I grew up night hiking. Big groups of kids screaming at every little sound and walking into trees were a regular occurrence. We were not graceful, but man did we have fun (in between all the whining and screaming). If you've ever hiked with a bunch of ten year olds then you know exactly what I'm talking about. When I started to lead more trips I was suddenly in charge of the unruly masses which was just as hilarious. There's nothing like convincing 30 kids that walking down what is most probably a cliff into a 5 ft tall culvert to keep you laughing and help you work on your persuasion skills.
These nighttime adventures just got more ridiculous as I got older. All night treks through redwoods, scrambling up sandy mountains, beating the heat on the PCT and always feeling like you are in a whole different world. I'll never forget these adventures, Joshua trees at night sure do look amazing silhouetted against a full moon.
So I guess it should come as no surprise that as I have settled into working 12 hour night shifts I found myself wide awake at the most inopportune hiking hours. So I've started to take advantage of the cool evening hours and hit the hills in the dark. Not always advisable but such a satisfying time. I stick to the trails I know like the back of my hand, enjoy sunset and the quiet of a popular place in the off hours. New sounds, or at least different ones make what can be a mundane hike into something entirely different, never discount the creepy nighttime forest factor. Earlier this week I just had to pause and smile, thunder rumbling as a lightning storm lit up the sky, a fire burning across the canyon takes on a whole new life and ultimately I just love that I get to be a part of it.
My old hikes all had one hard and fast rule, no lights. I am still somewhat surprised when I'm with a bunch of adults and the minute it gets dark lights get busted out in every direction. As long as I'm not completely in forest canopy I really just prefer the lack of light. But in deference to safety and no broken bones (yes mom this is really all just for you) I often have a headlamp with me as I head into the dark, laughing as the light hits the eyes of small creatures and my dog disappears into nothingness. How can you not love night hiking?