I’ve been meaning to write a short report about a weekend trip my good friend Brian Knowles and I took to visit his friends at their cabins in Grayling Michigan the first weekend of last October.
Brian and I had been talking for some time about going there or over around the Ludington area where his father lives to do some dark sky observing that wasn’t too far away, and where we would have nice warm beds to sleep in during the day. I left the decision up to him which place to go as he would know what the best place to observe from would be.
We were to leave on the afternoon of Friday the 4th and return on Sunday after getting some sleep and hopefully two good nights of clear, dark skies. I’d taken that Friday and the following Monday off work as I wanted to take my time packing up the van without forgetting anything and on Monday I knew I’d want to get some extra rest before going back to work. I waited for Brian to get off work on Friday afternoon and we loaded his 10” Meade EQ and equipment next to my 10” Dobsonian and Parallogram mount and tripod. I’d decided to take my 15x70 binos along so we could get some nice wide field views while we were there.
Brian told me that his father had gone somewhere for the weekend so we would be going to his friends cabin in Grayling instead, which was ok too because he knew of a great place to set up where there was a clear view of the sky in all directions. He told me he had called them a couple of days before to make sure it would be ok for us to stay there if we didn’t go to Ludington and they said that that would be fine and they had plenty of room.
We arrived at the cabin a little after 9:00PM, just as his friends Dave and Lorinda were coming back from their evening jog. They gave us a nice welcome and told us to just make ourselves at home. They’re a couple of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.
Anyway, it was still light enough to go to our observing sight and set up so we told them we would be back in the morning and off we went.
We only drove a mile or two down the road from where the cabins are and turned onto a small two track road. Once we got past the tree line, it opened up to what seemed to me like 30 or 40 acres of wide open sky surrounded by trees in every direction. Astro-ValHalla!!
The two track road wound around through area and I wondered if there would be people driving through at night with there headlights on, or maybe shining deer, or what ever the local folks do up there at night in October, but Brian said that he’d been there lots of times before and that had never happened to him. He told me that the name of this particular spot was Guides Rest as it was right on the Au Sable River and the hunting and fishing guides would always stop there to cook meals for their clients.
Well, we set everything up and enjoyed looking at the brighter objects, as there was some Moon in the sky until about 11:00 or 11:30 and after it set I would say it was on par with or very close to how dark it was at the Black Forrest Star Party in September. We only noticed a very small light dome a little above the tree line in the direction of Grayling.
We observed a lot of the usual deep sky objects that we look at Peach Mountain and at home. They just look so much better when it’s really dark. I showed Brian NGC 7789, a really great open star cluster in Cassiopeia that Mark Deprest turned me on to at Cherry Springs the month before. I don’t think Brian had ever looked at it before because it really seemed to WOW him. I know it really WOWED me when Mark pointed it out to me.
All in all, it was a great night until around 2:00AM when we noticed that all the equipment was completely soaked with dew. It couldn’t have been wetter if we would have dunked everything in the river. We called it a night, packed everything up and went back to the cabin hoping for one more clear night before going home. Alas, it wasn’t to be. When we woke up that day around noon it had clouded over and rain was expected. By mid-afternoon it looked like the clouds were trying to break so Dave, Lorinda, Brian and I went kayaking on the river, Which was a first for me, and by the time we got back it had clouded back up again. Lorinda said she would make pizzas if Brian and I would go to town to get the stuff to make them with. She likes artichoke hearts on her pizza, so that was a first for me also. I’ll kayak again but I think I’ll stick with pepperoni and mushrooms thank you.
Anyway the trip was a lot of fun. We got a little quality observing in and I got to meet some great new friends, and I can write this article about it and hopefully give Mark something else to put in a newsletter and make him a happy guy.
I think this would be a great place for the people in the club to go to sometime. It’s not a long drive. You can’t camp or build fires at Guides Rest. But there are campgrounds in the area to stay at, and there is a lot to do there if it’s cloudy. Like kayak, or enjoy a good pizza. Clear skies and hope to see you all soon.