Monday, April 18, 2011

Photo Essay: Franklin Canyon Night Hike

I don't like the dark. I don't think I ever have.

I quite like the night, but I like its darkness sprinkled with a bit of casino flicker, neon buzz, disco ball swirl, dance floor pulse, campfire spit and ferris wheel glow. I like headlights, candlelight, lantern light, and dashboard light.

I hate walking into a dark room, and upset my earth-friendly self by leaving a light on when I go out at night.

So the idea of hiking at night, in the dark, has always terrified me. I got a little freaked out during a night rafting trip once, but we sailed past so many street lights wearing so many glowstick necklaces under a celestially-active sky that I could actually see quite well and managed to survive.

I decided to face my fears this weekend, take advantage of the full moon, and return to Franklin Canyon to see it again through the lens of sunset, dusk, twilight, and, ultimately, night. Thankfully I didn't have to go it alone.

It was light enough when we met up with our guide, a volunteer with the MRCA, the organization that runs Franklin Canyon (though it's also partially considered national park).



Water was flowing freely down Lake Drive, along its shoulder and straight down the middle. A chorus of frogs drowned out our small talk.





We started on the Discovery Trail, while it was still light enough to see its wildflowers...





...and bunnies.



We climbed for about 15 minutes, until we hit the road at the top where private land had been developed a few years ago.





We only took part of the trail, choosing to stay on the well-cleared section rather than trudging through the snake-frequented overgrown areas.



As night fell, we headed back down to Lake Drive and crossed the street to the Hastain Trail, a steeper but wider path to one of the park's most popular overlooks.

We couldn't see the moon yet, though we thought we spotted a planet or two in the sky. I thought we'd be able to see something once we got to the fence that's been erected by more private developers, but about halfway up the trail, we were greeted by a new fence, much lower down the trail than the one I'd bypassed a few weeks ago.

So instead of looking upwards, we kept our eyes on the uneven ground beneath us, eroded by rain, ravines revealed.

It was too dark to take any more photos. There was no full moon to guide our way. We saw a few lights from the houses up in the hills, and we carried flashlights to illuminate the path. I spotted a frog crossing our path while still up on the hill, far from the rest of his singing friends at the bottom. The brush rustled and we imagined the coyotes, bobcats and cougars that wouldn't be pleased by our intrusion. Birds chirped as though it were dawn. And the sound of rushing water never seemed to relent.

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