Dark comes early this time of year in Tupper Lake, a mountain village in northern New York not far from the Canadian border.
But as we set off across a snow-covered bridge, the path is luminous, decked in glittering white bulbs.
“It’s pretty and magical and there are pools of light reflecting down on the snow,” says my friend Catherine Seidenberg, who bundled up to make the walk with me.
The path follows the edge of a frozen pond into shadowy forest. There among towering white pines we find luminous washes of yellow, rose and silver.
When you think holiday lights, that usually means a neighbor’s house lit up like a cruise ship, or a downtown street transformed by color.
But this is the Wild Center, a nature museum deep in the Adirondack Mountains.
Each winter the staff creates a light display in the woods above the icy Raquette River. Beyond the river stretches the vast High Peaks Wilderness.
The museum also enlists a composer to make dreamy, ethereal music that plays softly on speakers among the trees.
“They’ve got this music playing and it’s just nice to get away and enjoy a walk together and, you know, get a little peace,” says Bonnie Durbin, who strolls arm-in-arm through the pools of light with her husband Gil.
It’s cold. You can see your breath in the colored light. There are people everywhere in heavy coats and mittens.
“The crunch of the snow, it’s just gorgeous, it’s just a Christmas scene,” says Terry Low. She walks close with her husband Ralph, keeping each other warm.
“We recently had about two feet of snow, so all the trees are beautiful,” Ralph says.
We walk on deeper into the woods, to a place where more people are gathered, their faces glowing in the light.
A sculptor has woven branches and twigs into what looks like a big beautiful nest, covered in snow and decked in more white bulbs.
“It’s mesmerizing,” says Jocelyn Dubrey. “There’s so much to look at all at once.”
She’s come with her friend Skyler Spoor, both bundled up against the cold, grinning like they’ve found a secret treasure.
“”It’s honestly magical,” Skyler says. “This place feels blissful.”
The small crowds is mostly quiet, lot of people holding each other as they look.
Outside this little circle of light, the woods are black. Wilderness stretches away in every direction, icy and still. But here in the glow it feels a little like church.
“Wild Lights” at the Wild Center museum in Tupper Lake New York is open to the public 5-8 pm through February 25th. Click here for details, admission prices and more information.