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kevinbroderick.com » Blog Archive » 14 November Moonlight Hike

14 November Moonlight Hike


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As I was wrapping up a few things at the office, Jess called. She mentioned a few things, among them an inability to take advantage of the full moon and shoot some photos. I realized that I hadn’t gotten much exercise in the past week—the best day I’d had was spending half a day outside shooting photos during the Flying of the Towers—and that the conditions for being out under the moon were as good as they were likely to get. With a busy weekend approaching, I decided that it would be a good idea to put on some appropriate clothes and head up the hill.

I think I made it onto the hill around 1800, after a last-minute computer call got me while I was getting my camera gear from my office. Since I could still hear heavy equipment lumbering around, I decided to play it safe and head up Turnpike. The temperature seemed to be dropping quickly and frozen grass crunched every few steps, but a quick pace was enough to keep me warm in a Coolmax shirt. The moon provided ample light most of the time; however, the better-shadowed portions of the trail and uneven footing conspired with louder noises just off the trail to justify the intermittent use of my headlamp.

A bit below the intersection with Cougar, I cut across to the Wilderness Liftline; as I did so, the open trail and diminishing light pollution from the hotel allowed me to see both the trail and the stars clearly. As I began to gain a little altitude, I glanced back to see the Burlington area lit up near the horizon. Although it wasn’t as distinct as it would have been from the top, I-89 was identifiable by the steady stream of commuter traffic with which I had become all too familiar. Looking again upwards, I paused to let me vision adjust and was stunned by the starscape. I remember noticing the same phenomenon when returning to my parents’ house from college in Burlington, the sudden awareness of how many stars hide on most nights. The stars over the Wilderness Lift at Bolton Valley

As I approached Tower 13, I stopped in a futile attempt to capture the moonlight as it met the chairlift. Neither my eyes nor the camera’s autofocus could discern the towers well enough to generate a sharp image, so I can only suggest that you consider seeing it for yourself, should you get the chance. I also attempted a pair of shots looking up the slope towards midstation, but again the result was not quite as I had hoped.

Continuing up the hill, I was again struck by my surroundings, as a smattering of fair-weather clouds moved across the sky. Aside from those clouds, the view of the night sky was impeded only by the brightness of the moon, and I continued to hike by ambient light until half-way up the last pitch below midstation.

As I approached midstation, the shadows again overtook the trail, this time due to the extreme angle created by the position of the moon and the intervening geography. If the ground had been a bit more regular, I would have forgone the headlamp, but the patchwork of protruding ledge made for interesting footing in the dark. With that assistance from the headlamp, I easily reached midstation.Evening clouds pass across Vermont's Ricker Mountain

As I reached midstation, the wind seemed to pick up and my Coolmax shirt became wholly inadequate. I donned my fleece and then began to set my up my tripod on the unloading dock. I took one shot upwards, of the clouds passing over Ricker Peak, before I switched to my 19-35mm lens and turned back down the hill. In hindsight, the top of 1–or one of the higher points between Lift 1 and Vista Peak–would have made for much better shots. However, I had already been out for three quarters of an hour, and my fingers were now keenly aware of the air temperature and that my tripod was metal. I turned back down the hill, again using my headlamp to navigate the pitch just below midstation and then continuing by moonlight. Burlington glows near the horizon, seen from Bolton Valley's Wilderness Chairlift Aside from a brief period where the liftline trail slopes to skier’s right, avoiding a brook, I was able to hike without use of the headlamp; the one section where I did turn it on featured not only uneven terrain but also some large trees that had fallen across the trail, and I had no wish to clothesline myself on an errant limb.

Some time before 2000, I reached the bottom of Turnpike, skirted the large puddles by the base terminal of Lift 1, and began looking forward to another opportunity to enjoy the moonlight.

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