Durango Nature Studies holds Moonlight
April 1, 2002
By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the
On an evening in late-March, about 20 hikers
stood above Fort Lewis College on Raiders Ridge sipping hot
chocolate and watching the full moon rise. Once it was up,
they looked at Jupiter through a telescope and munched on
Then Mark Everson, a Durango Nature Studiesí
naturalist leading the hike, told everyone to position
themselves with a good view of the brilliant orb while he told
a mythological story about a rabbit in the moon.
"Itís like Scouts for adults," said Crystal
Snyder, a 32-year-old participant in the hike, which took
place March 28. "I loved it."
Comments like that please the people at
Durango Nature Studies and the San Juan National Forest, which
funds the monthly full-moon hikes.
Everson, naturalist for Durango Nature Studies, left,
leads a group on a full-moon hike up Horse Gulch toward
Raider Ridge on March 28. Since October, Durango Nature
Studies has been offering the full-moon hikes, which
teach participants about local ecology and folklore
surrounding the full moon. The next full-moon hike is
scheduled for April
The hikes started last fall with $2,350 from
the Forest Service and the intent to hold four to six
However, the program proved so popular the
hikes are now held every full moon.
"Itís been a rip-roaring success," said
Cheryl Wiescamp, executive director of Durango Nature Studies.
The hikes are held in a different location
each month and are attended by people of all ages and fitness
levels, she said. During winter, hikers strap on snowshoes Ė
thanks to a donation of about 60 pairs of snowshoes from Grand
Junctionís Little Bear Snowshoe Co.
Durango Nature Studies was established in
1994 to "bring nature into the lives of people of all ages,"
Wiescamp said. The organization is fueled by members and more
than 100 volunteers, such as Durango resident Kelly Palmer,
27, who has worked with the group for more than a year.
Palmer, who toted refreshments on last weekís
hike, said working with Durango Nature Studies is probably the
most fun sheís had volunteering.
"Itís nice to get outside after a day in the
office," she said.
At the head of the group, Everson frequently
stopped to let hikers catch their breath while he talked about
ecological changes around the Vernal Moon, the name for the
March full moon that reflects the shift to spring.
"Thereís a lot we can learn by being outside
and paying attention," Everson said as he gestured to a
cottonwood tree. "Are the cottonwood branches golden all
winter? Did anyone notice?" He then said the hike started at
dusk because the full moon always rises about 20 to 30 minutes
after sunset. Being positioned directly opposite the sun is
what makes the moon appear full.
Eversonís passion and knowledge are just one
reason why Durango resident Tracy Korb, 33, has attended three
"Iíd never night-hiked before, so it was
really cool," she said. "Both times before I brought my
headlamp, but didnít need it because the moon was so
Korb said she reserves a spot on the hikes
well ahead of time, since the groups are limited to 20 people.
Eight of the spots are reserved for members of Durango Nature
"Iím sure they could fill (each hike) with
100 people, but keeping it small maintains the atmosphere and
integrity of the experience," said Kristine Borchers,
conservation education coordinator for the San Juan National
The next full moon hike is scheduled for
April 26 at Sand Canyon.
For more information, call