5:23 amWe're kicking up the dusty dirt from the lowest place on earth, just south of the Dead Sea, walking towards the moonlit mass of Masada. My breath is short as the dry air sucks away moisture from my lungs and skin. We briskly take to the rocky, snaking trail encircled by dune mountains that trick the eye. The deceptively massive peaks give the illusion of closeness, as if we could simply reach out and grasp the steep cliffs, the sharp overhangs, the bulging rocks. Yet as we begin the rigorous ascent, we soon realize that we are far, far away from the top of this mountain fortress.
5:42 amArid desert air scrapes at my throat, short painful breaths accentuate each heavy step along the Snake Trail's steep incline. Rough stairs made from irregularly shaped rocks radiate an unfriendly hostility, discouraging even Roman armies aiming to conquer and plunder. Each ill-placed stony step only increases my desire to complete this hike, so with efficient and methodical steps I reach the mesa's crown.
5:51 amI climb to the edge of a crumbling stone wall next to Patricio, feet dangling, floating over the endless Judean desert, touching the edges of the Dead Sea and peaks of anonymous mountaintops.
5:53 amSwelled chests hold gasps of awe as we witness the sun reaching and stretching over golden desert crowns. Upon release, we whisper our wish into the wind: please preserve this small moment in our memories, for "nothing gold can stay."
5:55 amAs the sun ascends, the black sky bruises into deep purple followed by an honest blue creeping over the horizon. The iridescent hues growing, progressing with each second the sun gains on us, pushing us forward. The blues and purples mix with the amber of the sun and in a blink the sky gives way to layers of pure yellow, amber, autumnal orange, with lingering spots of a lavender kissing the clouds.
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