I planned this trip around the occultation of a 12th magnitude star by the asteroid Cheruskia. The path nicely centered on Pt. Reyes National Seashore, one of my very favorite get-away's. I had thoughts of fresh, Johnson's oysters, mountain biking riding through green hills and canyons filled with wildlife, and perhaps meeting interesting travellers at the hostel. And, I've worked hard lately. I needed a break! Weather was perfect, and I hit the road as soon as I phoned in my closing trades and the stock market closed for the holiday. I arrived at Johnson's Oyster Farm just 10 minutes before the 4:30pm closing and got 8 large ones in the shell, then drove to the top of Mt. Vision to photograph a spectacular sunset over the headlands (including the title shot above), and then to Pt. Reyes Hostel for a dinner of oysters and fresh vegetable braise in my mix of garlic and herbs from my deck garden. The hostel had only two visitors, both a bit... odd. No cycling sojourners, no groups on a nature adventure. Oh well, I was able to have a quiet evening catching up on my reading of "Discover" and "Science News", and then worked on my laptop on learning Powerpoint as I prepare for next semester. At midnight I went out to my RAV4 and set up the 10" LX200 for the asteroid event. Finding the faint star was difficult, and I forgot the f6.3 focal reducer. As time ran out, I ended up doing the event by voice/WWV/tape recorder. Luck was with me, and the event did indeed happen from my location. Figured it would - the path 1-sigma error bars were small and I was at the centerline. Still, it lasted only 1.47 seconds, not the predicted 7.2 seconds, suggesting a significant shift which almost gave a miss. My report is here.

The rest of my hostel visit was a bummer; this obsessive/compulsive was my sole companion, wandering aimlessly and endlessly and preventing me from sleeping. I found myself re-living the movie "What About Bob?", but this guy wasn't nearly as funny as Bill Murray. He also didn't smell very good, so I retreated to the outer living room and then by 6:30am after just 3 hours of sleep, I'd had enough and grabbed my stuff and got out of there. Turns out this guy had fender-bendered the hostel host's car the night before and he was parked right next to my car and my bike, which I'd taken off the roof before the occultation. Anyway, I later found my back wheel was bent; did this guy back over my bike too?? Argh! Usually my hostel experiences are more fun. After putting a coupla miles between me and this "Bob" character, my good mood returned, and it was just before dawn. I saw Mercury and Venus close together in the twilight, and stopped, layed out my sleeping bag on a grassy hill with a beautiful overlook to Limantour Beach and Drakes Bay and watched and photographed the glow of orange sunrise on the distant cliffs. Then more photography of wildlife along Muddy Hollow trail and Limantour lagoon, then back around to bike to Tomales Bay State Park and Heart's Desire beach doing some scouting near the graze site for Astro 28P. Then drive/bike to the lighthouse and the headlands, watch the whales migrating in the distance far below. Then to the Ken Patrick Visitor Center and a late lunch of oysters (of course) on the beach, some more photography, then back to Johnson's Oyster Farm for photography and.... more fresh oysters! Then, back to the top of Mt. Vision for sunset photography.. and then the drive back home.

Check out some of my pictures from this (mostly) really enjoyable Christmas trip below. I used the Dimage 5 digital camera set on 'fine' quality at 'large size' and ISO 100 for all shots except the first sunset pictures, which were done at ISO 800 (by mistake!)

Sunset from Mt. Vision

Zoomed in, above Drake's Estero

Mist forms over Drake's Bay

Sunrise over Drake's Bay from above Limantour Estero

Looking south from Limantour Beach


A feathered one wants to make friends... with my breakfast

Frost in the deep shadows of Muddy Hollow

These were some of the nicest subjects in the park

Reflections in Muddy Hollow pond

A small group of young elk near the hostel

The coast stretching north from the headlands at the Lighthouse.

Cypress trees are bent into twisted shapes here, the windiest place on the west coast of North America. Winds on Pt. Reyes headlands have been clocked at 133 mph.

The lighthouse is 300 long stairs down the cliffs

This is a favorite spot for whale watching. Migrating gray whales must swim close to the headlands, which juts 10 miles out into the Pacific

The complex geologic history here resulted in layered sandstone, congolomerate, and granites all in the same location.

At the visitor center on Drake's Bay, with Chimney Rock in the background

The headlands layer into the mists, rendered in black & white

Johnson's incredible oysters

Christmas eve sunset from Mt. Vision


The green flash, with the Dimage 5 fully zoomed in

Sunset, rendered as a watercolor in Photoshop

In twilight, the warm glow turns to purple