Exploring Nature at Night

by Dr. Carla Gull

As fall progresses, our evening skies are getting darker earlier and earlier. After dusk is a great time to explore nature! Use these tips for a successful night hike.

Start slow. Allow your eyes to adjust to the night sky. You will rely on other senses as you hike at night. Be aware of the uneven pavement your feet may encounter. Try a familiar area close to home the first few times out at night.

Hike close to a full moon. On November 14 welcome the Beaver Moon, as it was the time to place traps before the water froze. It is also a Super Moon this year with the moon closest to the earth in over 60 years.

Listen to the sounds around you. Nocturnal animals will be out and about, adding another dimension to the hike. We like looking for frogs near a pond or stream in warmer months.

Use a red filter on your light. If a light is needed, try a red filtered light to allow your eyes to stay adjusted to the darkness.

Be still. Take a few minutes or more to just be still and soak in the stillness and quiet of the night.

Use a buddy system. Having a friend nearby will most likely make the hike more enjoyable as well as add an extra layer of protection.

Be prepared. Dress appropriately for the weather, let someone know where you are going and bring food and first aid supplies, just in case.

Study the skies! We use a free app called SkyView Free that helps us understand the constellations and stars we see.

As you walk in the night sky, note how you are using your senses beyond sight more. What do you hear? Is an owl hooting in the distance or a raccoon scampering nearby? What do you smell? Can you smell the nearby mud? What do you feel? Are you brushing a branch or feeling your footing down the path? Enjoy your next night hike!

Dr. Carla Gull blogs at InsideOutsideMichiana.com. She is often seen with her four tag-along explorers in the greater Michiana area.