The setting sun creates long tree shadows.
Summer is here and it’s hot! This can be discouraging when thinking about going for a hike. In some areas you also have to add in the humidity level. To beat the heat some people like to wake up before sunrise and go for a morning hike. However, I find it hard to get out of bed extra early, particularly on my days off. Recently I’ve discovered that hitting up a trail or two just a couple of hours before sunset is an ideal solution.
Just the other day I had finished eating dinner and it seemed like the day was already over. Normally after dinner people like to unwind and relax. Usually this involves a whole lot of doing nothing. But during the summer it doesn’t get dark until after 8pm. There was at least another three hours of sunlight left and I decided to go for a hike. I quickly ran through the list of nearby trails I could get to in less than fifteen minutes. There were two trails at Brooker Creek Preserve that I had not yet been to. I decided I would go there. Ten minutes later I had my hydration pack filled with water and was out the door.
When I got to the trail it was about 6pm and there was still plenty of time to get in some good hiking. At this time of the day the sun is going down. The intense heat from earlier in the day has subsided and it starts to cool off. If you’re lucky there might even be a cool breeze in the air. The only bad thing is that this is also when the mosquitos wake up and start looking for food. If you don’t want to have your blood on their menu, bring some repellent with you. Now you can hike until you run out of light.
One of the best parts of being in the woods so late in the day is the nocturnal animals. This is when the armadillos, owls, bats, deer, foxes, coyotes and others come out. I saw five deer walking along through the trees on the first trail. As soon as they heard me they pranced off in a hurry. On the second trail I heard an owl hooting when it was just before sunset. Then I spotted him up in a tree at the end of the trail. I stopped and we watched each other for a few minutes. Then I noticed two or three bats overhead. They’re fun to watch flying back and forth hunting for food.
There are many reasons that I enjoy a good pre-sunset hike. There is the cooling temperature, the lack of other hikers, and of course all the animals that come out at night. Hiking at Brooker Creek Preserve was a great ending to the day. I didn’t even have to wake up at the crack of dawn or endure the midday summer heat. All I had to do was wait until dusk. It was a perfect alternative to lying around and watching TV for the rest of the night. It’s also an excellent way to burn off some of those “after dinner” calories.