I’m not afraid of the dark, I said to myself confidently as the furry dog and I headed out the door.
It was around 11 p.m. and the first clear, moonless night since I had arrived in the mountains. I had been waiting for a few weeks to go shoot the stars and if ever there was a time to do it, this was it.
I’m not afraid of the dark, I thought, as I made the short and twisty drive from my family’s house in Blue River up to the summit of Hoosier Pass. With no light and no moon, the hairpin turns on the winding mountain road were infinitely harder to see. I found myself slowing to a near stop to make sure I stayed in my lane.
I arrived at the trailhead parking lot near the road’s summit and pulled over. I noticed the semi parked across the street and the white van that was nestled in over by the trees. I fiddled with my camera settings, got out of the car, and set up my tripod. I had forgotten a headlamp and was relegated to using the flashlight on my phone for light. It was less than ideal.
I’m not afraid of the dark, I said, less confidently now, as I waited out the 30-second exposure I was using to try and capture the Milky Way. Those thirty seconds, so short in normal life, seemed endless with no one around, no light to be had, and nothing to do but wait and think.
It doesn’t sound like much but thirty seconds is really an awful lot of time for thinking.
I thought about that semi and that van. I thought about how someone could exit either of those vehicles and I’d never see them coming. I got spooked. I took three shots and packed it in. I had been out of the car for maybe five minutes but my nerves had gotten the best of me. I am not easily rattled by these types of situations but, for whatever reason, this time I was. Goosebumps popped up on my arms as I drove down the mountain.
I’m not afraid of the dark, I thought. But, tonight, I am afraid of what it hides.
I wandered into my parents house and breathed a big sigh of relief.
I though the night was a bust, a waste. I thought I would have been better off sipping wine on the couch and finishing the book that I’m currently obsessed with. And then I pulled up the pictures on my camera and saw, in those three shots, this one. When I was up on that dark and spooky pass I didn’t notice the thin layer of clouds covering the stars or that a UFO had apparently landed in Fairplay, which sits down the hill in the bottom left side of the frame. And the night didn’t seem like such a waste anymore.
I’m not afraid of the dark, I thought, but next time I’m taking a damn flashlight.