Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The super-smoky Beaver Moon

Tuesday afternoon we headed north towards the Blue Ridge Escarpment to Bald Rock Heritage Preserve. As the days grow shorter it’s harder to find the time after school to get outdoors, but it wasn't an issue on this particular trip as we planned to watch the sun set – and hoped to see the moon rise.

I call this shot "partial solar yo-yo eclipse"

We arrived with less than an hour of daylight to explore the granite outcrop, but as the boys had just recently explored all the way down to the base (on the day I hiked the Rim of the Gap) they were content to stay close. We spread the picnic blanket and had a snack, watching the sun sink lower into the haze.

The 2,312-acre (as of Tuesday morning) Pinnacle Mountain Fire is still growing; however the fire is considered 25% contained as burnout operations continue. The smoke is lingering due to lack of wind and night-time inversions, and I was hoping to get an interesting view of the smoky Upstate from this vantage point up near Caesars Head. As we had approached Highway 11 on the way up the smoke had increased and visibility decreased, and upon reaching Bald Rock we were rewarded with an intensely hazy view and a red sun. As we finished up our picnic that sun suddenly disappeared, not behind the mountains but into the smoke.

The moon was set to rise at 5:50pm, and so we lingered on the rock, examining the graffiti and testing out our headlamps. I had guessed that we wouldn’t be able to see the moon rise, but figured sooner or later it would rise above the smoke and be visible. However, an hour later there was still no sign of it. Knowing when to call it smoked-out, we headed down the mountain.

Wouldn’t you know it, that supermoon decided to show itself as soon as we reached Highway 11! The enormous orange moon is at its perigee, or closest point to Earth during the lunar orbit, and is the biggest and brightest supermoon to rise in almost 69 years. The full moon won't come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034. The Farmer’s Almanac says this ‘Beaver Moon’ signifies the best time to set beaver traps before rivers, lakes and streams freeze over.

As we returned to Greenville the orange moon was our constant companion. We came home to hot chocolate before turning in for the night, and as the boys turned off the lights I asked if it was worth the drive, despite not seeing the moon rise. A consensus was immediately reached – of course it was worth it, if even for no other reason than being allowed to stay up a little late…

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