I moved to the Adirondacks somewhat recently, and I have to admit, there are outdoor activities that I didn't even know about - like night hiking. To be honest, the idea of hiking at night scares me, but also intrigues me. In no way am I ready to try a long trip -- you know, you have to have the right gear and be prepped for something like that. But, I thought maybe I can overcome the fear I have for nighttime hiking by trying it out in the late-afternoon/early-evening. There is risk of encountering the unfamiliar involved, but a sense of safety in the earlier hours. It's a win-win for me.
Mischa (white boxer), Tim, and I planned to do a quick hike before the end of the day. It would be as close to the night as I dared at this point - without it being too late. We decided on Panther Mountain, which is just north of town (Tupper Lake). It's got a good incline but it's a short mountain hike. We told some friends where we were going and when we expected to be back. The day was a bit rainy and we were dressed in regular clothes and shoes. This mountain, though it may be a short hike, has some rough terrain that really requires better footwear than what we were sporting. We know that for next time.
The photos don't really give justice to how late in the day it was, but look how cute everything is! It's like Hobbit Hill adorable! There is something that draws me in when I see the land, trees, moss, and mushrooms like this. They seem to have a draw akin to how the Big Bad Wolf tries to lure in Little Red Riding Hood. And, with that thought in my head, I realize I really shouldn't be thinking of wolves while I'm hiking so late in the day, so close to the night, the dark!
It was rainy and steep, but I just couldn't resist looking at everything in awe. I really wanted to embrace the nighttime hiking idea, even though I was a bit scared. Mischa and I were having a wonderful time, Tim not so much. Tim has lived in the Adirondacks for years and is used to the really dark nights. I am more of a small city guy, who is used to some form of street light everywhere. I could only imagine how amazing star gazing at night from the side (or top!) of a mountain would be.
See how cute the mushrooms are?!? I know little to nothing about the different types of mushrooms, but I find them so fascinating. We probably have three books at home that talk about mushrooms in the North East and the Adirondacks, so you think I'd know something -- but I just don't.
If there's such a thing as a past life I'm sure I lived in or near a cave and harvested mushrooms. It is so rewarding to plant something; then care for it, feed it, water it, and trim as needed. In this busy, fast-paced world we live in, we are often so disconnected from nature and animals. Being here in the Adirondacks we have the honor and privilege to be surrounded by amazing nature. I'm also lucky to have such an amazing dogter (that is dog + daughter = dogter). Being a boxer breed she is very high energy and needs many hikes a day, otherwise I think she'd go bonkers. She is probably one of the best-natured dogs you will ever meet - so make sure you stop to pet her if you see us coming! Everyone who meets her - loves her.
While marveling at the mushrooms, Tim reminded me that I should really be paying attention to the surrounding and not just focus on the mushrooms. It was getting late and he said we really had to pay attention for safety.
Get focused for safety
Now, as cute and sweet as Mischa is, she is not really that attentive to her surroundings. Once we were about 3/4 of the way up Panther Mountain we started to here noises, which lead to us thinking we saw things move out of the corner of our eyes. First thing we heard was geese. The clouds were low and we were high up so the sound of the geese seemed to be coming from below. Tupper Lake is known for its great birding, I just didn't realize I would encounter any at night! Now imagine that - you are on top of a mountain and it sounds like geese are flying and squawking below you, and you know they are flying by. It's a weird perspective!
What is that sound....?!?
See how she glows! Have you read or seen the Harry Potter stories? Remember when Harry conjures up a Patronus? With me thinking in the back of my mind that Mischa is my protector, I have a sense of security. But like I mentioned she does not even remotely pay attention to her surroundings that way. She is more concerned about getting to the top, or smelling something, or running in circles. Mischa helps me remember to not take life so seriously; Life is too short, so have fun and play. Go explore, which we do. But then you have to remember that sometimes you have to be serious. Like when you start to hear loud screeching-hacking-throaty sounds in the woods, in the dark.
I heard that sound before and didn't know what it was. Having two jobs and being a doctorate student my mind is going all the time; on this particular night 3 A.M. came around and I was wide awake. I went into the living room to play on the IPad for a bit. It started to get warm so I opened the window a bit. The driveway is right outside the living room window, and as I opened the window I heard that same screeching-hacking-throaty sound. Scared me to death! I didn't know what to do. As you can see, I wear glasses, and at night in the ADK I really can't see. I sat there, in the living room, for about 20 minutes with this animal screeching at me. No one else in the house woke up from the sound. The next morning I described the sound to Tim and our friend Meg, both told me it may have been a fox. Later that day our neighbors confirmed there was a rumor that a fox was hanging around, to be careful.
Back up on Panther Mountain - I thought I was hearing that same animal. Can we say - scared!? My first thought was: Wait, this is Panther Mountain - there are no panthers up in the ADK, right....? Then Tim assured me that he doesn't think foxes would be out this early in the day, but that it could be a mountain lion. Now please know - Tim is a bit of a jokester with me now and then; I guess I fall for his jokes and he finds that funny. Being on edge I forgot that he may be joking -- which he was at this time. It could have simply been some squirrels playing for all I know.
It was time to go back down the mountain and get out of there before it got too dark. I was ready to chalk this foray up as a success - besides, I really didn't want to meet whatever animal was out there. With the rain coming down, everything was super slippery. We took it slow and steady, and what do you know - we made it! We were safe! It wasn't exactly nighttime, but it was really close. I'm glad we tried to hike late in the day before actually trying a night hike.
Things to consider for nighttime hiking:
- Go in a group - never go out alone
- Bring a light - flash light, and a fully charged phone
- Night vision camera - light at night will disrupt the wildlife
- Be mindful of wildlife - leave nothing behind
- Don't forget extra batteries - better to be safe than sorry
- Dress appropriately - this time of year the nights get cold quickly
- Pack food and water - this will help you keep up your energy
- Choose a trail you know - and let family and friends know where you are going
- Bring a compass - determine where you parked in relation to the direction you are heading away
There are a lot of amazing hikes in the Tupper Lake area. Please take all the appropriate precautions when you plan a hike, even if it is a short one. Have fun, but remember, it is October and you never know what lurks around the next tree (boo!). Have a safe Halloween!
This week in the ADK we conquer our fears: