I had a very interesting and fun time this week up in the cool/cold pines of "Five Mile" meadow. I drove up on Thursday and joined usual suspects Steve, Al, Joe, and Ken. We rated Thursday night an 8/10, with deep black skies and a very wide and "chopped up" Milky Way. Highlights included the usual M showpieces in Sagittarius and a tour of 12+ mag galaxies in Aquarius. This night reminded us of what observing at altitude can bring in transparency and low temperatures, which hovered in the mid 30s by 11 PM and dipped below freezing after midnight. Cold feet were had by all.
Lynn and Dora, Chuck, and a few others joined us on Friday for a less than spectacular night that was not much better than a summer evening down in the desert, rating a 6/10 at best. Contrast was mediocre considering the 7000-ft altitude with gray sky background, even near the zenith. Highlights included witnessing the proper function of Lynn's new Servocat scope drive as it slewed to a hit list culled from Deep Sky Observer's Guide, including a galaxy cluster in Perseus, if I recall correctly. Lynn and I were the last standing, finally chased to bed at around 1 AM when I discovered that my glasses had frozen over while resting in my eyepiece case.
More people showed up on Saturday, including Tom and Jenn w/guests Randy Peterson and Brent Archinal, Chris and wife, and several others whose names I can't remember at this moment. Twilight began with variable cloud cover that gradually dissolved, but conditions were the worst of the three nights, rating at best 5/10 and perhaps 6/10 in the NW quadrant. However, the best view of the weekend came in Tom's 18": the Crescent Nebula with an O3 filter provided photographic levels of detail that simply can't be seen when viewed w/o the filter. Beautiful, and a reminder of why I love visual observing. However, the "clear" skies did not last and we were socked in by midnight, ending another run.
I wish to thank all of my friends for a great weekend of viewing and camaraderie. I particularly want to thank the fabricators of Friday's Chile, Saturday's Chicken Burritos (with an ice-cold Dos XX), and especially the gourmet cooks at Long Valley Cafe. The long drive was most definitely worth it.