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Full Moon with Friends

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Bitterbrush festooned with a string of battery-powered lights and a pair of pink flamingoes welcomed those who hiked in for Monday night’s full moon bonfire.

The solace of silence on a still, winter night. The comradery among friends looped around a campfire. The satisfaction of returning to the same spot almost every full-moon winter night for a decade. Only a poet could do it justice.

“It’s different every time if you take the time to notice,” says Carol Filer, who with a friend started the full moon snowshoe group a year after her husband died. They are a small gathering of friends, rarely more than a dozen, along with the occasional privileged guest, who snowshoe into the hills to a place of refuge too sacred to them to reveal. (Naming the place would be like betraying someone who trusted you enough to share a favorite fishing hole, or hunting camp, or that one spot where a certain wildflower grows.)

These friends, who range in age from 60-something to 80-something, have hiked, skied, snowshoed and traveled the world together over the years. As they’ve aged, some have given up more rigorous activities, but they’ll hike and snowshoe as long as they can – and be there for each other when they can’t.

Last Monday, the Jan. 9th full moon night, we are hiking in with chains on our boots and trekking poles in each hand. There is so little snow so far this year that our path has become nicely packed and we can navigate the trail without snowshoes. It is overcast and dimly daylight as we start climbing. “It’s steep at the beginning, but we go slow,” Filer told me in advance, slow being a relative term among the fit. “You want to start out feeling cold,” she rightly advises. After 10 minutes of steady uphill that shows no sign of leveling out, our bodies are toasty.

The woods are lovely, their stories told in the tracks of a rabbit that passed through since the last snowfall; a place where a small rodent tunneled from under the snow and spent some leisure time, perhaps sitting in sunshine by the looks of the open spot it chose. Our views are cloud-shrouded.

We continue our climb to a rest stop before pressing on to the gathering place where we are greeted by a pair of pink flamingoes festooned with battery-powered white lights. The fire already is burning bright, and small bottles of homemade rhubarb, cherry and huckleberry wine are waiting to be shared. Cheese and crackers are offered. Chairs are set up. Firewood is collected from the precious stack hauled in before winter set in.

There’s a sign posted by the firewood, just in case someone stumbles onto this place. It reads: “Please don’t take this wood. It is being used by a group of seniors after snowshoe walks to this camp. Enjoy the camp and views. Thank you!”

Carol Filer, along with a friend, got the group going a decade ago after her husband died.   Jim and Jane Hutson take to the woods in winter on snowmobiles as well as snowshoes.

Two headlamps approach attached to shadowy figures.That would be the Hutsons, Jim and Jane. Jim takes over feeding the fire. Jane pulls food from her rucksack and passes it around the circle. Pretty soon those of us who've brought hot dogs roast them to perfection. Another head lamp approaches, adding Ann Henry to the gathering. I chuckle to myself thinking about what some people would say about a woman hiking this far into the woods alone at night. But those bewitched by these hills know this is a calm and almost balmy night for sharing stories around the fire.These friends have been here in sub-zero weather, on nights with howling winds, pouring rain, and thick snowstorms. They’ve also seen magical starry nights and luminous full moons rise.

At some unspoken moment, after we’ve shared our stories and eaten our food, it’s time to pack up, stow the chairs, tarp the wood and take a last look at the fire’s glow. This night’s full moon is rising behind a solidly overcast sky. Not one of us seems to care. Our headlamps cast all the light we need as we silently start downhill in a single line.


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This is the way to enjoy winter!

Gloria Spiwak


A wonderful story. I felt like I was there.

Mary McCrea