Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve indulged in the idea of spending a night running around outside, surrounded by nature while following a path lit by the moon and stars above. I longed for that night to come sometime during my first year of college. I thought it would be perfect to share a mindless refreshing night outdoors with a group of friends.
Unfortunately, my friends and I all went to sleep before nine o’clock. We had rowing practice in the morning, which meant we were awake and ready to start the day by 4:20 AM sharp, everyday. Call it fate, or what have you, but after waiting all those years, the stars finally aligned, and I went out on my first nighttime adventure.
The hike was very spur of the moment for my brother, some friends, and me. I saw a posting for a “Moonlight Hike in Clayton” on Save Mount Diablo’s Guided Hike Calendar and felt that tonight was the night. I had to go. I wanted to check “a night out with friends” off of my list of things-to-do-before-I-graduate.
On the way from Pittsburg to the specified Clayton meet-up place, I realized I had no idea what I was getting us into, I didn’t know how long the hike would be, what level of fitness we would have to be in, or even how many or what type of people would be there. Then I decided to throw those worries to the wind because I didn’t care, this was something I wanted to do and had never done before; it was time for adventure!
As the sun began to set, fifty hikers, including myself, and two hike leaders, set off on our leisurely 4-mile loop. The hike began on a public accessible trail that followed along Peacock Creek. To be honest, this first part of the hike was not what I had imagined…it was normal, a golf course to my left, some houses on the hill to my right, and flashlights.
Ah! But I spoke too soon, alongside the trail a group of our hikers formed around George, one of our hike leaders, as he warned us of a baby rattlesnake just feet—not inches—away from us! Luckily, George directed us safely away from the eager but equally frightened creature.
After the scare with the rattlesnake, we made our way to our first locked gate as we entered the newly acquired Irish Canyon, which was once used as a shortcut from Clayton to Brentwood in the good ol' days. This led to the hike that I had imagined. Surrounding me was nothing I knew, other than friends, the moon, and the stars. I walked along enjoying this little accomplishment of a moonlit path. As we passed through the third, and last gate, we made a short trek up our first hill. The moon waited for us at the top. Beautifully shining, the full moon outlined the landscape, merging the hillsides into a sea of gold. Through the lush oak trees, the moon created playful but creepy shadow shapes; I saw a lizard peaking out of a trough between two hills, and a plane flying over clouds, my friends thought otherwise. After a few moments of playing with my imagination and enjoying the moon, we began our loop back.
I thought nothing could outshine the moon that night, but I guess this was a night full of new experiences. As we waited for everyone to be counted through the second gate, my friend called out, “Shooting Star!” At first I didn’t believe him, but as I turned to look in the direction he pointed, I saw a slow moving ball of flaming outer space matter flying cross the sky just above the hilltop. I could see the blazing meteor break apart into smaller sparks, each of them bursting into red and orange flames. The falling star descended gracefully, creating a trail of yellow through the sky until it was below our view. My brother put it best when he described it as “Superman falling to Earth.” It was nothing like I had ever seen in all my 19-½ years of existence.
With the hike wrapping up, I could feel the rush of endorphins as I happily checked-off four things on my ever changing and made up list of things-to-do-before-I-graduate: 1) Night Out with Friends, 2) See a Rattlesnake, 3) Moonlit path, 4) Witness Superman entering Earth’s atmosphere.
I would say this was a great way to start my nature expeditions—and was nothing I had imagined it would be like.