Hike by the Light of the Full Moon

Events // July 20, 2022

By Christina Moresi, Wissahickon Environmental Center

At sunset, on a night close to the dates of each full moons throughout the year, we host a hike to watch the moonrise through the forest trees and in the sky over the meadow.

Much of the science surrounding the night sky has eluded me, as much as I try to understand its mysteries. But, despite the light pollution that lightens our night sky, we often get a solid glimpse of not just the moon, but also the brightest stars and planets.

The moon appears full because the Earth is directly between it and the sun. When the moon is opposite the sun, we are in position to see the whole, daylit side of the moon all at once. My favorite part of the full phase of the moon is that it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise, so you can watch both at the same time if your views of the east and west skies are obstruction free. Unfortunately, our view of this simultaneous rise and set in Andorra Meadow has been blocked in the west with new construction. But we continue to look for a spot in the Wissahickon to witness the moonset and moonrise together again. Until then, we focus on its rising.

Each season the moonlight reveals new features on our hikes. In winter and spring, the leafless trees show off the curves and bends in their branches— sometimes even revealing the silhouette of an owl. The spring is also an active time, when mating toad songs and the scent of crabapple blossoms fill the air. In fall, we enjoy the new chill in the air and the crunch of fallen leaves as we walk. The moon lights up their peak color changes and creates moon shadows at our feet.

Summer is one of the best times for full moon hikes. We always roast marshmallows and gather to talk with old and new friends. For me, the summer moons are more special because they are accompanied by the glow of the lightning bugs, and the chirps of the crickets and katydids. Just when you think the mosquitoes are going to eat you up, the bats overhead eat them first. Speaking of eating, when the wineberries, or wine raspberries, are ripe, usually in July, stopping to snack is a must.

Summer hikes satisfy all the senses. The bright moon is just one part of this multifaceted outdoor experience. Some nights, the clouds cover the moon to create a new masterpiece with the moonlight or to hide it so we can focus our attention on other happenings in the night that we may have otherwise missed.

We spend so much of our time in the Wissahickon in the sun that we often forget about the life it lives at night. Joining us on a full moon hike is a perfect way to see it in a new light.

Our next full moon hike will be hosted on Wednesday, August 10, 7 p.m. | This hike is titled “Auntie Adventures: Twilight Hike & Campfire,” but all adults and children are welcome. Check out the Wissahickon Environmental Center on Eventbrite for all their events.