Harvest Moon Shines over National Arboretum
Wx and the City
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Last week, I had the opportunity to see the District in a new light ... literally. I was fortunate enough to attend a guided Full Moon Hike in the U.S. National Arboretum in northeast D.C. under the blue-hued light of the Full Harvest Moon.
The Harvest Moon (a name used by the Cherokee and Algonquin People in celebration of the fall harvest of vegetables) is the Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox. According to our guide, Hunting Moon and Blood Moon are among other American Indian names given to this moon.
The Harvest Moon usually falls in September. When it occurs in early October instead (as it did this year and will again in 2017), the Full Moon before it is referred to as the Corn Moon. This year, the Full Harvest Moon happened on October 4, the night I visited the Arboretum.
In many parts of the metro area, moonlight is often drowned out by the lights of the city. However, the Arboretum offers a 446-acre shelter from light pollution. Using only natural moonlight, the group's night vision kicked in quickly and we were able to walk over four miles of roads and trails with no flashlights. Of course, the familiar faint pink glow from city lights still illuminated the stratus clouds nearby.
Two of the most notable points of the evening were the top of Mount Hamilton, which stands at 240 feet above sea level (the second-highest point in the District) and offers a great place to view the illuminated dome of the U.S. Capitol, and the grassy field leading up to the National Capitol Columns.
At about 8:45 pm, the temperature difference between the two was incredibly noticeable due to a temperature inversion. Our guide mentioned that there is usually a 10-degree Fahrenheit temperature difference between the two at night, at the least. At night, the field can drop 30 to 50 degrees lower than its daytime temperature.
The point of 'right tree, right place' was also emphasized during the hike. The Arboretum has many microclimates within it; since trees and other plants can be sensitive to sunlight, temperature, humidity and wind, it is imperative that staff plant them in the correct location in which they are most likely to survive. A plant that survives best on the warm, humid slope of the Asian Gallery that borders the Anacostia River would not survive well in the large field that is hot and sunny during the day and cools considerably at night.
The final highlight of the night was visiting a 250-year-old willow oak tree that is so tall that it has two lightning rods attached to it and so huge that is requires 500-550 gallons of water a day. The tree's drip line is 110 feet wide.
The Arboretum began leading Full Moon Hikes in 1997. The program has grown over the years, and is now offered four times per month during every month except July and August. In sunlight, the Arboretum is also a great place to view fall foliage inside the Beltway this fall.
For more information about the U.S. National Arboretum, visit www.usna.usda.gov.
| October 15, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Posegate, Wx and the City
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