Black Mountains XXIV, the Buncombe Horse trail and the 5 planet alignment. 6/22

Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. Back in May I had planned on going up to Mt. Rogers, VA, to watch the total eclipse of the Moon but the weather was not going to cooperate so I stayed home to hopefully watch it here at the farm. The clouds were in and out but at 11:00 when the eclipse started the Moon was out but by the time it was about two thirds covered the clouds moved in, skunked.

That’s okay I told myself, I will go up to the mountains for the rare 5 planet alignment the end of June. My favorite campsite on the side of the Black Mountain crest would be the perfect place to see it with it’s wide open views to the East.

Thursday afternoon I drove up to the top of the mountain as per my usual MO. It was hot down low and I drove through some rain on the way but by the time I got to the top it was clear, few clouds and hazy. The walk out to camp was as hard as always but I rolled in about 8:00 to good views.

I set up the tarp just in case and then had dinner and libations and even stayed up until 10:00 as it was so light out.

The plan was to be awake about 5:00 a.m. for the best viewing of the planets. Of course I kept an eye out all night on the cloud cover and at 4:00 there were low clouds but I could see the moon and one planet (Venus) above them but in minutes they sky closed in. This is what I woke up to.

Skunked again, it even spit a bit of rain so I moved under the tarp to read until it stopped.

Having been here in these conditions many times I figured I would wait and see if it would lift and I could have another chance to see the planets the next morning. So I spent the morning and early afternoon reading and enjoying the waning rhododendron and mountain laurel blooms.

Note the bear canister which I now carry up there as I had a bear walk right into camp a few years ago.

It did try to lift some and a few rays of sun shown through about 11:00 but then it thickened up again. This is what it looked like about 1:00 and I started planning my exit strategy. That would be Mt. Mitchell in the distance if it was clear.

I decided that if I started walking about 2:00 I would miss the Friday rush hour traffic in Winston and Greensboro but get home at a decent time. As I was packing up a young guy walked up who was doing soils research associated with the Spruce/Fir forests and we had a nice conversation and then he headed on to one of his plots and I around the front of the mountain in the mists.

The climb back up to the top was a sweaty affair but I made my usual time, the annual sufferfest was once again completed. I felt good about my decision to bail as even up top it was still in the clouds.

Sometimes it’s just doesn’t work out but it is always good to get out and sleep on the ground. I did see the 5 planet alignment a few mornings later at the farm anyway!

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