Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Discussion: Hiking in the Dark

Hiking by Headlamp before dawn on the Mount Whitney Main Trail.

This morning I was reading that trail runners who run around dawn and dusk are most vulnerable to bear attacks. While bear mauling is seldom an issue on my hikes it did remind me exactly how terrifying it can be to hike just after dusk, because while bears might not be on the prowl in my territory there area Coyote, Mountain Lions, and Boar all of which under the wrong circumstances can be dangerous.

My memories of hiking after dusk are torturous, scanning the moonlit vegetation around me occasionally catching the reflections of a pair of eyes watching me (usually harmless deer) and constantly looking over my shoulder.

Yet my memories of pre-dawn hikes, while the dangers are exactly the same, are substantially more fond. Perhaps it is because I am hiking in the dark by specific design, perhaps the hikes that require such an early start are simply better, but for some reason I feel the exact opposite about hiking in the dark in the morning.

And that's the funny thing about it. While my imagination is playing games with me in the evening as I’m "stuck" on the trail trying to work my way back to safety, the exact opposite tends to be true in the morning. Pre-dawn morning are ambitious, exciting, and raw.

Has anyone ever had a close call at night or share a similar fear of hiking after dark?


  1. Running into moose is about the only thing you have to worry about in the East. Seen bears but they always have run away. Hiking in the dark always gives me the willies tho, even on local hikes. I feel slightly more comfortable in the morning just because I'm looking forward to the payoffs up higher - early sunrises, no people, etc.

  2. I sometimes get out early because I want to try to spot wildlife, but when I do that I have my senses tweaked. I'm trying to be the stealthy one. Only on rare occation have I been out on a trail after dark without being planned, but I always carry my headlamp just in case. I also like to hike under a full moon, but I rarely get the opportunity to do it.

  3. @cooperhill - playing devils advocate here - in the evening you have similar things to look forward to - sunsets, and no people.

    @Randy - I wish I was able to time my hikes a bit more precisely. I tend to hit the trail late and get back late. I've never hiked under a full moon though, this is something I'll have to try.