Well, the full moon was actually Friday Feb. 2, but who can really discern full from 98 % full anyway ? Although for a while it looked like it might have to be the full flashlight hike.
Viking, Sungod, IMAX, myself ( four Gonzos), four RROA members, two dogs and IMAX's road kill raccoon hat met at Lawrencetown Beach at 7:00 pm. I mention the hat because I'm not sure if it falls in the "pet" division with the dogs, or should more properly be classified as "apparel". Lots of stars, lots of wind, but no moon whatsoever. A brief but non-conclusive discussion ensued, mostly centered on the question "What time does the moon come up anyway?" Obviously no astronomers in the group.
Regardless, we left the beach in cars for the short (1 km) drive to the trail head at Three Fathom Harbour. As we came around the corner where Porter's Lake runs into the ocean at Rocky Run, a large orb appeared over the eastern horizon, looking like half a monstrous orange balancing on the tree tops on the opposite lake shore.
Although the temperature was only -3 C., the wind was bitter and howling in our faces. About a kilometer into the hike, we turned sharp left off the Rail Trail onto a meandering path that runs along the top of Half Island Point. From here, looking west, the distant lights of the city spread out in a line, ending with the regular strobe of the lighthouse at Chebucto Head. The trail is on the edge of an old field and follows the precipice rather closely, -especially in the dark. Looking over the edge of the fast eroding drumlin, the surf was pounding on the shore 100 or more feet below. Each crashing wave was followed by the rumbling sound of thousands of beach rocks being tumbled back and forth in the wash. The ocean was white with surf several hundred feet from the shore.
The trail then comes back down and turns slightly inland, up a steep bank and again hugs the edge of the cliff. At this point, stunted white spruce and thick alder crowd the trail so that we had to literally hold on to bushes with our left hands to navigate the narrow path. Game over if you trip on a root.
We cut inland to a fairly sheltered spot and lit what could best be described as a serious smudge, the word bonfire would have been a linguistic stretch. Thermos bottles came out and a few people held their food over the fire to give it that authentic deep south smoked taste and aroma. Although I think they use hickory in the south, we made do with cat spruce. Sungod set up his camera ( quite a few times) and finally got some photos of smoke, dark trees and bulky overdressed persons looking somewhat like Inuit refugees.
We kicked a bit of snow on the sooty spruce embers and continued. The narrow, overgrown path now is directly through the eerily dark woods, the moon obscured by the conifers. This crooked section of trail at night makes a perfect setting for a werewolf or vampire movie. A few hundred yards later we emerged into a large field sitting a hundred feet or so over the ocean edge. The moon, now fully out and bright, lit up the pounding surf across the outlet of Three Fathom Harbour. Lots of jeweled spray being kicked up by the wind, lots of noise from the surf, winking lights of houses stretching down the Eastern Shore, and the moon shining over all like it owned the countryside beneath. Standing there enjoying the chilly majesty was fine for a few moments, but the wind soon reminded us that we should get moving before frostbite became an issue.
From this point, the trail follows an old road back to the Rail Trail, and so to our vehicles. Once inside the car, I realized just exactly how much I now smelled like Smoky the Bear after spending a week in the middle of a forest fire, courtesy of our "bonfire".
The meek find this a nice hike in daylight as well, but I think the assemblage all agreed the bit of adrenalin stirred up by standing on a cliff edge in the dark on a windy night adds to the adventure.