The Joys Of Night-hiking Without A Flashlight

by Chuck Nishihira

So here was the dilemma.  While in the Cordillera del Condor, we decided to go hiking one night to look for treefrogs and glassfrogs.  We had one good flashlight, one decent headlamp, and one headlamp whose only usefulness was to find the other two real lights in a dark backpack.  The group consisted of an eager treefrog enthusiast with really good eyes for spotting things, an amazing local guide that seemed to be able to spot even the tiniest things, and then a guy who might possibly hurt himself hiking even during daylight and has a tendency to look down when he hikes. For the uninitiated non-froggers reading this, there is a very high probability that you are not finding treefrogs on the ground. In the end I got the weak one, as I decided that we should afford ourselves the best chance of finding something exciting, and that I’m still young enough that I should be able to heal…most likely.

We picked a steep hill with a lot of deep mud.  Now usually on steep hills, the mud, while always present is not normally deep.  But as luck would have it, this was a magical hill! I really don’t remember a more frustrating hike with my 5 lumen headlamp constantly making me decide to step in the deepest parts of the mudholes. Mud was caked all over my hands and camera and photography was becoming the furthest thing from my mind. But when you are in a tropical forest interesting things are everywhere.  Slowly plodding along, the only way to see anything was to hold the light and my face close to any surface. But it seemed to work. Here in front of me was a moss with particularly large green sporangium.  This is probably not a rare moss.  Yet, even though much of my attention is given to mosses, I do not ever remember seeing such a charming sight.  It was distinctive enough to capture my full attention. From 15 feet away, Emily had to light the spot that I was trying to photograph, for even with my headlamp on, focusing properly was difficult.  On that night it was fortunate that I did not have a normal flashlight, as missing  this little grove of sporangium would have been easy.  The good thing is that we all came out of there in one piece.  Maybe the only thing that broke off was my pride.  I only had a tiny piece left anyway as fieldwork tends to take that from you as you get older.  Maybe one day I’ll tell the story of how I had to ride a horse back to camp behind two pregnant girls that had to walk.