Members of the Environmental Club probably had no clue the luminary walk they hosted in 2000 would turn into a major annual event. During its earliest years, the walk was a chance for people to rent snowshoes and hike a trail marked by candles. There was hot chocolate waiting at the end and sometimes a campfire, but it was generally a quiet, low-key event.
Last year, an estimated 1,100 people showed up for the Luminary Hike, and its popularity prompted staff at the Wittenbach Wege Center to split the event into two nights. Friday evening offered a simple hike while Saturday was a family night complete with crafts in two locations.
It’s not often you get a chance to walk in the woods at night so it’s not surprising the Luminary Hike is popular. We stopped by during the Saturday family night, and here’s what the scene looked like.
The parking lot at the Wittenbach Wege Center quickly filled, and volunteers directed traffic to the high school parking lot. A lighted pathway took participants from the parking lot to the nature center, and a bright spotlight ensured safe passage for everyone crossing Vergennes Street.
Families with children of all ages converged upon the trailhead. The Luminary Hike was free although a $2 donation was suggested.
While the night wasn’t too cold, there were plenty of fires available for people to warm up.
Then it was time to enter the woods. Don’t let this image fool you though. It’s a photo taken with the flash on.
This is what the walk was actually looked like. While luminaries marked the path, it was definitely a hike in the dark — which is exactly what made the night special.
The marked trail ended at a cabin where people could warm themselves around two fires.
Inside the cabin, children crowded around two tables and made pinecone bird feeders and strung together popcorn and cranberries.
Many children left their finished strings and feeders on a tree in front of the cabin as a treat for area birds.
A short walk from the cabin took people to an observation deck with a glow-in-the-dark poster highlighting various constellations to be found in the sky.
When hikers returned to the nature center, hot cocoa was available on the back deck overlooking the pond.
Families settled into the picnic tables or stood along the railing to enjoy their drinks.
Dairy Discovery donated cheese sticks for the event, and there were leftover bags and candy from the Lowell Christmas Parade for the taking too.
While the deck was bustling, it was no match for the crowd inside the nature center.
Inside, kids and parents made snowflakes, trees and nature ornaments to take home.
You know you’ve hit the big time when you have your very own t-shirt.
The Luminary Hike has grown from humble roots to become a December highlight for many families. If you missed it this year, make plans to experience it for yourself in 2019.