NIGHT HIKING ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
As dusk fell on Seth Warner Shelter on the Appalachian Trail Mike Darmont hefted his backpack and hiked up the trail. While other backpackers ambled into camp Mike was setting out for points north on a night hike.
Hiking at night on the Appalachian Trail offers unique challenges and rewards. A bold hiker enjoys the “music of the night” which can only be savored after sunset when things are quieter on the trail. Chances of seeing after-dark wildlife increase, temperatures are cooler and more comfortable for backpacking, and the vault of heaven opens up with a spangle of stars enough to take your breath.
If you’d like to try a night hike, keep these tips in mind:
Pick a clear, moonlit night, preferably when you’ll get advantage of the most hours of illumination.
Unless you’re set on solitude, hike with a companion. If you choose to hike alone, leave word in a trail register or with other hikers that you’re traveling after dark.
Stay to the Appalachian Trail, and avoid bushwhacking off-trail.
Use a headlamp, not a flashlight. You’ll appreciate having your hands free. Take extra batteries.
Set off up the path before twilight, which will allow time for your vision to adjust to the darkness.
Don’t neglect to take breaks and stay hydrated. Just because it may be cooler doesn’t mean you don’t need regular rest and water. Keep a sweater or light jacket strapped to your pack to put on during stops.
Don’t expect to maintain the pace you do in daytime, despite having the best of light. Adjust your pace for the conditions and to ensure safety.
If you decide to take a break near a lean-to be sure to give sleeping hikers their space. Don’t disturb them. Also avoid camps and shelters with late-night partiers.