Black Balsam Knob under the Perseid Meteor Shower
Every year in August, Earth crosses paths with a trail of debris from an ancient comet, creating the Perseid Meteor Shower. On its peak nights, you can usually see 50 to 80 meteors an hour from anywhere in the country. Watching the meteor shower is the perfect summer night activity, and it is worth making a tradition of viewing the show. In the past we have gone to Glassy Mountain in Pickens County, but this year, one of the peak nights was on a Friday, so we decided to camp under the stars on Black Balsam Knob.
Black Balsam Knob is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness area of Pisgah National Forest. It is along the Art Loeb Trail and is part of a series of grassy balds that provide spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and wilderness. The forecast called for chances of evening showers and partly cloudy, a typical Southern summer night, so we decided to risk it. We were surrounded by clouds flying over and around as we drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When we arrived at the parking area for Black Balsam Knob, the mountain was peeking in and out of a cloud, but we were still holding on strong to the potential of the clouds clearing. We put on our packs and headed up the trail. It is a short ascent up the trail, about a half mile, followed by a hike along the ridge as far as desired. The top of the ridge is covered by an abundance of blueberries, blackberries, and wild flowers.
As wewere nearing the top of the ridge, we heard rumbles of thunder in the distance. Not wanting to stand on top of a grassy ridge in the middle of a thunderstorm, we decided to hunker down in the forest. At this point we were engulfed in the clouds and it felt like the storm was underneath us. We watched waves of clouds crash through the trees and a raven swooping down to catch its prey. After a long period passed with no thunder or rain, we continued our trek up to the ridge.
We hiked along the ridge and eventually settled at a tent site off the trail. We sat in our camp chairs and watched the cloud around us change from white to a peachy glow as the sun set. The cloud occasionally cleared a window for us to view the sunset and the neighboring mountains. As the night continued, more hikers made their way up the mountain hoping to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower as well. Around 10 PM, our efforts and patience were rewarded and the clouds started to give way to the stars. The big dipper was immediately above our tent and meteors shot across the sky. The Perseid Meteor Shower provided us with another perfect summer night.
If you missed this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower, then be sure to watch it next year. There are other meteor showers through out the year as well. EarthSky has a great list of meteor showers on their website (http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide). Dark Sky Finder also has a cool map to help you find the darkest areas in the region (http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html).
Irene and Remington Siemen
Founders of Tentspiration – A new outdoor website for the Upstate of SC