Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Besides the night sky

Sometimes when I go north to camp it’s with the sole purpose of getting night sky images. Those trips I don’t care much about the campground, it’s just a place to nap during the day. Mostly I care if there’s a dark sky park nearby, or at least some open sky with something interesting in the foreground.

Our campsite, tucked up on a knoll, deep in the woods.

Those trips I usually spend the days sitting around at the campground reading and nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for me. When I begin to fall asleep over my book I tuck myself into my sleeping bag and take a nap.

It was spring in the woods, with the pine trees in ‘bloom.’

Sometimes that’s the best part about camping…eating, reading, napping. Repeat. I’m usually impatient for the sun to set, eager to try again for the shot I can see in my head but rarely get captured on my camera.

This trip, planned months ago, just happened to coincide with clear dark skies and no moon. So I got lucky.

I had my stove and my friend brought most of the food.

During last week’s camping adventure I had company, and a more varied agenda. We were camped in a walk-in site, we were the only people camping on our loop which was wonderful and so quiet we could hear owls at night as we sat around the campfire.

Thank goodness we were able to buy dry firewood!

OK, full disclosure. Mostly we sat around the campfire to get warm because it was stinking cold out there! Last year, on our camping trip the exact same week, we were wearing shorts. This year we were wearing long underwear, layers of sweatshirts, jackets and winter coats. I slept, the first night, wearing gloves and a hat, as well as my winter coat while in a sleeping bag and under multiple layers of blankets.

Not your typical sleeping attire.

But the next day, after a night of shivering and then squealing over the Milky Way, the sun came out and we paddled down the Platt River, almost all the way out to Lake Michigan. We got out of the river at the exact location I shot the Milky Way the night before.

Grateful for the sun while we were on the river.

That made me smile.

Lake Michigan is right on the other side of those dunes.

We had the site reserved for three nights, Monday through Wednesday, but though the second night wasn’t quite as cold as the first, I still slept in all my clothes and piled towels on top of the blankets on top of the sleeping bag.

Being cold all the time can wear a camper out.

Looks warm. Wasn’t.

Plus the weather people said it would get warmer but we were going to get rain Wednesday afternoon, and that it would rain all day Thursday, the day we were scheduled to leave.

Time to pack things up.

We decided to pack up on Wednesday morning and hightail it out of there. There’s nothing worse than packing up camp after a night of rain. Wait. In truth it’s worse to pack up camp after a full night of rain, while it continues to rain. Trust me on this.

The sun just tipping the trees above us made me want to stay….for a moment.

So we abandoned ship a day early. I think I did that almost every camping trip I took last summer, and always because of rain. Rain while camping in a small tent is not that fun after the first few hours of listening to it drum on the rainfly. Rain accompanied by wind and thunder can be pretty terrifying.

This could be another good spot to shoot the Milky Way, don’t you think?

Anyway, we chose to bail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. Camping in the woods without big RVs next to you is a delight.

I stopped at Pt. Betsie on my way home, but the lilacs weren’t open yet. And the storm was coming in.

I just hope next time it’s warm enough that I can sleep without wearing my hat and parka.

On the beach waiting for the sun to set on our last night.


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Magic

Some of you know that I’ve been taking an online photography course centered on getting images of the Milky Way. There are many many modules, but I’ve been stuck in the first set because I haven’t been able, for months, to get that first single image. And for me it was hard to go on to the next modules that talked about panoramas and stacked and stitched images when I couldn’t get the single image.

A friend and I had a camping trip scheduled for this week. It’s been exactly one year since we camped at this same campground, with it’s walk-in sites far from the world of mega RVs with their generators and large noisy families. Yes, carrying all your stuff down a wooded path to your site is a lot of work. But once again, just like last year, we were the only ones in that section of the campground, and it was heaven.

And, coincidently, this campground is located in a Bortle 2, a part of our state with less light pollution than where I live in a Bortle 4. AND the moon wouldn’t be up to interfere with finding the Milky Way. AND there was one night out of the three we’d be there that the weather folks said would be clear.

Win/win/win

According to my Planit app, the Milky Way would rise high enough to see it over the trees by 2 a.m. But my friend and I went out at midnight, after sitting around the fire all evening waiting for it to get dark, just to check out my chosen site, which was at a park at the mouth of the Platt River, where it empties into Lake Michigan.

An image I took of the Platt River while we were waiting for the Milky Way to show up.

It is a wonderful place to star gaze, but of course the Milky Way wasn’t putting in an appearance early, so we went back to the tent to take a nap.

I set my alarm for 2 a.m.

But when the alarm went off I didn’t want to crawl out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag. The temperature was hovering around 40F (4.44C) and everything in me wanted to stay in the tent and hunker down. But when would I ever again be in a dark location on a night that was clear?

So I crawled out of the tent and looked up. Stars, thousands of stars, were there, just hanging in the pine tree boughs above me. I scrambled down the path to the car and headed out to the river, smiling.

And as I carried my camera, already affixed to the tripod, around a building to the river I squealed. Because there it was….the illusive Milky Way, in all it’s glory.

There she is, as if she were just waiting for me to get my act together.

And suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore. Suddenly I didn’t care that it was 2 a.m. I wasn’t worried about waking up early the next morning after being up all night so we could kayak down the river ending up at this very spot.

No, all I could think about were the stars, all I could see were the stars. And in the quiet pre-dawn hours that morning I shot images and grinned, and then just stood there in awe for a very long time. Alone in the quiet I listened to gentle waves lap the shore and watched the stars move across the sky and there was no place I’d rather be.

You’ll have to image that part on your own.

From the boat launch, looking out over the Platt River and then, past the small dunes, to Lake Michigan. See the big dipper up there?

But if you ever have a moment like that you’ll know….It’s magic.