Under the Night Lights – A cross country skiing adventure
writing by Anna Withrow, photos by Gabe DeWitt
There is something magical about Friday night. Plan what you want all week, but come Friday night, it’s up to you to decide…
It was 9 degrees that Friday night in Morgantown. It was no doubt below zero up on the mountain top, at Coopers Rock State Forest. With 20 minutes to prepare, I threw gear into a day pack, downed a couple glasses of water, tossed heated leftovers into a pyrex dish, and took a deep breath, knowing that this was going to be great!
Though the wind was quite bitter, warm layers over moving bodies seemed to do the trick. With the added warmth provided by good company and the products of Pinchgut Hollow Distillery, we were toasty warm. Struggling to see the path through my frosty glasses, while avoiding icy patches and bare pavement allowed all thoughts of the work week, daily chores, relationships, and deadlines to melt away.
“We’re already here?!” I said, as we arrived at the entry to overlook. Gabe had gone ahead. Dennis and I ditched our skis and made small talk along the path to the overlook. With such a bright night ski, we were looking forward to the view in store for us. Then, suddenly, we heard an unclear shout from up ahead. We both knew that it was Gabe. Had I not been aware of how excited my friend Gabe can get, I probably would have been a little startled. “Did we lose him?!” shouted Dennis, who immediately started sprinting down the snow covered steps, across the boardwalk, and onto the overlook.
From the Overlook, we could see the beams of light expand as they grew closer to the earth ahead of us. Gabe compared the many beams of light coming from the night ski to the phenomena of the aurora borealis. “Look at it up close!” he exclaimed, as he showed the zoomed in view on his fancy digital camera. Up close, just above the horizon line, you can see as clear as a bright day, with wispy white clouds and blue skies.
Here, on the edge of this rugged canyon surrounding the Cheat River, a deep wilderness, seemingly untouched by the human hand, one can see the overwhelmingly clear picture of human settlement to the west. Shining from all of the individual streets and structures, the individual lights flickered as a single collection, lighting up the western sky. From this distance, the security and clarity that single lights provide their given locations are extraneous. Looking through the intricate patterns of glowing beams, we tried to identify familiar places within the city. The significant portion of the view of the developed area occupied by the coal fired power plant on the development’s periphery is a grounding reminder of the source of this magical collection of lights.
As I contribute my speck into the collection of lights this Monday night, I am trying to imagine the bigger picture. What can I do to make the picture “better”? What would “better” look like? Better yet, how can I stay on this cloud for the next 4 days?
The entry clip is a short 20 sec video I made from compiling a series of photos from that night. If it won’t play in your browser, head over to WV-Art.com for the video and also higher resolution photos of the light pillars over Morgantown. Thank you Anna, for your story and awesome friendship!