Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Full Moon Fever

No, not the Tom Petty album (although that is an excellent record), this Full Moon Fever is what strikes me during that one particular day every month when the moon is at it's biggest and brightest.  So it was with much anticipation that I set out this past weekend with my wife and two of our closest friends for a moon walk to view the May "flower" moon.  This time I thought Roughlock Falls would be a good place for our lunar trek.  The drive south through Spearfish Canyon at sundown was a great way to start it off.  Around those first few corners where the landscape changes so dramatically, past Bridal Veil Falls, into the cornflake bowl, by Eleventh Hour Gulch and onto the narrow road up to the parking area.  That drive is pretty awesome during the day, but there's something about the Canyon at night that makes the trip somehow just a little bit better.
Of course I brought a camera along, but no flash and no tripod.  I was hoping to get some shots with a natural twilight edge to them, and was pleased with the results.

The blue tint was just what I was hoping for.  Enough to show it was night time, but not too much so as to obscure the details. 
The air was cool and slightly damp as we made our way down the trail to the the area below the falls.  About halfway to the bottom we stepped into a pocket of warm air and caught the scent of smoke, as if from a campfire.  The smoke smell could have possibly been coming from the campground a couple of miles away, but that still didn't explain the presence of warmth in just that exact spot on the trail.  Strange, but also pleasant and perhaps even comforting somehow.
It was a perfect evening so far, although something was missing. The moon! Where was it?  The time was well past dark-thirty but it had not yet risen over the canyon walls.  We realized that we were so deep in the canyon it could be hours before the moon was high enough in the sky to be viewed from our position.  So a decision was made that if the moon wasn't going to come to us - we would go to the moon.  And that's what we did.  The closer we got to town the more sure we were that our goal was right around the next bend in the road.  Never did see it though, until the lights of town were also in full view.  A few more miles, to the west this time, put us on an unlit country road where we found a place to pull over and get out of the car to take in the spectacular sight.  It was so big and bright! An optical illusion just above the horizon.  And speaking of an optical illusion, isn't it strange that science has never completely solved the mystery of exactly why the moon appears to be so gigantic when it first rises in the evening?  Most scientists agree that the reason the moon looks bigger at certain times is because our minds fool us into thinking it's bigger, even though logic tells us it's not.  I came up with this mathematical equation that might help explain it:

If it's still not clear there is a very interesting article on this phenomenon at How Stuff Works.  There's even a cool interactive exercise that may just slightly blow your mind.  Here's the link if you want to check it out:
One thing science does agree on and we all know to be a fact is that werewolves come out on a full moon.  We didn't see any.  But that doesn't mean they're not out there.  I think I heard one once.  A long time ago.  But not around here, so not to worry.   And if the thought of meeting up with one is all that's stopping you from going out for a moon walk on some night in the future, you'll be missing out on a groovy experience and fun time with friends or even all by yourself.  So here's a tip - if you're approached by a werewolf start yelling loudly or have some bells with you to scare it off.  Wait.  That's for bears.  I'll have to get back to you on the werewolf thing.


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