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Monday, October 03, 2005

Time traveling weekend

This was the weekend of the Tacoma Astronomical Society student camping trip and starparty. The plan was to drive to Goldendale and take part in the Klickitat County Starparty. Some of the other things the kids wanted to do was to visit the Goldendale Observatory, visit the Stonehenge replica and, as they are all teenagers, eat, sleep, and just hang out.

We left late on Friday and it rained all the way to Goldendale. Not one person in the 3 vehicle caravan had been there before so we were relying heavily upon posted directions and what we could find via Google maps. We got there after 5 hours battling narrow highway driving with ubiquitous semi-truck know the stuff that you can't wipe off the windshield. It was still raining when we got there and the starparty had been cancelled but we have previously decided that we would stay the weekend no matter what. The good thing about the fact that it was raining was it meant we could turn on all the blasted white lights we wanted! It made setting up much easier.

The boys slept in the camper, the girls slept in the truck cab, Alice slept in the back of the truck under her portable awning and Ken pitched his tent under the awning of the camper. No one needed any encouragement to hit the hay early we were zonked!

It stopped raining around 3am but the clouds stayed with us all through Saturday. We jumped in the two truck, bath towels in hand, and did a little time traveling. Did you know that there is a certain point on Hwy 97 that if you hit a particular curve going just the right speed...54.7 that you can transport yourself to the Salisbury Plains of Whitshire, England? Best part is that you are there around 1400 BC! AND, you are much, much, taller!

This replica is not full size but is apparently laid out based on the best guess of current archeologically findings as translated by Sam Hill the creator. After seeing Stonehenge this summer it was really creapy to see a replica with all the stones inplace and standing upright. The above picture was taken by Katie Dennis and you can see just how overcast it really was...what you see is all the sun we had.

This is the group with the heelstone in the background.

After that it was back to Skyview Acres for lunch and some down time and the NWRAL meeting. The sun decided to try to clear things up but after an hour of playing with our feelings it gave up and went back to bed.

After dinner and a movie (man there are definately some advantages to having friends with motorhomes! DVDs rock!) it was time to head off to the observatory.

Now, I would like to state for the record that before we went to the observatory I told all the kids in my truck to bring their red-lights and cold weather gear because it would be dark when we got back and if it cleared we would be working with starparty red-light policies!

The Goldendale observatory was delightful and it was interesting to hear about the history of the scope and the observatory. There was a full house and maybe only 1-2 stars TOTAL in the sky when we finally got to scope viewing time. Steve, the observatory manager, was very dutiful and did give everyone a chance at the eye piece. Michael and I were last and we started noticing that it was getting colder and colder as we waited. I was musing that it might actually be getting clearer and low and behold it was! We grabbed the other students and headed back to camp to find it perfectly clear! There was only one cloud and as Dan pointed out it was black. It took us a while to realize the significants of a black cloud at night and then it finally sank in...there were NO lights reflecting off of the clouds...nada...nicht...zzero lights. It seemed like everything was naked eye viewing.

We had several hours of wonderful stars. Sure it was still really wet everywhere but even with a slight wind, and air full of water it was still better than any night I have experienced at Table Mountain. Phil, the owner, was very supportive and ameanable to all our ideas of future events at Skyview Acres.

Now the tough part. With clear skies comes what....anybody....anybody....Beuler? Right, cold air. And what do you get if you combine realllly cold air with water??? Right! Ice. I got up at 2am and my tent, my sleeping bag, the zippers everything was frozen. The coyotes were happy and singing in the adjacent campsite and I was crunching through the grass to the porta-potties. The next morning the tent rainfly came of as a solid was cool! At $5 per person per night I am definately going back to Skyview Acres if I want some seriously dark skies.

So, on the knitting front (yes I haul it everywhere) I got a few more rows done on the Panes bag and not much more so I am still looking for a project for Uldolpho! It needs to be a good traveling project since I am heading for the Girl Scout National Convention this Thursday, at the crack of dawn no less! I picked up my copy of Udolpho and I'm glad I didn't try to read this online, it is much longer than I expected and with tiny type I will probably have to pull out my reading glasses! Anyway I have to figure something out by tomorrow!

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