Hiking by candlelightThe night air was not cold, just cool enough to make the tip of my nose tingle as I walked along the candlelit trail.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The night air was not cold, just cool enough to make the tip of my nose tingle as I walked along the candlelit trail.
In the soft light of the moon, people approached as faint silhouettes. Their smiling faces became visible as they moved past the glowing luminaries, but they soon returned to shadow.
Then the footsteps faded away, and the woods were again still, with only the sound of waterfalls filling the silence. At the base of the partially frozen falls, luminaries and one uncovered flame glimmered, as if someone had lit a candle to the shrine of nature.
Carloads of people arrived at Amnicon Falls State Park with boots and snowshoes March 7 for a candlelight hike along the falls. Ranger Bill Eldred estimated about 45 people had already showed up at the park for the candlelight hike just half an hour into the event. He said that’s about 50 percent more than normally show up for the hike.
“I was a little nervous with yesterday’s warm weather,” Eldred said. “I thought it was going to be sloppy and yucky, but the cold last night firmed it right up.”
The newly refrozen snow was packed hard and crunched underfoot. Neither snowshoes nor even boots were necessary to hike the trail.
“Over the years, a lot more people have just hiked it and passed on the snowshoe part,” Eldred said.
With mild weather in the past few years, the hike has grown quickly in popularity. Eldred believes Amnicon Falls held its first candlelight snowshoe event in 2001.
Families, individuals and couples all came out to enjoy a nighttime walk March 7. Some parents pulled their young children in a sled, and other groups brought their dogs along on a leash to follow the line of luminaries over the covered bridge and around the island.
Lynn Johnson has worked at Amnicon Falls State Park since before the first candlelight hike. She remembers when the park was seasonal, shutting down for the winter prior to 2000. Just after the end of the Bayfield Apple Fest, the small state park, with an equally small budget, would close its gates for the winter.
However, for nearly a decade now, Amnicon Falls State Park has remained open all year. In that time, Johnson has grown to recognize some of the faces she sees each candlelight hike as she tends to the hot cocoa in the ranger station and offers information to visitors. Among the regulars are the members of the LaValley family.
“Every year we watch for them and you hear, ‘Oh, the LaValleys just pulled up,’” Johnson said.
Johnson has also been able to get out and hike the trail some years. During one of the earlier events, it had just begun to snow as the staff was preparing to pick up the candles to end the hike.
“It was so peaceful, just that evening silence and that sprinkling of snow,” Johnson said.