by Kimi Hoover

One of my favorite things about summer is the chance to sleep under the stars, especially when they’re shooting stars! The month of August brings the Perseid Meteor Showers—one of the best nighttime shows of the year.  

Being on the staff of the Whidbey Institute has many perks, one being the opportunity to throw my tent up on the Chinook grounds for a night of celestial viewing.

August 13 was billed as one of the best nights to see the meteor shower as there was no moon. At about 9 pm, with just a few minutes of light left, I drove to the Institute and got a recommendation from my colleague who lives onsite, Thomas, on the best location to get a clear view of the northeastern sky.

I pitched my tent without the rain fly—only the bug netting between me and the night sky. I knew rain was predicted for the next morning so I set my alarm for 5 am. I thought I could pack up at dawn and be home before the rain hit.  

As the sky darkened, I was rewarded with dozens of bats flying overhead but only three shooting stars before I dozed off. I was awakened at 3 am by two screech owls calling back and forth between two trees.

As I lay in my own cozy nest enjoying the owl symphony, I noticed I could no longer see any stars so I knew the clouds had moved in. About a minute into the owl serenade, a gigantic flash of lightening lit up the whole sky and was instantly followed by a huge crack of thunder. With my heart racing I leaped up and started the fastest tent breakdown of my life! I bet it took fewer than three minutes for me to get everything stuffed into a couple sacks. I made a dash for the parking lot just as the downpour hit.  

On the ten minute drive home, I witnessed many incredible displays of lightning traveling from horizon to horizon. Then, snug in my bed, I listened to more thunder before the adrenaline finally wore off enough for me to fall asleep.

The next day Thomas and I, along with the rest of the staff, had a good laugh when he mentioned that he had looked out his window right after he had been awakened by the storm and all he could see was this phantom headlamp darting frantically this way and that as I hurriedly packed up my gear, and then the dot of light streaking away as I made my dash to the safety of my car!  

Shared laughter, shooting stars, bats, and owls . . .  oh, how I love my job.

stock header photo from flickr creative commons; sidebar photo by marnie jones

September 5, 2015

Nature Encounters