May 18th-21st, 2023
Some of what to expect from start to finish:
Up the mountain road. Most will arrive in the area on US33/WV28 (Single Sheet Directions). The turnoff to SKMC is not the road to Spruce Knob overlook itself, but further south. The road starts out paved but turns to fairly well-maintained gravel. Various visitors have gone up the mountain with RVs, trailers, low clearance cars, etc. without a problem. The road is a schoolbus route, so it is not a terrible road, but those with large vehicles report that it is slow and deserves very careful driving. There is always a chance that you may need to back up if you meet a truck going the other way.
Arrival. SKMC has a well-marked entrance on the right. The 1 mi. entrance road is the roughest part of the journey. Don’t go to the building (staff housing) on the right at the entrance — continue to the fields. If you arrive after dusk on a clear night, you will need to stay (or simply leave your car) at the marked area near the entrance until morning — no cars allowed in or out during observing periods.
Check-in. There will be a registration tent where you will get your registration ticket, other items you may have ordered, parking guidance, and any info you need. You may be able to sign up for any activities which still have openings.
Selecting your spot. Pick a spot in the fields and unload your camping and observing equipment. Please be mindful of others when setting up.
We limit the registration so that there are really no bad spots from which to observe.
Now would be a good time to orient yourself to all the observing fields, the yurts, port-o-potties, first aid kits, and the wash house (sinks, showers, and flush toilets).
Meals. Please consider bringing your own mug or thermos to the event to minimize waste when grabbing hot drinks. If you signed up for meals, your registration ticket will indicate which days you have purchased. Note that a “day” includes dinner and the next brunch. Veggie and other options are available if requested during meal sign-up. Hot and cold drinks are provided around meal times. If you’re eating on your own, be sure to bring enough provisions and ice for the duration. It is a long drive to the nearest stores down the mountain. Potable water will be available at a pipe at a central location along the road near the observing fields, in addition to being at the kitchen yurt and wash house. Dehydration can be a serious problem at high altitude, in the summer, in the sun. Drink lots of water before you feel thirsty.
Bring your own munchies for midnight lunch and whatever else you need to keep going overnight. If you need electric to heat up your drinks, you can plug in at the main yurt. Coffee is frequently available late in the Main Yurt.
Evening events. After dinner, the action moves to the fields.
Of course, you can always wander around, meet folks, talk, and see what they are observing. You can ask for help with optical alignment, polar alignment, etc. on that new scope or that old one you want to learn to operate better.
Observing. The major draw of Spruce Knob is the dark skies. Starting with various setup tasks at twilight (remember your dew protection!), there will be dozens of scopes pointing at easy and challenging targets. You can see an amazing number of objects with binoculars, or just sit and be awed by the Milky Way blazing overhead.
Remember to use minimum red lighting as you walk around, and low voices are always appreciated. After you become dark adapted, no lights should be needed at all — you can literally see by starlight in the open fields. Be careful on the uneven fields — avoiding a twisted ankle is another good reason for sturdy footwear.
If you use green or amber lights for reading or writing at night, these need to be shielded and dimmed as would a white light. This applies to light spillage from tents, as well. Respect your neighbors’ need to remain dark adapted.
Some observers will be concentrating on photography and others will be observing visually; just ask if they are able to share the view or chat. If you are considering a telescope or accessory purchase, you can ask the experts, and often see how various products work in practice.
Power on the fields. Generators should not be used where they can disturb others, either observing or sleeping. In most cases, this means no generators at night or in the morning after clear nights.
Battery power has become the de facto standard for powering your telescope, electronics, dew heaters, and cameras. We will run a shuttle service from marked pickup points in the fields to an area adjacent to the main yurt, where power strips are available for your battery charger.
Through the weekend. Go to Jackie or the HOST for help or questions. They can be identified by green staff shirts they are wearing. Most of the other folks at NOSP are repeat visitors, so you can ask almost anyone for some guidance. Often, you can find someone “in the know” at the main yurt or at the registration tent.
Plans and schedules may change. These will always be posted at the main yurt.
The deck area is a good place to socialize. The yurts are also a source for WiFi connectivity, laptop power and battery recharging power. Astrophotographers can frequently be found there doing post processing on their newest images, or showing off older ones.
While we don’t encourage traffic coming and going during the weekend, sometimes you need to go out. There are not many “destinations” close to SKMC. There are commercial caverns, the visitor center and some historic sites at Seneca Rocks, and fishing, canoeing, and hiking in the National Forest. Just remember the prohibition against leaving or arriving after dusk. That is one of the few absolute rules, and you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of the closed gate.
If it r**ns, activities continue at NOSP. Mostly, showers or even downpours are brief, and do not ruin the weekend. Some outdoor activities might be cancelled. Be sure to bring appropriate clothing for all weather conditions, so you can make the most of the weekend. This includes the possibility of rapid cooling on a clear mountain night in September.
We hope you had an enjoyable and productive weekend. One request as you pack up: Please take your trash with you. SKMC will also do their best to handle lost & found after the event.