Night hike in the forest
By Anya, USA
I’ve never really understood why people are afraid of the dark. For me darkness serves as a blank page for the pen of my imagination to flow freely on. Both the terrors and wonders that accompany the lack of the safety the light of day provides are inventions of my own mind and the world becomes as beautiful, magical, wondrous, or frightening as I want it to be. So after being presented with the opportunity the go on a night hike, to explore the landscape I was beginning to become familiar in a new light (pun intended), I gladly agreed to accompany Gemma (the biodiversity specialist whose main reason for organizing the hike was to spot wildlife we might not encounter during the day), Emily (another volunteer), and Root (a local who would serve as our guide).
We began our hike with a descent through what is known as the spirit forest and my perceptions about the magic that darkness brings to things that might seem mundane and go unnoticed in the light was affirmed by the flurry of moth wings that had fluttered through the night. They had been resting on the ground and were disturbed as we made our way down the path. They remained in the air for a few minutes as I stood still offering my arms as perches, trying to encourage the moths to land so Gemma and I could examine them more closely.
When we reached the creek at the bottom of the hill we continued upstream, hoping to find animals near the water. Although we had brought flashlights along to look for animals on the ground and in the trees, mine was focused on the ground in front of me. After a half an hour of travelling along the water without much luck, Root shuffled around in the leaves and presented us with a frog almost perfectly camouflaged on his leafy perch. Being the first thing and possibly the only thing we’d come in to contact with, the three of us encircled it in a ring of excitement.
After a few more sloppy rivers crossing complete with soaked socks and shoes the initial thrill of finding the frog had worn off. I highly doubted that we would come across anything else of interest having been so loud crossing the creek, probably scarring away anything within earshot. That’s when Emily, who was crouched beside the river commanded my attention with a yank of my right sleeve and pointed at the underside of the roots of a fallen tree that dangled above the flowing water. There, sitting in a protective cage of tree roots sat a small, round white and black bird assumingly sleeping or hiding from our invasive eyes.
This find was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening as we didn’t find anything after its discovery. But even with the lack of wildlife we’d encountered, our hike had proved to be as exciting and gratifying as I had hoped. And as I slowly trudged in damp clothes back to the village, a sudden wave of fatigue overtaking my body, I gazed up at the moon peaking through a curtain of translucent clouds, looked out over the hillside lighted by its glow, and smiled.