This past December, the Outdoor Activities team at the Lodge was discussing different, special, adventures to offer guests this winter season. Night time snowshoe hikes were one of the ideas. Ultimately, we decided to experiment with offering monthly guided snowshoe hikes under the light of the full moon. This turned out to be a great idea, especially with our drive to promote activities under the Keweenaw night sky.
Beginning a new program of night activities came with its own set of challenges and uncertainties, though.
- We didn’t know what participants would expect from such an experience. Would people arrive with headlamps and flashlights or expect to follow a lighted path?
- Under normal circumstances, guiding these types of activities has possible complications (e.g., managing large groups, people who might get cold and want to return early, someone getting injured, and varied levels of experience among participants) for which plans need to be established. Add in the darkness of night and potential complications can become very challenging.
- The winter weather in the Keweenaw is extremely unpredictable. We could end up planning activities to happen under clear skies or be socked-in with a blizzard that drops 12-18” of snow overnight.
Setting the plan for the guided snowshoe hikes in motion, we ordered flashlights that emit red light for use instead of standard flashlights and headlamps, made sure that at least two staff members were always leading the excursions to ensure that no one went too fast and that no one would get left behind, and set the dates for the hikes based on the full moon dates for January, February and March.
The March 19th guided snowshoe hike had ten participants (nine adults and one child). Of the three hikes we guided this winter, this hike turned out to be the most challenging. We needed to set the time later in the evening due to the time change which occurred the week previous, meaning that the hike began an hour later than the others. Even so, the excursion began more as a twilight hike, instead of moonlit.
Also, on that particular evening, the moon wasn’t scheduled to rise until very near the time we would be finishing. This resulted in visibility being far less than the other hikes, for which the moonlight reflecting off the snow had provided enough light that we never needed the red flashlights. On this hike red-lights were definitely needed in wooded, pitch black, sections of the trail. Plus, during the week before the hike, the region experienced unseasonably warm temperatures, which caused portions of the trail to get buried by small avalanches from cliff lines overhead, while other sections of the trail would collapse under foot, due to snow melt undercutting the trail.
With all of the obstacles encountered on this particular hike, though, everyone approached it with an adventurous, helpful spirit and every participant expressed that they had a great time, learned new things, and were pleased they had tried something they had never done before.
As we finished the hike, the moon was rising behind the Lodge, providing a beautiful backdrop and grand finale. The thing we learned on this particular night is that the guided snowshoe hikes at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, no matter if they are dreamlike excursions under the moon and stars or vigorous and filled with obstacles, continue to be a truly fun, joyous, and adventuresome experience.
- Learn more about future Moonlit Snowshoe Hikes
- Learn more about Stargazing activities at the Lodge
- Learn more about our application to become a designated International Dark Sky Park
Since I was a child, nature, wildlife, and the outdoors have always been my deepest fascination – the intrinsic force which drives me. Those interests led me through, both, my career (in wildlife ecology/management and science education) and my preferred forms of recreation (hiking, backpacking, canoeing and kayaking, photography, hunting and fishing, and birding). Although, I was born and raised in the UP, these pursuits also provided me the opportunity to live overseas (in Europe and Asia) for 15 years, which greatly expanded my experience with the outdoors and outdoor recreation in different cultures. So, if you’re interested in anything related to the outdoors, stop by the Lodge (or catch me anywhere you may see me on the grounds) to chat about or get set up for your next outdoor adventure.