L.A. Times has an interesting piece on night hikes.
From Griffith Park to Irvine to the Westside, cadres of hikers answer a call to hike these dark wilderness areas most nights of the week. They pound out tough miles in blackness and shadows, often mud, sometimes fog, without using flashlights, relying instead on moonlight, ambient city light and their own night vision.
If the moon’s out on a clear night, there’s plenty of light to see trails, though I might caution that creatures of the night which have evolved much better night vision are gonna be out there with you. Slackpacker’s hiker checklist includes this comment about the darkness:
A comment about flashlights: You can usually see better at night without one. Sound crazy? Go out at night, away from all lights (not possible if you live in an urban environment) and sit quietly somewhere for a minute or two. You will be surprised how much you can see. After five minutes, turn on your flashlight. You’ll wonder why it suddenly got so dark.
Fact: The average human eye will dilate to compensate for the available light. If the light is dim, your eye will eventually make out everything illuminated by the dim light (starlight, moonlight, whatever). Once the flashlight is on, the eye will dilate to that…and you will only be able to see that which the flashlight illuminates.
Try it out on your next camp-out.
Those dark moonless nights aren’t as dark as they should be. You can’t see as many stars as you could see before the invention of electric light, even in the most remote places you can go in the lower 48 states.
For some in-depth discussion on the subject, check out my two-part show, “The Wilderness at Night”:
Part 1: http://www.wildebeat.net/index.cgi/2005/10/06#E013
Part 2: http://www.wildebeat.net/index.cgi/2005/10/13#E014