Gazing at the stars

We gazed, we froze, we came home

Some of the usual suspects went to Joshua Tree National Park Friday night to gaze at the stars. We didn't last long.

Ken, Réal, and I piled into Ken's SUV with our chaise lounges, our adult beverages, our binoculars (optional), and great enthusiasm (goes without saying) for the drive to Joshua Tree NP. It is now traditional to make a picnic of these excursions with fried chicken from KFC, and this outing was no exception. We arrived at our preferred spot on Geology Tour road just before sunset, ready to make a night of it.

Réal and I in our chaises lounges Réal and I in our chaises lounges

Mindful of the cooling temperatures, we had dressed appropriately — or so we thought. As soon as we stepped out of the car it was obvious that a chill wind was a-blowing. I immediately changed into long pants and donned the Army jacket purchased two years ago as part of the girlie-man costume for Halloween. It was the inaugural outing for the new chaises that Réal and I had acquired, and we had to check out the fully extended and unlocked reclined position. Ah, this will definitely do!

KFC, champagne, and mousse KFC, champagne, and mousse au chocolat for dessert — life is good!

While it was still light enough to see what we were eating, we tucked into our dinner. Besides the KFC, there was ample champagne and mousse au chocolat for dessert. Ken was distracted, of course, by fussing with his computer and his star-charting program, eagerly anticipating what we would see if only it were dark enough for the stars to show. The high-tech paraphernalia soon drew the attention of a park ranger who stopped to engage us in casual conversation, obviously intended to determine if we were merely crazy or were terrorists hatching a plot. He accepted our stargazing explanation at face value and drove on.

The skies were mostly clear, and a panoply of stars and one lone planet, Jupiter, emerged around us. But it was soon obvious that we were severely under-dressed for the occasion. Neither warming our hands in our armpits; trips to the bathroom, still toasty warm from the day's sun; positioning our chaises leeward of the SUV; nor Ken's enthusiasm at having located the Andromeda galaxy — Right there, the slight blur north of the third star from the middle star in the row of three stars making a straight line! — were sufficient to overcome the reality of insufferable cold. At the first hint that we could go home, we broke camp and luxuriated in the warmth of the car's heater, soon reinforced by hot coffee from the first mini-mart just outside the park.