As the summer sun takes its toll on the best of outdoorsman, some are turning to night hiking. Exploring the wilderness in the dark is a whole new experience that simulates all one’s senses, enthusiasts say, if one only follows key safety tips.
Seoul’s Yangcheon-gu, the first district to launch an official nighttime trekking program in 2011, is holding a weekly group hiking program every Thursday evening until Aug. 27.
Approximately 100 people sign up for the 2-hour excursion, said Kim Seong-yeop, an official at the district office.
A diverse range of people from families and lovers to office workers turn up to explore the dark forests in the cooler after-work hours, he explained.
The participants are guided through a designated 6-kilometer course for 2 hours in a group with experienced instructors who help hikers warm up as well as intermittently pause to explain the local vegetation.
Kim said what could otherwise be a dangerous wandering in the dark turns into a safe and refreshing escape from mundanity as a group.
Lim Jong-sin, an avid hobbyist who prefers to take up independent trips on tougher tracks, likewise warned against entering the woods alone.
“Going up the trail at night has its merits of tranquility. But because there are less people on the mountain track, you ought to go with two or three friends who can help in case of unforeseen hazards.”
He also advised the hikers to keep their trips short, “It is unwise to stay in the mountain for more than three hours in the dark. Six hours, for example, would be unnecessarily long and may trigger dangerous situations where you are either too tired to go back or the batteries of essential items drain.”
Lim said he dresses and packs just as how he would during a daytime hike, the only addition being a flashlight that can be worn on the head.
“The national parks are the safest places to venture in the dark, but unfortunately entry is prohibited after sunset,” he said.
The 21 national parks of South Korea forbid dusky trips within their premises to prevent accidents. The parks close their gates according to the hours of the sunset where they are located.
Seoul’s Mount Bukhansan closes its upward gates from 4 p.m. in summer.
Instructor at the National Park Hiking School Kim Nam-yul said, “We cannot keep people from pursuing their hobbies. But we recommend they stay away from the mountain after sundown.”
His tip for staying safe in the wilderness: “Almost all the accidents occur when trackers stray off trail. We advise everyone to stay on the beaten path where there are numbered marking points that facilitate our rescue operation. If in need of help, all you have to do is call us with the number of your location on the sign.”
By Lim Jeong-yeo (firstname.lastname@example.org)