September 22, 2023 at 5:45 a.m.

The Lake Where You Live

Real Dark

By Ted Rulseh, Columnist

I once took a tour of an underground coal mine, during which the guide shut off the lights to enable the group to experience true darkness.

We literally could not see a hand in front of our faces.

Almost exactly a year ago I encountered something similar at home, and it gave the lie to concern about light pollution in at least some parts of the lake country.

Noelle and I arrived home about 10 p.m. from a trip out of town. Garbage pickup was in the morning, so after helping unpack the car I grabbed our trash bin and wheeled it down the road toward the pickup spot at the end. There are no streetlights on our remote private lane, no neighbors had indoor or outdoor lights on, and there was no moon. 

I didn’t think to bring a flashlight and had left my phone in the house. About halfway through the two-tenths-of-a-mile trip, the darkness wrapped close around me. 

Thinking my night vision would soon take over, I pressed on, rumbling the cart along the road’s chip seal surface. 

For light to navigate by, I might as well have been in that coal mine. I couldn’t see the cart I was pulling, much less the sides of the road. But I figured that if I got off track I would hear a different sound from the wheels or rub up against tree branches. 

I did, a couple of times, and easily course-corrected. I knew I would have to guess exactly where to leave the cart, but I didn’t expect to become utterly lost.

I thought that ultimately I would bump into one of the neighbors’ carts and so know I had arrived at the turn-around where the garbage truck makes the pickupss. That never happened. I came to an edge of the road and encountered some trees. I backed up, changed direction and tried again. More trees.

A moment later, fully disoriented, I found myself on ground strewn with pine straw, off the road completely, dragging the cart past young conifers whose needles brushed my face, having no idea which way led back to the road.

After blundering around for a minute or so, I made out in the extreme dimness a cottage to my right, a car to my left. I didn’t know whose cottage it was. I worried that someone inside would hear the noise of the cart and come out to confront me, possibly armed. 

No one came. I reversed course and, by sheer luck, made it back to the road again. I left the cart right there, looked back up the road, saw the dim and distant light from our house and used it as a beacon. Even then I strayed off the pavement a couple of times before getting securely on track.

From that moment I resolved to carry a flashlight, or at least my phone, on any night excursion. To live on a lake country backroad is to know true darkness.

Ted Rulseh is a writer, author and lake advocate who lives on Birch Lake in Oneida County. His new book, “Ripple Effects,” has been released by UW Press. You can learn about it by visiting his website at https://thelakeguy.net.


Comments:

You must login to comment.

Sign in
RHINELANDER

WEATHER SPONSORED BY

Latest News

Events

July

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
30 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 1 2 3

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.