When you see an opportunity for viewing spectacular celestial sights in a specially unique location with great friends on a beautiful night, you take it.
Last weekend I traveled down to Acadia National Park with a few friends for the annual Night Sky Festival. We arrived in the park with about an hour of daylight left and so drove around the loop road. Winding along the jagged shore line, in and out of the woody forest, as the fading light highlighted the changing colors of gold, red, and green was a great way to start the evening. We got to the visitor center right at 7:30 when the bus up to Cadillac Mountain was scheduled to begin and was lucky to grab one of the last parking spots in the lot. It took several minutes to figure out where the “end of the line” was because it dragged down the sidewalk, wrapping around parked vehicles, in a long snake of people. But what we experienced next was well worth the wait!
The park had closed the road up to the summit of Cadillac so they could reduce light pollution and traffic. Instead everyone was brought up in park buses and dropped off. After a short introduction to where everything was located on the dark mountain top, we were off to see the stars. It was a perfect star-gazing night! The air carried a cool but friendly temp and the wind nothing more than a soft breeze. As my eyes slowly adjusted the lights from above seemed to grow and reach out.
Our first stop was the observation point where park rangers were leading “Tours of the Sky”, pointing out familiar constellations and giving tips on navigating your way through the night sky. As we lay on our backs staring up at the vast array of twinkling jewels above us we fell hushed and simply absorbed the magnificence. As one ranger finished his talk 20 minute, another would get ready to start again so there was a continuous stream of information wafting over our ears. The second time we would try to anticipate which constellation would be talked about next, competing to remember the name of specific stars, or tell the others to be quiet because we “want to hear this part again.” By the third talk we were giggling as we simultaneous whispered the answer to the rangers questions.
It took significant effort to peel ourselves from the rock and make our way down to the parking lot to where the astronomers and their telescopes were based. Not sure where to begin we simply looked for the largest telescope we could see and got in line. Hercules Cluster, Andromeda galaxy, the ET constellation (Yup, that ET.), the Pleiades. My favorite was probably Andromeda; also a spiral galaxy, when I looked through the eye piece I had a strange sense of connection. I asked the lady “So if we were in Andromeda and looking back at the Milky Way galaxy, it might look like this?” “Thats right!”
Can you spot the stars?
(They are there, I promise! My camera is willing, but my night time photography skills are lacking.)
Sunday afternoon was likewise adventurous, but of a more sunny composition.
We road-tripped to the other side of Bangor to find an apple orchard. The owners gave us a few quick tips about where the best picking would be and which rows had which varieties and we were off! Apple trees are smaller than I imagined. I guess there are obvious reasons that it would be beneficial to have a short fruit tree, I just expected them to be a bit taller. But they are still fun to climb 😉
Between snacking on fresh fruit, throwing bruised apples at one another, and practicing juggling we managed to quickly pick a bushel. “Think we need another bushel?” … “What are we going to do with all the apples?” … “I dunno, pie or apple butter or something?” … “Go for it!” So we picked another bushel.
Note: A bushel of apples is roughly equivalent to two of those big paint buckets that you can get from hardware stores like Home Depot. And it doesn’t really look like a lot until you get back to the scale and pull the plastic bag out of the bucket and have a HUGE bag of apples.
On the way home to Orono we stopped in Bangor at Moe’s BBQ. Yummmm! This is the second BBQ joint I’ve visited since I’ve arrived in Maine and I’m happy! There are definitely a few little details that are lacking, but overall I’m glad to know I can get some real meat while I’m here! (Stay tuned for more stories on BBQ.)
Of course, if you have apples you must bake apple pie! Since I had absolutely no experience with this myself, I referenced the Southern Living cookbook that my Gramma had given to me. And Thank You Gramma!! I can feel confident in saying that I am capable of making a lovely pie (humbly, of course).