Do you remember playing outside as a child, and how much more fun it became once the sun went down? There was something so devil-may-care-ish about it, and the atmosphere alone always felt uninhibited, and more exciting because of the slight danger element – half of which was purely imaginary. Night hikes, and especially full moon hikes, have the same kind of attraction to them, except we’re old enough now to know how to stay safe when playing outside.
Adventurous soul or not, a full moon hike is something that everyone with a love for the outdoors should try – at least once. Not only does it heighten your senses and enable you experience even the most familiar trails in a completely new way, but there are generally less people about, which always makes a hike infinitely more enjoyable.
· Tell someone. As with hiking in general, always make sure to tell someone where you’re going, and what time you expect to be back. Also, double check that the trail you’re going on stays open after sunset;
· Go on a trail you’re familiar with. If you’re experiencing a trail for the first time, or you’re new to night hikes, make sure to go with someone who’s experienced, or join a hiking club that organizes night hikes and make some new friends at the same time;
· KISS: Keep It Short and Simple. When your eyesight is reduced/limited, other senses such as hearing, smell and touch go into overdrive. Extended night hikes may put extra stress on your senses and make you feel overstimulated, so keep the hikes short and simple to avoid feeling stressed;
· Take a head-lamp. Full moon hikes are fantastic because they really light up the sky, but never take that as a given. Some trails will still need added illumination (especially woodland areas where trees can obscure moonlight), and last minute cloud cover can also reduce visibility;
· Over prepare. Make sure you take extra batteries, and insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes and gnats which can be bothersome once the sun goes down. Do your homework beforehand and know what kind of wildlife, if any, to expect on a night hike, and how to avoid/look out for them;
· Catch the sunset. Start your hike before it gets dark , and you’ll give yourself a chance to familiarize yourself with the trail, catch the sunset, and depending on where you are, watch the moon rise over the horizon as well, before heading back out;
· Howl at the moon. Because what’s the point of hiking at full moon if you’re not going to get silly about it?
Night hikes are really magical, and can become quite addictive. As with any activity though, remember to take precautions and be safe – not paranoid – at all times. Most importantly, don’t forget to take it all in, and reconnect with your inner child who loved playing outside in the dark.