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The Allure of Night Rides


Not the only Arctic Cat's in the woods?

Of all the regular riding I've done in my 83 years (exaggerated for effect), my two favorite "settings" are nighttime and being lost.

Actually, being truly lost isn’t something I’ve experienced, thankfully. But many, many times I’ve been in an unknown area, on an unknown trail/road/ditch, or at an unknown distance from a destination (typically a much-needed gas station). And that feeling of uncertainty and anxiousness gives a certain thrill and adventure that’s enjoyable in some weird way. Especially when I finally figure out where the heck I am, and get some fuel in my tank before having to walk.

Riding at night is the other “setting” that seems to infuse the snowmobile experience with excitement and uncertainty. In a word: adventure.

With the relatively small blanket of light cast by a sled’s headlights, the world seems very small, or maybe it’s a sensation of being focused, when riding at night.

My family has a cabin on a border lake of Minnesota and Canada, and we do a lot of riding on old logging roads, in a heavily forested and remote area, that might not see another person for days. Riding there at night, I’m flooded with thoughts of bear, wolves and even that damn image of Bigfoot running away from the camera. And with the concentrated glow of my headlight and sound of my sled reverberating through the forest, I feel like all creatures’ eyes are on me. Kinda spooky in an illogical sort of way.

Despite the occasional spookiness of it, I love stopping the sled(s) in an open area and letting the thick darkness settle in. It always amazes me how quiet nighttime can be, and how small I can feel, during these moments. Peaceful even.

My 9-year old son Calvin doesn’t like it when I do that, though. Freaks him out despite NOTHING bad ever happening during these moments. Which leads me to believe darkness touches an innate sense of fear, or unknown.

It’s funny: I’m not the least bit nervous blasting across our lake during the daytime. But when I do so a few hours later, at night, I have to suppress thoughts of suddenly-appearing open water.

Naturally, when a riding situation combines “lost” with “night,” my senses are amped and the anxiety is thick like fog. I’ve never had to spend the night in the woods, but the prospect has seemed close many, many times.

Which is probably why the warm glow of our cabin’s lights is one of the most welcome, satisfying sights I see each winter. It almost always it makes me feel like I’ve narrowly escaped danger, and “just made it” home.

Not the only Arctic Cat's in the woods?

Comments (10):

Brian Manderscheid says:
9/25/2010 5:04:00 PM

I do like to ride at night, however I don't do it too often. I prefer to end my day before I have to worry about some drunk ending my life. Enough people on the wrong side of the trail during the day.
Kevin says:
9/25/2010 9:46:00 PM

I love night riding and stopping to enjoy night sky and the sound of nothing but the wind -- but I also don't ride as much at night for the same reasons.
250 Tigger says:
9/25/2010 9:58:00 PM

Night riding is fun. The rides during a full moon are awesome. Close calls on the fuel in the days of the 7 gallon tank, to many to count. I have to agree with Brian about the drunks on the trails at night.
Eric Bergstrom says:
9/25/2010 11:34:00 PM

Nice story John. Definitely thought provoking. I have two favorites when it comes to stopping and shutting off the machines after dark. One is when the moon is full. The moonlight seems to reflect of the snow so well that you can stop in the middle of a swamp or a clearing and see almost as if it were daylight. The other is when there's very little moonlight, but the stars are extremely bright. It amazes me how many stars you can see when you finally get away from civilization, and it seems like it's always so quiet at night when you're out on the snow. Makes me wish it were winter right now!
oldcrow says:
9/27/2010 1:15:00 PM

One night I walked 9 miles out of the Red Lake Bog (northern MN)
Jay Nisley says:
10/5/2010 9:15:00 PM

Good story! I feel it's SAFER at night! When you can see headlights far in the distance,or just a few corners away,you can be more prepaired for the meeting. Jay
John Sandberg says:
10/20/2010 12:12:00 PM

I agree with you Jay. You can see the headlights far in advance, and so can the person coming at you.
Margarita says:
1/14/2015 3:12:00 AM

we are not allowed to sled ride at the feild.(the feild is where me and my feirnds hangout at.and its where the football, cheerleading, and people play baseball.)we go sleding in the winter my feirnds and i go byourselfs.when we get back my mom makes me a glass of hot choclete.thats my favite place to go sleding.that why they should allow sled riding there.
Marino says:
1/15/2015 4:56:00 PM

Sincerly I really dont think that they shulod close.I just really had to ask has anyone ever gotton hert there?Honestly they shulod put up rules to help make them sacure in there sleds. [url=]yxmhwqc[/url] [link=]lmxljds[/link]
Satch says:
1/18/2015 11:47:00 PM

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