A personal microcosm forms walking through the woods, desert, or mountains by headlamp. The battery-powered lamp casts a net of light over anything within range, scattering alien shadows behind rocks and cactus. I have imagined many bears, owls, and even a sasquatch or two in the shadows of my headlamp. Often, you will find me trudging along by the smaller less-luminous red light; an attempt to lessen the alarm those shadows raise. By headlamp, distance is limited to the distance of the light. Ambling through the wilderness is a new experience because the remoteness of the place is even smaller, and suddenly every rock or root in the trail becomes a pivotal marker in my journey.
When I think of moving through the world with a headlamp breaking trail there are a few moments that come to mind. The first was climbing Ten Lakes Pass in Yosemite one August as meteors struck across the Milky Way. Their streams of light across the sky vibrant enough they outcompeted my lamp. It was pure magic. Another was on the slopes of Mount Whitney when after peaking around a buttress, two other headlamps stood in curious excitement. Two boys had lost their way, clearly unaccustomed to the limited visibility of a headlamp.
The part I love most of hiking by headlamp is waking with the Earth. The company of the stars is lost to blue hues that escort the rising sun. Deeper and deeper orange light on the horizon meets the cast of my light, filling the spaces in the shadows that have traveled along. Finally, the decision to punch out the button on my lamp and relieve it of its duty, for the time being.