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Dark Park Camping - the Milky Way and Me

Months ago, a friend mentioned this place in northern central Pennsylvania called Cherry Springs. This is known as a "Dark Park" or one of the best places in the northeast to see the Milky Way. So I booked a few days around a new moon and just completed my adventure.

I love the feeling of packing up the car to go somewhere unknown. I love the feeling of settling in, listening to music and relaxing into the open road. I love the feeling of when the familiar roads turn into new territory. I love taking in the new scenery and imagining what it must be like to live in such rural areas. I arrived around 5:30 pm and set up my tent. I love "setting up camp". I love "playing house" and setting up new systems... where do I keep the flashlight, my wool hat and gloves, binocs, food - dry and cold, cookware, etc.? What pocket in my backpack will I keep my pens and notepad? Where will I put my car key for safe keeping? I am not really sure what it is that I love about this settling in feeling...sometimes it can be frustrating not remembering where I put something, but this time, things were easy and clear.

There are two sections of the park - one area for tent only camping with a public stargazing field and another area across the street for more serious astronomers with campers and their telescopes. I stayed on the tent only side and enjoyed campfires before sunset. After sunset, there were not supposed to be any white light - no fires and only red filtered light (i.e. flashlights wrapped in red cellophane). The park was very quiet after dark as everyone settled in to watching the stars come out. Each night I would take my chair, binocs, wool hat and 4 layers of clothes to the viewing field. Though the sky was a little hazy, the Milky Way was bright and Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn became fast friends and easily identifiable. There is something magical about just looking up...

My sleep patterns were off. It was very chilly - in the upper 30s over night. I wore most of the clothes I brought and wool hat to sleep. Sometimes I would be wide awake from stargazing and sometimes the cold would wake me up. Sometimes my mind was continually replaying the phone conversation with HR the day I was let go from my job. I don't want to re-energize this too much, but I guess I still needed to process some stuff and it either kept me awake at night or showed up in my dreams. All part of the process, I suppose...

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