Sunday, August 2, 1998

Gold Country Trip

I was in the town of Jackson over the weekend. The night sky was superb up there. The moon looked as if someone cleaned it.... like looking through a car windshield just after its been carefully washed. Wish I had a scope up there. One of our list members, Steve Gottlieb, goes up to gold country regularly to observe near Fiddletown. As it turns out, I was on a backroad between highway 88 and the small town of Volcano, and the road split. One direction went to Fiddletown, just a few miles down the grade, the other way went back to Volcano. As I got toward Volcano, I took a right turn to go back into Sutter Creek. A mile after the turn I came upon a historic marker. The site is the location of the first recorded amateur observatory in California. There, the owner (and damn if I can't remember his name!) observed the Great Comet of 1861.

As I faced the marker, a small number of cows stood behind it under a tree, their black and white coats somehow making me think of the moon, or even other objects that seem to have no other color at night. I paused, looking out over the large empty field, facing south as the landscape rose slowly here and fell away toward the central valley there, and imagined the night sky up there 137 years ago, with the raucous camps, saloons, brothels, breweries and general mahem of the gold rush going on just a few miles down the road.

I also imagined this site, close to where one of the real premier dark sky observers (Gottlieb) goes, as being an appropriate location for a California Star Party. I don't know what it would take, or how much cow crap is in the place, but, the gold rush towns, the rivers, the dark skies, the fine restaurants, shops and more would make a wonderful "got it all" location.

I really did not want to leave.

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