[AZ-Observing] Vekol Rd--A Night to Remember

  • From: "Frank Kraljic" <FJKraljic@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <evac@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 15:03:41 -0700

For the first time in many months, and as a setup to the All AZ SP, I
ventured to Vekol last night accompanied by Chris Schultz, a
first-time-observer, and aided by my Spooner 10-inch Dobsonian.  Although I
have observed from Vekol many times in the past, Saturday night was
especially memorable.  Note though, the first entrance into Vekol is cut by
a small trench manageable by trucks or SUVs with care, but given my
post-sundown arrival, I found the second entrance safer with the scope in
back.

Surprisingly, attendance was weaker than I expected (5-6 scopes) and
sparsely set up.  I parked beside--I believe--Joe Goss (my apologies--please
correct me if I'm wrong) who added plenty of light-hearted banter throughout
the evening, as well as nice, but untracking views through his John Hall
16-inch.  A short distance NNE of us, but isolated from the typical
observing area, was astrophotographer Jon Christensen, who throughout the
night became a regular at both our scopes.

Apart from the bugs, the night was comfortable for me in shorts and T-shirt,
but became chilly, as well as considerably breezy around the 0100 hour.
Transparency was decent, a 3-4 out of 5, and seeing was better than usual
allowing magnifications on bright sky objects in excess of 400x; in
particular on NGC 6826, 7027 and 7662.  With Chris along, I skipped my usual
DSO routine, and followed a grand tour of the universe from stellar birth to
stellar death, noting various classifications and visual distinctions.
However, toward the end the observing run, Joe and I did give Chris a taste
of deep sky observing, including the faint and mostly featureless galaxies
surrounding Alpha Pegasi.  For example, the galaxy group NGC 68 through NGC
74.

Highlights of the evening were not limited to the sky, however.  A small
rattlesnake decided to camp near Jon Christensen's scope and when confronted
by a stick, sheltered itself underneath Jon's truck.  After considerable
prodding, we managed to push the snake out of cover, but it had no intention
of leaving the area.  With two branches, one pronged at the end, I managed
to hook the rattler and carry it some distance from the group.  Fortunately,
I had seen a few episodes of the Crocodile Hunter and felt educated enough
to handle these dwellers without dropping a boulder on its head.  Afterall,
he has as much right to be there as us.

But as if that wasn't enough excitement, leaving Vekol shortly after the
0200 hour, a border patrol vehicle steered into the right lane and forced me
to stop--only a few feet before colliding head-on.
        "Most border crossers in vehicles just zoom right past us," the border
officer appealed.  Great, I thought, just put my life on the line.
        After a series of questions and notations of concern about camping at 
night
in this area, we continued on our way only to get pulled over again just
after engaging the I-8.
        "Border patrol?" I asked.
        Disgustedly, he shined a flashlight on his Sheriff badge.  Oops.
        "Why were you on Freeman Road?"  I explained about the star party and
casually motioned to the telescope in back.
        After a second or two or examination, "The reason why I pulled you over 
is
because we have a problem with drug trafficking in this area.  I saw you
enter the highway from Freeman Road and your vehicle is dusty, leading me to
investigate."
        He proceeded to ask if anyone else was out there, and if we had seen 
other
vehicles drive by.
        "Aside for the two border patrol vehicles and another Sheriff SUV on
Freeman Road, no."
        The Sheriff seemed surprised there were other patrols out there, and 
like
the other stop, cautioned us about the area at night before letting us go.

This is not the first time I or others have dealt with either the border
patrol or the sheriff's office leaving Vekol, especially in the last year or
so.  Although I do not have a problem observing from that location, maybe it
would be best to select an alternate EVAC deep sky site.

Still... a good time nevertheless, except perhaps by the snake.

-FRANK




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