Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Night Hiking

Keeper of List of Bay Area Hikes and Hiker of Said Hikes Tom Mangan (Two-Heel Drive) posts several pieces today about Bay Area hikes, including a night hike at Sunol Regional Park:

Guided hikes last approximately 1 and 3/4 hours and become more dark and spooky as the night progresses …

Sounds like fun.

It got me thinking again about the pleasures (and a few complexities) of hiking at night. I’m also thinking about this because in the next few weeks it is quite likely that I’ll hike after dark. In the Sierra. Seven miles. Alone. Uphill. More on that eventually.

Let me get the “complexities” out of the way first. First of all, you may have noticed that does tend to be dark at night. Unless you have great night vision, know your route extremely well, or have clear terrain and a full moon you’ll need to use a headlamp. While one can get around camp pretty well with a tiny LED model, most would agree that real night hiking demands a more serious headlamp and perhaps extra batteries. Route-finding can be an issue. It is very easy to miss a turn and suddenly be trailless. The terrain itself becomes more of an issue since your headlamp pretty much illuminates only a small area in front of you – it is easier to trip and lose your balance.

All of this duly noted, there is a peace and calm about night hiking that can perhaps only be approached on a quiet hike or ski in windless conditions after a recent snow fall. The fact that you cannot see details focuses your mind in a very unique way. If you value the experience of being alone – at least occasionally – you’ll get there more quickly after dark. You’ll know what I mean the first time you stop for a “pack off” break on a night hike.

And one of the best experiences comes if you are hiking after dark to a place where you will meet friends. Few things are better than emerging from solitude and darkness and into a circle of light at the campsite where the rest of your party waits.

Hopefully with hot soup… :-)

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October 4, 2007 - Posted by | Commentary

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