by Gary Hawkins, August 25, 2017
Xaria was excited as we approached our weekend at the Paso Picacho campground in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Joining us would be the boys Alex, August and Asher. While Xaria had only met the older two a couple of times, she seemed to have a sweet spot for August. Also, it had been six weeks since our last camping trip to Table Mountain in Angeles National Forest, and Xaria was keen to be out in the teardrop again.
We headed to the campground on Friday afternoon, and I tested my newly acquired yada flex mount backup camera attached to our teardrop. That evening we were joined by our friend Wei, who owns a nearby smallholding, and we sat around a crackling camp fire eating ripe, freshly picked figs, and looking up in awe at a bright Milky Way, punctuated by the occasional shooting star.
After breakfast on Saturday, we decided to head the short distance back home to pick up our 8-inch telescope. The arrival of Mark, Jorie and the boys in the afternoon led to a whirlwind of activity. The oldest two boys were just full of energy; soon they and Xaria were jumping up and down on the inflatable bed in my tent. How the mattress or tent survived I'm not sure!
Dinner consisted of broccoli and macaroni salad, with grilled hot dogs with all the fixings, including onion - yummy! Then after the evening sky darkened, the telescope treated us to spectacular views of Saturn and Jupiter, plus several star clusters. It was Jorie's and the boys first close-up view of these two planets. Slowly everyone found their way to bed and as I did my final check of the campsite, three, then four pairs of eyes reflected in my headlamp. The eyes seemed low to the ground; my first thought was coyotes. I grabbed my torch and lit up the animals; four deer were transfixed! I was able to approach within twenty-five feet; as soon as I switched off the light, they scattered.
Sunday morning was another flurry of action with the boys waking up at 6:30 am (ugh!), an early morning walk, breakfast, and our guest's tent packing. By contrast, with our guests gone along with the majority of weekend campers, all we heard Sunday afternoon was the wind rustling the trees and the birds singing their songs. Xaria played in the dirt; she loves dirt.
We woke Monday morning to another glorious day. We had breakfast and were all packed up as the maximum point of the partial eclipse approached at 10:23 am. We had our NASA approved solar glasses, and it was pretty cool seeing the Moon creep ever more across the Sun's surface. With approximately 60% coverage at maximum, there was no discernible reduction in light level, but Sophia felt the temperature drop a few degrees. As soon as the maximum passed, we headed home - another wonderful teardrop adventure behind us!