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Finding the October Full Moon

October 19, 2013
First sliver of October's full moon

First sliver of October’s full moon

Full moons are fabulous—but it’s not easy to find a good moonrise viewing spot in the flat downtown where I live. So yesterday evening I headed for the hills at dusk, not to run, but to watch the moonrise with my non-runner hubby.

Laurel sumac at sundown

Laurel sumac at sundown

Unsurprisingly, versatile Irvine Regional Park is where we ended up. This is where I have been parking to start most of my trail runs lately (other local options are Santiago Oaks and Peters Canyon Regional Parks), and where I have been trail running since the mid-1990s. Unlike Santiago Oaks or Peters, Irvine Park is open until 9 pm during Daylight Savings Time months, so racing against the twilight (when they lock the parking lot gates at the other parks) is not an issue. (And I’ve had my share of race-the-gate runs . . . )

Last night, Irvine Park was crawling with cars and straggling high schoolers—we had stumbled onto the Orange County High School Cross Country Championships! Memories flooded back—all three of our kids ran cross country their first year of high school (let’s just say . . . I “highly encouraged” them), and our youngest ended up making varsity for four years. So I’ve been to this event at least six times as a spectator, and to many other races at Irvine Park, since it was the “home course” for my kids’ high school.

After climbing the Puma Ridge trail, and inhaling the bitter-sweet scent of a crushed laurel sumac leaf, I looked down and got nostalgic at the quarter-mile line of cars stuck in the exit line. So many young runners, sweat-crusty from their 3-mile lung-burning sprint under the old oaks and sycamore, who shivered while waiting for the results to post, and who now can only be thinking “let’s get out of here already I’m starving and it’s Friday night.”

“Stay just a little bit longer,” I wanted to tell them. “The full moon is coming. It will be worth waiting for.” Yeah right. I am middle-aged and full of my share of tonght’s two-for-one Chipotle deal and wearing a fleece jacket, with no stressful-awkward-adolescent planning ahead to figure out who I will hang out with tonight and where we will go.

One (admittedly minor) benefit of being married almost 40 years: the guarantee of a full moon hike companion when I need one.

Sunset on Puma Ridge, courtesy of the 10-second time on my little pocket camera

Sunset on Puma Ridge, courtesy of the 10-second timer on my little pocket camera

So Steve and I stroll along the ridge, on the look-out for some dependably crepuscular mule deer that we’ve seen here previous evenings. While I am busy photographing all the autumn-parched foliage, Steve spots them: in the little un-pathed area between oaks to our west, two deer statues stare back at us. We admire them; I try for a futile photo, but the light is far too faded by now. So I click them into my (non-photographic, but somewhat functional still) memory, and dub the hillside “Deer Meadow.”

And I imagine the early People moving through this landscape, smelling the laurel sumac, discovering deer patterns, naming place after place.

Did they pause once a month to make a hilly pilgrimage to admire the way the sliver of moon breaks on the Santa Ana Mountain ridgeline?

I like to play a guessing game with the moon and choose the spot where I think it will emerge. It varies throughout the year, just as the sun rises and sets at different places on the horizon as the seasons change. I am always wrong. Which means I am always surprised by the shiver of unexpected moon sliver. And then the pearl floats out of the mouth of the mountains, and it’s time to head back down to the parking lot, the car, the traffic back through Old Towne Orange. And home.

Another exciting Friday night.

Moonrise over Sierra Peak, Santa Ana Mountains

Moonrise over Sierra Peak, Santa Ana Mountains

Sycamore below us in Irvine Park

Sycamore below us in Irvine Park

Side-lit black sage

Side-lit black sage

Sycamore half in shadow

Sycamore half in shadow

Barefoot in the golden glow of October sunset at Irvine Park

Barefoot in the golden glow of October sunset at Irvine Park

From last week's hike on the Quail Hill trail

From last week’s hike on the Quail Hill trail

Old Saddleback, as viewed from the Quail Hill trail

Old Saddleback, as viewed from the Quail Hill trail

The almost-full moon of a few days ago

The almost-full moon of a few days ago

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