After I turned my headlamp off, I saw the true beauty of the winter night reflected across all the snow covered trees. The moon was about half full providing just enough light for me to see down the trail that I had been running on for about the past fifteen minutes. Somewhere in the moonlight my dog Wild was running through the newly fallen snow, where exactly he was I could not tell as the bell he was wearing was now just out of earshot. I wanted to stop to take it all in but this was still a run.
I should have run earlier in the day. I would have except my daughter was home with a fever for the second day in a row. The fever was going down now without medication as I took her temperature just before I left, leaving her at home along with my wife and son. Thankfully my parents had come over to babysit her so I could go to work but now it was 8:30 at night and I finally could get out for my daily run. Wild needed to run as well, and since the salt on the roads are awful for his feet I knew that we needed to hit some trails so it was a short drive over to Hedgehog Mountain to run along trails that I knew really well.
The run started with my headlamp on and Wild immediately off the leash. I was glad to see some tracks in the snow from someone earlier in the day. This made it easier to follow the trail which was still a little challenging to follow despite my familiarity with these trails. I had my watch running but never looked at the pace, staying focused on the trail lit up in front of me and listening for Wild’s bell.
Occasionally Wild popped out onto the trail ahead of me as I could only see his eyes being reflected by my light. His eyes shone better than any reflective gear I had ever seen, and I could only see his eyes for a moment before they turned away as he charged ahead.
We crossed a stream, he getting a small drink and me slowing to a walk not wanting to slip on the crooked bridge like I had a week before leaving my shin with a couple scrapes and some swelling. We climbed a small hill and I had to call to him to change his direction at the top. I was so pleased with his enthusiasm to follow my direction and I felt my pace increase as I followed my light.
Another turn with Wild following my lead and I decided to tilt my light up which revealed much more of the forest’s beauty in the night. I grew less concerned with Wild’s loyalty and focused more on my run crunching through the snow. I had dug out an old pair of waterproof light hiker shoes that I hadn’t used in years but glad they were doing the job of keeping my feet dry in the cold night.
We circled back toward the bridge and as I spotted Wild’s brightly reflected eyes, I wondered what his view of me was like coming toward him with my headlamp glaring. I walked once again across the bridge seeing his eyes waiting for me up the hill.
Now on an old road that was really more trail now than a road, I checked my pace on my watch which indicated I was moving at under an eight minute mile pace. I knew I hadn’t been consistently doing that but it gave me satisfaction knowing that I was indeed really running and not just plodding through the night’s stillness.
Moments later was when I turned my light off with the moon high overhead just at my back. I was amazed at how well I could indeed see and continued to move swiftly through the snow. I made my way to one of the summit trails but was forced to turn the light back on to be sure I was on the trail and quickly found some of the tracks left by some other adventurer earlier in the day.
At the ledge just off the summit, I turned the light off again, looking westward knowing many miles away Mt. Washington lay hidden in the darkness. There were some lights of houses below but I took very little notice and strode up to the summit, looking forward to more running.
I grew a little wary coming down the steeper trail not being able to see any slight obstacles directly underfoot but then as Wild came cruising by me I realized that he had been running the whole time with no light to guide his path. Oh, how I was jealous of his abilities.
The path forced me to turn on the light once again, as I grew a little worried that I had no means to communicate with the rest of the world if I should come across an unforeseen emergencies. I was blessed however, that snow did begin to fall again and my light made me more aware of the beautiful white crystals blowing in front of my vision.
Back to the old road and now without a light, I picked up the pace to the next intersection. Wild was somewhere behind me and as I called to him, I did turn on my light for him to find me. A quick check of my watch revealed we had traveled just over three miles in thirty two minutes. Not a pace to get me into the Boston Marathon, but this solitude in the night was far greater than getting elbowed and packed in among twenty thousand other free spirits.
Wild stayed just ahead of me on our final dash to the car, and although I wanted to stay out for more, I knew that my soul was satisfied for the evening. Wild leaped into the car being rewarded with some treats. Back at home a few minutes later he looked at me as if he wanted to do more, or maybe he just really wanted more treats. After a quick check on my sleeping daughter I came back to the kitchen to find Wild laying down, now truly done for the night. I too, would soon be lying down to slumber as the rest of my family, happily with visions in my mind of a forest covered in crystals somehow aware that it’s beauty was a secret that only those willing to turn off the light and away from the rest of mankind would ever be aware of.