Friday, September 5, 2014

Staged Light Test July 14, 2014 Wolf Pit Trail BML Cam2

My solo nighttime roundtrip hike to the summit of Shortoff Mtn on the Wolf Pit Trail on the evening of Monday July 14, 2014 provided a staged light test that establishes the high visibility of the type of handheld lights commonly carried by back country hikers. Both my 520-lumen handheld spotlight and my 4-LED 78-lumen headlamp were visible to the camera. The exercise also establishes exactly where that trail is located in the camera's field of view and confirms our earlier suspicions of similar lights seen on previous dates. An extensive forest fire in 2007 destroyed most of the vegetation along the trail, allowing for nearly-continuous open views, especially on the upper portions of the mountain. On the trail, a party of 4 hikers without lights were encountered after sunset but before darkness, while overnight campers were seen near the summit, just out of view of Cam2. My recorded time notes for my arrival at specific landmarks matched perfectly with lights recorded by the video. The full video can be seen at:

Our BML Cam2 is located at a house south of the southern end of Linville Gorge. It is operated by Dr. Dan Caton, Lee Hawkins, and Annette Farah of the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State Univ., Boone, NC. The camera is located 2.5-3.0 miles from the Wolf Pit Trail and has been running intermittently since October 2013.

My handheld light seen from the Summit of Shortoff Mtn
Light shinning from rock cliffs with unobstructed view toward Cam2.

My handheld light seen from the Junction of the Mountain-To-Sea Trail and the Wolf Pit Trail

My handheld light seen from the area of the switchbacks on the Wolf Pit Trail
Once again, staged light tests like this one strongly suggests that differentiating between distant nocturnal manmade lights and non-manmade lights is extremely difficult if not actually impossible for uninformed observers relying only on visual clues.

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