As twilight arrived, the cicadas and crickets began to broadcast at full volume. Chirps and creaks filled our ears as we walked together. The smell of pine and herbs wafted through the breezy evening air. Flashlight in hand, my feet crunched over fallen leaves along the pathway. We were on our way. In just moments, night would fall, and the forest would come alive with nightlife of nature.
The Back Story
I don’t normally write about my own group hikes. But our night hike in the Carmel was different. Carefully crafted by two local guides, this event was not a product of my own creativity. On this group hike, I was a guest just like all the other hikers.
So where did the concept for this hike come from? It all began with two friends – Gadi and Ben –nature lovers and wildlife experts who both lived near the Carmel Forest. Their idea of an evening of fun didn’t include bar hopping in the city. Instead, they liked to bring a cooler full of beer to a quiet forest, watch the sunset, and talk late into the night.
Over time, they began to notice lots of things. They saw night animals scurrying by, from one hiding spot to another. As they roamed from place to place, they found that in certain spots in the forest, more animals gathered than in others. Soon, Gadi and Ben became experts in the paths of night animals in the Carmel Forest. They knew just where to go to look for them. And they wanted to share this incredible secret with others.
When Ben told me about his concept for a night hike, I knew I had to give it a try.
So one long awaited Thursday afternoon, we packed our kids into the car and drove north to the Carmel Mountainsl. A couple of hours later, we emerged in a quiet parking lot, ready to get out and walk after our long ride.
Our guide, Gadi, gathered us together and brought us to a lookout, where we could see the setting sun glowing orange in the sky. He described the sights and scenery around us. The bugs were starting to come out, as they often do at this hour. So Gadi began picking leaves from a pungent bush and distributing a “natural bug repellent.” Armed with our leafy weapons, we continued through the forest.
Just walking there at twilight felt magical. Sunset is my absolute favorite time of day to be outdoors. This hike in the Carmel was no exception.
Soon, we were walking in complete darkness. Gadi, our expert nature guide seemed to know everything there was to know about the animals of this forest –their behaviors, their tracks, and how they used their senses. He carefully led us through the darkness, treading the path with no hesitation. Then he stopped and pointed his flashlight at a tree, “Look guys, you see that chameleon?”
There it was, tail curled around a tree branch!
Gadi explained that chameleons have excellent camouflaging abilities which they use during the daytime. That’s why we rarely see them when we hike. But in the darkness, they know that other animals can’t see them, so they don’t bother changing colors to match their surroundings.
As soon as we shined our flashlights on the creature, he began to change colors, turning a dark green to match the leaves of the tree. We got up close to take pictures as the chameleon slowly crept away.
Every few steps or so, Gadi pointed out another chameleon, then another. These elusive creatures were everywhere around us. Soon, we were spotting them on our own.
It’s human nature to seek shelter, especially at night. Along the trail, Gadi brought us to a large bell cave. The warm glow of our flashlights and headlamps lit up the interior.
Inside the cave in the darkness, he told us the stories of the things we saw inside, from carvings to spider webs to animal excrement. At one point, we all turned out our flashlights, so we could see the light of the moon and stars pouring in from a small opening in the cave above.
Next, we were on our way to hunt for the next popular creature of the Carmel Forest: scorpions. First, Gadi used his own ultraviolet light to point out a small scorpion hiding near some rocks, a non-venomous type. Gadi explained how to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous scorpions.
After walking for a while in the darkness, training our eyes on green glowing scorpions, Gadi handed out ultraviolet lights to all of us. Now, we went on the hunt for these creatures. Our guide told us exactly how to find them.
It was thrilling to see! We found both kinds – venomous and non venomous. And with Gadi’s calm explanations, we knew exactly how to steer clear of danger. Tail up means back off. When we saw a scared scorpion with his tail in a threatening position, we knew to back up and allow him to scurry under a rock.
More Forest Sights
Of course, there were lots of other things to see and hear: owls hooting, praying mantis nests, gazelle tracks. Our hike allowed us to see that nature is alive and well in the forest at night. We felt like we had entered a secret world.
We would have all been satisfied had the evening ended right there, after 3 kilometers of scoping out the sights and sounds of the forest. But next, Gadi led us to a quiet patch of woods and instructed us to turn out our lights.
Suddenly, a pathway of gentle light illuminated in the forest. We followed the glowing walkway towards Ben, the second guide. There in the forest, he had created an al fresco picnic area, complete with cold juice, watermelon, tea, and a checkered tablecloth. Our journey was complete. It was time to celebrate
Worth Every Minute of Lost Sleep
Their mouths full of melon, my kids sat down on the blanket and struck up a laughter filled conversation. It was late, and we were all tired. But that evening, we had joined the animal kingdom, discovering the secrets of the forest at night. Regular life seemed very far away.
I may not be a night person, but this was one hike that was worth staying up for. Our nocturnal animals hike in the Carmel was something that my entire family will remember forever.
This isn’t a hike you can really do on your own. It’s the expertise of Gadi and Ben which made it what it was! But I recommend it highly. There will be several night hikes running this summer. You can check out all the dates on the events page right here.
This hike is quite a drive from the Jerusalem area. If you don’t want to drive there and back, consider sleeping over in Haifa or the Carmel mountains. Or try to work this experience into a trip up North.
Coming in the wintertime: Salamander Safari!!!