One of my favorite fall traditions is the Lantern Walk. A late afternoon walk in the woods, with homemade lanterns to light our way as darkness falls.
We love to hike but normally our hikes are morning affairs, sometimes with a picnic lunch to enjoy along the way. However, there is a special feeling you get hiking in the woods in the dim glow of dusk. Everything seems imbued with a magic, anticipatory feeling as the nighttime forest begins to awaken.
The first time we were planning to go on a lantern walk, an hour beforehand, my son fell off the couch and broke his arm. PSA: apparently, sitting quietly listening to audiobooks can be hazardous to your health. So we made our own lantern walk a week later with a short tramp around our neighborhood, singing lantern songs and stopping for a candlelit story in a nearby meadow.
The following year, we got a little more ambitious and did a half-mile hike in a state park near our house. Though the hike was short, the plentiful snack we brought took my kids so long to finish that by the time we began our walk back out of the woods, it was well and truly dark and our little tealight lanterns were barely sufficient to light our way. Lessons learned: pack less food and a flashlight.
This year’s walk was a complete success in terms of timing, and we had the luck to have our year’s first snowfall on the same day. Finding a quiet meadow dusted with snow halfway through our hike was a highpoint for us all.
When we stopped for our modest snack of cinnamon toast, grapes, and warm moonlight tea, I told a version of this sweet story from Joyful Toddlers about a family finding light and warmth as the world begins to grow cold and dark for the winter. That’s actually my favorite thing about doing lantern walks – the feeling of bringing a warm glow to the chill of late fall. I love that the story talks about acts of kindness as a way to warm our own hearts.
As we made our way back along the trail, we cheerily sung our lantern songs, making sure any nocturnal animals in the vicinity would give us a wide berth. We arrived peacefully back at the trailhead with nary a stumble over a tree root, though my daughter was heartily disappointed that at the end of our walk there were no neighbors to sing to like in the story. Looks like we’ll have to plan a cookie-and-caroling walk next!