Right before the pandemic, which feels like forever ago, Sean and I went for a December hike with our long-standing autism-support hiking buddy. Changing schedules reduced opportunities for hikes with him, but we found an open afternoon.
Mid December meant we were close to the shortest day of the year, with the sun setting well before 5 PM. Our late afternoon start had us hitting the trail close to sunset.
We chose old, familiar turf so we wouldn’t get lost as it got dark. The twilight highlighted driftwood sculptures as we made our way across Rodeo Beach in Marin. The last bit of sunlight gave an orange tinge to the sandy trail leading up the bluff.
We saw another pair of hikers, red jackets popping against the dark green brush covering the hill. Red tips of ice plants mixed with their green bases, like a sea of Christmas decorations waving over the ground. We found our way to a vista point bench before the sun was truly down.
On the horizon, one bright light appeared, then another. Crab season had started, and the lights of the crab boats created their own constellation on the water.
By this point, we were out of sunlight, and we wandered off track through the ice plants as we made our way back down the hill to the beach. Like a string of holiday lights, the distant crab boats led us back toward our starting point.
A coyote walked ahead of us nonchalantly, not caring about us hikers.
Chilly ocean air, lights on the ocean, and dramatic blues and rosy oranges above the black horizon brought back memories of childhood winter walks in snowy Upstate New York. I’d start a subzero evening walk with just enough time to be back for dinner. Trudging through deep snowdrifts, the glow of the snow and the lights on the windows of our old house guided me home through the dark.
There is a peace in twilight and cold that only comes in winter, a time when we contemplate family and loved ones, and reflect on the year behind us. Walking in the cold and dark also has a cleansing effect, eliminating cluttered thoughts, allowing us to simply feel the bite of the cold on our cheeks and instinctually find our footing in the dark.
I wish everyone moments of quiet contemplation as we walk through the darkest days of the year, ready to move forward into brighter days.
This week’s HikingAutism Hike Notes from the archives is Rodeo Lagoon Loop-Marin Headlands, a 1.5 mile loop hike that circles a lagoon, rises up for higher views, and also features a beach walk.
This week’s Hike Notes from the Archives:
(Original Hike Notes 110): Rodeo Lagoon Loop-Marin Headlands
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