I got the call late Friday afternoon. Phil Creed and Phil Hoyle were going to "The Big Hill" at Mohican State Park. I heard about how good this dark sky site was so I had to try it. I cleared it with my wife: "I just want to see how good this site really is. I'll only be there for a short while because I have to go to work tomorrow. I should be home around 1 AM or so." She replied with a "yea right" as wives are known to do in situations like this.
I got lost in Wooster and arrived 35 minutes late at the meeting spot in Loudonville, missing the group. I tried one last time to reach Phil Creed on his cell phone and managed to get through. I met him at the entrance to a camp site in the park. He asked "Your car is a 6 cylinder? Good, you'll need it. Follow me!" The dirt road wasn't too bad and I figured if his car made it, mine would too. Things seamed to be getting better. At about halfway to the site Phil stopped, got out of his car and said "put it in low gear and leave it there. If you have any problems just flash your lights." About this time I was thinking; yea right, what do Ohioans know about steep grades. Why back in Arizona we had... hum this is steep, I guess he wasn't kidding. Hey! Where did the dirt road go? I hope he knows where he is going. At this time I felt my first need for more power. Like that sports utility vehicle my wife suggested I get last winter. When I got to the top I found an excellent dark sky. I could make out M13 with my unaided eye. This was definitely worth the trip. Other club members will be happy to note that I helped grade the path up to make their trek easier.
Phil Hoyle was there with his 10 inch LX200, Phil Creed had his 12 inch dob and I met Bill (unsure of his last name) from an Akron club with a 20 inch dob. This made for two Bill's and two Phil's. Anybody who hollered "hey Bill" or "hey Phil" got three "yea" replies. By 1 AM we were in harmony. It felt like an Abbot and Costello skit.
After viewing several objects with the "Big Dob" I once again felt the need for more power (also known as aperture fever). It was amazing how much more detail a measly 12 additional inches of aperture shows! (Go figure.)
My observing log looked like this.
With 20" Big Dob - Wow!!! I can see spiral arms... Dark lanes clearly visible... Resolved to core... I have GOT to get me one of these!
With my 8 inch LX200 - Oh hum, Not bad for this instrument. This site is much better than my back yard or the Wilderness Center with the same scope. Although... I have got to get me one of those Big Dobs! There has GOT to be a way to hook up a computer to that thing. Yes, once again the need for even more power! (I won't mention my star hopping skills but they involve ENTER and GOTO.)
After taking a short nap we were observing Jupiter and Saturn rising before daybreak when my wife called me on the cell phone. "Are you OK?" I explained to her that I was fine but so deep in the woods that I didn't dare try to get out by myself. ( I didn't mention that a cell phone still worked in these deep woods.) I didn't call because I didn't want to wake her. I figured she would call if she got worried. She replied "yea, that's what I figured. As long as you're OK." This translates to; you're an idiot but the idiot you know is better than the idiot you don't. Is this an ideal wife for an amateur astronomer or what?
We wound up the trip with a McDonald's breakfast. I made it home in time to take a shower and get to work. I kept thinking the same thing all day; I need "More Power". I'll work on getting the SUV first. That's easy. All I have to do is tell my wife she was right, I should have gotten one last winter. The computerized "Big Dob" might be a harder sell.
Seriously though, you don't need anything special to get up "The Big Hill". My Taurus made it with out any damage and power to spare. I urge other members to give it a try. It's an excellent dark sky site. All you have to do is follow Phil and if you have any problems just flash your lights.