Last night I completed Angel's Rest by moonlight. It was an amazing adventure that I won't be repeating very soon.
I had originally heard about night hiking from one of my co-workers, and I thought it'd be really exciting. Truth, that. I convinced Loni to give it a try, but last night she was still hurting from our St. Helens adventure, so she passed. She also didn't feel the same level of excitement about trooping through the woods in the dark, and that's okay too.
I was worried about doing it solo, but that's a really popular hike so the longest I'd have to lay broken at the bottom of a hill would be maybe 8-10 hours, right? It was a full (or almost-full) moon, which was both good and bad. Sometimes it was so bright that it took away my night vision.
I picked this hike for it's familiarity, the bright moonlight, and the relatively short distance. Round trip, this is less than 5 miles, and a 2/10 on the boot scale. At night, however, it turns into a heart-pounding and breath-taking trek.
Loni bought us both some very cool headlights to have for this trip, although you aren't supposed to use artificial light if you can avoid it - it really takes away from the adventure. I forgot mine in the car so I completed the entire trip with moon illumination only, with the plan that I'd turn around if it got too dark to hike safely.
Good news for other night hikers: Once you have about 20 minutes on the trail, you can see most everything given even a little bit of ambient light.
I cruised to the top of the mountain, gave myself a few really good "cat scares" from creatures scrambling out of my way, and arrived at the top strung out and dripping sweat. The 104 degree heat from that day made all the rocks on the trail radiate heat well into the night. Time to top was about an hour and ten minutes, and I arrived just after midnight. I sat on the bench overlooking the river and drained my entire liter of water. I really wished I'd brought my hydration pack and hiking stick, because they would have made this a much more comfortable trip.
The moon was amazing, with little patchy clouds drifting over it like a mosaic. When the clouds covered the moon it made it slightly less bright and therefore better for hiking.
Which brings me to my next regret, that I didn't bring a camera. My cell phone simply doesn't do justice to the city lights, or the river by moonlight, or the spooky strands of burnt trees, or the eerie light artifacts the moonlight made on the trail.
I also regret that I didn't have company for this trip, because there were times when I got a little spooked. It's a little unnerving when you're walking through a very loud bug-ridden section of forest and it all goes silent. Instantly. I'm not sure what makes bugs do that, other than to fuck with my mind... Are there big cats out there? I hope not, because I didn't have my giant shish-kebab skewer with me.
Time back to car was an hour and fifteen, because of said scary sections where I walked really quietly waiting for something to pounce. The upper section of scree was a little challenging, because I missed the trail and had to climb down a ways, but I found the exit with no difficulty. My body is just as sore as if I'd done a much longer hike, because you use different muscles when you can't pick your footing as carefully.
Overall, a FANTASTIC adventure. I also know now what will make future night hikes better and safer, and I look forward to the next one.