Saturday, August 29th, 2009. I spent the afternoon and early evening with family celebrating my youngest daughter Mary's 29th birthday. The other highlight of my day (night in this case) involved going to Crockett Park with other astronomy enthusiasts (nut-cases according to my wife) and viewing the heavens with our telescopes.
I had all my astro gear in the SUV and was ready to go when I found out via email that Crockett was closed to astronomy that weekend and so was our alternate location, Great Meadows because of a polo match. I found out that everyone was going to a place in Loudon County, VA called: "Camp High Road" (CHR). I looked it up on Google maps and decided to give it a try.
I stayed at Mary's party too long and arrived at CHR after dark. BIG MISTAKE! I knew I was in trouble when I turned off of State Rt. 15, went through the samll town of Aldie, which was complete with a redneck sherriff manning a speed trap (I was doing the speed limit). The town looked like a someone forgot to tell them the Civil War was over, and that they lost.
Things went downhill quickly when I turned right onto the 'Snickersville Turnpike' (real name) and drove on some winding, barely paved road for 8 miles, climbing uphill the entire time. I thought: "This would be a great place to film "Blair Witch III".
At last, I reached the road leading to the CHR and the driving ordeal was over. WRONG! It was only beginning. I ran out of asphalt after 20 feet and was dumped on a bumpy dirt road, complete with grooves and swirling dust.
Directions from the astronomy club said to turn 'Left' just before the big white CHR sign. Given the choice I rather would have gone to the camp. It looked safe. The left onto a narrow dirt road looked scary. It was then that I realized: "This is where they filmed Wrong Turn". Only question was: Where were the uni-toothed Hillbilly cannibals hiding ?".
I started sweating when I saw ten or so abandoned cars, some on blocks littering the roadside. As I peered through the mist and dust (real conditions) I saw a dimly lit building in the distance filled with stripped car parts (no lie). Now I was worried, because I had not seen another living soul since turning off the Snickerdoodle, (or whatever it's called), road. Then my mind recalled all the scary stories I heard and told as a kid. As the road narrowed to where trees were brushing against the car on both sides, I replayed all the horror movies I had ever seen like: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, People Under the Stairs, Psycho, Halloween and The Flintstones Movie (the sight Rosie O'Donnell scares the hell out of me)
Just as I was about to carve my own road out of there, I emerged from the woods to find twenty or so cars set up in a field. One guy with a red flashlight approached, and said welcome to Camp High Road. I let out a BIG SIGH OF RELIEF, then I asked: "How the hell did you ever find this place ?" He did not answer. Personally, I don't think he has left since wandering up this way a few years back. :)
I set up my telescope in a field near the road and commenced astro imaging. I only got to take pictures for an hour before the Moon came up and washed the sky out, but the views prior to that time were great. Because seeing conditions weren't that great, I decided to take some quick, unguided photos of Milky Way Galaxy deep space objects that I cannot see from the house. The pictures are unmodified and are grainy, but gave me an idea what to take long exposure photos of during my next excursion.
M8 (Lagoon Nebula)
M16 Eagle Nebula)
M17 (Omega, Swan, Horseshoe Nebula)
M22 (Globular Cluster)
M24 (Milky Way Galaxy Center)
M27 (Dumbell Nebula)
Now that I am more confident that Freddy Kruger, the Hillbillies or Rosie O'Donnell aren't going to snuff me out, I plan to return to Camp High Road very soon to take better pictures of the objects I am showing here and some others I missed because of Moonrise.
Hoping Hurricane Earl Goes out to Sea