Thursday, May 8, 2014

Stepping into a dark but beautiful adventure - Night Hiking

There are so many ways to experience the diversity of our natural surroundings and find wonder through outdoor adventure. Night hiking is a unique way to explore forests, to observe from a different perspective and to marvel at the power of nature.  To be quite honest, I had never considered night hiking before.  The idea only came to mind when I happened upon a Facebook group of hikers who were planning a night hike on Mt. Prevost. Instantly I was intrigued.  A few Facebook conversations on the “TAKE A HIKE Vancouver Island” group with Rick, the outdoor guru heading up the adventure, confirmed that we needed to be a part of this amazing outdoor experience.

The part of night hiking that excited me the most was a chance to encounter the nocturnal animals that live in the forest. A beam of light into the thick forest could expose the beady eyes of raccoons, owls, moles, and bats that we rarely see during our daytime adventures. Perhaps even something bigger could be staring back at us. (No eyes were seen but that would have certainly added some adrenaline to the hike.) Night hiking significantly decreases normal vision.  To compensate for that, other senses like smell and sound increase.  Exposure to new wonder and amazement is experienced when hiking through the dark forest.  This and exploring a new area (to us) was enough to fuel my outdoor passion but there is more.  Timing for the night hike was planned in January during the full moon, which adds a mix of shadows and a spooky element.  As if that was not enough, how about throwing in the weather phenomenon known as an inversion.  It was all these factors coming together that made our first night hike experience unforgettable.

Beautiful shot captured by Lisa Bronson showing the blanket of cloud covering the entire Cowichan Valley.  Absolutely stunning.

That night a combination of warm air aloft and cold air sticking to the ground created a blanket of fog covering the entire Cowichan Valley.  A short uphill jaunt from the parking lot on Mt. Prevost to the first peak unveiled a spectacular sight.  Above us the night sky was clear, the moon was bright and the air was warm. Standing beside the stone monument and looking down across the fog landscape was a sight like no other. Mountains like Tzouhalem, Maxwell, and Maple, normally prominent sights appeared to be little islands amongst a vast fluffy ocean.  Lights below the fog glowed up through the clouds adding a splash of color across the white canvas.  There were seven adults on the night hike and every single one of us stood there in amazement and wonder.  Ben and Liv were quick to realize that this was something special, stopping to take notice and appreciate the view as well.  Never had any of us seen such a magical sight.

Ben standing beside the stone monument, lite up with headlamps, on the first peak of Mt. Prevost.

From the first peak we headed towards two more peaks on Mt. Prevost where views of Copper Canyon, which was completely swallowed up by the fog, reignited our wonder once again.  Our night hike continued on through forest trails that eventually lead us back to the parking lot.  There was a bit of bushwhacking along the way, which is always fun, especially in the dark.  The final touch to the evening was walking underneath a mini waterfall that thankfully, did not have much water flow to it.

We have always taken precautions on our day hikes and backpacking trips, should we ever get delayed or are forced to hike at night, by carrying flashlights and a long shirt or extra jacket.  Love that now we can add night hiking to our arsenal of outdoor adventuring activities.  Night hiking is not at all scary or unsafe; in fact, just a few helpful tips will ensure an enjoyable hike.  Scout out the trail ahead of time.  A trail that is familiar is best and if possible, flag the intended route out ahead of time.  Some public trails may only be open from dawn to dusk.  Check regulations ahead of time and respect the rules.  Night hike in a group, never solo.  Avoid hiking along steep cliffs, crossing water, or straying from the group.  Pack flashlights, headlamps, glow sticks, extra flashlights, and back up batteries.  Allow for more time on the trail at night than during the day.  Following these simple tips will put everyone's mind at ease and make the night hike more enjoyable.

Photo courtesy of Rick Bronson and a big thanks to him and the rest of the group for a wonderful outdoor experience.

My sincere thanks go out to Rick, Lisa, Paul and Tonya for welcoming my family and me to the hike with open arms.  It was very special to have Ben and Liv treated as part of the group and everyone took the time to chat with them.  Sometimes more than what was required.  Thank you. 

1 comment:

  1. You've got a great-looking Blogger blog, the Cowichan Valley photo IS stunning, and any kind of outdoor activity at night seems to have a certain magic. Even walking around your backyard.