Saturday, November 3, 2012

Brown Hill - Night Hike



Brown Hill (1,312 ft)
Trails: North Meadow, Glacial Boulder, Brown Hill, Summit
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
AMC-Boston Instructional Night Hike For Beginners

Ever wonder about being out too late on a hike and getting over taken by the darkness? Why yes, I actually have. So I signed up for the AMC Instructional Night Hike For Beginners through the AMC Boston Chapter. This was a two hour hike on non-technical trails in darkness. Bill Moss is a naturalist on staff at the Mass Audubon Sanctuary and lead us through the maze of some of the available 12 miles of trails at the beautiful Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, Mass.  Also, co-leading our group was Robert Freed and Pam Wilnot. Robert and Pam took turns sweeping and Pam's very large backpack consisted of rescue equipment including a stove and fuel! The group was limited to 20 and online sign ups were easy at the AMC Boston Chapter website.

We met in the class room to sign in and pay our fees. We also collected some trail maps and Bill spoke of the wildlife we might see while on the trail.  I sat next to "Dreamtime" (her trail name) who had just completed the Appalachian Trail! I wished I had more time to talk with her. I've read many books on women solo hiking the Appalachian Trail and the 5 and a half months it took her to complete the trail, she solo hiked parts of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

For this hike, I switched insoles in my hiking boots. Instead of using my 40 dollar Superfeet Green Premium Insoles, I used a $12 pair of Dr. Scholl's  Massaging Gel Insoles, and what a difference that was! My feet did NOT hurt at all! Bye, bye Green Premiums! Wished I had worn my knee brace as my knee hurt just a tiny bit, ack! There were so many stars out but I didn't get  a chance to use my Star Chart iPhone app. I didn't use the flash on my camera and took as many photos as I could. Illumination was provided by the groups' headlamps. Temps were in the 30's when we started the hike but by the end of our hike, it had warmed up to 42 degrees! I was dressed in enough layers to keep me comfortable throughout the hike without having to put on or remove more layers.

We started on the North Meadow trail, a short loop trail that fairly easy at the start. Some parts of the Brown Hill trail were a bit steep on the ascent but easy to navigate with headlamps, or I should say, many headlamps! LOL! At one point we were lead off trail (laughter) but it was easy and fun to get back onto the trail again. Bill had us take turns leading the group and it was fun locating the blue and yellow trail markers that lead us from and back to the parking lot. Once at the summit junction Bill had us determine which trail to descend and why. The decision was made to descend on the Brown Hill trail because the Summit Trail, although shorter, is very steep. And at the Brown Hill and Otter Pond trail junction Bill had us turn off all our headlamps and just listen. It was so quiet and still….

At the end of our hike we stopped in the classroom to fill out surveys. And another night hike, a snowshoe night hike, is in the plans and I hope to be able to make that!

The trail sure looks different in the darkness and although night hiking reduces your vision, it increases your other senses. Parts of the trail were wet and I could definitely smell that. During this hike I didn't feel rushed to finish, which was good as its best to take it at a slow pace to be able to spot hazards such as low hanging branches and boulders. Hiking slower makes it easier to navigate an uneven terrain. The fact that this hike was easy and short, also made it easy to concentrate on footing. Our group leaders made certain that the group was kept together because, well let's face it, it's so much easier to get lost in the dark! Bill had a small roll of bright pink cording to be used if one ever had to get off trail…much like breadcrumbs for finding your way back!

This hike did help to prepare me for hiking in darkness, and emergency "hike-out" unexpectedly in darkness. After the hike I voiced some concern about solo hiking in the dark but was advised to start my solo hikes shortly before sunrise. Above all, this hike gave me the opportunity to enjoy nature in a different way than I would during a day hike. I got to see the trails in a different light, admire the starry sky and immerse myself in the experience of it all!


 At the summit



 Handiwork of local beaver

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