“It’s full of stars…”

I Saw the Sky Full of Stars for the First Time
by Alan Eggleston (@AlanEggleston)

I think I know the amazement the character Dave in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey may have felt when he finally looked into the monoliths hanging in space and saw that they were full of stars. I’ve seen space full of stars, and I was amazed. More than that, I was transfixed.

Magnificent Moment: It's full of stars!

This is M13 shot from the Hubble Space Telescope. It approximates the amazing intensity of stars I saw above me that night. Credit: NASA and STScI.

Imagine a Midwest man surrounded by city lights for most of his life. At most, I’ve been isolated with a backyard that borders on a golf course north of the city, but it was on the edge of town and adjacent to a busy road. Our street had street lights, and many of the homes and surrounding lots had outdoor lighting. Then he travels to Kings Canyon National Park in California, in the mountains with its crystal clear air and high elevation, no light pollution for miles. Any that there might be is blocked by the mountains. Above you like a touchable ceiling done in laser tipped lights are an infinite number of stars.

I was in California writing a story about Amway distributors (now called IBOs) who use white water rafting trips to motivate the distributors in their organization. Over the weekend, they loaded up rafts, sleeping gear, tents, food, and other gear and headed to a mile of white water that snakes through Kings Canyon. There’s a campground at the end. My photographer and I flew to Oakland, then to Fresno, then drove to Visalia where we met our hosts. From there it took a couple of hours to drive into the canyon, first on decent roads but eventually ending up on narrow dirt paths.

We arrived and while part of the crew set up camp, the rest of us drove up river to look for places to shoot pictures of the group white water rafting. After intense safety instruction, the group went down a couple of times for us in two or three rafts, then returned so we could experience the thrill of white water rafting. By now, it was edging toward evening, the sun nestling behind the mountains. They cooked turkey and steak in the ground and we sat around a camp fire telling stories of past exploits, and new rafters were initiated. Terry and Donna Gallian were our hosts and they had rented a tent in case I wasn’t comfortable sleeping in the wild. But when I walked away from the glare of the camp fire and looked up to the sky, I was dumbfounded, lost for words. I couldn’t waste the view on a tent. I rolled out the pad and bedroll and looked up. I couldn’t make out a single constellation, there were so many more stars than I had ever seen before. I’d set up my place on the rock strewn ground around 10 pm but it was well past 4 am before I could get to sleep, it was such an amazing sight.

We got up the next morning and went down the river one more time before heading home, going back the same way we’d come. I took a shower by hanging a water bladder from a tree, although I probably got a good bath when I fell out of the raft at an undulating stack of rapids.

It’s a trip I’ll never forget and the stars are a sight I will never erase from my mind…truly a magnificent moment.

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