By the light of the moon

We toured Lake Jocassee Thursday evening with Kay Wade, a master naturalist who conducts tours of the lake on a pontoon boat. When we began, it was still a little warm and the sun was beginning to set in the west over the mountain peaks.

Then, as dusk fell, we saw the moon rise on the other side. It was the harvest moon, round and golden, the last full moon before the first day of fall, and it was beautiful.


It lit a pathway below across the water, and instead of seeing the man in the moon, we saw what appeared to be the woman in the moon, which made sense as it was the harvest moon, and a time of fertility and fruitfulness.

As darkness fell on the lake, there was something mystical about it. There’s this great bowl of water surrounded by mountain peaks with steep rock walls reaching far into the sky. In places, there are large trees which appear to be growing right out of the rock face.

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddIt’s a unique part of the world.

The Jocassee Gorge is home to the most diverse collection of flora and fauna in the world, with the exception of Japan.

It is a national treasure, and by some fluke of luck it has not been raped and pillage but allowed, in part, to continue. The falls were there long before any of us breathed the air, and they will be there long after we are all gone.

Far beneath the water are petroglyphs from ancient peoples etched upon the rock. No one knows what the petroglyphs say. Are they directions to sacred places? Or messages from one tribe to another? And then, from a more recent time, there are the remnants of farms, pastures, houses and barns.

We live in a place of unrivaled geographic beauty. It is nothing short of a miracle that it still exists in a fairly pristine condition.

This entire area was once a valley between the mountains and was home to many families who had lived in the area for generations.

But when the decision was made to dam the rivers and create a source of electrical power under the domain of Duke Energy, families left their homes, cemeteries were relocated and what once was vanished forever except in the memories of their descendants.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable about all aspects of the lake. Especially interesting to me was the earthquake fault that runs underneath the lake. I’ve heard about it for years, but to actually get to see it amazed me.

It can be clearly seen on the rock face on the edge of the lake. The fault line descends at an angle, then there’s a shift and it continues a foot or so in distance away and goes down into the water. The rock is layered vertically, not horizontally, and the striations which tell geologists details of its formation are just interesting patterns to my unschooled eye.

I don’t know why the lake was formed over an earthquake fault. Nor why the nuclear reactors are where they are. Perhaps there was incomplete knowledge at the time of construction, or perhaps the decision-makers were gambling, hoping for the best-case scenario. It really doesn’t matter now, because it is part of our reality.

For today, I am thankful that it was my privilege to float across the surface of this beautiful awe-inspiring body of water, no matter how it was created. To see the darkness creep across the water until the surrounding mountains were absorbed by it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The stillness, the solitude and the earth itself was a great gift.

And that was Lake Jocassee by the light of the harvest moon.