A fear of the dark is the most primal human instinct; however, this fear is mostly unfounded and subtracts from the magnificent scenery the night has to offer. Imagine that instead of relaxing inside after a long day, you head outside to enjoy all the darkness has to offer. You turn off your porch light and let your eyes adjust and soon you can see the blurry outlines of trees in the distance; you turn your gaze upward and are taken aback by the billions of, seemingly tiny, balls of light known as stars. You notice the creamy, iridescent, milky way and suddenly feel so tiny and so humble, in relation to the great expanse of the night sky. With your eyesight dulled, your other senses come alive; you begin to hear the croak of the Sierran Tree Frog and the chirping of crickets, combining to fill the void of night with their classic symphony. Occasionally you hear the distinct yips and howls of a coyote pack in the distance. As you stand in awe, surrounded by the beauty of the night, you begin to wonder why you ever spend your summer nights indoors.
This scene can be enjoyed in a variety of settings including your own backyard or a guided hike. Placer Land Trust is offering guided, moonlit hikes during the summer at the Big Hill Preserves. The hikes begin at dusk where beautiful panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada foothills will be coated in dusty orange, deep blue, and subtle purple hues and as the night grows darker and the full moon rises you can witness the landscape completely transform. Check our event calendar to sign up.
To fully experience what the night has to offer, bring a flashlight or a headlamp, but use it sparingly. The moon provides more light than most realize, and the human eye takes at least 5 minutes to fully adjust to the dark; flashlights impede this process, but once your eyes are fully adjusted, you will be amazed at how capable your eyes are at leading you through the dark. Once your eyesight is dimmed you will notice that your other senses are stronger, take advantage of this; you will begin to hear better, which is fantastic for enjoying the breathtaking sounds of nature at night; you will even be able to smell better, which will allow you to notice the unique smell of grasses and trees that you may have never paid mind to. Take a moment to just stare into the night sky and appreciate its beauty unclouded by light.
The nighttime landscape has much to offer and provides serenity to those who partake in its wonder. Take just an hour at night to step outside and appreciate its beauty, or better yet, join Placer Land Trust on a guided hike and bask in the glow of the moon. There is no doubt that you will end your evening feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ever grateful for the dark.
By Alyssa Harmon