our first attempt to break into the car was feeble. We chose the back left window, as it was big enough for someone to crawl through and would (hopefully) be less expensive and intrusive than one of the front side windows. The top of this mountain was littered with large rocks, so we thought we could break the window by throwing the rocks at it. These rocks however, were volcanic rocks. Porous, lightweight, volcanic rocks that didn’t even make a scratch, even when held in a fist and forcibly hit into the window. It was pretty quickly realized that that would not work.

It was at this point that we started running around the nearby area on the summit looking for anything else that could work. And then, to our astonishment, we found our saving tool. A metal bar the size of a baseball bat that had been left by a construction company that had worked on the weather tower earlier in the summer. It was perfect. We couldn’t even believe our eyes at our blessed luck.

Still racing against the light, Ethan starting on smashing in the window. Within a few hits, we were able to pull out the rest of the glass, and I slid in through the window to unlock the rest of the doors.

My camera bag covered in broken glass, the sun barely cresting the horizon, and my bride Emma now in her gown and ready to go, we ran to the cliffside to start photographing. The craziness of the morning aside, the love between Ethan and Emma was so tangible once they were just focused on each other and their upcoming wedding. It was an unreal start to the day, and just the wildest two day adventure in our attempts for the epic and romantic photos. On our drive home (and with the wind from the vacant window whipping my face), I asked them if it was worth it. They gave a wholehearted yes and I couldn’t be more grateful with the outcome of this whole journey.

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