Don’t let the fun set at sunset

Mountain bikers, lights ablaze, head down a local trail.

We were on a post-sundown training hike for the Ultimate Hike last month when a beam  of bright light began gaining on us from behind. I turned and saw two headlights bearing down on us, still maybe 75 yards down the road.

“I’ll do the talking,” I said, since I was the hike leader and since I may have forgotten to mention to my fellow hikers that, technically, we were trespassing. We were hiking on a gravel road in a local forest where — again, “technically” — the gates close at sunset. I quickly relied this information to my hikers — then we waited a surprisingly long time for the two beams of light to reach us. When they did, they split, passed us on either side, and continued on their technically illegal way. It wasn’t a park ranger on patrol in a pickup; it was a pair of mountain bikers.

“Wow!” said one impressed hikers. “Those lights are really bright.”

“I can’t imagine riding a mountain bike at night,” added another. “That’s gotta be dangerous.”

“Actually,” I said, about to deliver a speech I’ve issued many times over the years, “It’s just the opposite.” I went on to explain that mountain biking at night is, in many respects, more safe than riding during the day because your world is restricted to this 20-foot-or-so world ahead illuminated by your headlamp. Unable to let your eyes wander off into the woods, or farther down the trail, you’re forced to focus on what’s immediately in front of you. That’s pretty much true of most outdoor activities done at night: they generally are more safe.

I’ve written a good deal over the years about getting out and exploring at night. And since I’d rather get out at night and do something than rewrite what I’ve written about before, I’ll just direct you to those previous articles. Enjoy.

Mountain biking

Since we’re already on the topic of mountain biking, let’s start there. An elaboration on why riding a bike through the forest at night is safe and scenes from a 24-hour race that runs through the night.


One of my favorite times to take a long hike? In the dark of night. A 3- to 4-hour walk in the woods after the sun goes down can be aerobically aurally stimulating. Some tips on making a safe night of it.

Neighborhood walk

Spooked by the idea of hiking in the dark with … who-knows-what that might be out there with you? Join the masses who bundle up and walk their neighborhoods in the dark.


Of course, you can’t stay out every night. Which is why I find myself spending considerably more time at the climbing gym during the winter than at other times of the year.

Need more incentive?

Another reason not to taper off when the weather turns cold? It’s bad for your hrealth.  According to the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State’s North Carolina Research Campus people who don’t exercise in the winder are more likely to catch cold.

In searching my archive of the past three years I notice one glaring omission: Nary a mention of paddling at night. I’ve mentioned guided paddles that occur at night, but nothing reflecting the experience personally. I’ve paddled at night: I still have vivid memories of being part of a flotilla that paddled to a remote part of Falls Lake one cold November night to watch a meteor shower. But that was years ago, and I can’t find a report on the event. And if that was the last time I’ve had a paddle in my hands in the dark (it was in the mid-1990s), that’s too long a time to go between night paddles.

I’ll remedy that situation pronto.

2 thoughts on “Don’t let the fun set at sunset”

  1. Ahhh, paddling at night. One of the coolest things to do at night in my opinion. I’ve watched shooting stars. I’ve watched an awesome northern lights display: we postponed our late night paddle on a camping trip because it didn’t seem to be getting dark, figuring there were a lot of campfires lighting up the sky. When I walked down to the lake to check out the scene down there I couldn’t believe my eyes. The whole sky was illuminated, which is why it wasn’t getting “dark”! We immediately got into our canoes and just enjoyed the rest of the show. Granted this was up north–such a display would probably not happen here.

    And another neat display was viewing a formation of three satellites flying above in a triangular formation. A little research revealed that these were actually spy satellites that are able to triangulate on radio transmissions from ocean vessels due to their triangular separation.

    Paddling at night should definitely be on everyone’s to-do list!

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