Full Moon Hike
Keith and I were blown away by the full moon hike at Bryce Canyon National Park! Be sure to get information at the visitor center for this unique experience. A ticket is required and you obtain it through a lottery process. On the evening we attended, we met at the Bryce Lodge Auditorium to meet the rangers who would be giving the tours later that night. There were two highly qualified rangers who each introduced themselves and told about their customized hikes. Since it was Fall and less busy, everyone who showed up for the lottery was able to attend a hike. This would not be there case during peaks seasons, but totally worth the experience if you can get a ticket.
But first, dinner!
We had our tickets for the full moon hike and had some time to kill. Grabbing dinner seemed appropriate and we planned on The Pines since it was early and every other night we had been by there it was packed. It was such a nice experience with only a small crowd so we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and dessert. The Pines was as good as everyone said and it made it even better to stop in for an early dinner.
Ranger Todd had previously worked at Mount Saint Helens for 30 years. As of Friday, November 3, 2017 he had been at Bryce 1 year and 2 days. He shared with us that he has worked in park services since he was 18 years old! His hike would be just over 2 hours long with a distance of 2 miles traveled. Ranger Todd would focus on how the Earth and the Moon are connected. He would be assisted by Ranger Lauren, a geologist.
The other ranger, we cannot remember her name, offered her expertise in astronomy for her full moon hike. We found out that she also leads the astronomy nights offered at the park and we planned to attend that the next week so we’d get a chance to learn from her as well.
Our group met at the General Store at 6:10pm and headed towards Sunrise Point at 6:15pm. We stopped here to view the moon rising over the horizon as Ranger Todd introduced himself further to the group and got to know us better. We then began our hike. The tour consisted of 5 main stopping points where we’d learn more about how the Earth and Moon are connected.
- How the moon was formed
- Gravity’s relationship between the sun, the earth and the moon
- Characteristics of the moon (binoculars provided on tour for viewing the moon)
- Cycles of the moon
- Animal adaptations
The hike was awesome, but the information from Ranger Todd was the true experience. Learning under the stars about the Earth and the Moon made it even more unique! As a former teacher, I really appreciate the staff at Bryce Canyon and the amount of knowledge shared in a real-life setting.
A week later we were able to return for the astronomy night. The park is a designated dark sky park, making it the perfect location to learn more about the night sky. The Bryce Canyon astronomy night presentation took place in one of the rooms at the visitor center. The ranger, sadly we cannot remember her name, introduced herself and described her educational and professional background. Her lesson this evening focused on NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn. Information was provided about the mission through video, pictures and ranger led discussion.
We were then led behind the visitor center where the other rangers had set up three large Celestron telescopes. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, Keith and I got a better feel for just how dark it was as we increasingly began to see more and more stars in the sky. More information and locations for the points of interest we would be viewing was provided by the rangers prior to using the telescopes. Each ranger then facilitated viewing and answering questions about these points of interest.
While viewing, we were able to see a nebula, a binary star and a star cluster. The star cluster that we viewed is known to be over a million light years away! This means the image we were seeing was over a million years old because it took the light that long to reach our eyes.
Have you visited a dark sky park?
Do you have a location to recommend for stargazing?
What do you enjoy most about looking at the stars?