Stay up past hiker midnight. Live a little.
The evenings are only going to become cooler as we head into autumn. Enjoy the August evenings and comfortably see what the nighttime sky has to offer.
The benefits of hiking in November include fewer creatures and more views. Few ticks, snakes, and bears are active in November. By this time of year, the leaves have fallen to the ground and a hiker can enjoy more views. I spent a week backpacking some of Virginia's Appalachian Trail in November 2013.
A backpacker usually has at least one bad day during a trip. A day when the pain outweighs the views. A day when he’d rather be elsewhere or anywhere else. Day 6 was the bad day of this trip. This day’s walk was relatively easy, but mentally difficult. The first four miles were downhill, along a winding creek and then a long lake. The day’s climbs were not especially long or steep. I was simply tired, in some pain, and my map reading skills were suffering. It was a day of many false summits and subsequent disappointments. I reached the Punchbowl Shelter by the end of the day. Punchbowl is a nice shelter near the Blue Ridge Parkway and features a nearby pond. It was the perfect place to end a dreadful day.
After a few minutes’ rest, I felt the urge to move on. The Punchbowl Shelter had everything I needed. Also, I only had a few more minutes of sunlight for walking. Counter to all logic, I lifted my pack and followed the trail up Punchbowl Mountain.
On top of the mountain, I did the usual camp stuff – found a flat area among the rocks and fallen branches, pitched a tent, and hung my bear bag. There were a few minutes of daylight left, so I turned west. I immediately knew why I was supposed to be on the summit. I had never seen anything like it. A day I wanted to forget culminated in a twilight I would never forget.
The sky was pink, violet, purple, blue, and black, and was changing by the moment. The mountain range just west of my campsite was a pale purple. I decided not to take a photo because I knew I would be disappointed with my phone’s inability to capture this sky. (The photo above is similar to what I saw, but is many magnitudes less stunning.) There was not any wind in the trees. There wasn’t any chatter among the squirrels. No sound. The world was completely still.
After a good long while, after the sky became black, I crawled into my tent and enjoyed a night warmer than previous nights. The temperature dropped to the 40s, as opposed to dipping into the high 20s. Day 6 may have been a disaster, but Night 6 was spectacular.
Has one of your bad hiking days been saved by something unexpected? If so, what was it?
While hiker midnight is 9 p.m., there is a lot to view at sunset this month.