Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox

As I post this blog it is just a few hours until the fall equinox, for those who love precision; the event falls at 2:18 PM PDT today. At that moment the sun will be directly over the equator on its way south. A nearly perfect day of equal parts light and dark. Here in far north-central California the prediction is for several more days in the 90s before fall weather takes over late in the week. We already have low 40s overnight, so it really doesn't have the feel of summer anymore, despite what the mercury says around four in the afternoon.

Actually to have equal parts light and dark, one has to actually live on the equator. Here, even on this day, the sunrise and sunset are about nine minutes off a perfect 12 hour cycle. And for those sun worshipers, even on the equator the light creeps over the horizon in the morning and lingers far past it decension in the evening. Light wins over the dark every time, well at least in the movies.

I went up Mt. Shasta yesterday. For those unfamiliar with this place. The mountain is impressive not just for its height (14,179 ft.) but because it appears to erupt from the land which falls on all sides to below 4,000 ft. Mt. Shasta stands out because of the sheer elevation differential.

You can drive to nearly the 8,000 ft. level on the Everett Highway out of Mt. Shasta City. On a fall Monday the number of day hikers was quite low. But what caught me yesterday was not the majesty of the mountain but the swarm of butterflies. Depending on which website I believe either the Alfalfa or the Red Admiral. I gotta go with the Admiral because this is the right time of year for the southern migration to be in full swing and that would place them at the higher altitudes of the mountain.

[Addendum: I stand corrected, those were California Tortoiseshell Butterflies]

What was fascinating was slowly coasting back down the mountain thru the pine forest and having the road in bright sunlight that attracts the butterflies. Now you could just drive on down the road and in the process collect dozens of carcasses on your windshield and bumper. Or, as I did, a slow coast would create a gentle wind tunnel for the insects to funnel up and over the car. I only had to pull over twice to let other cars pass and both times a couple of the butterflies flew into my car and danced about before moving on.

photo credits: archives

No comments: