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2014 Table Mountain Star Party

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#1 cliff mygatt

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 09:47 AM

TMSP has announced next year's location. It will be at Eden Valley Ranch again and here is why from the website:

TMSPA continues to work with the Forest Service regarding the use of the Lion Rock / Table Mountain location for our event. Currently, the situation is that the Forest Service is still examining if they will be issuing Special Use Permits for the area in 2014 and beyond. There are many safety concerns with the site due to the burned trees in the area and the potential for them to fall, either just from the fire damage or in conjunction with wind and weather. The danger is such that the Forest Service has posted a sign on the Table Mountain Road regarding the danger of falling trees, warning that you "proceed at your own risk" in entering Forest Service lands.

Through conversations with our contacts in the Forest Service, the general opinion that has been reached is that if TMSPA were to be issued a Special Use Permit for 2014, that it would be severely restricted in terms of the area open for TMSPA to operate within as compared to years prior due to the potential danger of falling trees in areas typically used during the Table Mountain Star Party. One of our obligations as an organization is to take all due and reasonable precaution to protect our attendees while providing the best possible star party experience possible. Making use of a potentially dangerous location and being restricted even further in the number of attendees we can accommodate are not aligned with returning to Table Mountain in 2014.

As such, the TMSPA Directors have chosen to return to Eden Valley for TMSP 2014.

We will continue working with the Forest Service to determine when we will be able to return to our namesake site.

#2 Stacy

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 01:11 PM

Hmmmm... Didn't seem to stop the horse enthusiast group that was issued a special permit last year and occupied ALL the same traditional TMSP areas. I smell a rat.

Regardless, if that is the "official" word on the subject, I do not see a return to Table in the near future. I would suggest a name change to lessen confusion on the matter. Something like Washington State Star Party (Formerly "Table Mountain"). Seems silly to call it anything "mountain" when in fact it's in a valley! :lol:

#3 zerro1

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 01:20 PM

Thanks Cliff...

#4 zerro1

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 01:23 PM

Hmmmm... Didn't seem to stop the horse enthusiast group that was issued a special permit last year and occupied ALL the same traditional TMSP areas. I smell a rat.

Regardless, if that is the "official" word on the subject, I do not see a return to Table in the near future. I would suggest a name change to lessen confusion on the matter. Something like Washington State Star Party (Formerly "Table Mountain"). Seems silly to call it anything "mountain" when in fact it's in a valley! :lol:


Don't get me started, I spent a lot of time editing my response to this notice! as you can see it was pretty short by the time I got done. :grin:

#5 Stacy

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 03:43 PM

zerro1 said:

Don't get me started, I spent a lot of time editing my response to this notice! as you can see it was pretty short by the time I got done. :grin:


:rofl5: You crack me up Robert!

#6 groz

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 01:00 PM

We stopped going to table mountain, because, well, the site isn't really that great. Very good roads to get there, contrary to what is written online, it's pavement to within walking distance of the site. But once you get there.

- Elbow to Elbow camping, with absolutely no room to even turn around without bumping into the folks beside you.

- Light dome when you look toward Ellensburg, and another one looking toward Wenatchee. The sky is really not all it's cracked up to be.

- They are very clear about generator and light rules in the written stuff online. But, it is only selectively enforced. We were stuck beside a genset running all night the last time we went.


The last time we went up there, both my wife and I had a photography plan for the trip. Once it started to get dark, we realized the plan was no good, our targets were dead center in the middle of the Ellensburg light dome. After we got the kit running, we took some time to walk around, and really 'look up' objectively. Our final conclusion was, the sky at lion rock is really not much / any better than what we had at home.

We have since moved, and, our back yard is a bortle 3 location. To head up there now, we actually get a decrease in sky quality compared to home, and would have to tolerate the elbow to elbow camping.

If we go to any star parties down south over the next few years, GSSP is probably the top on our list. A much friendlier atmosphere compared to tmsp, better sky, and a lot farther south. During solstice, we dont get astrnomical twilight this far north, so, farther south makes for more telescope time, it gets darker earlier, and light later.

But one thing I can say with certainty, the lion rock site, just isn't on our list of places we want to go for astronomy anymore. If we go back there again, it would only be for the social aspect of a star party, it wont be for the astronomy, and we likely wont lug along the big telescope gear, altho we would probably bring one of the little ones.

#7 Stacy

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 03:21 PM

As the LP increased, I think so did the focus of TMSP. More of an educational/social/outreach event than a serious observing/photography event. I too got tired of being crammed in, but I loved the people so watch ya gonna do? Smaller parties are better imho. But I always found plenty of friendly people at TMSP. Really wonderful experience. I do miss some of the regulars I got to know.

I think the skies are not as bad as everyone makes them out to be though. I also noticed that when the air is dry, the light domes are much less obtrusive. Couple that with the central location says I will probably get up there at least once a year.

The darker sites are certainly further away. We had some good viewing earlier this year up there, but far from great. Still fun thiugh. :) For my money I would continue on to the Goldendale area in most cases.

#8 SteveG

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 04:14 PM

I look forward to this Star Party with the new location. I haven't been to TM for probably 20 years.

I'm with Stacey on the name change too; WSSP, or we could say "was up".

#9 zerro1

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 10:13 PM

because of the mandates set down by the forest service, or DNR; The footprint of the camping space at Table Mountain when applied with a special use permit> Elbow to Elbow camping is what you get. Without that "usage agreement", as a private individual, I can go setup camp anywhere in that meadow and the FS will not say a word to me. They let ATV's and 4X4's run all over the country side up there tearing up the landscape, but a couple hundred people want to spend 4 - 5 days out of 365 up there and OH NO, you must stay inside this little foot-print "so's ya don't squash the plant life".

Ok now I'm started!

It's probably better that the "organization known as TMSP" does move on to greener pastures(no pun intended), since so many are unhappy with the original site!

(in response to the Official Release) "BUT" a few of us have been up there since the fire and know from firsthand experience-; no fire damaged trees are on or close enough to the actual SP site to be a hazard. On the North side of the road where the Caterer was set up is certainly a hazard area.

Anywhere the fire touched will have higher deadfall rates than unburned area's(I know... real shocker). Unless the FS comes in and clears the dead trees, it will always be a hazard area from now until they rot and return to the soil.

So IMHO, it's clear that if they feel that it wasn't safe enough this year, it never will be. . .

#10 LightBucket

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 06:21 PM

I went to TMSP at Eden Valley (get over the name already) this year and aside for a bit of bad luck with the weather at the end of the week, the site is fantastic! It is one of the best sites for dark sky observing that I have been to for any star party in this country (I have been to most of the big ones). The combination of really really dark skies, great people and lots of room at a wonderful facility with tons to do in the surrounding area during the day (horseback riding, fishing, wineries etc) made this one of the best and worth the drive. Hint: bring your passport - the resort towns of Osoyoos and Oliver Canada are a short 20 min drive North and are worth visiting. If you are all about observing or astrophotography this is the place to be - and the best use that I have had of my big dob in many many years.

#11 csa/montana

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 10:44 AM

Welcome to Cloudy Nights! Glad to have you join us on the forums, especially this friendly little corner here!

#12 Stacy

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 03:18 PM

Yes, welcome LightBucket.

Probably just a few more than "a couple hundred" zerro1 ;)

My guess is there is some bad blood between TMSP and the USFS dating back to when "thousands" of people showed up and were probably not as well managed as they are now. I could be wrong. After a few years I got tired of being shoe-horned into the sardine can of a "campsite" where I could literately hear the person in the next site fart.

Not sure how the spacing went at Eden Valley as there is all of 3 pictures on the clunky, dated and hard to navigate TMSP web site. From the few pictures Ron posted here, it looks like they followed the same spacing convention even though it looks like there could have been a lot more room to breathe.

I will continue to go to star parties where people are given, you know, enough room to open up the awning on the camper! :lol:

#13 Dragonwatcher

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 04:29 PM

Welcome Lightbucket.

I enjoyed Eden Valley ranch and will probably go again next summer. In full areas, the parking sites are still marked and a bit cramped. But since it wasn't full, one could find areas with a bit more space.

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#14 Dragonwatcher

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 04:35 PM

RV areas as expected.

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#15 Spaced

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 11:35 AM

Lightbucket's post got me thinking, always a difficult and unpredictable exercise. Just supposin', Anne & I stay in motel or B & B within easy driving range of Eden Valley, I leave gear set up near some Star Partyer's land yacht, Anne gets to fish during the day while I sleep. Or something like that. I really like the idea of excellent skies and I really hate cheek-by-jowl camping, and that's a lovely part of the State.

#16 Stacy

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 01:38 PM

The scenery looks amazing!

Now if they would just populate every-other "campsite" I would have signed up by now. :ubetcha:

#17 Dragonwatcher

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 04:05 PM

Mike,

I don't know if they are full or not, but Eden Valley ranch has rooms and cabins to rent. I don't know minimum stays and rates, but some members (TMSP officers?) stayed in the cabins.
The cabins are just outside the camping area and the main ranch is also very close.

#18 astronomania

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 05:48 PM

RV areas as expected.


I was about halfway down RV row with my buddy Mark.
I parked my Expedition down at the parking area so we had a vehicle to explore with during the day.
The nice thing is, behind the RV's is a nice flat area to observe from that gives you the best horizons of the whole site.
I'll be back next year!! :)

#19 cliff mygatt

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 10:36 AM

I am planning on attending but I am also toying with the idea of going to Table Mountain actual instead. What do you think?

#20 Spaced

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 12:07 PM

I think you'd enjoy the trip, Cliff, if the weather treats you well. I met Ajay, Ron, Robert & Stacy up there last summer and was glad I went. There was a profusion of late wildflowers and the skies weren't bad. I'm a sucker for alpine meadows. :grin:

#21 vsteblina

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 01:47 PM

Hmmmm... Didn't seem to stop the horse enthusiast group that was issued a special permit last year and occupied ALL the same traditional TMSP areas. I smell a rat.


I retired from the Wenatchee National Forest in 2007 and actually had oversight responsibility for the Table Mountain Star Party permit until sometime in 2004 or so.

Forest Service employees work for the public. If you have a question about their management practices....CALL and ask to speak to the permit administrator or appropriate person. The public deserves an answer and I always made time to answer public questions. THEY are the reason I had a pretty great job!!

Getting back to your Back-Country Horse "permit". Are you sure they had a permit??

Congressional law allows a gathering of up to 75 people without a permit IF THERE ARE NO COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES associated with the gathering. My suspicion is that BCH fell under this exception to a permit.

It is also how the Orion Star Party holds its gathering at Table without a permit.

On the issue of hazard trees. Since the Star Party has a permit you should check the conditions of the permit. Whenever, possible the Federal Government always shifted liability from the public to the permit holder. The star party would probably have to accept liability if a tree fell over.

It is no longer your father's Forest Service. With the Clinton Forest Plan in 1993 the Forest Service in the Oregon Cascades has shifted from a multiple-use agency to one where the primary purpose is protecting late-sucessional habitat.

You can argue whether this is good/bad or indifferent but government employees really do NEED to follow laws and regulations.

In any case, hope this helps answer your question.

Call the Ranger District and find out the true story. Remember they work for you. They owe you an explanation.

Oh, just to make you feel better.....you don't want to know how many calls I took from Back-Country Horsemen whenever "they smelled a rat". They must have a great nose and there must be lots of rats on National Forest land.

#22 Spaced

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 02:32 PM

Thanks for the illuminating post, Vladimir!

I was at Table the weekend Stacy mentioned. There were a lot of camps, people, rigs, horses, but they might well have been under 75 souls. I'm not aware of any commercial function. At least some of their activities included trail maintenance. (And God bless all volunteers!)

With the Clinton Forest Plan in 1993 the Forest Service in the Oregon Cascades has shifted from a multiple-use agency to one where the primary purpose is protecting late-sucessional habitat.


Good policy, IMHO.

#23 Stacy

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 04:16 PM

Yes, probably nothing sinister going on. Just government doing what they are supposed to do, govern the area responsibly. I don't really care one way or the other. I LOVE star parties (or viewing from a dark site with friends to be more specific), but a do not like the really big ones. They can be great fun and a nice opportunity to see a LOT of other people, scopes and stuff. For a large group, I am AMAZED at how responsibly most of the attendees conduct themselves. Very considerate. Just a little to crowded for my tastes.

cliff mygatt said: I am planning on attending but I am also toying with the idea of going to Table Mountain actual instead. What do you think?



Cliff, we went up to Table the in July, the month before the Eden Valley Star Party and it was great fun. The abundance of wildflowers and the Northern Lights were an unexpected treat as well as a great opportunity for outreach with a couple groups from Tokyo Japan. The seeing was not great, but it was quite dark and I got in a lot of good observing time. Great observing buddies with Ron, Robert, Mike, Ajay and a few others. A few of the horse people came by as well.

Posted Image Photo by Robert (zerro1)

However, I went up again "during" the Eden Valley gig and it was kind of a bust. The first night I got up there I got some observing in, but the smoke took a bad turn, then the weather and we ended up just going camping out towards the Cle Elum snow park. I heard you guys had some weather (although I didn't hear about any smoke) at Eden Valley.

#24 cliff mygatt

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 05:09 PM

We saw the smoke while at Eden Valley but it did not hinder observations. We did have one night with a hell of a thunderstorm. The storm when right over the top of us and the lightning was awesome and then the rain came and I think it was 2 inches in about 45 minutes. I felt sorry for the tent folks.

#25 cliff mygatt

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 05:11 PM

Thanks Vlad for the insight. I have not really thought about the permit process and trust the TMSP board what they tell us. I like going the TMSP but Eden Valley is a drive but lovely. I will see what my OAS folks that go to TMSP think about going to Lion Rock vice TMSP. We will see and keep you updated.






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