The Sturgeon, er, make that The Back to School Moon

A Hike Under the August Full Moon
By Niquette Bay State Park Ranger, Lisa Liotta

After the gates were closed at Niquette Bay State Park for the night, strange sounds could be heard in the forest.  As the shadows lengthened with the setting sun, a pack of creatures met in the parking lot then scampered down the park trails to Lake Champlain.  Wildlife in the park surveyed these night-time visitors with interest as they passed through the trees on their way to a vantage point above the lake.  Then, eerie howling sounds could be heard echoing far and wide across lake as the moon rose!
What kind of pack was it?  Lions?  Tigers?  Bears?  Werewolves? It was none of these – it was Cub Scout Pack 43 from Milton, Vermont, visiting the park and participating in the August Full Moon Hike!

The first order of business for the Cubs before starting the hike was to find just the right walking sticks from the woods.  It’s important to have just the right stick for a 2-hour, 2-mile long hike in the forest.  Sticks can be helpful to fend off mythical creatures that might materialize under the light of a full moon, too.
From the parking lot, it’s approximately a three-quarter mile hike down the Burns Trail to our vantage spot on Cedar Point.  We crossed streams, traded our first walking sticks for better ones found along the way, and talked about some of the real animals that live in the park.  Niquette Bay State Park is home to deer, fisher cats, porcupines, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, coyotes, turtles, pileated woodpeckers, barred and screech owls, and many, many more.

At the park office, we have binoculars and nature activity backpacks available to loan visitors who want to check out the park up close.  The Cubs shared three sets of binoculars to get a closer look at the natural world all around us.
Soon, we arrived at Cedar Point, and from our view point on the limestone cliffs approximately 65’ above Lake Champlain, we waited for the moon to rise.  Many of the Cubs knew that the full moon always rises in the east in the opposite direction of the setting sun.  With the sun setting to the west behind us, the Cubs watched and waited.  Many bravely ventured near the edge of the cliffs under the watchful eye of Scoutmaster Jay Maurice to peer straight down at the lake many feet below.

Cue the heron!  To our delight as we settled in to wait for the moon, a magnificent Great Blue Heron flew below us over the lake.  Blue Herons are common in Vermont today; however, over a hundred years ago they were nearly extinct when they were hunted for their graceful feathery plumes which were all the fashion in ladies’ hats.  Today, there is a ban on hunting Great Blue Herons, and their numbers have rebounded so that they are no longer endangered.
As we waited for the moon, we learned how each month’s full moon has a name.  Native people named the full moon to signify important things in their lives each month.  August’s full moon is called the Sturgeon Moon, which comes from Native Americans who found that August was the best month to fish for sturgeon. 
The Cubs talked about what important things happen in their lives every August, and we came up with new names for our August full moon:  Back To School Moon, Fair Moon, and No More Mosquitoes Moon were a few of the really great names suggested!

As we watched, slowly but surely the full moon rose in the east, right where we expected it to appear.  It rose quietly, softly and pink above the Green Mountains behind a thin haze of clouds.

At the sight of the full moon, the pack came together and howled, and the sound echoed across the lake!
On our way back to the parking lot, with headlamps on and flashlights in hand, we detoured to the sandy beach.  We paused to admire the moon, spontaneously build a bridge across the small stream, and investigate what kinds of things live in the water.
A really great time was had by all, including this park ranger who loved sharing a beautiful Vermont State Park and a delightful August evening with an active and very fun group of scouts!


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