Up here, near the 50° parallel, during these dark winter months we meet at the trailhead parking lot at 4:15 pm, having just been released from work. With a quick ‘hello’, we each fiddle with our tracking devices, gloves and hats before heading off on our after-work date.
Our unchanging Winter loop is 11 km of forested trail in Seal Bay Park a few times each week. If we start on time and if there is minimal cloud cover, we can be done before the darkness settles in for the night. But at this time of year, if any factor slows us down – like snowy trail conditions or delays at work – we find ourselves racing through the washed-out, grey light, trying to find solid footing on the rocky trails. This is more fun than it sounds. A challenge that never tires.
Although one of us usually has a flashlight, we both resist the urge to pull it out. It is more of a rush to go without and a disappointment to cave in to needing it. Since our weekday route rarely changes through these cold months, we could probably run it on auto-pilot with our eyes closed, but the rocks and roots never seem to be in the same places and are always eager to reach out and grab a toe. There are places where the forest canopy is thick, where darkness brings a chill even on a bright sunshiny day, but we know that we will quickly pass back out into the fading daylight. If we have been treated with a recent snowfall, our footing may be less sure but lamps won’t be necessary with all that snow glow.
But each day, we notice that our daylight challenge eases and soon the headlamps will be left at home. Today, the sun sets at 5:35 and the sky is clear and blue so the challenge will be non-existent. We will have to wait until next November when the race for daylight will continue.