We’re big fans of hiking at night. We love the intimacy of the dark woods, the increased sense of camaraderie with our fellow hikers, the mystery of what lies beyond the glow of our headlamp. That’s why we created our Tuesday Night Hikes series (our next hike is Tuesday, btw; details here), and also why we keep an eye out for night hikes to recommend.
Sunday was the perfect day of winter hiking. On Monday, it was sunny, 70 and springlike. I savored both, I didn’t know what to make of either.
I love winter hiking. Waiting for Sunday afternoon’s hike to start, I marveled at the perfect storm of conditions that would make for a great day on the trail: cloudless skies, crisp air scrubbed cleaner by a gusting wind, a temperature struggling to get much above 50. These were the conditions that stick in memory. One of my earliest memories is of a day like this: a Sunday afternoon in January of 1966 — a mite colder perhaps, but otherwise identical — exploring Cherry Creek on what was then the outskirts of Denver with Billy Skinner, reveling in the far-flung adventures (we were a quarter mile from home) of two 9-year-olds. The sprawling cottonwoods along the banks sheltered us from both the cold wind coming down the Front Range as well as the pressures of third grade. Bellview Elementary School never seemed so far away.
As a kid, it was a favorite thing to do: lay in the grass on a lazy weekend and watch the clouds drift by. Where did they come from? Where are they headed? Why is that moose wearing a bowler? Talk about escapism! It was even better than watching Jonny Quest escape the Terrible Turu on Saturday mornings.
Winter is a season disliked more in anticipation than in reality.
That dislike begins the first day of summer. Though we generally do spend the summer solstice reveling in the most daylight of the year — 14 hours, 35 minutes and 8 seconds — in the back of our minds we know that it’s all downhill from here. The day after the solstice we’ll be down to 14 hours, 35 minutes and 6 seconds, two seconds that we won’t actually notice, but two seconds that we’re shorted all the same.
Winter — such a misunderstood season. For too many, the notion of hibernation learned in elementary school seems to have stuck: it’s cold, hunker down, stay inside until spring. While that notion may apply to cold-blooded types in more northerly climates, hibernation isn’t an approved practice in North Carolina, where daytime highs around 50 and sunshine are common occurrences.