Sports

Stepping Out

"I had to kick my oldest boy, Danny, off his computer tonight so I could write this column. Of course, this made it necessary to provide alternate entertainment since it's absolutely ridiculous to expect him to read a book.So, I found myself driving to Blockbuster to rent a few movies. I couldn't help noticing the clear sky and the moon, which was almost full. A few of my acquaintances - some of whom are employed as teachers of your children - hold fast to the full moon theory of human behavior. They believe that the arrival of a full moon means that people will start acting weird. You've probably heard the rationale: Those old superstitions have some basis in facts, you know!I don't know if it is required that people be able to see the full moon, or if the fact that it is there lurking behind the clouds, can alter a person's normal behavioral patterns. My seeing it seemed to have something to do with it this time, particularly since it was a few days away from being full.In any case, I was feeling the pull of the moonbeams - they were even speaking to me! Having the next day off from work probably also had something to do with it, considering what I was hearing:Night hike! NIGHT HIKE! NIGHT HIKE!I don't know very many people that have taken up the habit of hiking at night. My family loves the activity. The idea never entered my mind until 1994, when I interviewed local climbers Dallas Kloke and Mark Desvoigne. Desvoigne mentioned climbing Sauk Mountain at night in the winter, with a full moon illuminating the way up the steep (and avalanche prone) slopes. Sauk Mountain was the sight of my first night outing, along with my younger brother, his son, and Danny. We hiked on a cold fall day, crossing consolidated snow only on the north side of the ridge. Since the trail starts at the timberline, our entire way was illuminated by moonlight, with the exception of a couple of short switchbacks that dipped into small copses.Since then, my son has begged to go on night hikes, but I've only managed a couple of outings in the woods. Moonlit nights seem to coincide with space in my schedule all to infrequently.However, I still hold onto the ideal. What can you look forward to when hiking at night?* Solitude. You aren't likely to find anybody else on the trail at night, with the exception of a couple of skunks or raccoons.* Wildlife. Again, lots of skunks and raccoons. Porcupines are likely too, along with owls, and a bunch of other critters.* A different view of the world. The sight of Mount Baker, at 2:00 a.m. from the top of Sauk Mountain, is something I won't soon forget. The Pickets and Mount Shuksan seemed to hang in the sky.Remember though, that night hiking also offers a few challenges, such as:* Lack of access. Parks are usually closed for hiking at night. The Anacortes Community Forest Lands, for instance, are for day use only. * Cold. Especially at this time of the year, when the temperature can drop considerably at night. The snow that comes with colder weather, though provides more reflected light. Dress appropriately.* Decreased margin of safety. Not only can't you see as well, but the solitude also means that help will be not be as easy to find. Always travel with other experienced hikers, who will be able to give needed first aid.Or, you can rent movies, instead. Just don't expect me to respect you in the morning. "

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