Summer Night Hike in the Desert Gorges of Riyadh…Anyone?

The Hiker’s Maxim: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time (J.K.).”

These days, summer is extra tough for people who love the outdoors. When the sun sets late and temperatures spike, it can be tempting to just chill inside with Netflix in front rather than bundle up for an outdoor adventure. But the ongoing longer days and shorter nights of the scorching summer do offer something that colder, shorter days of winter don’t: night hikes!

The adventurous part of me loves opting for a monotony breaker every now and then. For a few months now, I’ve been solely relying on the wonders of badminton to get that kind of sweating this body requires. It’s time to deviate from the routine by breaking the monthslong hiatus from hiking.

The only thing that was keeping me then from diving into hiking during summer was, of course, the unbearable heat. Until I came to a point when I realized giving it a go would mean a brand new adventure, out of the comfort zone. After all, I am in the desert; I might as well experience it. Adaptation is survival.

So last Friday the 13th, I took advantage of joining Clubhikemania’s evening hike in Daqlah’s gorgeous gorges. These gorges are the equivalent of canyons here in the deserts of Riyadh.

I decided to take a break from my regular badminton grinds and nature walks. I also have confidence in Clubhikemania’s already proven credibility when it comes to organizing safe and fun hiking trips across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Hiking at night made me see the wilderness of Riyadh deserts in different lights.

Gazing up at the sky and finding my way by a headlamp, with the light of the crescent moon, was such a transformative moment! With all of the challenges head on us and how disorientating those are, the one that remains constant has always been the night sky. The activity was quite a mindful way of looking up and being reminded that, although everything feels so uncertain, some things are still the same. There’s no substitute for getting out into the wilderness under a blanket of crescent moon and stars.

I consider this the revelation about the whole experience: hiking at night showed me a different beauty of the desert.

In a flash, I remembered the 2 days and 1 night of exploratory climb in Tirad Pass I had with pinoymountaineers in 2010. I couldn’t articulate the kind of awe I and the rest of my fellow hikers felt back then while we were spending the night in the highlands. The sound of nocturnal animals provided the silent, cold night with a music like no other.

I felt more intimate with nature, more connected in a way that I haven’t felt during the few hikes in the daytime when I solely rely on my vision to navigate the trail or the surroundings. This night endeavor in the desert gorges of Daqlah taught me that there are other senses at play, especially in an unfamiliar place like this. Nature’s eventual gift of amplified night vision made the entire journey easier. I’ve never felt that alert during a day hike.  

The natural light of the moon, albeit in its crescent phase, the stars and the city lights in the distance facilitated our safe passage from the start of the descent until the final assault to the base. It also allowed not just my eyes, but all fellow hikers’, to adapt to the darkness covering the place. It was surreal for me!

As for the unbearable heat in the city, which I thought was the case in the desert, I was flabbergasted that the wilderness has a moderately hot weather. So people out there in Riyadh who think it’s equally that hot in here, it’s not! Only the city center areas of Riyadh bear the scorching summertime temperature, not the desert. It’s literally and figuratively cool here.

The experience of hiking a total of four backbreaking, massive gorges, plus the expanse of the desert in between, answered a lot of questions and purged whatever what-ifs and maybes I had in mind prior to that day.

The up-to-date music at the base camp and the welcoming and warm nature of Clubhikemania‘s staff were always the perfect treats every waiting time for our return to the citified jungle.

From limestone rock formations, thorny plants, sand dunes, and hidden valleys, I can now say that a summer night hike in the desert gorges of Riyadh also guarantees a unique outdoor experience.

Believe me when I say as long as you come prepared and safety first is your mantra, you’ll be in good shape.

I, therefore, recommend people out there who have second thoughts about a summer night hike in the desert gorges of Riyadh to give this activity a BIG go!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. vinneve says:

    Interesting hike and beautiful photos!


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