Ever wanted to know the Latin name for Kinnikinnick (Bear Berry)?
How would you like to find out that the flower you’ve been calling a Tiger Lily all your life is actually not a Tiger Lily, but a Wood Lily?
Or did you ever wonder why the moon appears red as it rises in the evening? Apparently, it’s because of all the dust we humans kick up into the atmosphere throughout the day. Who would’ve thunk it?
So, how do I know these things? On a warm, clear summer night a few weeks ago, I was one of about a dozen who braved an army of mosquitoes for a guided Full Moon Hike with The Terra Magica Gallery and Wilderness Education Centre and the Rockies’ best-known nature interpreter, Mr. Ben Gadd. The intention of the night was to experience the moon rise from the shoulder of Mt. Yamnuska, and I caught a ride with them as they headed out in a car caravan.
The group gathered at the new gallery, where we got acquainted. After a short, scenic pre-dusk drive up the 1A, we pulled left into the Yamnuska parking lot and piled out of our vehicles. Mr. Gadd gallantly produced a container of high-test bug juice and passed it around. I slathered it on. Unfortunately, I had chosen fashion over function when I left the house, and was wearing short pants rather than proper hiking pants (a decision I would sorely, or should I say scratchily, regret soon enough).
Together, we headed up into the aspen groves that surround the base of Mt. Yamnuska. Forming a tight group, we huddled closely in order to hear the waterfall of local wisdom flowing from Mr. Gadd’s memory. He could name every flower, tree and rock we wandered by in English, Latin and Native American. He also had a story or interesting fact to go along with every one. Engaging, funny and full of wit, he had us all hooked.
After about 20 to 30 minutes of meandering uphill, we came to a small clearing with an unobstructed view of the foothills that span the horizon at the edge of the Rockies. Here, we each found a small patch of ground, set up our cameras or readied our binoculars and prepared for the spectacle of a full moon rising.
There was some chatting amongst us about the beauty of the scenery while Ben continued to offer quiet wisdom about the location, the moon and the history of the world in general.
As if on cue, a sliver of glowing copper moon peeked out from over a distant rise, right in the center of our view. A flurry of photographs ensued for the next few minutes as the moon appeared larger and larger on the horizon.
As a special treat, the hosts came around with a bottle of Japanese plum wine and poured a dixie cup full of the syrupy, smooth heat for each of us. A few minutes passed quietly as we enjoyed our drinks and the sound of the breeze rustling the aspen leaves. By now the moon was up, a shiny new penny sitting on the horizon.
Ben then suggested we take a few minutes of silence to enjoy a deeper experience of the scenery and the wilderness. Sitting silently on the shoulder of Mt. Yamnuska, overlooking the sprawling indigo foothills and the rising moon, I remembered again that old familiar feeling of being at one with nature.
In contrast, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own everyday disconnect from the natural world as I run around “getting things done” and playing the game. Even with all the hiking, biking and other outdoor sports that get me outside, how often do I actually stop and smell the wild roses? How easy would it be to take five minutes each day and just sit outside – to do nothing more than set the intention to soak it all in? How would it change us if we all took the time to do this more often?
After an hour or so, we gathered up our things and started back down the hill, placing each footstep carefully to avoid roots and rocks in the dark. Despite the full moon, we were in the dark with the forest above shading us from the moonlight. We traveled by feel until we reached the familiar sound of gravel underfoot as we reached the parking lot.
I would like to thank Ben Gadd, Peter Dettling from Terra Magica and the rest of the group for facilitating this full moon experience. I hope to share moments like this more often and I recommend that anyone else out there reading this check out the gallery’s upcoming interpretive hikes and walks. They’re worth the trip.
And thank you, finally, to the swarm of Yamnuska’s hungry mosquitoes for the lasting itchy reminder of a wild night in the woods.