A large star party is an experience worth seeking out… Hundreds of people, hundreds of telescopes, all under a dark sky.
A star party is a meeting of geeks. Technical talk of optics, electronics, and fabrication techniques like 3D printing abounds. In the afternoon and evening you will find small conversations in the shade, pull up a chair and join the discussion.
The plan was something I had executed successfully before… Fly into Portland, spend some time with my folks, then borrow the family camper for the trip out to the Ochoco Mountains for the star party.
Due to lucky happenstance the location for Oregon Star Party, the same location used for decades, was within the path of totality for the 2017 total solar eclipse. This provided an opportunity to both attend the star party again, and to view the eclipse.
I do enjoy the large star parties, something we do not have on the island. I had attended OSP a few years ago, the eclipse made the opportunity to attend once again very tempting.
Registration for the star party was an issue. Due to the eclipse attendance was going to be very good, so good that registration was closed within two hours of opening! I got the announcement email, then waited until I got out of a meeting to register, only to find out I was too late! I put my name on the waiting list and hoped.
With a month to go I received word that my waiting list position was opened for registration. By this time my family already had plans to camp in the Ochoco Mts. for the eclipse, no reason not to do both!
By the time this is posted, by the time you read this, the eclipse will be long over. You will have been flooded by images and descriptions of this event from thousands of sources. However, this blog is a personal diary, I will put down my thoughts and memories before they grow dim, post my photos, and preserve the experience for myself.
Our plan was simple, camp out well ahead of time in a site that had been carefully selected and scouted. Jody and Larry camped along side this little pretty meadow earlier in the summer, noting that it would serve quite well. They also arrived first, five days before the eclipse, and minutes ahead of others that sought this same place.
The plan worked, and worked well. In the days leading up to the eclipse dozens of vehicles came past, each looking with envy at those who had arrived early to claim the best spots. The stream of vehicles continued late into Sunday eve, no matter, this forest offers room for all.
I have been anticipating and planning this trip for many years. It was after the transit of Venus in 2012 that I really turned my attention to the next major astro-event. Laying out plans to camp somewhere in Eastern Oregon where the viewing is likely to be excellent.
Another pick from the slides I am busily digitizing. After basic training and tech school with the USAF and before deployment to England, I took a month’s leave. Much of this was spent visiting favorite places around Portland in the late fall of 1986…
More scanning, more memories. Taking these old photos out of the boxes has been fun. So many little treasures on celluloid. Photos of myself as a teenager, photos of the neighborhood I grew up in. There is so much of my life stowed away out of reach, converted to digital they live again…
The plan is simple, a vacation combining a visit to my family and a run to Oregon Star Party. I miss doing the larger regional star parties, six telescopes is a big star party on the island. OSP would feature hundreds of telescopes, speakers, and hopefully dark skies. I also volunteered as a speaker, may as well bring and share little Keck experience.
Heading to a major star party takes some planning. Worse, I would be doing this with what could be packed for airline travel. The answer would be to implement my usual star party plan… Set up for astrophotography, this would allow vising other telescopes while my camera ran under computer control. Good astrophotography can also be done with relatively small equipment.
The site is quite remote, no nearby hardware store to replace a missing bolt, no internet connection to allow download of a missing driver. The setup would have to work with what was packed to start with. Several iterations of packing showed that two cases would be required to carry the setup. An ancient hard suitcase I have had since my Air Force days, and a hard equipment case purchased years ago for a portable telescope I have yet to build. At least both had wheels and could be hauled by one person through an airport terminal.
After a few very nice days visiting with my parents I steal away in the camper for the drive to OSP. Four hours sees me over the Cascades, into the Ochoco Mountains east of Prineville. It is a very pleasant drive, a beautiful day, open roads, Mt. Hood soaring over the trees that line the highway. The sort of driving you just can not do on the island, the sort of vacation I grew up with.