Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moon of Falling Leaves Ramble

All eyes (image from the Internet)
In a comment on one of his posts, I mentioned to my blogging colleague Desert Packrat (desertpackrat.blogspot.com) that I had to lead a full-moon walk last night in my preserve.  Packrat responded to say that he hoped the walk went well. I decided to recount the events of the evening in a reply to Packrat, but my reply grew to "post" length, so I'm pasting it here for everyone.

The sky cooperated beautifully last night, giving us great views of the moon and some interesting checkered patterns created by the subtly illuminated clouds.  Also, while it was a bit breezy, the temperature was perfect for the walk - mid 60s.

As I was leaving the office yesterday afternoon, I lamented to a co-worked that I had to lead the walk last night and that I'd have to make sure that none of the clumsy walkers tripped in a groundhog hole.  Well, none of the walkers fell into a hole, but honest to goodness, I did, and I went down on my back.  Boy, did I feel stupid, but nothing other than my pride was hurt.

In an effort to spot something - anything - during the walk, I shined my strong flashlight into some of the meadows alongside the trail.  No deer, coyotes, or foxes, but the light did reflect off a tiny "something" in the grass.  It was a pinprick of brilliant green light.  I left the trail, keeping the light shining on my "quarry" all the while.  When I got right up to the spot, the reflection disappeared (the angle of the light had shifted so the pinprick was no longer reflecting anything).  I searched and searched, but couldn't see anything until I finally spotted a wolf spider among the grass.  Sure enough, its eye(s) were reflecting green.  Neat!  After I spotted the first spider, we started to see them everywhere, which gave the group something to look for.

Near the end of the walk, I shined my light into an open meadow often favored by deer.  We saw two green eyes burning back at us.  The eyes blinked, and then whatever it was walked away.  The eyes were forward-facing; I suspect they were a fox or coyote rather than a deer.

Everyone seemed satisfied by the walk, but I'm inevitably disappointed when I lead these night walks.  We never see any animals (we're too noisy), we never hear any owls, and the sky is too bright from the reflected lights of the city to see any constellations.  It's hard to think of things to say to the participants, but most of them just seem to enjoy walking outside creating their own moon shadows.

13 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Scott: It's neat to walk in the woods at night when there's a full moon, as I even have a shadow and don't need the headlamp. But it is true it's not a good time to see constellations or animals--they can see us better, too! I always think spider eyes shine greenish in my headlamp. I'm glad to hear you didn't get hurt when you fell.

Scott said...

In all my years in the woods, I'd never seen spider eyeshine. It just goes to show that there's always something new to learn and see.

robin andrea said...

We didn't get to see even a hint of that full moon here. It was way too foggy. Nice that you got out there to see moon shadows. Sorry about that fall, though. Good to know you didn't hurt yourself. I had no idea that spiders' eyes shine like that. Now I'm going to have to add that to my list of things I really want to see. Thank you for that!

packrat said...

A wonderful recounting of a magical nighttime outing, Scott. I must admit that I got something of a chuckle out of your mishap, but only because you didn't get hurt. Spider eyeshine is something I've never seen.

:)

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

In my experience when I've lead walks at night everyone talks so much that my only purpose was to make sure no one got lost. I've never seen spider eye-shine either but isn't it typical that, once you've seen it, then you notice it again and again.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Robin Andrea: I hope that Californian spiders' eyes glow just like Pennsylvanian spiders' eyes do. Otherwise, you'll be madly wandering the fields and meadows shining your light in the grass and someone will call the cops!

Scott said...

Packrat: Now I know your angle-- it's schadenfreude! :)

Scott said...

John: You're spot on (though I didn't mention it in my account). I had one guy who talked and talked (to me) the whole time. When other participants wanted to ask a question, they had to wait for the guy to catch his breath.

I used to lead a series of strenuous walks "off campus" to semi-remote waterfalls, gorges, and mountain trails. I called these walks "Scott's Challenges". After just a few "challenges" I stopped the program because (1) people just never shut up despite walking in wild, beautiful and tranquil settings, and (2) though the "challenge" part was emphasized over and over, too many out-of-shape people insisted they could make the trek but ended up dragging down the whole group. Best to go it alone.

Mark P said...

I used to see the shining spider eyes all over the place when I walked the dogs behind the house at night. I think I mentioned somewhere that they look like little emeralds sparkling in the beam of the flashlight. After Zeke pulled me down a couple of times trying to chase real or imaginary critters in the woods, we don't walk behind the house, and I don't see the spider eyes nearly as much.

packrat said...

I just had to post another comment after reading your last comment here, Scott, because it reminded me of an incident when I successfully thwarted annoying chatter. Once, when I was teaching a college humanities class in Prescott, Arizona, a class I led on several field trips--including a visit to Arcosanti (Paolo Soleri's "City of the Future")--I led students on a hike up the Groom Creek Loop Trail to the top of Spruce Mountain. Having experienced the group-hike palaver on previous occasions I made it mandatory that nobody talk until we reached the summit. I passed it off as a self-reflective/meditative experience, charging them with the responsibility of monitoring their thoughts to later write about in an essay. Worked like a charm, but I felt a little guilty later when a student accused me of just not wanting to hear them talk.

:)

Scott said...

Mark: You've got it exactly--like "tiny emeralds sparkling in the beam of the flashlight" Perfect. I'm a little bit surprised that Zeke could see the spots, but I guess I shouldn't be.

Scott said...

Packrat: I'm surprised that you could pull-off a feat like that, but the idea is perfect. Of course, those were students and they had to "obey" their instructor or risk their grade. It likely wouldn't work as well with the public.

All of the participants on my walk were adults--it's even worse when there are kids along!