Day 34: Night Hiking

It’s hard to believe that just a few days ago, we were struggling to keep warm round the clock and had a foot of snow piled up against our tarp. Now we have exactly the opposite problem, once again: it’s way too hot! We started out from the Acton KOA early this morning, but by 8:00 AM it was already 80° outside, and we were climbing a steep ascent with packs heavy with food and water. (One of the great ironies is that the more water you carry with you, the heavier your pack is, making you sweat more, making you…need more water.) We knew it was just ten miles to the next trail town (they come thick and fast in this section of trail!), Agua Dulce, where we could eat a massive restaurant meal for lunch.

Still, it’s just so much less fun hiking in the blazing heat, and we knew that we’re just going to get more of this. So we decided today to try out something that we’d heard about but never done before: night hiking. The idea is to hike at the ends of the day, getting up really early in the morning to get miles in before the sun is too hot and then hiking late in the evening or night to get in more miles after the sun’s gone down, while taking a giant siesta in the middle of the day — sleeping for hours.

Unfortunately, we only got part of this in today, because the prospect of hanging out with our friends Rally and Squatchie (and our new friend Clawhammer) while gorging ourselves on immense amounts of Mexican food was way too engaging. (Plus, it’s actually much harder to sleep in towns, assuming you don’t have a hotel room; there generally aren’t nice, quiet, flat spots around where you’re welcome to fall asleep like there are everywhere outside.) But that’s OK, because getting to see them was so much more than worth it. (The fried ice cream was pretty awesome, too!)

But, this evening, we hit the trail about 5:30 PM — far later than we’d otherwise ever head out — and put in another long stretch of hiking. It turned out to be wonderful: the air was so much cooler, and, even though we had to ascend more than twice as far as we did this morning, it was dramatically easier. Plus, we got to experience a whole new world: coyotes were howling in the distance, a group of donkeys started braying in a field, the hills slowly changed from sunlit gold to deep greens and blues, we got to watch the stars come out, the towns lit up…it was very beautiful. Even once we shifted to headlamps to be able to see our path, it was fun to be hiking at night, seeing a different world and having to simply trust the trail completely instead of peeking ahead at what it was doing all the time.

We’ll try more night hiking tomorrow, we think, although it’s likely going to depend on how successful we are at getting sleep: hiking is tiring enough already, and losing sleep long-term just isn’t realistic — we’ll have to make sure we find a way to sleep soundly during the middle of the day. On the other hand, if we can pull this off, it’s going to be wonderful, because it just feels so much better to be hiking when it’s cool.

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