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.