We came to a stop in the narrow clearing accommodating a power line and switched off our headlamps. We’d reached the turnaround point for our weekly Tuesday Night Hike, and as was our habit, we went dark for several minutes. The sun was long gone, having set two hours earlier, and the moon was just starting to think about cresting the eastern horizon. It was dark, really dark, and it took our eyes a minute to adjust. Our psyches, too.
When I stepped out the front door early Sunday morning I was immediately struck by an odd thought: Do I need a coat?
That thought hadn’t crossed my mind in nearly four months.
We look forward to Labor Day because, psychologically at least, it marks the transition from summer to fall. More often than not, this transition is in theory. The holiday weekend usually is better-served for one last fling at the pool than it is for a six-mile hike in the Piedmont. Not this year.
We are so ready for fall — and the fall hiking season, which begins this weekend.
We know: the calendar says fall doesn’t start until September 22. But we have long associated Labor Day with the passing of the torch from summer to fall. Even in the wack-a-doodle year of 2020, when up is down and down is sideways, we can’t shake the holiday’s unofficial hand-off.
We typically wait until the end of Daylight Saving Time to advocate hiking at night, for strapping on a headlamp and venturing down your favorite trails after dark. We’ve long been fans of hiking in night in winter because, for those of us in the workforce, it’s typically the only time we can work in a midweek hike. The sun sets at 5 p.m., before the whistle blows at the Widget Works, who cares? You’ve got a 300-lumen torch strapped to your forehead to light the way.
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.