The Perseids radiates from an area in the solar system near the constellation Perseus. We observe the Perseid meteor shower when the Earth travels past this area of scattered cosmic dust. For the past 2000 years The Perseid Meteor Shower has been in peak observance every year between July – August. Activity is primarily visible in the northern-hemisphere of the globe.
My proximal location to view the night sky with minimal no no light pollution is at Joshua Tree National Park. This was my first year going out to observe the meteor shower. The peak night was this past weekend, August 11-13. It was an unbelievable experience. The sky averaged about 60+ “shooting stars” an hour. Collectively I witnessed ~200 meteors skimming surface of the earth.
During a summer day, this high desert has been reaching temps averaging at 106F. So, I left home and started to head out to J-Tree at about 6pm. Apparently everyone else had the same idea, because by the time we arrived at 7pm we nabbed one of the last campsites in Hidden Valley Campground.
The conditions were almost perfect. There was patchy clouds when we arrived, but to our luck the sky was completely clear for a few hours. When a few clouds arrived, around 2am, they were a light layer of quick moving clouds.The moon did not appear until 1:30AM, and when it arrived it was a small crescent moon. Throughout the whole night, the sky was sparkling from an unfathomable amount of cosmic stars.
The peak of the shower was from 3am-dawn. The whole night the temperature stayed at a wonderful 75F. We had crashpads, blankets, and cots spread out on top of this flat area of rock adjacent to our campsite. It was a hard task attempting to keep my friends awake. As I babbled on about the wonders of the universe, they kept on saying “Wake me up in 15 minutes ok?”. Apparently I was super hyped on psyche because I was up and awake the entire night.
It was 3am, and all my friends were fast asleep and snoring away. I attempted to drift into dream scape too, but it was not happening. I had this unnerving anxious feeling the whole night. There were moments of wonderful self-contemplation about my whole life situation. To avoid self-loathing about my never ending education, relationships, health, future, etc. ..I finally pushed myself out of my cot. I then decided to take a night walk with my camera. I scrambled high up to the edge of HVCG to see the views from above.
There were moments of freak out, where I needed to get on top of this boulder. My trad skills kicked in and I stuck my fist in the crack to get up and over. As I slid my finger into the crack the tip of my fingers touched something alive… as soon as I pulled my hand out of the crack a cluster of bats few out. One flew directly into my face, with my mouth agape. yea. I was molested by a bat.
Eventually I got to the top, and I took this picture with a shutter timed release. With the exposure open for one minute, I had to run over to the boulder in distance and held hippy yoga pose for 45 seconds. I tried to keep as still as I could to get the shot. Holding the tree pose for 45 seconds for me is challenging, somehow I managed to not loose my balance and fall off the cliff. When I got back to my camera to close the shutter, I took a peak at the screen. I saw that I actually captured a meteor passing by when I took the picture. This IS my favorite picture I have ever shot.
In the morning I did manage to get some kind of “climbing” in. While wandering around, I found this huge boulder elevated on top of a gully.
I had my own Indiana Jones moment… “RUN, GO NOW. I’ll hold it off as long as I can.”
I also had a run in with the wildlife. This toad is Bufo punctatus, or “Red-spotted Toad”. The name is straight forward enough. He was chilling near the bushes when I went night bouldering at False Heuco. This is the first time I have ever seen a toad in Joshua Tree. The past few days a storm rolled over the high desert. The thick thunder storm dumped water onto the desert floor and flooded streets. So I wasn’t surprised seeing this guy in the middle of the wash.
It was amazing to see all of that in a place I love. So next year in August, I HIGHLY suggest you go out and watch the showers. It’s nice to escape from the city lights as much as possible. As soon as the sun rose, I left quickly before the sun shed light on the campsite. Until next time JTree. Love you.
Take time to explore & Climb ON everyone!