By Coggin Heeringa, Program Director/Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek
Crossroads at Big Creek invites the community, and especially families, to participate in a candlelight hike we are calling “Walk When the Moon is Full.” This luminary-lit hike will take place from 7:30-9:00 p.m., Sunday, March 28, when the moon is full. If the weather does not cooperate (imagine that!), the event will take place on Monday, March 29, when the waning gibbous moon will still be 98% illuminated, but moonrise is later. So, if Monday night is the night, plan to come to Crossroads at 8:30 p.m. and we will finish up by 9:30.
It is appropriate that Crossroads ends Women’s History Month with this event because it is inspired by Wisconsin ornithologist Fran Hamerstrom, a pioneer in science-based wildlife management. Even before Crossroads was given the beautiful portrait of Fran, a pastel by James Ingwersen, that hangs prominently in our front entrance, some members of Friends of Crossroads were aware of her as a writer. But though she published more than 100 professional papers and ten books on wildlife topics, the teachers in our volunteer group knew her as the author of a charming children’s book called, “Walk When the Moon is Full.”
The book tells of the outdoor adventures of Hamerstrom’s own two children. In the chapter, “How It Began,” she wrote: “At last [Alan] turned to his mother and sighed, ‘Do we have to go to bed early every single night until we are old?’” The answer was “no,” so she and her husband promised their children that for a year, they would walk as a family every time the moon was full.
Inspired by this little book, and because the full moon conveniently occurs during spring break when bedtimes are not so much of an issue, Crossroads will offer this walk from the Collins Learning Center to the Astronomy Campus, and if the full moon is not hidden by clouds, our friends from the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will offer some full moon viewing opportunities.
“The full moon rises at sunset and sets around sunrise, and while moongazing is wonderful for love and romance, stargazing is toast,” wrote Mike Lynch, in “Wisconsin Starwatch.”
“In fact,” he adds, “this isn’t a good time to explore the moon either, because everything on the moon’s surface is in direct sunshine and there are no revealing shadows.”
Still, moonrise can be stunning. Lynch explains that the moon appears to be larger when it rises, but that is merely an optical illusion. “You’re comparing the moon with land objects close to the horizon,” he says.
“To make the illusion go away, here’s what you do, assuming you’re physically able to: moon the moon! Face away from the moon, bend over, and look at the rising moon between your legs. That will make the moon look its normal size, when it’s high in the sky.”
Personally, I will not be demonstrating this maneuver, but kids might like to give it try. This event will take place whether the moon is visible or not. If the moon is shining, hikers will get a full moon bonus. Be sure to check Crossroads’ website, www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org, for cancelation/rescheduling information. Weather truly can be unpredictable.
This event is free and open to the public, a gift to the community from Friends of Crossroads. Masks and social distancing will be expected and, as always, freewill donations are appreciated so we can offer this, and events like it, again.
All Crossroads Trails are open for hiking free of charge. Be aware of springtime water/mud conditions.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing your support to P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, or donate online at www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org.