For most of us, wilderness is a place we explore and experience under the safe cover of sunshine, a beautiful, sunlit postcard. But the wildness doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. An estimated 85 percent of the world’s mammals are creatures of the night. Over 60 percent of carnivores hunt in the dark. Night is the dark heart of nature and to really understand our wild places, you must have the courage to explore that “dark heart”, to take a deep breath and enter the world of wilderness at night. Last weekend, more than 25 CS2 students did just that, participating in a “night paddle” on Big Donahue Lake. Beginning at sunset, the well-prepared paddlers set off with guides Michael Salat and Jeff Rennicke to paddle into the night. By staying together as a group and having every student wear a glow stick, the party safely traversed sunset and entered the wilderness of the dark. To paddle at night is to more fully realize our connection to nature, and our limitations. Boundaries blur. Night sounds seem louder and more ominous. Even a familiar lake can go suddenly wild. The party did long, silent “listening sessions” to let the sounds of the night – spring peepers, loon calls, mysterious sticks cracking in the forest – seep into their souls. They paddled the dark waters of the lake, exploring a new world of wilderness in the dark. And then returned to a campfire for popcorn and stories of their adventure. Thanks to Michael Salat, Jill Rennicke, Carolee Salat, and the CS2 students who braved the darkness for making this exploration of nature’s dark side a success.