A Night Under the Stars
The Month of the Stars
August is the month of the stars, and regardless of the summer heat, it’s my top month to head out to the desert. Why? To see the Perseid’s shoot across the sky!
The Perseid Meteor Shower happens every August and this year, it peaked on August 13th, so I headed out to the desert for a front row seat (but don’t worry if you haven’t seen the show yet, it’s still visible until August 24th, so find a dark spot, grab a blanket and look up!). Originally, I had planned to photograph the meteor shower from Death Valley National Park (the third International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. National Park System), but because of the extreme heat, a last minute switch to Joshua Tree was in order – though this was perfect as it was the parks 82nd birthday!
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree is 140 miles east of Los Angeles. Along the drive, you’ll pass through one of the windiest places in southern California, the perfect spot for a wind farm. The San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm is an incredible sight, a forest of 3,000 160 foot tall wind turbines! Yay for renewable energy!
We entered from the south side of the park and began our search for a campsite. Most campgrounds are first-come, first-served but a few sites, such as Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Jumbo Rocks, do take reservations (with a $20 fee per campsite). Our backup option was to camp in the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) area just outside of the park – they offer free dispersed camping, but the downside is this area is pretty close to the freeway.
We set up camp and watched the sun set in the surprisingly refreshing breeze. After dinner, the stars started to show themselves, one by one, with appearances from Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and the Milky Way! The rangers had brought out telescopes to the Cottonwood Amphitheater so we had the privilege to see Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s red eye, the Andromeda Galaxy, a star nursery, and a dead star. The rangers were friendly and eager to share their knowledge, making the experience exciting and enjoyable.
The Night Sky
Throughout the night, the sky flashed with more than streaks of falling meteors. Low rumbles of distant thunders and bright flashes of lightning could be seen from the park. One camper said it was from the storm in Arizona, although I cannot guarantee the credibility of this. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in at peak viewing time (2 AM) so I didn’t see as many meteors as I have in the past, but it was still a great experience with good company and happy hearts. The cool weather allowed us to sleep under the stars most of the night, though we decided to take shelter in our tent when the cayotes started howling!
The next morning, we woke to a spectacular sunrise and packed up early to avoid the heat. It was a short and sweet trip and as always, the stars left me renewed with insight, serenity, and happiness. Here’s a brief poem about my experience.
Images by Priya Kavina