Graduation from Yale Divinity School (or rather, walking and a degree IOU)

Family and friends

For the terminal days of my New Haven time in life, my parents and brother were able to make it out from our home in northeast Ohio (my sister was on week 3 of her new job, her first salaried gig after graduating college, so she rightfully stayed home and kept her new job!).  My parents took a few days of work off, and drove down with a U-Haul trailer to whisk away most of my crap to the house, for my later perusal.

My parents and I

My parents and I

My brother actually participated in the Tough Mudder on Sunday in Ohio, at which point he got the mohawk to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project that shall be seen below:

Steven with his Tough Mudder haircut, and I

Steven with his Tough Mudder haircut, and I

I owe my parents a lot for the entirety of my life and their support throughout; and my brother for his friendship and then being willing to walk up and down the big hill with the Divinity School, to take photos with my camera (even though he was rather banged up from the Mudder)!  More generally, it was just fantastic to be with my family again after having last been home in March – and so with their arrival Sunday night, it was officially time to Gradumicate.

Marching down town for the Overall Yale Event

Preparing for the march down the hill do the Old Campus

Preparing for the march down the hill do the Old Campus

The first event of the day was the gathering of all of Yale’s various undergrad and grad schools, to the largest quad on Old Campus, to have the deans each approach the president of Yale to get the Yale Corporation’s approval for the graduating process to come.  The Divinity School processed down the hill, led by some sort of elderly hippies with drums and tamborines, and the intended joyous spirit (which caught up some of our peers) also looked really unprofessional and out of place at Yale’s graduation to outsiders:

The hippie folk who played loud drums in front of our procession and further tarnished the reputation of YDS in the eyes of the rest of Yale, yay!

The hippie folk who played loud drums in front of our procession and further tarnished the reputation of YDS in the eyes of the rest of Yale, yay!

Thankfully, I walked with friends like Chris, who share a very suspicious opinion (at best) of the sorts of choices like the above, made by many of our peers from YDS in representing YDS.

Instead, Chris and I are of the church of the Batman:

My good friend, Bruce "Chris P" Wayne

My good friend, Bruce “Chris P” Wayne

We were seated on the quad according to when each school was founded – and given that Yale was founded as a seminary, we had the best seats in the house – both for the actual stage and then for the largest screen in the quad, so we could see details of the Yale-King’s actions:

The Yale-King used his Yale Scepter and officially made the Divinity School graduate.

The Yale-King used his Yale Scepter and officially made the Divinity School graduate.

The best part of the whole experience down town, in my opinion, was when an honorary doctorate was given to Ralph Stanley, a very frail elderly man who was a key player in the development of bluegrass in this country for some 50 years.  As the president reached the end of his brief bio, the School of Music players and their dean began to softly play on a banjo and accompanying music, and the volume got louder for a brief bit of time – and it really seemed to touch Stanley’s heart, and had a similar effect on the assembled crowd.

Our seatmates behind us were school of architecture folk, who had all sorts of angry atheist things to say when there was an invocation, benediction, and three separate hymns sung – but as the school is older than the United States, it is unlikely those traditions will change any time soon.

The Divinity School’s smaller gradumacashun

We hiked our way back up the hill (with some of our peers and indeed the faculty stopping at the ubiquitous food carts to get food prior to the next event), and eventually processed up to the chairs set out in the quad before the Marquand Chapel.

Processing up to the seating in the Sterling Quad, for the final graduation event

Processing up to the seating in the Sterling Quad, for the final graduation event

We were rather blessed to have such lovely weather, albeit slightly windy – but it made a beautiful setting for a much-anticipated end to this chapter of my life.

The good dean, dean'ing on the gorgeous day we had

The good dean, dean’ing on the gorgeous day we had

Eventually, I got to walk my way up those steps and shake hands with the dean, to get my photo taken and have officially walked at Commencement #313 for Yale…

I officially got a thing...

I officially got a thing…

… but, given that my summer of 2014 will be spent doing my internship requirement for the Master of Divinity degree (as the Fall 2013/Spring 2014 internship I had set up ended up falling apart because of my shoulder injury and the accompanying surgeries and healing), I got a slightly different piece of paper in my sleek Yale-branded folder:

... but as you can likely tell, I still have the summer 2014 internship ahead of me, prior to fully graduating.

… but as you can likely tell, I still have the summer 2014 internship ahead of me, prior to fully graduating.

Can you tell which one is mine, above, if you didn’t read the names?? 🙂

A lovely day, all told

As the afternoon deepened, I realized how exhausted I was, and I knew my family was as well from their trip – and we were also all rather hungry!

Matt, myself, and Chris - the three Lutherans who did a Visiting Student Day over 3 years ago, and we made it through the experience only partially scathed!

Matt, myself, and Chris – the three Lutherans who did a Visiting Student Day over 3 years ago, and we made it through the experience only partially scathed!

I said some goodbyes to my closest friends of the past three years, and slowly made my way down to the sidewalk and thus towards the car.

My good friend Emma and I doing a non-acted "this is how we really feel about this place" photo, for posterity.

My good friend Emma and I doing a non-acted “this is how we really feel about this place” photo, for posterity.

I wanted to take my family to Plan B Burger in Milford, a place I have referenced here before, and we went forth and had a delicious meal indeed.  During the course of the meal, the 2 months without a break finally hit me and I realized – the afternoon spent packing my remaining belongings I had planned was simply not viable.

My dad and I, on our way off the quad and towards a celebratory meal

My dad and I, on our way off the quad and towards a celebratory meal

What did the House of Repas do, then?

We had a great meal, and all vacated New Haven for their hotel, wherein we all passed out by 6:45pm and slept through until 7am or so, to prepare us for the (longer than expected, it turned out) day of packing ahead.

My mug shot made the wall, so it is official (even if I have an internship yet to do, to fully finish the degree)

My mug shot made the wall, so it is official (even if I have an internship yet to do, to fully finish the degree)

All told,  then, I am very thankful to have had the opportunities I had and the like, but (as I shall explore in the post after this one), the school and town alike were not especially good fits for me – so graduation day, even if only to get my official-looking Yale Divinity School IOU “degree,” was a happy day indeed – a day to celebrate the good things received and learned over three years, but especially to celebrate the end of one chapter of life and the start of the next!

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The final final has been vanquished; preparing the trailer for my caravan to freedom

Getting a great deal

(Editor’s note: this post is going live some 2 weeks after the fact, because the last portion of my time in New Haven was simply too busy for me to compose this before now!)

In February or March, it occurred to me that it would be 1) a lot easier to move; 2) a lot easier to do farmwork in Maryland for my internship; and 3) prepare me for years of utility and capacity ahead.

I knew that Harbor Freight is at times a great place to purchase tools and gear – they claim to offer the best deals on great gear, and while their prices are always very low… the quality of what they sell isn’t especially compelling in some cases.

That said, I did a hell of a lot of research over months, looking into whether or not their trailer kits could be trusted – and what I found was, a resounding yes IF you properly clean and repack with grease the ball bearings in the wheel hubs.  Which I did, very carefully, as per below.

My good friend Syed helped me find out that HF was going to hold a sale on Easter Sunday, for 25% off of one item.  The specific store I went to didn’t have any in stock, they gave me a voucher to get the sales price after the day once they were back in stock… and I ended up getting the kit from the New Haven store.

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

My good friend Bob finalizing bolt placement through the deck

 

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Test fitting one of the side walls to the vertical upright beams

Building the trailer

My good friend Bob is a retired Marine and retired police officer, who is working security for Yale Law School – and over the 16 odd months I did IT there, I often helped Bob with various IT problems which arose.  He had told me about the garage he had, where he likes to fix cars – and when I mentioned the trailer, Bob jumped at the chance to help me out with a project before I departed New Haven!  Thus, once I finished the last final of my academic career (thank Jesus it is over), I dove into working as many hours at the Law School as I could, while also working on the trailer after shifts ended.

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Bob and his brother Eddy and I, hanging out on a Saturday in the car shop they have used for more than 30 years

Over several nights and weekends, Bob and I (and his visiting older brother Eddy, at times) worked to put together the metal frame, to prepare for the decking and side walls.  I decided to do 2 foot tall walls, making use of the slots in the steel frame as to ensure they are stable when in place but also make their removal a non-issue.  We used pressure treated lumber for the deck and uprights, to make sure they last as long as possible – and then I painted the side panel plywood prior to assembly.

I found a special set of interlocking corner hardware for trailers, and then a set of super heavy duty Tacoma pickup truck bed D-rings, as the other modifications I did on the trailer.  The corner hardware got put onto the side walls and they do an excellent job of holding the walls very steadily in place, even at speed.  The D-rings were drilled into the outside edges of the frame, as to allow for tie-down points when I have the walls removed and am transporting heavier or larger items such as 4×8 plywood (as opposed to the lighter duty door handles I put onto the deck for internal tie-down points).

Ready to go!

After a great deal of work, the trailer was ready to go – and my best intentions were to take it home to New Haven from Bob’s garage, load it completely for the Maryland trip, and then return it to Bob’s locking garage for safe storage until the moment of my departure south.  I did indeed do that, and in retrospect am VERY glad I did so!

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

Other than electrical, the trailer was ready to go on schedule (I ended up finishing a few days later)

From Springsteen to Turisas – the weirdest concert weekend in VA and NC ever, and more!

The concert(s) trip, an overview

More than 3 months ago, my good friend Andrew told me about a metal concert in April, Paganfest 2014 in Baltimore.  He got tickets and we planned THAT early to go forth and be metalheads with some other friends as well.

the routes involved

the routes involved

So, when my friend Veronica mentioned to me, out of the blue, “want to go see Bruce Springsteen in Raleigh North Carolina” the night before I was going to depart for DC anyways, I realized: I couldn’t NOT see these two concerts in the same weekend, the range of music was too good to pass up.

The rest stops along 95 are sometimes quite pretty, it turns out

The rest stops along 95 are sometimes quite pretty, it turns out

Springsteen & visiting Amber, in Raleigh NC

Williamsburg, VA

So the first part of the trip was adventuring down to Williamsburg to pick up my friend Vero and her friend Alex, but I began with a quick refresher tour of the colonial encampment (having been there back in high school):

Almost as fast as the MFALCON!

Almost as fast as the MFALCON!

It was a lovely day, and after SO much driving (though just an appetizer of the SO MUCH DRIVING to come, this past weekend ), it was quite nice to be out and about on foot.

Cannons are still used to defend Williamsburg to this very day. Just In Case.

Cannons are still used to defend Williamsburg to this very day.
Just In Case.

Additionally, some of you may remember a prior post on this blog about wanting to buy land in Virginia after school.  Even walking around people in petticoats and tourists, the setting and blazing sun suitable to solar power my way to free utilities forever was VERY tempting anew….

It seems the British STILL don't know when to quit on this country of ours...

It seems the British STILL don’t know when to quit on this country of ours…

Nice to stretch, but back into the car we went, in order to drive down to our hotel as to attend the…

Bruce Springsteen concert @ Raleigh, NC

Our arrival was around 5pm or so, and thus we had time to 1) check into our hotel; 2) drive over and park at the PNC Arena; 3) a scrumptious dinner (in my case, shrimp and cheddar + jalapeno grits, BBQ baked beans, and a clam chowder, all out of this world!) at the Backyard Bistro across the street from the Arena; and then 4) jaywalking/jayrunning back to the parking lot and then into the stadium for the concert:

PNC Arena in the background, with a veritable sea of tailgating BRUUUUUUCEEEE fans in between

PNC Arena in the background, with a veritable sea of tailgating BRUUUUUUCEEEE fans in between

The concert venue was so huge and the lighting fluctuated so much that 1) no camera phone photo of the interior was worth a damn, and 2) my DSLR was disallowed to be brought inside, so I have no photos of the actual event.

But.

Bruce was quite the entertaining performer, with his E Street Band – for a 64 year old guy, he was RUNNING around all over  the place, and generally having a great time.  The people in the crowd definitely got their money’s worth, as people were dancing and clapping and screaming the whole  time – and he was soaking it up.

Astonishingly, Bruce performed from 7:30pm until 11pm or so, without an intermission… I myself departed at 9:45 or so, to go visit my good friend and former housemate Amber.  Between her having worked all day and my having driven a shitzillion miles, we were both exhausted, but we shared some wine and caught up at a local bar in Raleigh prior to calling it a night.  Back to the hotel I went, as another long day of driving was ahead of me.

On the trip back to Williamsburg, from Raleigh

On the trip back to Williamsburg, from Raleigh, with Alex and Vero

All told, even though I am not the biggest Springsteen fan (as in, I enjoy his music but he is not a go-to for me, typically), it was the biggest concert I have ever been to and a fun experience.

METAL and (very) old friends, from Yorktown VA to Baltimore MD

The remainder of the weekend, though, was pretty goddamned metal \m/

After dropping Vero and Alex back to their places in Williamsburg, I then departed for…

Yorktown, both historic and Tonyish

My friend Tony was at a lecture, so I actually visited one of the few major colonial sites I had not yet encountered: the Yorktown battlefield.

The battlefield at Yorktown

The battlefield at Yorktown

An American flag flies here after both Revolutionary and Civil wars... but there was no guarantee of this.

An American flag flies here after both Revolutionary and Civil wars… but there was no guarantee of this.

Departing the battlefields, I went to my friend Tony’s house, a little down the street, and we got to hang out and catch up with our mutual friend David for a few hours before going up to Arlington.

Tony's family has an awesome set of raised bed gardens, I am quite jealous

Tony’s family has an awesome set of raised bed gardens, I am quite jealous

Tony showed us his family’s home, which they planned and built significant portions of themselves (which made my DIY heart sing with joy).  My favorite parts were the gazebo in the back (seen below) which Tony put in himself, the huge raised bed gardens, and their theater room (something I hope to emulate in some way when I have my own home).

David, Tony, and I, under the outstanding gazebo and patio tony put in several months ago

David, Tony, and I, under the outstanding gazebo and patio tony put in several months ago

We talked and realized the following:
1) David and I had met playing DotA on the internet, back when we were 15 or 16
2) David thought I was funny, so wanted to get me in on playing with Andrew and Tony
2b) the first several games with them, I did *awful* but they thought I was a nice and funny guy, so we stayed friends
3) David and I ended up both going to American University and in fact met in person serendipitously at an orientation event
4) I ended up meeting and hanging out with Andrew and Tony many times thereafter

It is crazy that some of my best friends for more than a decade all originated from a random matchmaking queue for a computer game, and I was glad to remember those details after so long.

Tony's mom makes the best food in general, but this baklava was outstanding.  The sort of outstanding where "honey is too overpowering a taste, we make our own syrup with rosewater to keep the treat light"

Tony’s mom makes the best food in general, but this baklava was outstanding. The sort of outstanding where “honey is too overpowering a taste, we make our own syrup with rosewater to keep the treat light”

After huge helpings of Tony’s mom’s delicious foodstuffs, we departed for Arlington through some SERIOUS rainstorms.

Helping buddies in Arlington

Arriving at Andrew’s old house, we did some packing and moving of his things to his new place, because that is what buddies are for/it was his birthday week/his sedan don’t hold so much.

MFALCON, cargo hauler, and Tony

MFALCON, cargo hauler, and Tony

We had some DELICIOUS Korean fried chicken, from a restaurant called Bonchon, and it was absurdly delicious. After that, it was time to coma our way into restfulness for the next day’s activities.

Tony's 4Runner and I, filled with furniture

Tony’s 4Runner and I, filled with furniture

As it WAS Andrew’s birthday weekend, Tony’s mom had made him a DotA-themed cake, and I managed to get a photo both of his genuinely joyful reaction (very rare, for him), and the cake itself:

Infamous Drow cake

Infamous Drow cake

He glad, he glad

He glad, he glad

All told, it was a pleasure to help Andrew move into his new place and hang out with those guys – not least of all because his overpriced Arlingtonian apartment building was quite nice on the eyes:

The view from Andrew's apartment, not half bad

The view from Andrew’s apartment, not half bad

The concert in Baltimore

The main event, then, and the core reason for this whole trip, was to go to Paganfest 2014 – a heavy metal concert with mostly folk and Viking themed bands, which was quite enjoyable.   The venue in Baltimore was the Ottobar, which wasn’t the biggest or nicest establishment ever… but the bands made up for it.  We got to see Ohio’s Winterhymn, Germany’s Varg (with songs where the lead singer introduced it as “this next one is about mercilessly killing your worst enemy on the battlefield), Taiwan’s Chthonic; (my favorite) Finland’s Turisas; and Finland’s Korpiklaani.

From the local band whose drummer WAS Jesus:

Jesus, take the reins

Jesus, take the reins

To the unending goofiness of folk bands in general:

lololol

lololol

To the fun and lively performances:

Korpiklaani, on stage and drunk while performing songs like "VODKA"

Korpiklaani, on stage and drunk while performing songs like “VODKA”

The concert was a lot of fun – and the people at metal concerts are always fun(ny) in their own ways – from guys with longer and better-kept hair than their girlfriends; to people wearing tunics and carrying drinking horns, to the shirts from all sorts of other metal concerts, definitely a grand time.

'Exura' the keyboardist of Winterhymn

With ‘Exura’ the keyboardist of Winterhymn

At trip’s end

After sleeping very soundly from a long day with buddies, our time had run out, and we were forced to head off towards our respective responsibilities.  At the end of a delicious Lebanese lunch, we departed from Arlington – a quick photo of all of us at once, as evidence, and we were off!

Myself, Tony, Andrew, and David - friends again reunited after far too long

Myself, Tony, Andrew, and David – friends again reunited after far too long

All told, a whirlwind of driving and visiting, but an excellent long weekend away from New Haven.  I am very thankful to have such great and gracious friends.

The weeks ahead

So by way of general updates, consider the following:

1) I am working again at my old Yale Law School job, and will be for this week and next week.

The old office still stands

The old office still stands

2) I purchased a trailer from HarborFreight, with the Easter sale coupon they told me I could use after the fact, and will be building it to help with the move down to Maryland for the summer – and I am super excited about this!! More on this once I build the damned thing.

Harbor Freight trailer kit, in the car

Harbor Freight trailer kit, in the car

3) The housemate whose name shall go unmentioned, the one who plays violin at 2 and 3am, and lets his guinea pigs make a mess in communal areas and never cleans it up, and so much more… was legally evicted mid-April.  Sadly, the law is on his side so he has to be gone by or before May 17, a full 30 days later.  But there shall be MUCH rejoicing when his disrespectful, unhygienic ways are no longer on the premises.

Between that guy; the “oh a stray pit bull followed me home and I am going to keep it” guy; the 40 year old law degree’d girl who decided against getting a job and then took out her depression on me via passive-aggressive bullshit 6 miles high; and others, I have definitely had more than my fair share of INSANETRAIN housemates.  I am thankful for those other housemates, who were amongst my best friends in 3 years here… but overall have learned I will need to live by myself or with people I know and trust from the outset, because INSANETRAIN housemate roulette is shit.

In many ways, I still *am* mad

In many ways, I still *am* mad

4) I am so, so very excited to be entering the professional realm in a few short months – so keep an eye out for posted updates about job opportunities I am applying for!  Also, the projects to come, once I have an income, will include things like this fantastic converted Range Rover into a pickup truck spotted in Baltimore over the weekend:

I need to make one.  Or two.

I need to make one. Or two.

“I bring good news, of great soy” – visiting my summer internship site in southern Maryland, from farm to house to church and more!

The roadtrip

After installing the summer Borbet wheels (which were both thrown in for free by the previous owner, which is a crazy good deal for me; AND which were given a great deal on new Hankook Ventus 2 tires and so forth thanks to my wallet-destroying friend, Tom) on the street in front of my house… and being lucky enough that the trucker’s warning triangles I once bought cheaply from Craigslist were sufficient enough to keep cars away, I packed the car BATTLEWAGON and was ready to go!

Summer tires in place, ready to rock (but mostly roll)

Summer tires in place, ready to rock (but mostly roll)

With my good friend and fellow student Nathan, who will be living and working alongside me in this house over the summer, we departed YDS at 4pm or thereabout.

Nathan and I in the Yale Divinity parking lot, excited to depart!

Nathan and I in the Yale Divinity parking lot, excited to depart!

I cannot fully believe it myself, but 3 long and not always fun years in New Haven and at Yale can consider their days numbered – this trip was the harbinger of an escape less than two months away.  Even less credible, but also true: we hit a total of 27 minutes of traffic, on I-95 south in NYC, before the George Washington Bridge, and otherwise had smooth sailing all the way.  Fantastic, hard to believe, and a good start to a great weekend.  We arrived at Nathan’s parents’ home in MD, and quickly passed out after a long day.

The visitation of DC and VA friends

I set aside Friday to go down and make a pilgrimage to places where I knew old friends still exist, and also to visit my prior institution, American University.

Amurka!

Amurka!

Between juggling attempted visits with professors and old friends, my initial stop by AU in the morning was just good for grabbing photos of a couple of these iconic views it was (surprisingly) good to see, again.

The lovely new School of International Service, which was done in time for my graduation day but not my usage

The lovely new School of International Service, which was done in time for my graduation day but not my usage

That said, I stopped by the school later in the afternoon after a lengthy lunch with friends, and visited with both a former roommate who know works in the AU public safety department; and one of my favorite professors of computer science, who showed me his newest craze – quadcopters.  A lot of fun was had, and I look forward to further visitations with those folks and others over the lengthy summer!

AU, don't you ever change, as a place where wearing your heart on your sleeve isn't enough... you need multiple shirts for your multiple hearts!

AU, don’t you ever change, as a place where wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t enough… you need multiple shirts for your multiple hearts!

The lunchtime hour(s) was spent catching up with my good friends Deb and Kim, whom I met and toiled alongside at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, in January 2013 – we were all prospective diaconal ministers, and in the midst of a grueling schedule, we got to become great friends.  As one might imagine, and in spite of possible height differentials making direct conversation difficult (as per below), we had a fantastic time and a delicious meal at Silverado.

Finally reunited with my fellow diaconal-inclined Lutheran friends, Deb and Kim!

Finally reunited with my fellow diaconal-inclined Lutheran friends, Deb and Kim!

I drove something like 75 miles within DC and northern VA in a single day, and that was enough for me – after a good 12 or 13 hours away from Nathan’s folks’ house, I drove back and again fell into a blissful, deep sleep.  As my time at home in Ohio a few weeks ago, for spring break, made clear to me: the benefits for mood, outlook, disposition, and body tension levels that I find from being away from negative settings (for instance, the latest disrespectful toxic housemate I am stuck with; the gang shootings around my house in New Haven, and the academic setting at YDS in general).  Even as a stanger in the strange land of Laurel, MD, I slept like the dead and it was great.  I fully suspect this sort of healthy, non-tense and indeed edifying experience of passing living in southern Maryland versus CT will continue for the whole summer, and I cannot overstate my thankfulness for and excitement about that.

The farm, the house, the joy

Nathan and I amidst the college's community garden and the new plot we will work and make flourish

Nathan and I amidst the college’s community garden and the new plot we will work and make flourish

Saturday was The Main Event: first driving the 2 hours further south, to Saint Mary’s City MD – the historical landing site for the Catholic colonists who petitioned for a patch of land in the New World where they could worship (as Catholics were disallowed from worshipping in England at the time), in 1634.  As the original state capital, it was a place which would remain small and agricultural up until and then after the point when the capital was moved to Annapolis – and this trend continues today.  One of the peculiar aspects of living in “the county” (which is how everyone I met referred to the area), one will encounter a wide swathe of people whose family has owned the very expensive land they own since the 1640s… but who have no liquidity.  It is our hope, through directly donating crops grown and also teaching how easy/cheap/healthy it is to grow one’s own food in the plentiful soil of the area, to help directly improve the lives of the surprising number of hungry in the area.

 

Beauty and joy abound, around our summer home

Beauty and joy abound, around our summer home

Historic Saint Mary's City has frame 'buildings' on the sites where the original colonists built their lives on the shores of this New World

Historic Saint Mary’s City has frame ‘buildings’ on the sites where the original colonists built their lives on the shores of this New World.  Somewhat haunting, as neighbors go I suppose.

As you see in the two photos above, the setting around the house is extremely rural and empty (this is a siren song to my ears, tired as they and I are of the urban shitshow of New Haven).  Below you can see the house from front and back, prior to the lead paint on the outside being scraped and replaced for our arrival at the end of May:

Front of the house and the MFALCON, both looking lovely

Front of the house and the MFALCON, both looking lovely

The back of the being-renovated home

The back of the being-renovated home

My bedroom is a lighter shade of green than my current New Haven home, and is a mere 120 by 144 inches, which is not a large space – but honestly, a part of my attempting to learn and grow this summer is in the key of “don’t bring too much, do too much, or worry too much” – so besides Ike and his house, my clothes, computer, and camping gear, I will not be bringing anything more.  Such a small space ought to be entirely sufficient!

My bedroom for the coming year shall again be green, and it has a gorgeous view of both foliage and field

My bedroom for the coming year shall again be green, and it has a gorgeous view of both foliage and field

If memory serves, this little brown house is over 110 years old, and various portions of it are in different stages of being renovated for us; one of the finished areas is the kitchen, which looks lovely:

The brand new, gorgeous kitchen I will be getting to use with Nathan, to cook for ourselves and guests all summer long

The brand new, gorgeous kitchen I will be getting to use with Nathan, to cook for ourselves and guests all summer long

Nathan looking uncharacteristically worried, regarding the fan in one of our common rooms

Nathan looking uncharacteristically worried, regarding the fan in one of our common rooms

The members of the parish have already indicated a certain kind of excitement in helping us to furnish this building and make it a home and a house of hospitality and prayer; all told, then the housing angle of this summer couldn’t be any more wonderful!

Trinity Episcopal Church and Saint Mary College

Beyond the farming portion of the summer, I will be working with and learning from Pastor John Ball of Trinity Episcopal church, and that will involve several additional responsibilities.  One of them will be preaching to both of the congregations in the parish (there is the main church building, seen below, and then a small chapel down the road with a commited, small set of older folks who live near and worship there).

Trinity Episcopal, a lovely little building

Trinity Episcopal, a lovely little building

 

The view from the pulpit

The view from the pulpit

"Trinity: since 1638" is very cool to me

“Trinity: since 1638” is very cool to me

Another project I know of from the very beginning will be helping manage, fundraise, and generally effect the cause of saving Church Point: a sandy small peninsula into the river off from where the church and the college is located, it has lost several yards of sand and sediment to the water since 1950 or so.  The below photo shows the cross on the sand again, only because a big tractor was brought down to drag it 50 or so feet onto the now-shrunk shore.  It will be like my Eagle Scout project days again, in many ways – but now with a certain kind of authority as “oh, that seminary intern guy”!

Church Point, eroding away - and working to galvanize support and fundraise to restore it

Church Point, eroding away – and working to galvanize support and fundraise to restore it

The College's marina, right down the hill from the church, free for our summer use.  Yesssssssssssssss

The College’s marina, right down the hill from the church, free for our summer use. Yesssssssssssssss

The full replica of the Dove, which originally got settlers to these shores in the 1600s

The full replica of the Dove, which originally got settlers to these shores in the 1600s

There will be many other projects ahead, but now all I can think about is my excitement to getting down there and settled into a healthy set of routines in a great little house with my good friend and classmate Nathan.

Excited beyond belief for this coming summer?

Yup.

The sun also sets

The sun also sets

From delicious views and weather, to delightful locals and lands, I cannot think of anything about this summer which doesn’t have the capacity to be outstanding right out of the gate.  Just in terms of measuring “average number of weekly gang violence within 2-3 blocks of my house”, I can already guarantee that this will be a more peaceful, wholesome, and edifying experience than New Haven.  The nature of living with non-students, and outside of the bubble of seminary (it is not, to be fair, just YDS that has this – seminaries in general tend to become bubbles in so many ways), I rejoice at the chance to make lasting friendships with “real people” so to speak, people with mortgages, and debt, and jobs, and families… and people who DON’T babble about theory and minutia without any real life experience to back up their pontificating.  (For reference, the preceding sentences of critique of my Yale/New Haven setting were GREATLY edited down, in terms of lengths and crass vulgarities).

In short, then: my summer internship in Saint Mary’s City, Maryland, is going to be a peaceful, edifying, educational, and positive experience to finish the last requirement to get my degree from Yale.  I will be doing a blog specific to the summer, and I greatly encourage you to take a look once it is posted and running, later in May.

For now, back to the grind to finish this semester.

This summer is going to be so beautiful to see and soak in, I nearly can't stand it

This summer is going to be so beautiful to see and soak in, I nearly can’t stand it

NECE 4, Day 3 – DOG SLEDS; hiking Camel’s Hump Mountain, dinner at Maxi’s, fond and icy memories

The hike out to the car, and DOGSLEDS!

The morning was CONSIDERABLY warmer than even the night before, and I regret to admit: I had left my camera in the car the night before, to minimize weight as I hiked 2.5 miles to the tent, because I was exhausted.

And so I missed the ability to photograph a honest to God dog sled go galloping past me.

October Siberians truck and one of their teams of Siberian Huskies, waiting as the dog sled is out and about

October Siberians truck and one of their teams of Siberian Huskies, waiting as the dog sled is out and about

Instead, I got to speak with one of the trainers, and get some photos of their lovely custom kennel/truck, and their second team of gorgeous Siberian Huskies!  I don’t typically like dogs due to smell and noise… but in this case, they made noises like wolves and LOOKED like wolves.  And being of House Stark, knowing that winter IS coming, this was entirely ~awesome~ in my book.  I sort of wanted one.  Or three.  Or a team and a sled, because who can refuse a face like this:

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Even the top of the kennels on the truck bed had a dog sledding ornament, the sort of DIY attention to detail which warms my (otherwise icy, cold and dead) heart:

A really awesome hood ornament atop the mobile kennel, where the sled is stored while driving

A really awesome hood ornament atop the mobile kennel, where the sled is stored while driving

A wonderfuly wintry and NON-hypothermic start to my morning!

Hiking up around/in the midst of Camel’s Hump Mountain

I drove over to the other side of Waterbury, and carefully made my way up the class 4 (again, unpaved and unmaintained DEATH RACE) roads to the winter parking lot.  Where I found, of course, another Subaru breeding ground, with several Vermonters either coming back or preparing to hike/ski the mountain!

The way to Camel's Hump was clear (albeit some sort of pothole farm)

The way to Camel’s Hump was clear (albeit some sort of pothole farm)

After a lunch of Ramen prepared on the camp stove out the back of my car, I started up the “View Trail” as it was the only trail I could see… and ended up back in the parking lot.  ugh.

A cloud descended and took root upon the summit of the mountain

A cloud descended and took root upon the summit of the mountain

I went a different direction, in my microspikes (rather than my snowshoes, which was a bad idea in retrospect, as it was more than 3 foot of snow in a lot of places, not all equally compacted down), and found some kind of shorter trail meant for cross country skiers, and went off in that direction.  It WAS headed up towards the peak, and it got me to… another trail, this one groomed by VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) for use by hikers, skiers, and snowmobilers alike.  Again, this went up and around the peak of the mountain, but with VERY few trail markers or signs, I went with it.  I continued to approach the cloud rooted atop the peak, and got some good views:

The peak in the background, as I did the hike in the wrong damned direction!

The peak in the background, as I did the hike in the wrong damned direction!

The trail kept going 1) up and 2) around the mountain, seeming like it would eventually get me to the peak or at least another trail to the peak… but instead I got to see snowmobilers go zooming past:

An action shot of one of the snowmobiles which zoomed past me when I spent a portion of the hike on a groomed trail for snowmobilers and skiers

An action shot of one of the snowmobiles which zoomed past me when I spent a portion of the hike on a groomed trail for snowmobilers and skiers.  Have I mentioned I love my camera?

In retrospect, while I love my new green Carhartt raincoat, it is not especially good at things like “being seen by people operating motor vehicles on icy surfaces” – but they were all really good about slowing way down once they saw me, to the benefit of the “Mike not dying on this trip” fund:

An important sign, and a great summary of the human condition!

An important sign, and a great summary of the human condition!

Eventually I got high up that trail enough to reach the edge of the cloud, and it snowed intermittently onto me as the visibility dropped.   Given that I was exhausted, and alone in a snowy and foggy area, and it was 2pm (with sunset forecasted to be at 5:46pm), I decided to turn around and head back to the car.  A great hike with some lovely views, and while it is disappointing to not have made it to the peak of Camel’s Hump Mountain, I look forward to getting back to Vermont with other hikers and without dangerous weather, to do a lot more of the Long Trail, in the near future!

Dinner at Maxi’s. for the warmth of both the food and the locals

Having had dinner here one night, and lunch another, I cannot thank my friend Emma from Yale enough for her suggestion to eat here... and given that she was born and raised in Waterbury, and worked at Maxi's, I thought she was overstating... but I was wrong.  SO GOOD.

Having had dinner here one night, and lunch another, I cannot thank my friend Emma from Yale enough for her suggestion to eat here… and given that she was born and raised in Waterbury, and worked at Maxi’s, I thought she was overstating… but I was wrong. SO GOOD.

After the hike, it was around 4pm and I was starving to a crazy degree, so I went back to Maxi’s – where I had dined the night before, it was suggested to me by my friend Emma, and it was *delicious* the night before.  But Saturday for my late lunch, they hit it out of the park: a panini from heaven, constructed with turkey, bacon, brie, apple chutney, and curry mayonnaise.  And God’s blessing.  And it was delicious, I only wish I had room after it (and my chicken coconut curry soup as a starter) to have tried their famous Vermont maple syrup cheesecake.

Perhaps I *have* to go back there, now.

Packing up, heading home

After dinner and the 5.5 hour hike across the wastes, I was very tired, and recognized that I really needed more time than I had billed, to do work for my job and then pack my car for my 10 days of spring break at home in Ohio this coming week.  On the way, I saw an outdoor gear shop with “clearance signs” all over every surface, went in (mostly to warm myself out of the wind), and ended up getting a $75 snowshoe bag for… $23!  No more worrying about snowshoe crampons tearing the upholstery in my car, or in my life!

Given the above, and having had a great time, I decided to grab the remaining sunlight to go back and tear down camp, to head home 12 hours earlier than planned.

The MFALCON and I were able to make it up the logging road on Saturday, as warmer temperatures changed the SHEET OF ICE into sticky snow.  Made for a MUCH quicker process of tearing down camp and packing the car

The MFALCON and I were able to make it up the logging road on Saturday, as warmer temperatures changed the SHEET OF ICE into sticky snow. Made for a MUCH quicker process of tearing down camp and packing the car

A successful and treacherous drive up to the lower parking lot of Little River State Park saw my hike reduced to 1 mile each way, meaning I tore down camp and got back to the car in time to grab some FANTASTIC shots of the mountains in the background as the sun began to retreat:

The sun setting was outstanding

The sun setting was outstanding

The view across the Little River Reservoir, as the sun began to set

The view across the Little River Reservoir, as the sun began to set

Tearing down camp in the sunlight is a GREAT deal more pleasant than full nighttime efforts

Tearing down camp in the sunlight is a GREAT deal more pleasant than full nighttime efforts

The drive home, excited for the next trip

The sun sets, the car warmed up and ready for the trip down to CT

The sun sets, the car warmed up and ready for the trip down to CT

The trip was a roaring success, and as I drove home I reflected on how lucky I am to have gotten my fuel efficient car for such a low price, and friends like Mark and Tom who continue to help me learn how to keep it going and indeed run even better.  It was just shy of $100 worth of fuel for nearly 950 miles of driving (including the 2 hours down and then 2 back up, for the observatory), which is 40mpg (including the trailer hitch shelf with firewood, AND the roof basket with shovel and axe).  The cost of camping was $0, as the winter is the offseason, so I will continue to be able to squeeze in my final New England Camping Experiences, to complete the set with t New Hampshire and Rhode Island… and then, if there is time, additional trips to states already visited!

Stay tuned, and stay warm.

NECE 4, Day 2 – the Green Mountain Club HQ; Ben and Jerry’s factory; Stellafane Amateur Observatory

Waking up from the EVERFROST

The night was, to be honest, miserable – even with fleece blankets to line my sleeping bag, I was VERY cold. Cold to the level of going into the fetal position inside the sleeping bag, and arms in armpits to maximize heat recirculation for my body, and still shivering.  And I am a big guy, so I don’t really shiver.

I woke up/decided to get out of the tent and start moving around 6am, a process which went something like this:

It was very, very, very cold on Friday morning. VERY. COLD.

It was very, very, very cold on Friday morning.
VERY.
COLD.

After checking extremities for frostbite (my left pinky and all my right toes felt VERY cold, in that “oh shit” kind of way), I got out of the tent and started moving as much as I could.  To say the least, I was not happy with the -20 degree rating on my sleeping bag… but as my brother has since explained to me, -20 rating means “you MIGHT not freeze to death in -20, and you’ll be really warm and comfortable at -5″… which is a bit different than how I understood it.  As they say, you (barely) live and learn.

The tent looked so nice as I departed, but was approximately 0 degrees Kelvin on the inside

The tent looked so nice as I departed, but was approximately 0 degrees Kelvin on the inside

I checked online, and the capitol of the state, 13 miles away, was -14 degrees F during the course of the night – and locals in Waterbury reported -18 on their thermostats. Chilly indeed, even if the above photo looks like a nice winter day.  But cold is nothing new, so I departed for… a McDonald’s in order to get out of the wind and thaw a bit.  I cannot overstate how thankful I am that the closest one, a 30 minute drive away, had a fireplace in their dining room… as I got to warm myself for the 2 hours unscheduled that morning!

A raccoon froze to death during the night!  Very good sign for the safety of my experience, I should think

A raccoon froze to death during the night! Very good sign for the safety of my experience, I should think

Even with the FROST-PERIENCE and racoon-popsicle discoveries of my evening and morning, one cannot overstate the gorgeous views across the top of the Little River dam and reservoir:

Sunrise over the reservoir, just gorgeous

Sunrise over the reservoir, just gorgeous

The Long Trail, starting at the Green Mountain Club Headquarters

As I have hiked on the Appalachian Trail before, my intention was to spend a good set of the 272 miles on VT’s famed Long Trail while in the state.  When I began to look into that, I found there is a non-profit organization in the state, which is responsible for maintaining those miles and miles: the Green Mountain Club!

Green Mountain Club HQ

The new GMC HQ building is 100% built from local sustainable materials, entirely self-sufficient for power, and is 100% gorgeous

The new GMC HQ building is 100% built from local sustainable materials, entirely self-sufficient for power, and is 100% gorgeous

From what I read online, their new headquarters building was built entirely with local sustainable lumber, and is powered fully by solar.  Once I got there, I found out fascinating additional details: they had to build the new building because the old one burned down; they have composting toilets so produce very little wastewater; they use a special sort of boiler for heat and water heating, which is crazy efficient; and the list of cool things went on and on.

The interior of the GMC HQ was gorgeous, and adorned with all manner of historical gear and backpacks

The interior of the GMC HQ was gorgeous, and adorned with all manner of historical gear and backpacks

The building was gorgeous, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the specifics of the building, the Long Trail, and just more of my immersion into the friendly and jovial culture of Vermonters.  Also, they happened to be well-situated in order to see Camel’s Hump Mountain, which is where I was planning on hiking:

The peak of Camel's Hump as seen from the Green Mountain Club

The peak of Camel’s Hump as seen from the Green Mountain Club

The lunch of champions: stopping by the Ben & Jerry’s factory

On my way towards the GMC, I passed by a place I had visited in my childhood with my family, the Ben & Jerry’s factory.  I knew I needed lunch on my way south to Springfield VT, so I figured I had found my diner!

Snow sculpture of a guy churning snow into ice cream, in front of the ice cream central... INCEPTION

Snow sculpture of a guy churning snow into ice cream, in front of the ice cream central… INCEPTION

After ordering and enjoying a cookie-layered sundae with hazelnut ice cream (yes, I probably got diabetes from typing that, much less eating it), I snapped some photos and then got into the car for my trip down south.

In heaven

In heaven

A wall of ice cream scoops with my hazelnut and cookie sunday lunch... so good.

A wall of ice cream scoops with my hazelnut and cookie sunday lunch… so good.

Observing Stellafane Amateur Observatory

All signs point to astronomy

All signs point to astronomy

The highlight of the trip for me, in some ways, was a visit to get a private tour of the Stellafane Observatory.  I drove the 2 hours south to Springfield, to meet with Ken Slater, the vice president of their club, who was happy to give me a private tour of the grounds.

The Stellafane lodge, atop the hill

The Stellafane lodge, atop the hill

The catch, of course, was that we had to snowshoe in over the unpaved hills and dales, which was (as snowshoeing is wont to be) tiring but worthwhile!

The unique1924  Porter telescope, still standing and in use all these years later

The unique1924 Porter telescope, still standing and in use all these years later

Atop the hill sits the pink lodge building, with several telescopes in it, and then the famous Porter observatory off by itself.

The VP of the Stellafane Club, Ken, and I in front of the lodge

The VP of the Stellafane Club, Ken, and I in front of the lodge

Ken told me all about the peculiarly important place of Stellafane in the history of astronomy – basically, it was a place which took the telescopes as curiousities of the rich in the 1900s and 1910s, and began to turn it into a club for enthusiasts… until the magazie Scientific American picked up on their existence and wrote an article.

Only a few of the compendiums of Scientific American articles on amateur telescope making, all because of Stellafane

Only a few of the compendiums of Scientific American articles on amateur telescope making, all because of Stellafane

An article which outperformed every single article they had ever written… and the editors caught on when they received boatloads of letters indicating their interest.  The voluminous article-writing after was big enough to necessitate the bound books (some of which can be seen above), and was really interesting to learn about!

The handsome Stellafane logo, atop the lodge

The handsome Stellafane logo, atop the lodge

The classy and dapper 1910s gentleman being the symbol of Stellafane (seen above, atop the front door to the lodge) ought not give the wrong impression – the interior of the lodge is split between cooking space for guests, and teaching space for learners:

A blackboard for teaching, and photos of nearly 100 years of telescoping

A blackboard for teaching, and photos of nearly 100 years of telescoping

The astronomical curios in the room were 1) awesome and 2) tempting as all hell to stock up on as quickly as I can, in order to outfit nerd-rooms in my future house (note: all rooms in my home will be nerd rooms… so I will need a *lot* of curios):

One of many awesome things I hope to one day have in a room(s) in the house I hope to build.

One of many awesome things I hope to one day have in a room(s) in the house I hope to build.

One of my favorite pieces in the lodge was the series of glass plates with images taken decades ago by the amateur telescopes of the club:

Glass plate images from over 75 years ago, made using amateur made telescopes.  Breathtaking.

Glass plate images from over 75 years ago, made using amateur made telescopes. Breathtaking.

Ken got a photo of me checking out the Porter observatory through my Pentax, with the not-so-clear-skies above:

Yours truly photo'ing the Porter telescope (this shot taken by Ken, and posted here with his permission)

Yours truly photo’ing the Porter telescope (this shot taken by Ken, and posted here with his permission)

As has been alluded to above, Stellafane actually is home to multiple telescopes… and that number grows, as they offer once per month courses on how to grind your own mirrors, to make your own telescopes.  I REALLY want to make it up there to do this, not least of all because astrophotography CAN be done with DIY telescopes… which is REALLY awesome:

Another one of the observatories dotting the 70+ acres at Stellafane

Another one of the observatories dotting the 70+ acres at Stellafane

As a matter of fact Stellafane almost has more telescopes than they know what to do with; Ken got a shot of me with one of the larger (gigantic and enormously heavy) telescopes in storage, awaiting refurbishment and installation somewhere:

That is a LARGE telescope, one of the donations given to Stellafane (I believe this one came from one of the old Harvard observatories and was considering too old to refurbish)

That is a LARGE telescope, one of the donations given to Stellafane (I believe this one came from one of the old Harvard observatories and was considering too old to refurbish)

But refurbish they do, using some fascinating tools: a polishing tool made from common ceramic floor tiles to scrape the glass evenly:

Ken showing off a GIGANTIC mirror being polished with a homemade ceramic tile scraper

Ken showing off a GIGANTIC mirror being polished with a homemade ceramic tile scraper

At the end of another long but excellent day in Vermont, I drove north and snapped a few photos along the way, as I continued to marvel at the scenery along the way.  VT is almost *too* visually appealing in the winter, so I assume in the summer it blooms with the force of a thousand Edens.  Though it bills itself as “Green Mountain State” on its license plates, I would offer: it ought to be re-motto’d as “Lands of Unending Subarus”, with their all wheel drive and ease of use for moving sporting equipment.

A shot taken one handed while driving to try and capture the beauty along I89 - just another excuse to fashion a camera mount to go on the headrest of the passenger seat, I guess!

A shot taken one handed while driving to try and capture the beauty along I89 – just another excuse to fashion a camera mount to go on the headrest of the passenger seat, I guess!

I slept VERY soundly, once I got back to the tent, not least of all because it was a sweltering 12 degrees F outside.

NECE 4, Day 1- Driving up to Little River State Park, in Waterbury Vermont… and camping in -18 degree weather!

The campsite and surrounding gorgeousity

Even from the earliest of the planning for this trip, I knew that I was in for some serriously gorgeous views – but even still, I wanted to speak with my friend from YDS, Emma, who is a native of Waterbury VT.  She and I figured out how to shift my initial itinerary to reflect the full breadth of opportunities for my time in the state, and we came up with the following general map:

Google Maps was the copilot on planning where to stay and where to go - everything is close except for the observatory!

Google Maps was the copilot on planning where to stay and where to go – everything is close except for the observatory!

Not hard to understand how I ended up spending a lot of time in and around Waterbury, but as it was the location of the Green Mountain Club headquarters (see the post following this one), I wanted to be there anyways – and everything Emma told me was fuel onto the fire of my excitement.  After a long afternoon of driving once again to the northern wastes, after sitting through a morning class, I found myself 1) entirely off road and 2) facing a well-kept sign:

A nice sign, in slightly better shape than the Class 4 (unplowed, unmaintained) road in

A nice sign, in slightly better shape than the Class 4 (unplowed, unmaintained) road in

This seemed a good start, as Little River State Park was indeed my intended destination.  The road went from poorly kept and filled with potholes to more of a “pothole farm which happened to let some vehicles get by it, if they’re lucky” – so it was tough, to balance driving safely but also trying to enjoy the fantasy of my one day owning such lovely little homes in hte middle of no where, without any noise (noise, noise):

One of many many many homes in the wilds which struck me as "that could be me one day, if I am lucky!"

One of many many many homes in the wilds which struck me as “that could be me one day, if I am lucky!”

Initially, the GPS was a bit unclear, when I came to a fork in the  road – one way was a reasonable easy path downhill, and the other was a very steep hill, a sheet of ice with a sign explaining it was a logging road.  Not being in a true offroading vehicle, I decided to take the low road, and came upon the dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s – itself worth checking out, as it was a handsome little building:

The Civilian Conservation Corps dam built in the 1930s, which created the reservoir and thus the aforementioned Little River

The Civilian Conservation Corps dam built in the 1930s, which created the reservoir and thus the aforementioned Little River

I did try to drive up the hill, initially without the tire chains.  I made it halfway up and then began to slide sideways… and while I was thankfully able to control my spin to point the vehicle downhill again, I realized it wasn’t worth the possibility of landing the MFALCON in an icy ditch, to save some walking.  So, I loaded the gear up on my back and began the 2.5 or so mile hike up to the campsite:

The little logging road, which in the negative temperatures, was completely icy and not safe to try and drive up... so I hoofed the 2.5 miles in to the campsite from there!

The little logging road, which in the negative temperatures, was completely icy and not safe to try and drive up… so I hoofed the 2.5 miles in to the campsite from there!

Since I don’t have the offroading vehicle of my dreams… yet… I was content with that and got the tent set up as the sun began to set, and then wandered back down to the car – no need to carry the camp stove or other food prep gear so far, when I could just cook dinner next to the car!  Ramen is quite delectable when one is VERY cold:

Rather than hauling the campstove and food 2.5 miles uphill, I decided to make the car area my cookery

Rather than hauling the campstove and food 2.5 miles uphill, I decided to make the car area my cookery

… specifically, it was plummeting down to -18 degrees F outside, and that is an unpleasant level of cold to encounter.  One cool (heh) detail of this park is left over from its Civilian Conservation Corps days – namely, the remaining stone chimneys from where their barracks used to be located.  A wonderful place to build a fire when it is THAT cold and windy, as 3 sides of it protected from the wind as my slowly-freezing hands worked more slowly trying to get the fire going:

As the temperatures plummeted to -18, the  remaining stone chimney from a Civilian Conservation Corps barracks house provided me my very own fireplace

As the temperatures plummeted to -18, the remaining stone chimney from a Civilian Conservation Corps barracks house provided me my very own fireplace

In the week or so leading up to my trip to Vermont, I had purchased a Pentax K30 camera (see the previous post here to read more about this)… but in classes and in my free time over the past week, I have spent a LOT of time reading up on amateur astrophotography, as it is fascinating to consider taking photos of deep space objects using a regular DSLR camera with a good tripod, some cleverness about image stacking in processing, and the like.  I had a tripod with me, and a cloudy night, and only an 18-55mm lens (not enough zoom) that night, so my first series of shots to try and do this wasn’t the greatest:

One of a small handful of my initial attempts at astrophotography... this is bad both because it was nearly 30 degrees colder than the camera's minimum operating temp, and it is a 55mm lens (not enough zoom).  Still, one has to start somewhere

One of a small handful of my initial attempts at astrophotography… this is bad both because it was nearly 30 degrees colder than the camera’s minimum operating temp, and it is a 55mm lens (not enough zoom). Still, one has to start somewhere

But nevertheless, it was *astonishing* how many stars one could see, even with cloud (and tears freezing into my eyes)!  I really fell in love with the place, even in the frigid cold – it was not a pleasant hike back to the tent from the fire place, to be honest.

But I reached it and settled in for a VERY cold night, indeed.