Sunday, November 18, 2012

Solar Lights For a Treacherous Trail

Since the time change, I've dreaded taking my dogs outside after supper.

Back at my old home, the time change was annoying.  Here in Minnesota, though, it's actually a bit dangerous.  That is... if, like me, you have to walk up a short trail to get to the area where you can allow your dogs to run free.

long, treacherous garden path, mid January
This photo was taken not long before this blog began!

See, by 4:30 the sun has lowered enough that you have to start turning on lights indoors.  

By the time I feed the dogs and take them outside, the sun has completely set, and my backyard is swathed in darkness.  Since pushing the clocks back an hour, I've stumbled on the treacherous trail that leads up to the fenced area of the yard on several different occasions.

I'm clumsy, in general, I admit, so when darkness is added into the equation, my lack of dexterity turns me into my own worst enemy.  I've tripped on rocks, as well as the steps themselves.  I've even managed to trip on the air itself, misjudging where a step should be... you know... because I can't see the darned thing!

I realized that if I didn't do something soon, I was going to end up really hurt.  Fortunately, there was an easy answer.

Solar lights.  

The kind you use in your garden.

I remembered that I had bought an 8-pack of Westinghouse solar lights that were on clearance for a ridiculously cheap price about a year and a half ago.  I had left two of them at my home in the desert southwest, and had used one to make a solar lantern last year, so that meant I had 5 remaining.

That's enough to do the job!

After hunting around in the basement for a while, I finally grabbed the box of lights and ran out to the path.  Having only 5 lights, I had to be careful with them.  I needed to find the two most treacherous spots (You know, for symmetry.) and ensure the lights were placed for max effect.

I elected to use only four.  Again, that whole symmetry thing.

I placed the first two into the ground immediately after the retaining wall.  The trail climbs pretty steeply there for a few steps, and time has eroded quite a bit of it.

2 solar lights on either side of the retaining wall of the path entrance.  Path angles at about 35 degrees, at the beginning.

I placed two more solar lights mid-trail, at a point that would cover some unevenly positioned steps that were also falling victim to erosion.  This would also shed light on the final steps at the top.

A solar light on each side of a particularly unstable brick step.

I tested all four lights prior to setting them in the ground, by placing my hand over the sensor, and they were all in good condition.  I found this rather shocking, considering the length of time that they were shut away in the basement, but I'm not complaining!!!

There was nothing left to do at this point but wait.

I knew that I wouldn't get a full idea of the effectiveness on this first attempt, due to the solar lights only charging for another hour, but I'd get an idea of how well the placement would work.  What I would be able to see, though, was a glimpse at shadows.  If there were any shadows in important zones, I'd have to re-position everything.  I kept my fingers crossed.

Finally, it was almost time to take the dogs out, and the sun was almost fully set.  I could go out and check my work while still able to see my feet if I had failed.

Just a hint of light remaining in the sky.  The 4 solar lights are shining along the trail.

The solar lights were still working, so I breathed a sigh of relief.  I stared at shadows.

The placement worked!!!

There were no shadows in inappropriate places.

When I brought the dogs up the trail, I could see the ground beneath my feet for the first time since that blasted time change!  The lights were dim, of course, because they hadn't been fully charged, but it worked.

I didn't stumble... not even once!

Solar lights are a very effective way to light up areas that aren't easy to light using electricity.  Not only that, but solar lights are so much more green than their corded counterparts.  You're drawing your energy from the sun, rather than fossil fuels, after all.  They help decrease your ecological footprint, and who doesn't want that?

They're a great way to light an unsafe area, while at the same time allowing yourself to be environmentally responsible.


Do you have a treacherous area in your yard?  Any area that you always manage to stumble over, or even simply bump into?  Solar lights worked for me, so they may be of value to you, as well.


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