Douglas Triggs (doubt72) wrote,
Douglas Triggs

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Sun, Stars, Trees, and Stuff

Back from RMSS, trying to stay awake at work (and succeeding well enough, at the cost of a slightly upset stomach from the caffeinated beverages I've consumed). Kinda wish I'd had an extra day off, though, as it's hard to go directly from camping to working, a little recovery time would have been nice, but be that as it may...

Anyway, I spent two nights camped out up in Pike National Forest. It would have been three, but I decided that Thursday night was best spent recovering from the cold, and I'm sure it was the right decision, as I still haven't completely kicked the cold. It was nice seeing folks I hadn't seen in a couple of years (the last time I made it to RMSS), and it was nice to do some semi-serious astronomy (also the first time in a couple of years). It was also nice to pack light, since all I really had to set up and tear down was my tent, and I still got to do plenty of observing and also got to drive a couple of 16" scopes each night. It's hard to complain when Randy Cunningham lets you drive his personal scope after he goes to sleep early (he has perhaps the best scope I've ever used, and I think he's right when he says that a 16" dob is about the perfect size -- a nice solid light-bucket, and yet still manageable, which larger scopes aren't so much). I also spent a lot of time driving Art DeBrito's 16" TeleKit, as he mocked me for going after Bernard objects ("I didn't get a telescope to look at dark stuff.") The most fun I had was Saturday night, though, when we played tour guide to some novice astronomers.

Conditions were pretty typical for summer in the Colorado mountains -- clouds and occasional raindrops in the afternoons, some clouds around evening, clouds here and there after dark (although there was pretty much always enough clear sky to have something to look at), clearing off completely late (by two to three AM). You couldn't ask for a whole lot better (the last time we had absolutely clear skies for multiple nights -- well, we had to evacuate early when the Hayden fire started not five miles away from us). It was pretty hot, but the afternoon clouds took the edge off that. As usual, not much sleep was had, as it was too hot in the tent by nine AM, and if you stayed up past three observing... Even leaving out my rather out-of-sync sleep schedule. And, of course, you don't sleep all that well with the radical temperature changes and the altitude and all. And a bit of a head cold.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing a nesting pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers, which I'm told are rather uncommon (the people who pointed them out to me had never actually seen any before, and they spend a rather significant amount of time every summer birding on and about the very field we'd camped on). We got to watch them fly back and forth, feeding their noisy chicks (I'm assuming -- don't actually know how many there were, although they did see at least one poke its head out occasionally). The parents made a rather unusual call when they flew back to the nesting hole as well, which I think is how they spotted them.

And that's pretty much it.

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