My first destination once leaving Portland was Crater Lake. I had never been, despite having lived in Portland for 7 years, and it was a total spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Crater Lake on my way out of Oregon. After all, it IS the deepest lake in the US and the second deepest lake in the world, I guess! Not to mention that it was only an hour or two out of my way!
I arrived at a time approaching sunset and chose to drive down the east side of the lake. I was able to catch some great pics of the lake and of the sunset over the mountains to the North.
I didn't know where I was staying, as it was late August (prime Crater Lake tourist time) and I knew that all the reservable camp sites would be taken and the "first come, first served" sites would already be taken. My plan was to go to the campground and, if all the sites were full, loiter around the campground for a bit and see if there were any "cool people" who wouldn't mind me stringing my hammock between a couple trees in their campsite in exchange for a few bucks toward the site fee.
The sun had just disappeared below the horizon, marking an end to my photo-taking activities, when I came upon a large parking area where I saw a giant telescope. My initial thought was that it was one of those contraptions that national parks sometimes have, where you pay a quarter to see something cool. Or I thought, maybe the park had star gazing parties and this was a telescope they allowed the public to look through?
After a few moments of surreptitious observation it became obvious that a guy who was parked near the telescope most likely was the owner of said telescope. When I asked him what was up with the telescope he said he was going to look at some nebulas and galaxies... or whatever there was to see. After a few minutes of conversation I asked him if he minded if I pitched my hammock in his campsite, to which he acquiesced.
After pitching my hammock I returned to what I can only describe as basically THE COOLEST way I could possibly have spent my first night away from Portland! Dean, as it turned out the guy’s name was, showed me one amazing thing after another, zipping from galaxy to nebula to cluster in a matter of minutes. Literally, about every 5 minutes on average he showed me something new. He is an art teacher at some university near/in San Francisco, CA but he has always had a passion for astronomy and he had built the telescope (which was seriously about 7 or 8 feet long and like 14 or 15 inches in diameter!) all by himself, even hand grinding the glass for the mirror! I saw a “river in space”, which I have no idea exactly WHAT it was but it looked a lot like looking at a river at night- all liquid pewter and reflective. The other thing I remember most was Jupiter, which was about the size of a nickel in the scope and had 4 of the moons in attendance. SUPER COOL. You probably have to be as big of a geek as me to truly appreciate how INCREDIBLY AWESOME this night was…
The next morning Dean and I had some coffee and breakfast and said our goodbyes- he was off to do more star gazing in Lava Beds National Monument and I was off to Reno NV to see my friend Genevieve and prepare for BURNING MAN 2011!!! I saw a little more of the park before I left but really my heart was already in Black Rock City…