dinsdag 16 juni 2009

Night Hike

Sometimes you just want to go out. Enjoying the outdoors. But we tend to see backpacking and hiking as a daytime thing. But that doesn’t have to be. I can be quite rewarding. We spend a lot of time indoors, and therefore love it to go out. We tend to sleep a lot at night but…..

I only had a very short period of time. Spending al the day busy with other things I decided to leave in the late evening for a night hike.

I love this, at night walking through the woods is a complete different experience than during the day. The visual possibilities are greatly impaired to a minimum of using the headlight now and then. From full color, surroundings are stylized to grayscale and the other senses work overtime.

You don’t have to have a light to see if you are still on the path, you can feel it. You feel the direction of the wind much more clear. You smell everything better. You can hear the night animals shuffle through the bush. When the moon is up, its light pierces through the open areas to form strange figures in black and white. Then it’s easy to see something or someone…….:-)
So I packed and left at 23.00h. Cloudy, warm and humid. I checked the weather forecast and although some thunderstorms were on their way they would pass me. But after 2 hours hiking I noticed light flashes in the air and a thunderstorm seems to be getting closer but not very fast. Still I stepped up my pace because I had quite some miles to go. On my mobile phone I tried to check the weather radar if anything would have but I was out of reach of any network.

Outdoors thunder flashes can be seen far more further then in cities because the level of light in cities is higher. But in a forest area it’s difficult to guess a distance. I could still not hear anything after the flashes so I still had some time.
I enjoyed the sudden light flashes through the trees. As if someone took photographs from the other side with a huge flash. Beautiful. The storm wasn’t getting any closer but seemed to drift sideways.

When I at 2.30h reached a small campsite, it started to drizzle a bit. I had to hurry to find a spot. And as I went looking the rain became more heavily. I quickly put on my poncho, and searched for a good spot with my headlight. With the possibility of a thunderstorm still coming a picked a spot in a somewhat open area. Away from high trees and falling branches. I had to hurry, and had difficulty placing the groundsheet because it blew away. I threw my tent on it grabbed my pegs and started pegging. A poncho is a great thing but not when you move close to the ground. And especially this mil-spec poncho which is incredible strong but also has a hood to fit a complete battalion in and so blocking my light.
The tent was up in no time and the Speed Hood of the laser competition has proved to be very fast.
But still everything was wet as I have had to lay the tent on a rained on groundsheet. I stuffed my pack in , put my poncho off and quickly hide in the tent.
The wind picked up and rain was still getting very heavy. A complete downpour. The tent with the new guy lines kept very steady, no problems there. The fly was taut but the rain did make an awful lot of noise.
I use a cut down Thermarest Z-Rest and normally I would put my pack under my feet for isolation. But my pack was soaking wet and this was no option. I laid down my pants as they were only partly wet. I stuffed my spare socks, underwear and my fleece in the OR waterproof sleepingbag bag as a pillow. Within 10 minutes it seemed that the fly was leaking. Very small water drops were coming down. I could imagine that there was more rain and at high speed coming down than the fly could have, but the rapid building up condensation droplets that were most likely shooting of when a big rain drops hit it from the other side. I couldn’t do anything about that.
Tired I fell asleep to be awakened in the morning by again a thunderstorm. Somebody at the weather station must have scratched his head. As well as I. This wasn’t forecasted. Again it was raining hard and pretty windy as well.

I found that the inner tent was wet. Wetter than it should. Water was dripping of the top onto my sleeping bag. Since I went with a double roof tent I and it was warm enough I didn’t take my sleeping bag cover. The sides were wet. Mud platters were up to 35 cm high on the outside of the inner tent and water was dripping inside. And that while the fly was pitched a half inch to the ground. (see the picture, taken in the morning)
I took my towel, loosen up the inner tent halfway and dried of the inside of the fly to get rid of the condensation. This seemed to make some difference in drops coming down. After one hour the rain stopped and a damp fog layered the surroundings.

I made some coffee, took a sandwich and already things started to look better.
I was surprised about the amount of condensation and even more about the amount of water and mud splashed under the fly onto the inner tent.

What would this mean if I would have taken a tarp or the Golite Hex instead of the tent? With a tarp I would have brought my sleepingbag cover but mud would have been all over for sure. A single roof design like the Golte Hex also would have lots of condensation running down the sides. But the walls are steeper and more likely that the droplets run down. But the fly of the Golite Hex does have a higher distance to the ground. And this would mean that more mud splatters would come in.
I broke up and let the gear hang for a while on a wire, to get rid of most of the water and mud before packing and resume the rest of my trip.
Certainly I have picked a not ideal spot for this kind of rain, but looking around and seeing the amount of quite big broken off branches made me realize that things could have been worse.

Resting on the couch the words on the
television come by ”Now you can use it, in the comfort of your own home” Especially the last part is something we like much, but are easy willing to trade in for some uncomforted but ever surprising outdoors.

Night hiking, some info for the first time.
Start in an area or a route you know well in the daytime.
Check the area on a map for possible dangerous areas. No night hiking near cliffs, fast flowing rivers etc. Check the weather.
Wear some stronger clothes, you’re more likely to hit, or scrape a branch. The same for shoes, you’re easily step into mud, a small water pool, or a ditch in a path.
Take at least to light sources. I use a headlight, Petzl Tikka XP, and a small keychain light photon Microlight.
On this trip I had also two bicycle lights with me. Having a black pack, black trousers, and a black shirt I am invisible for traffic when walking along the road side. But also with bright colored clothes make yourself visible on roads.
When hiking with more people wear reflective strips or small lights, stop and do a headcount especially with bigger groups or with kids.
Attach everything ! If something falls out your top pouch of your pack or your pocket, you will most likely notice it when you want to use it. Aka too late.
Be prepared to get lost. When on big trails, paths or roads you’re not likely to get lost, but on smaller tracks you easily can miss a byway. Having a gps you never lost but that doesn’t mean that the way back or finding the right track is easy. Be prepared to spend some time waiting for daylight.
Hiking at night can be useful but also fun to update basic navigation skills.
Animals, Check local fauna and precautions. Here there are no dangerous animals. One exception could be a wild boar. If stumbled upon at night, or during the early morning and dusk. A mother with kids can be aggressive. If attacked. Stand still, due to poor eye sight she can see you better when running, and quick hide behind a tree or step aside when close.

Have Fun!

1 opmerking:

  1. Very cool story, Luc! Exciting and good tips at the end. I need to try this, but currently we don't really have nights here in the North!