We did not do much night hiking on the PCT, and thankfully have not started that habit yet here on the AT. So far we have hiked about an hour and a half in the dark, with our headlamps, and that’s about enough for me. There is something about the darkness in the woods that scares me. Yesterday we met a hiker, Night Train, that has hiked over 100 miles in the dark, so more than 20% of his miles thus far. I just don’t get the appeal.
This might sound funny, but I believe the night time is the animals’ time. They give us our time during the day to take over the trail and the water sources, and then I believe we should give them some time back to do their thing once the sun goes down. I have yet to see anything more than a turkey, birds and squirrels on the trail, but I know there are plenty more animals out there that I’ll never see, which is just fine. Even as I sit here typing, I can hear coyotes calling out, I often hear owls through the night, and last evening wild ponies practically entered our shelter while eating crumbs that hikers left outside.
I’ll admit, that isn’t the only reason I don’t like to night hike. When you hike at night with a headlamp, everything looks and sounds different. You see every pair of eyes that your headlamp comes across, not that you know what animal those eyes belong to. You see every spider and spider web floating in front or around you, and each water source that you pass sounds deafening compared to the silence of the darkness. Even a squeaky tree is that much scarier because you can’t see where that squeak is coming from.
Two nights ago, we slept just a mile or two outside of Damascus, VA. We picked the second good looking campsite just off the side of the trail, and it was a really windy evening. With wind, all the branches sway, trees squeak, and things make different noises in general. We were sleeping near some swaying branches and they kept me up all night, my mind dreaming up all the scary things they could be besides just a swinging branch. My heart rate goes up just thinking about night hiking with all those different noises going on. For all these reasons, I stick to daylight hours unless completely necessary, and I hope it stays that way.