I left after work yesterday to drive out to Deer Park in hopes of finding clear night skies at its Denver-esque elevation of 5400-feet. I had originally thought to join a star-party down in Goldendale this weekend but I bought tickets to PAX without realizing they conflicted with each other and so opted for my own star-party of one. I arrived around 9:30 at night after driving the last some 10 miles up a side of a mountain in near pitch-black conditions. Upon reaching the entrance to the site I mistakenly took a left instead of a right, which would have taken me to campsites, and instead ended up even further up the mountain near its very top. Given that the stars were already out and rather risk driving up and down dirt roads that strangely had one side mountain and one side pitch black (I discovered the next day on my drive back that there are some very nearly sheer drop-offs at points so I think the decision to stay put a good one.) I decided to park there and just unfurl my sleeping bag in the SUV.
And stars there were a’plenty. While Sequim and Port Townsend obstructed some of the viewing to the north, by and large the entire sky was available to me. It is really hard to describe that feeling when you realize the clouds in the skies are really the Milky Way, itself full of a hundred thousand million stars. And just seeing the constellations and asterisms and how really they do stand out in the sky it is not hard to understand how our ancestors who came upon these patterns in their sky night after night would have eventually come to provide them names and histories unique to each of them. I took a few breaks through the night to get some sleep but the stars were easily seen from inside and I kept just rolling over to look at them. And most happily, I was able to see my old favorite Orion before sunrise as it currently rises out the East along with the Moon.
After watching the sun rise over the Puget Sound from atop the mountain, I then tramped my way down the side of the mountain, following the Three Forks trail that drops 3,300 feet over 4.3 miles where it comes out upon the convergence of three creeks, Cameron Creek, Grand Creek and the Upper Greywolf. Note to self, that which goes downeth must eventually go uppeth. And further note to self, it is better to first go uppeth and then proceed to go downeth than its reverse. Regardless of the fact that I ended my hike drenched in sweat, it is wonderful trek that traverses conifers then the remains of the September 1998 fire and finally down into the very cool shade of deciduous trees. And of course, a day is not complete without a couple of hours sleeping on the beach such as one might find at Dungeness Reserve on the way back from a jam packed night and day.
And an easter egg, cowboy-style.