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Autumn is upon us and the days are getting shorter. You know what that means. Hot cocoa, marshmallows, and hot cocoa with marshmallows.
What better place to enjoy your hot cocoa than in the brisk darkness of the wilderness?
Damn right! But when night creeps up on you sooner than expected, you'll be wise to take precautions to ensure you make it home safe.
About this time a few years ago, in Glacier NP, I miscalculated how long it would take me to get back to camp. As a consequence, I found myself staring down a hungry bear in the darkness of the forest. I was just yards away from the false safety of my tent when I heard a rustling sound in the bushes. I turned and before I knew it, was face-to-face with a grizzly three times my size, with only 5 or 6 feet separating us.
Eyes glowing yellow in the moonlight, it turned toward me, but remained where it was, sizing me up. This was the most intense staring contest I’d ever been in. Seconds felt like minutes. Hand on my bear spray, I remained as still as I could, wondering if the bear could hear my beating heart.
All of the skills I learned over the years were rushing through my mind, as I plotted my possible escape. At the same time, I was slowly resigning and thinking, “there are worse ways to die.” All of this probably happened in a matter of seconds, but it felt like hours.
Then, like a cacophony of knights, a pack of coyotes started wailing off in the distance. My adversary seemed to take this as a sign of distraction, and just trotted off like it was nothing.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little offended. What, I’m not delicious enough for you? A pack of howling coyotes miles away is enough for you to just scoff at my savory offering?
Pfff, whatever, bear. Whatever.
Hiking and backpacking at night don’t have to be scary or treacherous. The darkness of the nighttime provides an unmatched serenity you can enjoy. Getting past the fear of the unknown is itself a courageous reward. It also makes room for an added layer of exploration with heightened senses. Sort of like being (partially) blindfolded. You’re relying on all your senses and will pick up on things you wouldn’t usually notice.
Same world. Different world.
Trekking in the moonlight is cool because the it casts interesting shadows, offering a unique perspective on your surroundings. If the moon is bright enough you may not need a headlamp, allowing you to see the night landscape with a broader view.
If you’re lucky enough to be far from any city lights, the stars will blow your mind. If you're really lucky, you'll be able to see the Milky Way shining bright like an astronomical angel in the sky.
Sounds great, right?
It’s even better if you’re not constantly worrying about whether you’re going to make it out alive. So here are some basic tips to make sure your amazing night trek is the best experience you can have:
Bring a headlamp, or flashlight (or both). And bring extra batteries (and know how to change them, in case you have to do so in the dark). Being able to see is pretty fundamental to night hiking.
Bring some type of navigation. GPS, map & compass, etc. Knowing how to get around is important. Even more so at night when you have fewer landmarks and clever tools at your disposal.
Start slow and familiar. Short hikes first, close to home. Make sure you like it (you will), then go hog wild thousands of miles away.
Bringing a hiking partner isn't a bad idea. Someone to calm you when you see strange things (like a tree stump suddenly resembling a forest creature). It's also someone to share their hot cocoa and marshmallows with you.
Bring extra clothing, food, and water. When it gets dark, it gets cold. Fast. Waterproof clothing is useful for dew or rain. You’ll probably get hungry (as most people do when they’re trekking), so food is a necessity.
And water… duh. Let the other person carry the cocoa.
Bonus: Grab a camera. You can get some badass pictures at night. Star trails, the Milky Way, moonlight pictures, long-exposure shots of landmarks. Taking pictures of familiar landscapes at night allows you to see them in a new and fun way.
So go! Frolic in the glowing moonlight (safely). And if you see that bear, tell him I'm so totally over it.
What’s your favorite night trekking experience? Tell us in the comments.
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Sex is great. We all love sex…. Right? Okay, most of us love sex.
That said, there’s a time and a place for the lust and thrust. 7 feet shy of that group of unsuspecting boy scouts over there might not be the best choice.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. You’re trekking through the woods, whistling the latest Jason Mraz tune to yourself, enjoying the sights. Suddenly, what’s this? A used pair of boy short panties hanging from a tree, swaying carefree in the breeze. Oh, and that’s not all. The panties’ friendly companion, Used Condom, in a lifeless heap on the ground below.
A familiar scenario to all, no doubt. Or maybe that was just me.
Surely this scene is in violation of the Leave No Trace principles. Tsk, tsk. Not to mention, there’s a poor woman out there suffering from unnecessary chafing.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Having sex in the outdoors can be an exciting, gratifying bonding experience between two (or three, or four) people. With a little forethought you can have your cake, eat it too, and still maintain the consideration of your fellow outdoors folk.
So, here are some Do's and Don'ts for feeding the rapture, responsibly:
DO consider investing in a 2-person sleeping bag (or quilt). I mean, trying to shove two people into a mummy bag is fine if you’re both small enough to join a circus. But most people will have more fun with a little space to roll and romp.
DO wear comfortable or easy-access clothing. Skirts, shorts, and softer fabrics. Help bring velcro back in style! The easier it is to take off, the faster you can get down to business.
DO be respectful of your neighbors if you’re in close vicinity of others, in your tent. Turn off your lantern. You might not realize it but that light illuminates... everything. And, as difficult as it may be, try to be quiet. The family of four next to you might not be thrilled to hit the slumber at the sound of your orgasmic lullaby.
DO bring a blanket if you plan on doing the horizontal hula, unless you like foreign objects lodged in random crevices. If you don't have a blanket, you can do the vertical tango against a tree or large bush. Again, watch out for objects aiming for your crevices.
DON’T be so quick to avoid bad weather. Sex in the rain is sensual. Sex in the hail, maybe not. But rain, yeah buddy. Sex under the stars can also be romantic.
DON’T have sex anywhere near trails, junctions, open spaces, outlooks, points of interests, or bodies of water. Make sure you’re well hidden (in a tent, bushes, or trees, which also help muffle sounds). Pick a spot where you can see someone coming before they see you. Getting arrested is a surefire mood killer.
DON’T leave anything behind. Pack it out! Our little friend the latex condom can take weeks to decompose. Go on, pull up a quick mental image of a cute little bear cub finding it and…. That’s it, you’ve got the idea. Pack it out.
Happy humping! :-)
Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.
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