Night hiking sharpens the senses and is incredibly fun
The sun was shining with particular intensity, and the mountains were on display in all their beauty. We enjoyed the vast panoramic view, the clean air, and cool, refreshing drinks. Yet, the hot summer day was not to be the main attraction. Instead, we were all eagerly awaiting sunset. Today, everything would revolve around the imminent night with its full moon. Here we were – five friends and a dog determined to go on a hike in the dark.
Night hiking in the summer is enjoying ever-greater popularity. Darkness, especially when one is in a group, can be quite a unique experience. In addition, night hiking offers a certain thrill. When your eyes can hardly recognize outlines, your other senses become all the more acute. Sounds and smells are perceived with greater intensity.
How many of us can recognize the twinkling constellations that only appear in the night sky, and who can identify the innumerable mysterious sounds of the woods? And who actually feels comfortable in the forest at night? That is precisely what it is all about, namely to free oneself, even for a moment, from the dominance of the sense of sight and visual distractions. You can only follow the night with blind trust. However, the reward for submitting to the magic of the night is unexpectedly intimate access to flora and fauna.
Old friends, new paths
Twilight has arrived, and the hike in darkness can finally begin. We are a group of old friends – three women, two men, and a dog. None of us is particularly fit, and no one is very venturesome. For this reason, this hike outside of our comfort zone is so important. After many years of being out of touch, a wedding in our circle of friends brought us back together. We spontaneously decided to make this trek.
When we arrived at the parking lot outside of Starnberg in southern Bavaria, it soon became apparent that none of us had given much thought to bring along the proper equipment. Someone asks if anyone brought a headlamp. No one answers. It doesn’t matter. The will and desire are there. A smile accompanies us to the edge of the woods – just like in our old school days.
The hike begins
We know our way through the woods inside out. After about 100 meters, it’s already quite dark, and we quickly realize that this will not be an average hike. We march close together, and our strides are much slower than usual. Every step is also a step into uncertainty. Every sound is suddenly significant and demands closer attention. After only 10 minutes, we had such an amazingly good time perceiving nature with all of our senses. Like magic, the natural world reveals that which was previously unknown, and we were overcome with the awareness that everything around us is living, crawling, and fluttering about. Perception becomes sharper and the senses more acute. Outlines appear more precise, and you notice you now have a greater breadth of vision. We were full of new energy and pure attentiveness.
The forest has a fragrant aroma, and the air tastes like conifer trees. We can feel the slightly rising humidity of the dark forest floor on our skin as it responds with rigid goosebumps. You seem to sense that the forest is regenerating from the previous hot summer day. It is almost as if you experience an awakening of nature in the plant and animal kingdom. With every step, your instincts become keener. Our mouths remain open as if we are secretly eavesdropping. As we walk, small branches lying on the forest floor snap, and we often drag them along a few steps like loose autumn leaves. The body maintains a state of alert tension in reaction to these unusual circumstances.
After about 90 minutes, we reach a large clearing in the forest, and, all at once, the full moon shines in all its glory. The light forces us to squint for a moment following our march through the darkness. The light seems to permeate everything and throws long shadows. We realize that these are moments to be remembered for a lifetime and that we are experiencing something special. The night radiates magic, and we see it on each other’s faces. We talk about what we’ve been doing over the past years. We laugh a lot, and there are even a few tears. During the day, we tend to scrutinize every little thing unnecessarily, but here, under cover of the night, there is a complete absence of any judgmental views or assessments.
The night comes to an end
It gradually becomes cooler, and the body slows down, adjusting to its rhythm. Our return march is marked by calm. Everyone feels the need to be quiet. The whole group began to move slower and slower for the final 100 meters. It was as if we didn’t want this night to end. When we arrived at the hotel, we stayed sitting outside until the night gradually handed over its scepter to the sun. And then, one by one, we headed off silently to bed. We all slept soundly for the remainder of the night.
We chatted lively over our morning coffee. We planned on meeting again next year and once more going on a night hike. The next time, we would bring the proper equipment and camp outside. We even talked about headlamps. Once again, we were enthralled by ambition.
What do I need to go night hiking?
A daring night hiker can expect plenty of physical activity and fresh air, a close bond to nature, and pure relaxation. So that the darkness doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying your adventure, you should bring along a good pair of comfortable shoes with slip-resistant soles, rain protection, something to drink, a reflector band, and, of course, a flashlight or headlight. It is best not to go alone. Hiking in a group offers safety, and a shared experience often leaves a more lasting impression. In addition, it is advisable to have already hiked the planned night route at least once during the day. This way, you can focus all the more intensely on your night hiking experiences.