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"Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty... Stinging clear. And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear... Take the wheel and steer. It's driven me before... And it seems to have a vague... Haunting mass appeal. And lately I'm... Beginning to find that I... Should be the one behind the wheel.

Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes. Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. I'll be there."

Hey, ya'll... I'm outta' here! It's time for ~T to hit the road again and off on a new adventure. Stay tuned and I'll report at every opportunity.

See you in Pennsylvania.

September 10, 2004 - Arrival...

Comments: Hey, I'm here. What a beautiful and sometimes scary drive this morning! It was so foggy, I was pretty hesitant about leaving before dawn, so I just kinda' hung around and waited on the light. That might have not been the best move, eh? If you know your geography, then you know I was heading east and straight into the rising Sun! As beautiful as it was, lighting up both the fog and the countryside, it was like driving through an opal. By the time I hit Akron, I was feelin' pretty stressed, so it looked like a good time to sit and have a cup of coffee.

The nice thing about stopping, is sometimes stress is relieved in the most unusual of ways! I know this sounds dumb, but I sat in McDonalds's for probably 45 minutes sipping a cup of strong black brew and just looking at a spider web in their garden outside the window. It you have ever seen a spider web encrusted with dew, then you know what I am talking about. Not even the crown jewels can boast such beauty in simplistic design. By my second cup? I was ready to hit the road again.

Needless to say, once past the fog and the rising sun, the trip was awesome! Time to just relax and soak in some of the countryside. The mountains were picturesque and each river, lake, and valley a smokey treasure. The Allegheny National Forest was breathtaking, and I truly enjoyed just gawking around like a tourist instead of trying to make time! When I finally arrived at the motel, it was to find Robert waiting in the lobby and all smiles. What's this? He beat me?! ;)

For now? I am outta' here again. It's time for me to settle in, round of the rest of the members of our happy little crew and get signed into Black Forest. Cross your fingers! The skies are clear and beautiful now...

Let's see what happens when it gets dark.

So... What happened? Well, after a very admirable drive up a very steep grade, I did find Cherry Springs State Park. As part of the Susquehana State Forest, the drive rivals some of the finest mountain scenery. Unlike Yosemite with it's raw rock formations, the mountains of Pennsylvania are heavily wooded, cool and green. When I reached the top? (i happily took a wrong turn... my favourite thing in life to do. ;) I found a campground full of excited people and just as many terrific telescopes.

I had no sooner checked in than I heard the owl call my name and quickly found my other friends. Excited, Mike and Terry took me back to the area where they had set up camp and I knew within minutes that it would be best for me to head on back down to my car and bring up my scope.

I quickly got things set up and sat down to talk. Now, you'd have to know Mike Allen... He's not only a pilot, but a perfectionist too. (i think you called that a scopist.) I had told him that the little Orion had taken a beating on the way here and joking teased him about collimating it if he had a moment. Well, the only thing bigger than Mike's scopes is his heart and the next thing you know he had my 4.5 telescope feeling right spoiled indeed.

With optics perfectly aligned, the only thing this scope would need would be stars!

Terry has also been a long time veteran of the Black Forest Star Party and was willing to show me around so I didn't get lost at night. (hey. i get lost on a major highway with maps. i'd be downright frightning when the sun went down. ;)

It was a great opportunity to have a look at some of the vendors and to just catch a gander at all the different scopes. Did I take pictures? Of course. Eventually these reports will show at least some of what was hanging about... And Terry's new acquistion. (hehehheeee... there was a 32" that i just had to get him to go stand by. we're sending pictures to everyone we know and telling them he won it in a raffle.)

In other words, it was just good to get to know the lay of the ground and where things were at.

With time to kill before dark, we all went out seperate ways for awhile. Curt and Tim have also arrived and started setting up.

I know that just coming off duty, both Curt and Tim are tired, so they are going for some rest and I also know that Robert, Mike, Terry and myself have done quite a bit of travelling and are ready for a decent sit down meal. It isn't long until we find a very suitable restaurant and equally suitable food... And who should wander in? Curt and Tim! (this is smalltown, pa...) Sustenance taken, we all head our own ways once again and prepare to meet at dark.

I did say dark didn't I??

By 8:30 I was having really difficulties seeing. This is great! Not even willing to use my red flashlight to spoil anything - me, my maps, my binoculars and my blanket didn't have any problems connecting with the telescope. (oh, crap... you're not going to believe that i get lost easily now, are you?) I see a familiar form in the dark and reach out a hand... Joe!!! Awesome. Glad you made it! No sooner than I sit my things down than I've got the binoculars out and exploring. What's the reason? Excellent skies. In no way am I bragging my own dark sky site up... But I only see skies this good where I live maybe - maybe - five or six times a year... And this is before good sky dark! It doesn't take long to realize that the quality of the sky here is truly worth the six hours or so that it took to get here. Does it rival Yosemite? Actually... It does. While the Milky Way here goes a little bit beyond what I see from the backyard, there are certain bright portions that so deeply remind me of my vision quest from the west. As good as Glacier Point? I am sorry Black Forest, I would love to say yes but that would not be the truth. But I will say that it is considerably finer than the skies we have at the Observatory!

So what did we look at? Oh, my... We'd be here from now until next Tuesday if I described every object. How about three?? ;)

Binocular Messiers
Date: September 10, 2004
7X35 Tasco
Time Start: 9:05 pm ESDT Time End: 9:20 pm ESDT
Location: Cherry Springs, PA
Skies: 6.5 Stability: 9/10

M81/82 - Not a single problem with small binoculars. Even with poor positioning, both the M81 and M82 appear very similiar to what can be seen in a small telescope at absolute minimum of magnification. They look like two silver streaks of light - Cat's eyes in the dark.

M97 - What a hoot!! I wasn't too sure if I could see the Owl Nebula or not in such small binoculars, but about one minute into the hunt, I was going back to my charts to confirm star patterns, because I'm sure seeing it!! It looks like a small, faded disc of light with a distinguishable star pattern to the left hand side.

Now, it wasn't my intention of doing any studies while I was here, but who can resist that!!!

After that, it became of round robin of who could find what and when. I know Curt and Tim were working on astrophotography and I could hear Mike and Terry working on star hopping techniques. (mike came round to check his earlier handiwork with my scope and surprised me with what it would do with the veil!) What did I work on? Oh, heck. I'd do anywhere from five to twelve objects and then either sit down and drool, or have a look through Robert or Joe's scope. Joe had offered my the use of his SkyWind and binooculars and talk about totally cool! (gosh, i hope i was quiet!) I am here to tell you that this combination performed exactly like my 4.5 telescope! Just incredible... Eventually, it came to the point where I had exhausted everything the 4.5, the SkyWind and binoculars could do, and suprised myself with what it should not be able to do, but could with these conditions. When I reached that point?

I went and picked on Joe.

He had brought the C8 and of course it has a guidance system. Dew had become a real issue with everyone at that point, but suprisingly Joe had it under control. He has a terrific list of what should be interesting and should be a challenge for this telescope and we run through the objects. Thanks to these incredible skies? Even the challenge objects are not such a challenge. For example - Almach. I know there is a third component because I have studied it, and I know where. With 30% less aperture, Joe's scope revealed the C star. At first he couldn't see it, but without revealing its position, and going inside and outside of focus, he got it and he got it right.

What else did we look at? You name it.

Oh, that's right! We did name it, didn't we? When we exhausted Joe's list of objects, well, we just tried to exhaust the list of what was in both our memories and on the map. Want a real kicker? You can see Stephan's Quintets just as plain as day in this scope and it's only 8"! From difficult double stars to tough galaxies, the Celestron talked the talk and walked the walk. What's better? A thing I had never seen before! "The Oyster Nebula".... Too cool! I heard Curt laughing because it made his day that there was something out there that I hadn't see yet. Hey, Curt? Now I've seen it. ;)

Yes, the skies truly are awesome here. The only light is from an occassional flashlight checking a map and in a field of 450 people and scopes, about the only sounds you here are the telescopes slewing. By the time Orion was coming up over the trees, I had had enough for the evening. The dew was totally heavy and myself and everything else is very wet and ready to head back to some drier climes despite the incredible skies. What can I say about Black Forest?

It is truly worth the time and the drive!

September 11, 2004 - At the Black Forest Star Party

Comments: And here I am! Notes caught up and ready for another cup of coffee. Catch you later, alligator!

So what did the day bring? Clear and sunny skies... And a very pleasant surprise! After getting everything caught up, I got cleaned up and headed back to listen to the day's lectures. I no sooner made it there and dropped my baggage off than a certain gentleman "caught my eye" at precisely the same time I caught his. Victor?? Victor!

Holy mother of pearl... It's great to see you again!

Needless to say, it was a rather joyful reunion and it didn't take long until he had introduced me to all his friends as well. The afternoon seemed to go all to quickly, but it sure was pleasant. We had a wonderful opportunity to catch up with one another and I will admit that I enjoyed the company. We made it back in plenty of time to do the day's raffle for prizes and it was certainly fun to watch Vic win a Meade LX90. (hey, my bucks were on the binos... ;) As he carried his prize back to set it up in the observing area along with his 12.5 Discovery, I took off for a meeting with one of the Pennyslvania State Park Rangers where we both had a terrific time discussing public programming. When I got back to the observing area, Vic took me around and introduced me to a lot of other veteran Black Forest visitors and it sure didn't seem like very long until it started to get dark.

Of course, you know me... And sometimes I just wanna' go be serious for awhile. Finding a shady spot for me and the little 4.5, I started in around 8:45 turning and burning. The M81 and M82 came first, shortly to be followed by the M97 and M51. Hopping back across to the west, I took in the M3 and M5 before they went too far west and headed back over toward the south. It was time to stop and watch an absolutely majestic fly-over of the ISS and I was off and running again witht he M4, M80, Graffias, M6, M7, M19, M63, M9, M10 and M12. Deciding I best enjoy the north while I still could, I turned around and took in a very faint, but still impressive for this aperture M108 and was very pleased with the appearance of the M101. Not ready to quit yet, it was time to capture Ras Algethi, the M92 and M14. And then? Well, I just tripped Saggitarius: M8, M20, M21, M23, M24, M17, M16, M22, M28, M69, M70 and M54.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I capped everything back up and saunter back over to Vic. Now, why in the heck would I want to goof around with a little telescope all evening when I've got this great big Discovery here to play with?! Ever the gentleman, Vic had already had it set on the Veil, and we did a lot of tracing with the OII filter. Did it stop there? Heck, no! He was more than happy to continue to set it on one object after the other for my pleasure, and I'm tellin' ya'... I couldn't be more pleased than to just enjoy the stars in his company and in the company of so many fine Obsession telescopes as well! Man... The views were just out of this world!! Anything you could think of was brought up and as much as I love my own big Meade, that Discovery will match it pace for pace. Here again, is a gentleman who does not use a GoTo scope and he's just as sharp as can be at finding things. If I could name it and he could look at a map? It was there, dude... From one side of the sky to the other... Be it a faint galaxy or a planetary nebulae, Vic would hand it to you. And he is also quite willing to let me do some "driving" as well!

You are one of a kind, Doc... I can never forget you.

While other folks stopped to visit, it was time for me to kinda' fade into the shadows for awhile, because there is something I need to do. What I am not after is a telescope, although I have had to use one before to make this particular observance. Tonight, it is with the utmost respect that I stand beneath the starry skies and count 343 stars for the 343 fireman, police and rescue workers that lost their life in the 9/11 tragedy. It might seem like a silly thing to you for me to do... But I do it for them. 343... Never forget.

After a while, the clouds kinda' rolled in and messed things up. But it wasn't a wash. It was a terrific time to walk around and get to know a lot of other people that I had only a nodding acquaintence with for the last two days. It was wonderful just to get to spend some time with Victor again and have a chance to catch up on all that's happened since we last crossed paths. Of course, as we walked around there are a great many other people who know him as well and we end up spending some real nice time with a fellow who had a 30" scope there.

Tim? Tom? (that's paybacks from "marsha".. ;) was definately a real character and it was a lot of fun to view with him for awhile and play "name that object". Of course, the clouds would keep running in and out, but there's no complaints here. After so much excitement over the last few days, I'm definately feeling tired and ready to get off my feet for awhile if nothing else. When I get back to where I had set up, it's to find that pretty much everyone had either gone or crashed for the night. I can't say that I blame them, though... It's been a very exciting two days.

Helping me get my gear picked up and ready to roll, Vic lends a helping hand as we walk back down the Hill and over to the airport parking lot. Words cannot describe what a terrfic time I've had... And just how much everything meant. I can understand now how legends grow around certain star parties and why people so treasure returning back year after year. It's not all about having terrific skies or the best of equipment... It's about having an opportunity to share all of the above with both old and new friends and knowing that maybe, just maybe...

Some day you'll meet again. ;)

"Should I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive? Will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive? It's driven me before and it seems to be the way... That everyone else gets around. But lately I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found.

Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes, yeah. Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there.

I'll be there."