Sunday, August 12, 2012

Road Trip, Vacay

This morning I woke up early thinking about an offhand comment Mrs. Dancer made last night. She mentioned the Perseid meteor shower was this week. What I didn't know is that she was sitting at her house thinking about the same thing. We called each other, we talked and within minutes we were planning an impromptu road trip. I love the adventure that can be around the next day.


Four hours later the car was packed, gas was in the car and we were off. We kinda made up the plan as we went along, our main focus was to try and see the Perseid Meteor shower, and for that we needed wide open skies. Where better to see the pure night sky than the desert; we chose Joshua Tree. However since we are having a heat wave we wanted to spend as little time as possible in Joshua Tree during the day.




We planned our arrival in the desert for sunset; enough light to set up the tent, enough time for the temperature to be cool enough and we even put in some buffer time to stop and eat. We were traveling quick and dirty and just planned to eat all of our meals out. Meal number one was a stellar little dive restaurant called the Hickory Ranch Steakhouse.


We pulled into the campground just at the time we wanted. And as we were looking for a site I spotted a bunch of blue birds. At first I thought that they were the very common Western Scrub Jay but then I realized that these were the OH SO elusive Pinyon Jay, a bird I have never seen before. Of course the second we got out of the car and I started to assemble my camera they took off. I managed to get one terrible photo of their butts as they flew away. VERY FRUSTRATING to be sure.


To say I was terribly annoyed would be an understatement. But now we had to focus on the task at hand, setting up the tent before the sun went down. Setting up a tent at sunset is ok, setting up a tent in the pitch dark is a little bit more difficult. As we were setting up I found one bird that I actually got a photo of, the very numerous in the desert Gamble's Quail.


We did manage to get the tent up just in time and we took a walk to the ranger station to pay for our site. I do really love living in LALA land. Just a quick three hour drive and we were in the desert. I can drive in a three hour radius from my house and have so many different climates and terrains. The desert is one of my favorites. The wide open spaces, the cactuses. Basically anything that is different I love.


And then Mrs. Dancer spotted a fox, or what she called a fox. She has super sharp eyes and when we are out together she will constantly point out things that I missed. In this instance though her fox turned out to be one of the gigantic black tailed jackrabbits. They are about 2 feet long and weigh up to 6 pounds. For a rabbit that is pretty large. I just love their adorable tipped black ears and tail.



I would have loved to continue to take photos but the light was now gone. The sunset wasn't gorgeous but it was pretty, I especially liked the way the Joshua Trees, unique to this area, were silhouetted by the sky.



Finally it was time to look at the stars. I had brought chairs for us to sit in but after 10 minutes of looking up we started to get a crick in our necks. Plan B, a blanket thrown over the picnic table ended up being a fabulous idea. We laid on our backs, eliminating the problem of the crick in the neck and got a glorious view of the sky. The night would have been perfectly awesome if the girl laughing like a drunk hyena had gone to bed a little earlier.



I am not so good on my constellations, I maybe could find the big dipper, but the rest just seemed to elude me. To help us find the correct way to look at the Perseid system where the meteor shower is supposed to be centered in I used this new app I downloaded onto my iPhone. Joshua tree ended up being the perfect place. We saw so many meteors. All in all we counted 51 shooting stars, we were counting.


I brought my camera gear and attempted to take some night shots. The meteors were so beautiful and I wanted to take photos to capture the moment. The problem is that night photography is a skill I haven't mastered yet and despite how I tried I really screwed it up. In the two BEST scenarios I had major issues, the first one I didn't set my ISO correctly hence the horrible graininess. The second one I had the ISO correct but the focus was completely off, hence why it is blurry. It was a very frustrating learning experience but I vow next time will be better.




paul peggy zeus said...

I'm so thankful you and Ms Dancer have stayed the best of friends all these years. When you find a rare gem, you keep it close to you!

Jennifer Arens said...

Oh the freedom and I love the randomness about it. Absolutely perfect!

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