All Things Being Equinoctial

By , September 25, 2019

This year, observing the Autumnal Equinox has proved particularly challenging.

For a vast percentage of modern society, the autumnal equinox, if noticed at all, is a specific date on the calendar: September 21st. While the equinox has fallen on the 21st for the last several years, it can fall anywhere between September 21st and 24th, inclusive. This year it fell on September 23rd—sort of . . . . The equinox actually occurred at 3:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. So, for Alaska, it occurred at 11:50 p.m. September 22nd.

snow on the mountains, SE Alaska

“Termination dust” on “LC Mountain” (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The local equinox, however, varies depending on location. In our region, the autumnal equinox occurs today, September 25th. Since we’re far north of the equator, our daily sunlight-to-darkness ratio balances a little after the “official” autumnal equinox. So, a bit late, we are now caught up with the rest of the hemisphere.

However/wherever one observes the actual autumnal equinox, autumn has definitely been here a while. Termination dust, the first snows on the mountain that traditionally mark the end of the hard rock mining season in Alaska, fell—but not for the first time—on September 24th. It has yet to fall on our nearest peak, The Mountain With No Name, but it’ll likely happen soon. Our daytime temperatures have cooled. Boletes and other fall mushrooms litter the forest floor. I’m in the middle of “the armed mushroom hunt,” also known as the Tier II Subsistence Moose Hunt.

In fact, as Michelle and I hiked home on Saturday, she sighted a bull moose, one of the few we’ve seen on our peninsula during the hunt. It crossed the trail in front of us and moved into the thicker trees. We watched it for a while, but darkness fell soon after, so I couldn’t rush home for my rifle to hunt it. We never got a fix on its antler configuration either, which is vital for a legal harvest in this hunt. I looked for him the next day, but, judging from the tracks, he headed down to the bay, probably across, headed for the cows.

snow dusting mountains, SE Alaska

Termination dust on the Coast Range, across Lynn Canal from our homestead (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I still hold out hope; further, I love wandering the woods in autumn, whether I find what I’m looking for, or something else.

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