Sundown Hiking – All the glories of summer without the sweat
by Carol Beam
This is like finding the map to the secret gold mine. There is a treasure of unspeakable loveliness right up the trail. It’s been beastly hot out, but you want to get out, you want to see all the beauty the park has to offer. Just around sunset is your answer.
The other night a few friends and I met at six o’clock. The mercury had been hovering around 90˚ that afternoon, but by the time we started out everything was amazingly comfortable. And the longer we walked, the better it got.
We headed up to the Andorra Meadow, and most of the way was well shaded. The light was tinged with gold. It lit up the leaves to a soft neon green. In the meadow birds were on their last food runs before turning in. This is what photographers call The Golden Hour.
One friend said she discovered hiking at this time of day because it was the only time she should squeeze into her work schedule, but that once she ventured out and saw how wonderful it was she knew it would be a standard part of her summers.
My own first sunset outing was something pretty different. My husband and I, two total City Slickers, took a trip out west to see a bunch of the country’s most gorgeous parks. We started in Moab, Utah, where we immediately fell under the spell of Arches National Park. The people at our B&B said Delicate Arch was great at sunset, so we gathered a grocery store picnic, drove well into the park and excitedly ate in the parking lot. Fingers still kind of gooey from fried chicken, we followed signs and a few people to the arch. We were treated to an improbably slender curve of red rock that glowed like embers against a backdrop of flawless deep blue sky. I didn’t know colors like that happened in nature. We stood stock still enjoying every minute of it.
It somehow totally surprised us that once the sun set we were in the dark. What seemed like perfectly flat trail on the way in was strewn with rocks and twists and lumps on the way out. We walked with our hands stretched out in front of us, tapping our feet tentatively every step back to the car. Where we had a flashlight.
Ah, but that was many years ago. Now I check what time sundown happens. I carry a little light and some water. I wear bug repellent. I’ve gotten on top of the few possible snags. Going out at the end of the day is the cure for the cabin fever that happens in the summer, when you think you need to stay in air-conditioned comfort. Beauty is the best comfort.