Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Chasing the Moon

Yesterday evening we could see that the clouds were moving in just as the sun was heading for the horizon. Moonrise was supposed to be about one minute after sunset, but obviously we wouldn't be able to see the eclipse with all of these clouds moving in. Looking to the north and checking the satellite images, it looked like there might be clearer skies up toward Gerlach, and if we moved quickly, we might be able to get there while the moon was still eclipsed. So on a whim we headed north up NV-447 (the road to Burning Man, for those of you who have been there).

Alas, it was no good. There were a few brief moments where we could see an orange smudge in the clouds. We got perhaps two-thirds of the way to Empire (which was going to be the northern limit) when Lisa spotted a good place the pull off the road. We could see clearing behind us. Maybe if we'd gone up to Susanville yesterday afternoon and gone up to the old ranger station where I used to live (assuming it had a view in the right direction, which is uncertain), or even gone up the other side of Pyramid Lake toward Sutcliffe, we might have gotten break, but not last night.

Lisa tried setting up the tripod, but by the time we got any breaks worth considering, the moon was starting to emerge from the shadow. We stuck it out until the eclipse ended, and sure enough, the final bands of clouds cleared about ten minutes before the eclipse ended.

Just as Lisa was packing away the tripod and camera, I walked around toward the front of the car and some of the ground moved, and with the "supermoon" fully lit, I could see quite a bit. "Snake!" I yelled, and retreated. Lisa came and looked. In retrospect, I wish I'd taken a picture, but I was too spooked. Lisa first spotted, and I agreed, that it wasn't a rattlesnake (pointed tail, no rattle), although initially it had something of the look of one. Upon reflection, we think it was a juvenile Great Basin gopher snake possibly attracted by the warmth of the minivan engine.

Being careful to back up so I wouldn't drive over the snake, I turned back onto the road and headed for home. I'm glad I didn't try to do the speed limit of 70 MPH. Even with high beams on (easy enough; no other traffic), we had a couple of near misses, including one with a jackrabbit that looked the size of a medium-sized dog. Fortunately, it stopped short. Another smaller rabbit was finishing crossing as we approached, and it expedited its departure. Even hitting that jack rabbit would have been troubling. I hardly want to think about hitting a cow, which was quite possible in open range country like this.

The one good thing about last night's trip is that we've now spotted a place where if we want to go look at the sky at night, we can probably get a really good view far away from most city lights and with relatively few passing cars (about one every twenty minutes) to spoil our night vision. The sky last night was clear to the west and above, and we had a great view of the Milky Way straight overhead, and we both think we saw several shooting stars. So it wasn't a wasted trip, even though we didn't get to see the Main Event.
Tags: lisa, nevada, wildlife
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