Monday, August 20, 2012

24 Hours of Laughter and Learning

For the past eight years my girlfriend and I have been planning a trip.  One would think that after all that time the planning would be elaborate and the destination would be some exotic locale.  Nope.  In fact we basically threw some stuff into the back of my van and drove for 3 hours to a little mill town just north of Vanderhoof to spend the night camping at the Ft. St. James National Historic Park.   

Every spring we say that we are going to go even for a day trip.  It’s almost become a ritual harbinger of summer to discuss this short journey that never happened.  Until last weekend.

Murray House - part museum, part B&B
And it's haunted!  Anyone up for an
over-night stay? 
The catalyst for this epic voyage was actually the recent spectacular auroras that were caused by sun spots on July 13th.  I missed them.  And, of course, I whined about it on Facebook, which lead to another friend mentioning that there was going to be a Star Party held at Ft. St. James.  I’d missed the eclipse on May 20th and Venus transecting the sun on June 6th as well.  I was determined to have some kind of cosmic interaction this year and decided that the Star Party was going to be it.

Thus it was that my friend, my daughter, my daughter’s friend and I finally finalized the plan to go to.  And went.

For a mere $30, we got admission to the park,  two camp sites, admission to the Star Party and a pancake breakfast served outside next to the spectacular view of Stewart Lake.  It was, to say the least, great value for the money!  And we killed several birds with one stone.

This grand willow tree is at least
120 years old.  
I haven’t actually gone camping for over 30 years.  I used to love to camp.  Pitching a tent, roasting wieners over a fire, flash-light illuminated trips to the outhouse in the middle of the night, skinny dipping in whatever lake was nearby, the occasional canoe rental, often opting to sleep outside under the stars…  this was fun.  This was what I embraced as a vacation – a few nights at a time!  I’ve missed it.  I’m now adding camping equipment to my wish list!

The last time I visited a museum was five years ago in Prince Rupert when another daughter and I went to the cannery at Port Edward.  Poking about in the past was something else I’ve always enjoyed, so the opportunity to experience the Hudson’s Bay Company post (very nearly) exactly how it was in 1896 would have been worth the trip even without the Star Party as a lure.
And the Star Party!?  Well, it was just the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time. 

Several members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada from Prince George kindly set up their amazing telescopes and shared their knowledge of the cosmos with us (and about 40 or 50 other people).

Two of the telescoped we got to
gaze at the stars through
Another amazing gazing instrument!

We gazed at star clusters and double stars and the Andromeda galaxy.  We watched a few satellites drift by and a few people even saw some shooting starts – residual meteors from the Perseids meteor shower that peaked on August 12th.  One of the amateur astrologists brought a home-made star-gazing chair that swivelled a full 360 degrees.  It was equipped with binoculars attached to a fully adjustable bar.  It was too dark to get pictures of it, unfortunately.

Clouds prevented us from seeing the International Space Station as it passed overhead, but we were quite content to sit in on an impromptu lesson in basic astronomy on the Big and Little Dippers as well as a few of their neighbouring constellations (none of which I can recall at the moment). 

This beast tried to attack us.
Astronomy has long been on my list of things to learn.  I love looking up at the sky, day or night.  But the stars, the planets and especially the moon have always held me in thrall.  When, as a kid, I learned how long it takes the light to get to us from some of the stars, I was amazed.  Looking up at the night sky is literally seeing the past.  I often wonder how many of the stars are even really still there.  I guess we won’t know unless we see their dying light – and then work backward. 

Gorgeous sunset over Stewart Lake

As I sit here, recalling the weekend’s events, I am surprised at how many activities we took part in besides the Star Party, camping and museum exhibits.  We went geocaching.  (My companions even found a night cache while I opted to get a head start on sleeping in the tent.)  We danced on an outdoor stage.  (An improvised and not well executed rendition of the Can-Can!)  We tried our hands (well feet actually) at stilt walking.  And we got chased by goats that were really sheep.  (Essentially, we thought we were being chased, but , to be honest, our imaginations did all the chasing!)  All this was packed into a less-than-24-hour mini-vacation.  We even had a picnic!  Now that’s something that I haven’t done in a long time either.

But the best part of this whole weekend was, without contest, the three beautiful women who shared it with me.   L, B & M are pretty amazing people and it’s such an honour to have them in my life. 

My best friend
My baby girl!
Is that a bottle of whiskey!?

One of the kindest, sweetest people
you could ever hope to meet!

 Thank you, ladies, for a wonderful weekend and for all the fantastic memories I now hold in my heart.

Everybody wave your hands... uh, feet... up in the air!


  1. Looks like you 4 had a great time.

    1. It was a lot of fun - entertaining and educational. A great weekend all around.


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