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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Moonlight Snowshoe

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Under the light of a waxing gibbous moon, twenty people strapped on their snowshoes in preparation for a hike winding along the upper reaches of Frijoles Canyon. This was the first moonlight event offered in Bandelier National Monument this winter. As we walked into the night the moon played hide and seek behind the limbs of aspen, Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir and ponderosa pines. One minute bathed in light, the next in shadow, we marched along content in our thoughts and happy to be surrounded by our companions. Most of us never take the time or have an opportunity to explore the forest at night, especially in winter when temperatures reach freezing and our thoughts are more inclined to imagine warm fires and hot cocoa. For those willing to surrender to the chill of evening air the rewards can be great.

Bandelier Moon
The Jemez Mountains are home to a healthy population of elk. As winter snow piles deep in the highest elevations of the Monument, elk begin to move down to regions of greater food availability. Simply put, less snow cover allows these animals access to more food. It is not uncommon to see herds swell to as many as fifty individuals where forage is abundant.

As we trekked along our route we listened and watched for elk, identified constellations and enjoyed the simplicity of non-motorized locomotion. At the end of our hike we were satisfied with time well spent. Next month in the light of a Bandelier moon I invite you to share in a similar adventure. Please contact the Visitor Center for details, 505 672-3861 ext. 517.

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