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Queens Chronicle

Experience Jamaica Bay at sunset and after dark

It’s a wonderful night for a moon walk

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:30 am

Replace the sound of blaring car horns and the clackity-clack of passing trains with the calls of the woodcock and whistling of a springtime breeze through shorefront trees. Above, twinkling stars provide a more natural glow than the fluorescent illuminations in office building windows. Rising in the east — a big ball of light.

That isn’t a lamppost, a traffic light, or even the spotlight from an NYPD helicopter. Nope, that’s the moon.

Deep in the heart of Jamaica Bay lies an urban oasis, far enough from the bustling city streets to feel as if you’ve traveled hundreds of miles, but close enough that with a good pair of binoculars, you can tell whether or not employees on the 71st floor of the Empire State Building are still at work.

A walk along a dark path in a New York City park at night may not seem like the smartest venture, but this is not any normal city park nor is it any normal walk.

At the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, nature trails in Broad Channel allow those seeking an escape from the concrete chaos of urban life a — well — refuge. An array of shorebirds and other wildlife call the area home.

Though the trails and birdwatching are typically daytime events, on April 25, you can explore the park at and after dusk.

Gateway will host the Sunset and the Pink Moon Walk, which will allow hikers to walk the trail around West Pond and enjoy the sunset over Jamaica Bay and the rise of the pink moon — the name given to April’s full moon because of the color of some spring flowers.

At 6 p.m., hikers will gather at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, where the walk will begin with a discussion about the moon. Geared especially toward children, the talk given by park rangers will allow you to share what intrigues you about Luna.

Then it’s time to head outdoors. The 2.2-mile hike takes hikers to the West Pond Trail, which encircles the water (though part of the trail is washed out due to Hurricane Sandy, forcing hikers to backtrack the way they came). A flashlight is recommended, and park rangers will give you a colored film to place over the light so the bright glow does not scare off animals.

As you walk along the easy-to-hike trail, peek to the west, where the sun sinks below the horizon, illuminating the sky in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. As the sky dims more, the lights of Manhattan twinkle in the distance. The walk takes you to the west side of the island, where the west-facing views are the best. Along the way, stop and see some of the birdhouses and favorite aviary hangouts and keep your eyes peeled for osprey and woodcocks soaring through the air or zipping across the trail.

When the sun sets, eyes turn from west to east, where the full moon will rise. At first, it is hard to spot, looking more like an illuminated window seen through the trees, but once the moon appears above the horizon, the big white ball dominates the eastern sky. It is hard to miss. With luck, thin clouds will hover above the horizon, giving you that spectacular, eerie sight of the clouds bathed in moonlight, whisking past the great rock in the sky.

Photographers are in for a real treat, with great shots of the sunset, the Manhattan skyline, the moon and if you’re really lucky — curious shorebirds that seem to flock to Jamaica Bay like celebrities to a red carpet, looking to have their photo taken. But bring a tripod, as good shots are often hard to capture when the camera is not perfectly still.

Should it rain on April 25, the walk will take place that Sunday, April 28, at 6 p.m.

The Sunset and the Pink Moon Walk is the second full-moon walk this spring.

More than a dozen people turned out for the March 27 full-moon hike through the park despite the chilly temperatures. Though the moon did not make it’s appearance until the end of the walk, hikers were treated to a dramatic sunset and a lesson about shorebirds that call the refuge home.

Sunset and the Pink Moon Walk

When: Thursday, April 25, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Ryan Visitor Center, Broad Channel

Tickets: Free (718) 338-3799

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