If you have never been on the Anna Ruby Falls evening Foxfire hike I would highly recommend it. Six of us went last night and it was spectacular. I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I really live in such a beautiful place…surrounded by so much nature that it is even gorgeous in the dark. The quarter mile hike begins at dusk, just as the mosquitos and bats come out to play. Once the cloud of our bug spray dissipated and our guide gave us instructions, we stepped into the nocturnal world just as it was waking up. Hiking at night is distinctly different than hiking in the day. Pretty obvious statement I know, but as we entered the trail I was struck by the contrast of using my ears rather than my eyes to proceed. The shadows swallowed my usual visual vistas. No colors other than black, white, and varying shades of gray. Above us, when you could see beyond the foliage, the sky started out pale and moved into ever deepening gray, until it finally traded sunset for total darkness, black velvet on which to display planets and stars.
The trees swayed in the breeze creating a blur of charcoal and granite with some shades of thundercloud thrown in. The white water flowing contrasted with the sea of river grays, but was a blur, not the usual crisp defined droplets throwing themselves down in joyful surrender. Instead, the view was subdued and the song amplified, as my ears took over the guidance from my eyes. An evensong…like the ones in cathedrals. The participants, the water and the wind sang together in harmony with one another. The song, completely different from the allegro day tune, was a whispered roar, a gentle crash, a quiet thunder. The playfulness of the day replaced by the grandioso power of the night.
Walking past giant boulders on one side and rushing currents on the other, the song seemed to climb with the incline. Sound reverberated from the valley all the way to the summit, but instead of culminating in an explosion of light, the crescendo came just as the darkness was complete…forcing my eyes to strain to see the ghostly white cascades, and my ears to listen to their roaring forte. The swift treble and rumbling base were a rush for my auditory delight. Who needs eyes when such a piece is performed? Lying on a bench on the overlook deck, I decided at nighttime it needs to be called the overlisten deck. Just as I was being enveloped by the composition and blanketed by the dark, the lights arrived…by the thousands!
The fireflies began to dance to the song. The black arms of the trees, as tall as the sky, seemed to be suddenly decorated with Christmas lights, which flashed and blinked to the rhythm of the thundering tumult. The more lights that appeared the more the dance took center stage. Soon all the night hikers were enthralled by the show. One man said, “It looks like all those bugs are taking our picture.” It would appear to be true by the way all the people were smiling at the sight. The flashes were whimsical in their patterns. At moments it seemed as if every single bug decided to go solo at the same time, lighting up the forest like a million stars. Then just minutes later it was almost like hide and seek, with my eyes being ‘it’ as they searched for the troupe. Mostly it was an improvisational dance, in which we were all invited to participate. The patterns of pulsing light, along with the sounds of the river, and the laughter of the hikers were a beautiful song of the night. Then the stars came out to join in. The air was so thick with twinkle that sometimes I couldn’t tell if the brilliant light was a star or a lightning bug. A blanket of glitter from overhead to right beside me.
As we walked down the trail the blackness was total. Turning our lights off in order to see the Foxfire, (that is actually not foxfire, but some kind of worm larvae that lights up in May and June each year…the guide explains all of that.) brought stillness from the group. I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. Without the red cellophane covered flashlights on, I was blind…groping for a handrail while trying to force my fearful feet to continue moving. I was not too successful. Thank goodness for nature’s light show to distract me from how very dark it is in the night. There on the banks, the points of light continued and the circle from sky above to ground under my feet was complete. Bioluminescent glow from the ground, blended with the dancing fireflies, intermingled with the stars overhead, was stunning. Magical. The river suggested that the power of the night is worth listening to…and I agreed. I just had to take a minute to soak it all in before moving back towards the car. I know there are a lot of people in the world that don’t believe in God, but I think they haven’t ever seen…the dance of the fireflies.
*** There are three more Foxfire hikes at Anna Ruby Falls this month, June 16th, June 23rd and June 29th. Then it is over for this year. $4 per person to get in. Call 706-878-1448 or 706-878-3574 to reserve your spot. ***