Logbook note from November 8. 2017

Solo hiking in the dark is both challenging and at the edge of smart

Drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Surprised about how fast the sun went down I found myself along a small stream, on what I assumed was a trail. On the GPS it was a trail, so in the virtual world I was following a clear line, step by step on the night-vision enabled screen – in reality, in the real world, I had little idea about where I was. And still my idea about it was different. In the dark the hike was so much not about seeing, as it was about hearing and gaining steady new contact with the cold mud, the slippery leaves and the trail, for every step

illustration of hiking in the dark

Walking in the dark is very different

Stretching out my hand, to remove branches, listening to the sounds of the water in the small stream beside me, the distance to it and making the most out of the contours of the trees along the trails and the tiny differences in the darkness of the surroundings I could pick up just enough knowledge to navigate my way forward for more than an hour in the dark.

Stopping again and again, feeling the water entering my old boots and their broken Goretex membrane. Moving on before I got stocked in the mud.

Walking alone in the dark is not smart, still it is exiting, as the darkness change the way our perception works, we adapt in ways that can be quite fascinating. In less than twenty minutes our whole being switch to night-being. Ones vision, hearing, smell and sensing all adjust to the low light.

At the same time on my digital screen that I checked my progress and direction on,  I had a very different technology enhanced view of reality, that did little of this. For the GPS sensors and on the screen it looked like mud, the coldness of the water, the birds making strange sounds and the night didn’t matter.

The cold mud we face in real life is so different, and maybe not so bad – or cold.