If you’ve ever been to camp, one of the most awesome adventures you can have is to take a night hike. Grab a flashlight and let’s head out into the dark woods to see what we can find!
When you’ve gone hiking in the past, it was most likely during the day. Why? Because it’s easier to see where you’re going, and humans are more active during the day.
So why hike at night? There are actually things you might never see unless you hike at night. More important, there are all sorts of things to hear and smell and even feel on a hike in the dark.
Human beings rely mainly on their eyes to sense what is around them. Human eyes are made for seeing in color with a lot of light.
When you go hiking after the sun goes down, you force your other senses — especially hearing and smell — into high gear when your eyes can no longer deliver the same amount of sensory information to your brain.
In fact, you can try an experiment right now. Go into a dark room or use a piece of cloth as a blindfold. Sit quietly and let your body adjust to not being able to see.
Can you feel your other senses becoming sharper? Do you find yourself listening more closely?
After you’ve been in the dark for a while (at least half an hour), your eyes will begin to adjust to the darkness. You’ll probably discover more than when you began your hike.
You’ll also begin to notice that it’s rarely ever completely dark. On a starry night, you may be able to see quite well. Take some time to explore the night sky. What do you notice that you can’t see during the day?
Night hiking is probably not in most people’s “comfort zone.” Being in unfamiliar surroundings with little light may make some people nervous or uncomfortable.
Taking a hike at night is all about challenging yourself to see things differently, though. If you approach it with an open mind and let your sense of wonder take over, it can be an experience you won’t soon forget.
In the woods at night, there seems to be an entirely new world that’s not around during the day. There are different sounds. There are different smells. And there are a group of animals that only come out at night.
We call these animals “nocturnal.” Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active only at night.
Some common nocturnal animals include bats, great horned owls, badgers, porcupines, beavers, tarantulas, skunks, wombats, raccoons and hedgehogs.
Nocturnal animals usually have advanced senses of hearing and smell. Some nocturnal animals, such as ferrets and cats, also have eyes that can adapt to both darkness and the bright of day.
Animals may be nocturnal for many reasons. Some animals are active at night to make it easier to find food. Others use the night to avoid becoming prey for predators.
Still others may prefer the night to avoid the heat of the day. This is especially true for desert animals that must conserve water.
When you go to sleep at night, there’s a whole other world that’s just starting to wake up. When you go on a night hike, you have the chance to explore this other world like a foreign land.
When you open your mind — and your eyes, ears and nose — to new challenges, you never know what you’ll find!