February is WinterActive month. It’s intended to encourage physical activity through play in the elements. Most outdoor activities typically embrace snow and colder temps during daylight hours, but what if your adventurous spirit didn’t have to end when the sun goes down? Let’s consider some options for getting active outside under the cover of night for a different kind of outdoor experience. If we’re going to make our community and our planet sustainable, we’ll need to get to know it in all its features, its rhythms and its wonders.
Check weekly weather forecast to find a clear night to take a stargazing walk. You’ll be able to see basic constellations with the naked eye (although binoculars or a simple telescope can certainly enhance your view, but really, neither are necessary). The plough, aka Big Dipper, is an easy-to-identify group of seven stars whch, once spotted, serves as a marker from which you’ll be able to locate the North Star, aka Polaris because it sits directly over the North Pole. Find a sky map online or consult an astronomy book for beginners to help guide your search. It’s truly remarkable how taking time to simply look up at the night sky gives us pause to reflect on the infinite beauty of the natural world.
Following the lunar cycle is another spectacular way to engage interest in the great outdoors. Plan a hike, snowshoe or X-country ski under the next full moon. February boasts the full Snow Moon on the 27th around 3 a.m., but will likely be best viewed the evening of the 26th. Just as the moon phases influence the ocean’s tide, they are anecdotally believed to influence an energetic shift in people. Some consider the full moon a time to release old energy and welcome new, as well as an opportunity to express creativity and gratitude.
Create a comfortable backyard viewing area for some post night-excursion R&R the whole family can enjoy. If you live in an area that permits fire pits set one up and bring blankets for added warmth. Make a night of it by preparing snacks such as a charcuterie board, S’mores and hot beverages. If a fire isn’t an option where you live, try illuminating your space with lanterns or homemade tiki torches.
There are of course some safety measures to consider when venturing anywhere outdoors at night. Be sure to wear some reflective gear and keep to familiar territory. It’s always a good idea to let others know your planned route and take a cell phone with a location tracker along in case of emergency. There are helpful apps like What3words that have proven to be lifesavers.
Fresh air therapy is so beneficial to both mind and body. By conceptually expanding the hours of enjoyable outdoor playtime we can help make outdoor active living more attainable for those working the bulk of daylight hours. Think of it as a paradigm shift to promote a fresh perspective on our natural surroundings, strengthen our relationship to it and foster a desire to protect it.
Sustainability begins with a full appreciation for our planet and all that it offers us. And remember, the great outdoors never really closes.