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The Webfooted Astronomer - June 2000

 

A Table Mountain Tale

By Randy Johnson, SAS President

Early last month, I decided to take an early trip to Table Mountain. My early afternoon start turned into a 7 p.m. start. My son Ian and I arrived at Table at about 9 p.m. I was pretty sure that the top was out of reach due to snow, so I tried for the lower meadow. It turned out to be an excellent call.

The lower meadow was better than I remember it though it does have pretty tall trees that knock out a fair chunk of the sky. The length of the meadow runs approximately east-west, is probably 100 to 150 feet wide and 600 to 700 feet in length, slightly sloped, and had the moon setting over the valley below, off the western end of the meadow. The moon was spectacular that night and even though its disappearance signaled the start of really dark skies, I was in no particular hurry to have it move on.

Setting up in the dark, I seemed to do a pretty good job of putting the tent over a major boulder field, though there was lots of soft grass all around me. I was all by myself and I couldn't believe the peace and quiet after my son drifted off to sleep. The wind was awfully still and the critters were really quiet until just before dawn when a pair of owls could be heard exchanging hoots. Skies were quite clear and it just felt good to be there.

I'd really recommend the lower meadow for those months when the top is out of reach. You go in on road 113, which branches off to the left of the main road. There is one major intersection about a 1/4 mile beyond the main road and you want to go with the better road to the right. It goes back some place between 1/2 mile and mile and opens into the meadow that I camped in.

The morning was really pretty with lots of sun and tons of wild flowers. Ian and I brought a sled, so we decided to go out to the main road and drive up the mountain as far as we easily could. We got to that second set of pretty steep switch backs about half way up, which was as far as I wanted to go. One curve had about a foot of old snow and ice covering it. With more motivation and a little more ground clearance I might have tried pushing through it. But this was really the ideal place to get out and play with the sled, which is exactly what we did.

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