A walk in the moonlight

I’ve considered doing many strange things, not only when it comes to hiking. A night hike wasn’t really among them. How this spontaneous idea came to be is a story for itself, but there are some other ‘lessons’ I’ve learned from this unexpected experience.

The idea

So, for the first August weekend, I planned to go for a hike with my parents – my father was mid-way through his two-week holiday and my mother (freelance accountant) had a not-so-busy period.

However, there were two issues.

First, my imagination – when it comes to choosing where to go – had fallen into a slump. More so when my parents weren’t on a hike for 3 months so it had to be something relatively easy and in reach. Furthermore, central Europe was struck by a heatwave, which limited our reach (my father, especially, isn’t fond of spending hours in a bus/train in such heat).

Seeing the forecast – clear skies day in, day out, I got an idea. A night hike to a well-known place would avoid all the issues. First, the night temperatures were around 15°C – just right. Second, going there during the night would get us rid of the crowds. Third, the place is just a short ride from home: ~50 minutes in car. And I would cross one thing I haven’t done yet from the list: watching sunrise in the hills.

The preparation was quite short when my plan was accepted: check the batteries in headlights and make some guesstimate for how long could the ascension take – we eventually decided to play it safe and start the hike itself around midnight.

The hike

Now, my usual time to get to the peak is below 2 hrs, even in winter. We took the trail that’s simplest to navigate, which also made this experiment easier. And, eventually, the full moon helped as well.

This was the first surprise – and lesson – as long as I wasn’t in the densest woods, the full moon was enough to see. Not far, and not in detail, but more than enough to walk. However, it was nowhere near enough for taking pictures.

A look towards the town below

However, seeing the stars above – way better than in the suburbs – was a nice experience. As said, the moonlight was enough to let me walk without even turning the headlight on, and a direct look at the moon felt like it would burn my eyes out the same the sun would in the day.

The lesson I mentioned? Writing-related one. In the second book of my WIP, the MC gets to be out during the night, twice. Both times escaping a bad situation. As an elf, he has better eyesight than I do, but this was a way to check if it’s even possible to walk in the night without a source of light. Which, as I saw for myself, is possible if the weather is cooperative.

Anyway, the ascension took us 2,5 hours at (for me) relaxed pace.

2:45 – at the peak

Being at the top at 2:45 meant we had over two hours to spare (the first light was to be around 4:15 and the actual sunrise around 5:15) We took photos at the peak monolith (see above) and walked to one of the benches. The difference between moving in 15°C and sitting still in the same became striking – enough for me to put on all the spare clothing I had in my backpack.

Praise the sun!

By 4:00, we headed to the northeast platform, below the TV tower, which was getting ‘crowded’ – I guesstimate 50-80 people had the same idea.

ca. 4:55 – just a while…

For me, this felt as the most magical part, to see the complete darkness give way to a show of colors and the silhouettes of the hills. I took several photos, but my pocket camera isn’t the best stuff for such a situation (many of the photos tunred out blurry) so maybe two or three are at least passable quality (pretty much all I show in this post). And the clouds, colored by this show, were a nice sight as well.

For all the waiting, and the hour-long show of changing colors, the sunrise itself was pretty quick when it came. For me, it felt like just a small part of the whole show – the changing of colors preceding it had as much, if not more, charm.

5:17 – climbing over the hills

At 5:25, with the ‘show’ over, we left the peak. Roughly half-way down, I dropped all the extra layers of clothing as the place was warmed by the sunlight, even if indirect as we took the west slopes.

By 7:30, we were leaving the town below the mountain, with me at the wheel. It was probably the most difficult driving session I’ve been into when it came to concentration – and I’ve driven 2,5 hours mid-night from a concert before. I guess if the way home was 10 minutes longer, I’d have to ask my father to take over…


So, that was something new for me to try. I don’t know if I’ll repeat this anytime soon, though doing this in winter sounds like a decent challenge. The advantage, was I to do it in the short days around the solstice, would be that I could get at least some sleep and take the first morning train instead of driving. Or go for sunset instead.

Time will tell.

For now, feel free to comment – and see you next time.

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