First light, autumnal equinox.
Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, winter solstice is the shortest. Halfway between the solstices lie the vernal (Spring) and Autumnal Equinoxes. Theoretically, there are equal hours of day and night during an equinox but actually they can vary slightly with a maximum of about seven minutes. Also note that the official demarcation is on the equator, so if you are above or below that line the window of time can widen.
You would think that winter solstice would imply both the latest sunrise and earliest sunset, but actually the latest sunrise takes place in January and the earliest sunset occurs around the first week of December yet solstice generally occurs on December 21 (yep, that day can vary too.)
Last light, autumnal equinox.
Regardless of assumptions, being close to the longest or shortest days (solstices), or halfway between those days (equinoxes) are noteworthy regardless of what hemisphere you live in and all have been celebrated since since humans started observing the pattern. It is fun to stop at least four times a year and appreciate the basis for our calendar. Take a note tomorrow of the point on the horizon where either the sun rises or sets. Return to that same spot around December 21, and you will be surprised how far along the horizon those events appear move.
Daybreak on Black Mountain, autumnal equinox.
Americana at it’s best; there are several treats available this Saturday, some of them FREE!!! Start your day by treating yourself to an all-you-can eat Country Ham Breakfast for only $8.00 for adults and $3.00 for children. In addition to country ham, bacon or sausage, eggs, potatoes, and multiple choices of gravy – - sometimes even red-eye and chocolate gravies are available. And, the best part is the proceeds go for a good cause; you are supporting a volunteer fire department. You will be surprised who shows up at these breakfasts; some of the best politickin opportunities of the year take place at these fund-raisers. 6:00 – 10:00 a.m. at the Cherry Creek Fire Department, 124 Montgomery Road, Sparta TN.
White county is also home to TWO Christmas Parades. The first is at 10:00 a.m. in Doyle Tennessee, the latter is at 4:00 pm in Sparta. The lineups are incredible, some floats will be in both parades; each venue has exclusive attractions. It is advisable to line-up along the roadside at least a half-hour in advance. Bring a sack and collect enough candy to keep your blood-sugar elevated through the rest of the year.
Lastly, this weekend is the peak of the largest meteor shower of the year; the Geminids meteor shower. I have seen over 60 shooting-stars per hour on some nights. The shower becomes prominent around 9:00pm and increases through the night with the best display about one hour before sunrise. Geminids are known for their long trains (trails), and is often the source of the best fireballs of any meteor shower during the year. This year could be especially brilliant because the new moon also falls this weekend. The absence of moonlight makes even the most faint meteors visible. Lawn chairs, blankets, campfires and hot chocolate can make for an evening that you will never forget.
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We are currently experiencing one of the best meteor showers of the year. The earth is currently passing through a belt of dust that creates the Geminid Meteor shower. The weekend of December 13, 2014 holds a special treat; this weekend will be the peak of the Geminids. The crisp winter air is clear and a perfect excuse for a campfire. Tonight, you might see 3 to 4 Geminids per hour, at the peak (this weekend) in rural areas you may see 30 to 60 shooting stars every sixty minutes; I’ve seen as many as one hundred meteors per hour during this shower – - yep, more than one per minute.
The streak behind the meteor is called the train. Geminids meteors are known to be bright with long trains. To view Geminids from Sparta TN, find a field where you can view the Northeast sky as far away from city lights as possible. There are many points along Eastland road that are perfect for this. A thermos of hot chocolate or coffee can help you to both stay warm and awake. The meteors will increase as the night wears on, you will see some after 7:00, more after 9:00 and lots of them by midnight. Be sure to give it as least a half hour. Your eyes need to adjust to the dark, and showers come in surges; you may go 10 minutes and not see any, then suddenly you will see several within a minute. The moon will rise after midnight and begin to occlude the visibility but some Geminids will be visible all night long.
Shooting rocks from CragrockUSA.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Department of Conservation and Environment have reached an agreement allowing Welch’s Point to remain open all year long. This is one of the most spectacular overlooks in the state of Tennessee and will offer those who are unable to hike the Virgin Falls Trail a perspective of what the Mid-Cumberlands has to offer.
Please be aware that you are driving through a wildlife refuge as you drive to Welch’s point and the side trails past Virgin Falls are not open during hunting season. Virgin Falls Trail remains open all year long.
To get to Welch’s Point; about half-way between Sparta and Crossville, turn south off of US 70 onto Eastland Road (next to LBJ&C). The closest GPS address will be 5747 Eastland Rd, Sparta, TN 38583 (Gulf Trading Post).
From the Gulf Trading Post, turn south onto Scott’s Gulf Road. Follow the gravel road and fork to the right immediately past the parking lot for Virgin Falls Trail. About three miles past the fork, you will enter a large gravel parking area with the remains of an old cabin and the hint of a view into the Caney Fork River valley; then follow the foot trail (about 400′) to the overlook. The park closes at sundown. Welch’s Point may be closed for ice, snow or inclement weather.
Representative, and senatorial candidate, Paul Bailey and White County’s newly elected County Executive, Denny Wayne Robinson met with members of Tennessee Trails and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency at Welch’s Point in September. Just over one month later, there is indication that Welch’s Point will soon be open to visitors in addition to hunters. This shows the benefit of living in a democracy. White County, we need to be talking this up. Every citizen in this county and state has a stake in access to Welch’s Point and the remainder of Scott’s Gulf, now known as the Bridgestone Centennial Wilderness Area.
Welch’s Point was partially funded by the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund which gains its dollars from a transfer tax. Whenever ALL Tennesseans sell their real estate, they are taxed on the transaction and therefore, the funds should only be spent on properties that are available to all Tennesseans.
The Bridgestone Centennial Wilderness Area was a gift to all Tennesseans from the Bridgestone tire company. The restrictions on the Bridgestone gift are riddled with statements indicating that the “uplands” portion was to be managed as a wildlife management area (hunting), and 1000′ from the rim line and down into the Caney Fork River Canyon were to be open for other activities including hiking, kayaking, caving, etc.
Currently, the entire area is closed off from September through December except for hunters. If managed, like Bridgestone indicated in their restrictions – - there is ample Room for Both.
As you encounter Paul Bailey and Denny Wayne Robinson, let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Take a moment to contact them and your other representatives to ask why the restrictions are not being enforced as written and filed in the White County Courthouse. The deeds to both properties are available on CragrockUSA.com for your perusal.
It is long past-time that these properties are available for all Tennesseans to enjoy. Please share this link with friends and any pertinent facebook groups and lets get these Tennessee treasures open to all – - all year long.