The summer solstice occurs when a planet’s rotational axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the Sun. Most cultures have marked this occasion in some ritualized manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on the summer solstice. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the center of the stone circle. At Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the Chacoan people were intimately aware of all their surroundings. They were close observers of the skies and seasonal cycles, and their observations gave them the invaluable ability to time their agricultural and ceremonial events, which were central to their survival. Stone carvings cast perfect shadows on solstice day. Ancient timepieces can be found throughout the world that record this special day. Worldwide, interpretation of the solstice has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals with themes of religion or fertility.
My summer solstice 2016 was quite special as well. I started the day picking up trash on the Blue Ridge Parkway for my volunteer efforts with Friends of the BRP. While doing so, I got to engage with a couple of out of state tourists who were looking for great hiking off the Parkway. Boy did I fill their heads with ideas. They seemed excited, and I was happy to give them encouragement. I had a spring in my step as I drove on to the Black Balsam area for a planned ascent of Sam Knob.
It was a beautiful day, starting with perfect hiking temps in the mid-60s. It only got better from there. The meadow at the base of Sam Knob was filled with buttercups, ox eye daisies, and yarrow. The ironweed was just beginning to bud, and I even found some beardtongue. As I made my way up Sam Knob, I discovered that the mountain laurel and flame azalea were in full bloom, and upon reaching the summit so too was the mountain ash and St. John’s wort. A super wildflowery day! To top all that, high wind the previous day had blown out all the usual haze, so the sky was nice and clear and filled with puffy white clouds. What more could I ask for?
If you would like to make a visit to Sam Knob here is my trail report. In the mean time I hope you enjoy these new photos from my summer solstice trip. Please feel free to leave your comments below the gallery.