The more you experience the outdoors, the more you’ll crave it – more challenges, more technicalities, more adventure. As if long day hikes were not enough, Epifanio came up with another crazy idea over the weekday: to hike at night our beloved Spartan Trail.
Though I have been familiar with such trail and have experienced three days of total darkness inside the country’s largest caving system, just the thought of the Spartan Trail’s eeriness made me feel hesitant. Imagine, the canopied trails and river system already seemed disturbing during the daytime, how much more at night? But well, wild hearts are difficult to tame.
Together with other hiking friends, we gathered at the usual meetup place – Rustan’s Banawa. Given that it would be everyone’s first time to try a night trek on such a trail, the air of discussion was quite chilly. Knowing the risks, the guys made sure that the pack was intact at all times and that the pace was easy to keep up with.
Spartan Trail is divided into four segments: open-trail assault, vastly vegetated downhell, bouldering through the rivers, and unlimited assaults going to Bagsakan. On regular days, you’d curse the first part as it leaves no space for hikers to hide from the unforgiving heat of the sun. But that night was an exemption. The weather favored our pace and allowed us to savor the cold breeze as we went up to Monterrazas. On top, we were rewarded by the city’s skyline view which totally fueled us to keep going.
After feasting over the mesmerizing beauty set before us, we continue our hike going down to the river. Knowing how thick the vegetation was, the pace was made slower so as to keep safe everyone. Compared to the first segment, the group was a little quiet while going down. It was technically difficult to find your way around Spartan Trail in between tall grass and bushes, not to mention the occasional scare we felt when we touched or stepped on something spiky, slimy, or freezing. It was a total relief when we all reached the river system.
Honestly, I feared the river of the trail the most. I couldn’t help but think of an unexpected flood flashing us all out. We all know how fickle weather conditions can be. What if it will suddenly rain and the water level will rise beyond our expectations? You know, those kinds of thoughts.
But well, as they say, there is ultimately strength in groups. Instead of entertaining those thoughts, we all got to enjoy the magic that sparked the ecosystem when nighttime comes. We discovered a number of species that remain hidden in the morning and come alive at night – mud crabs, river roaches, midnight-blooming daturas, freshwater prawns, water gliders, fireflies, and “mysterious bananas”. It felt like we were on an exploratory segment of “Born to be Wild”.
We took a short time off when we reached the end of the river trek in preparation for the final assault of our Spartan Trail hike going to Bagsakan. It was already quarter to twelve when we began ascending the steep trails. Motivated to complete the night’s adventure, the pace started fast. But what we fail to take into consideration was that our stamina was already deteriorating. It was, after all, time for sleep.
We took numerous stops and began overthinking things (thanks to the crazy ideas fed by Epifanio) – like hunters watching over us, vampires preparing to attack us, manananggals yearning for them boys, and geckos infesting over us. When you are surrounded by tall trees in a secluded part of the city, it’s difficult to refrain from such a train of thought. Yet in between all these were words of encouragement and life realizations. We all reached our destination with lights off and everyone enjoying the beauty of darkness partly lighted by the waning moon.
Upon reaching the campsite, Idas initiated the cooking of pancit canton and dried squid and fish. Imagine a group of crazy individuals at one in the morning, cooking in front of an automated tubig machine (water source HAHA). We immediately set our camps and hit the sheets right after eating.
And as if the night’s adventure was not enough, we went for another three-hour hike to Pamutan Grassland after breakfast and exited the unbelievable downhell trail to Toong. Trust me, you’ll never want to step on such loose soil again. Nonetheless, we all went home safe and sound.
Night treks might sound a little freaky but when you are with people who bring light despite the darkness, there’s surely nothing to fear for. In fact, night treks are essential during major climbs when the group wants to shorten the number of days for the climb or when they want to experience something that is constrained with time, say sunrise or a sea of clouds. Whatever the reason may be, trekking at night is worth adding to your list of adventures. I hope you’ll find the courage (and a set of crazy friends) to try it as well too!
Read other insightful hiking experiences on Spartan Trail here: