By Steve Gillman
For myself, moonlight hiking is something that started when
I was a teenager prowling the streets and fields of Michigan.
Later I found that if I planned my backpacking trips to coincide
with a full moon, I could hike every night. There are two primary
motivations for doing this. One is the adventure and mystery
of night hiking, and the other is the practical advantages that
Moonlight Hiking - The Beauty and the Practicality
It really is a great experience to hike away the hours of
the night under a full moon. The first time I did this on a longer
backpacking trip was on a five-day backpacking trip in the Sierra
Nevadas. Each night I slept until the cold bothered me, then
easily hiked through the rest of the night by moonlight.
Usually this meant getting up at two or three in the morning
and hiking the rest of the night. Since I was moving during the
coldest part of the night, I was able to get away with a lighter
sleeping bag. In fact, since there wasn't a cloud in the sky,
I just slept without tent or tarp every night. I also took a
leisurely nap in the sun every afternoon to catch up on sleep.
Hiking at night meant there were never other people on the
trail. Actually, crowded trails were not a problem where I was,
but I would like to go moonlight hiking to avoid the crowds the
next time I am in Yosemite National Park, or in the Smoky Mountains.
It is nice to sometimes have the trails and whole mountain valleys
You can make good miles at night, and you don't have any problems
of over-heating. When the moon is full, or within three days
of its fullest, the moonlight is more than bright enough for
hiking in fairly open terrain. In the woods, you might need a
flashlight for assistance in the darker parts.
If you want to try this, plan trips with the full moon right
in the middle of the time span if you can. In this way you get
the maximum use of the moonlight before, during and after the
full moon. Note the time that the moon rises too. Starting an
hour after moonrise you'll have enough light to hike, unless
it is overly cloudy (something else to check on).
While moonlight hiking on isolated beaches in the Upper Peninsula
of Michigan I could clearly see animal tracks in the wet sand
at the water's edge. These included fresh bear tracks. Black
bears in this area are not usually dangerous, but it keeps your
senses tuned in when you know there are eyes in the woods watching
you and none of them are human.
Lakes reflect the moon, owls swoop by almost without sound,
and animals move in the bushes as you pass. Shadows hide things,
but you walk on by, leaving these little mysteries unsolved.
The trees and rocks take on a different appearance than during
the daylight. Moonlight hiking is a unique and beautiful experience.