Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kids on the night shift

I've been wanting to get my kids out for the night experience. Earlier opportunities this summer involved high water, and I just wasn't crazy about little kids streamside in elevated flows in the darkness. I also wanted some moon - not that I'm picky or anything, but I wanted their first trip out to be enjoyable, and I figured being able to see their surroundings would make it all the more pleasant and awe inspiring.

I saw a handful of mice dart across the road in the headlights as we vibrated over the washboards in darkness to where I wanted to start. Always a good sign that the 'hatch' is on.  As we got out of the truck I noticed another mouse on the gravel of the road. The kids bailed out and gave it a good chase. They had it cornered a couple times before losing it into a crevice. That seemed to set the stage for a good night of adventure and mousing. Well, it would only be a couple hours. Maybe three. It certainly wouldn't be all night.

We hiked to what I figured was a decent starting point for both fishing structure and minimally hazardous waterline. The kids experienced how well they truly can see in the ambient light of night (at least in the wide open unvegetated world that is Montana) because I had them hike with lights off. The pale dirt of the trail was easy to see, and as eyes adjusted to the dimness the texture of the ground surface could be seen. The hillsides were white in the moonlight but were still only a vague suggestion of the terrain.

When we arrived at the water's edge, they both slipped a life jacket on.  We'd discussed this ahead of time and they accepted my requirement without any pushback.

As the night wore on we did things I never do. We shined lights everywhere. We observed bats.  I knew there were a lot, but it wasn't till this night that I knew just how many filled the air. We watched them eat and flitter. We watched them react to the flying mouse fly. I pointed out the sounds of the bats and of landing waterfowl. They spotlighted my mouse and watched how it came to life in the water. I was tossing one of Chris Cutler's arti-mouse creations I'd gotten from him earlier in the summer. My daughter exclaimed "It looks just like a real mouse!"