Both girls took on heavy academic courseloads this year. They are homeschooled, but the word "homeschooled" doesn't really describe what we do. Their routines are structured, and the girls take many accredited online courses as well as a few in-person courses taught by PhDs and grad students. In other words, I'm their educational facilitator, not their personal teacher. Alex (7th grade by age) is taking three high school courses this year (Algebra 1, Spanish 2, and Biology Honors) along with two 8th grade courses and a 7th grade course, and Sage (5th grade by age) is taking 6th-8th grade courses (6th grade English and social studies, middle school Mandarin, Pre-Algebra, and 8th grade science). Both girls are ambitious and both are highly involved in five different extracurricular activities.
What this means is that their schedule is crazy this year. And yet...hiking is important. It is what we do, it sharpens the mind and brings peace to the soul, it provides fresh air and exercise to the limbs, it immerses us in beautiful Mother Earth. And so, no matter how overpacked the academic week may be, we always find the time to hike a 4K, even if it is just a fast run up and down Tecumseh. The hike refreshes the mind and makes it easier for the girls to retain information...and it soothes away the negativity of any recent distasteful event. In other words, hiking is the best therapy, and it's the best academic boost.
This week's hike was no Tecumseh speed-hike, though...when I realized the lunar eclipse/supermoon/blood moon/harvest moon was going to happen on a night with a clear forecast and low wind speeds, I knew we should witness the event above treeline. The girls and I have never night-hiked before. We have started out before sunrise in headlamps, and we've come down after sunset, but we have never purposefully began after sunset and ended before sunrise. I figured this hike would be the perfect way to bring some novel daring and specific joy into our lives...and we needed that sense of adventure right now. Yes, we hike 4Ks every week, but an infusion of new-ness into the hiking would be welcome.
I reached out to our friend Samantha to see if she would be able to accompany us. We enjoy hiking with Samantha and we hadn't seen her in a while, so I was hoping she could go. She enthusiastically affirmed her attendance and the added attendance of Josh, her boyfriend.
The day of our night-hike arrived. We were two hours south of Crawford Notch all day long attending a Girl Scout event for both the girls. The girls attended the event in their hiking clothes and, as soon as the event (which was very enjoyable) was over, we headed north.
The big, beautiful moon was rising in Twin Mountain as we got close to the Crawford Path trailhead. I'll warn you now -- none of my photos are good. I have yet to learn the art of nighttime photography. You'll have to go by my verbal descriptions and patiently tolerate my less than ideal images.
|Giant full moon rising over Twin Mountain|
We hit the trail at 7:25pm.
I anticipated being frightened during our walk up the dark mountain, but I wasn't scared at all. Neither were the girls. The company of Samantha and Josh made everything seem safe. I would like to night-hike with just me and the girls sometime soon to see if I can feel as safe and calm on my own as I did with Samantha and Josh.
|My iPhone shadow on Samantha|
It's only 2.8 miles to treeline on Edmand's Path, and the climb never becomes steep. The five of us conversed almost all the way up, enjoying each other's company, and before we knew it we were presented with clear skies and this --
---though of course, the above isn't an accurate representation of the full moon just beginning to be eclipsed. It's the best I could do with my iPhone. For a better view, see this photo timelapse, which was taken by the good folks at the Mt. Washington Observatory, only two peaks (about 3 1/2 miles) away from where we were standing). We arrived at treeline just as the left side of the moon was beginning to go dark.
|At the intersection with Mt. Eisenhower Loop|
From the intersection at treeline, we made our way up the remaining few tenths of a mile. We had gorgeous night views of the valleys below, with town lights twinkling in the distance and an increasingly eclipsed moon above us. Again, absolutely none of my photos are going to do this night justice.
|The moon was not shooting rays from its center. |
Still, this is a cool photo....
|Samantha brought Moon Pies to share. Excellent!|
We watched as the moon was first covered by dark shadow, then a reddish glow (see Mt. Washington OBS time-lapse in the link provided above). After the moon was completely eclipsed, we moved on -- we were getting cold, in spite of our layers.
The 1.2 mile ridgewalk to Pierce felt strange. The last few times I've been on this trail, it's been covered in four feet of snow. Therefore, everything looked and felt different...I kept thinking we had passed the intersection to the summit of Pierce and Samantha kept reassuring me we hadn't. Eventually, we reached the sign that stands just a tenth of a mile or so from Pierce's summit.
After that, it was a quick tenth of a mile up to the summit cairn.
The official summit marker is close to the cairn.
Josh and Samantha...
Unfortunately, there was a big TENT close to the summit -- right on the fragile alpine vegetation!!! -- the inhabitants had evidently gone to sleep, and we supposed there was no point in waking them up and trying to get them to leave, as we are not forest rangers. Still...we were pretty pissed off that these people point-blank didn't care about the irreversible damage they were doing to our fragile mountaintops. Grrr.
The reddish glow was beginning to leave the moon when we headed down Crawford Path. That descent felt like it took forever, though it was only about 3 miles. We were all tired...it was close to midnight when we left the summit of Pierce. We arrived at the trailhead at 1:30am.
Both girls were very glad they had seen the eclipse from the top of Eisenhower and Pierce. Alex said it was "her best hike ever." Sage enjoyed it too, but she was ready for the car when we got down (as was I). I believe more night hikes are in our future, though probably none will be quite as special as this one.
Happy hiking, everyone.