Cottonwood Canyon Campground Family Getaway

By: Vlad Fedosov

After months of cloudy winter weather, we finally got a few clear nights and it was moonless to boot! Taking advantage of the clear weather we were blessed with the last few days I booked a last-minute trip to Cottonwood Campground with my family for 2 nights! The campground is located in central Oregon about 2.5 hours from Portland, OR. We stayed in the sough most cabin called “Rattlesnake”. The cabins are a good size having two rooms and can sleep up to 8 people. Me, my wife, and 3 kids had plenty of space! It was also great having two separate rooms at night as I did not feel like I was such a disturbance to my sleeping family going in and out of the cabin.


Since the sky is about as dark as it gets and it was supposed to be two totally clear nights I decided to kind of go all out astro gear-wise and brough
t out two scope setups with me. One was my Stellarvue SV80S on a g11 mount for astrophotography. The other scope was my TEC 140 on an Atlas mount for visual. The first evening upon arrival and getting my family all settled into the cabin I was busy setting up all my gear. It took me roughly about an hour to get both the mounts setup and the scopes mounted.

As night fell I started the evening off by observing Venus with the TEC 140. The planet displayed a nice half-illuminated white globe. No matter what power I used I could not tease out any detail in the cloud cover. I think I have seen some in the past but its always hard to tell. People do claim that they do see details in the clouds?? As it got dark enough to do a polar alignment I did that on the imaging rigs g11 mount. With that out of the way I setup the scope to image m81/m82 in Ursa Major. I’m new to astrophotography and it was amazing to me at how powerful the software is these days. I was able to use N.I.N.A for full animation of image acquisition including autofocus. In a way, it seemed like I was cheating as once the mount was polar aligned the software did everything!

With the imaging scope doing its thing I switched over to the TEC 140 for some deep sky observing. This was the first night that I was seriously trying out the Explore Scientific 30mm 100° field of view eyepiece and 3” diagonal. I concentrated on a bunch of open clusters and larger objects with this setup. What can I say? Just about every object that I looked at with this combo was one of the best views I have ever had of the given object! I guess thinking back to it I’m not too surprised as this combo included one of the best telescopes in the world, eyepieces in the world, and darkest skies in the world. I stayed up until about 1 am the first night doing some observing and periodically checking on the imaging rig.

The next morning I woke up to a dead imaging rig! It turned out that the Goal Zero battery I was using was not quite plugged into the extension cord resulting in me losing about 3 hours of data before down:( Oh well, simple fix. After eating breakfast(cooked on an electric stove I brought) we went outside to enjoy the nice weather. After my kids had a good chance to explore what I believe is an old farm that the park has we got back to the cabin closer to lunchtime. I had no idea that these cabins have a propane BBQ! Besides that, there is also a small fridge inside. Very nice! Since the day was still long I decided to run to town with my oldest daughter to grab some meat to BBQ. Wasco is the closes place to the campground at about 20min away. The town has a general scope that is small but has all the necessities you may need. After coming back and cooking some good chicken and steak we spent the rest of the day just enjoying family time.

The second night I spent the entire time looking through the TEC 140 / ES 30mm monster eyepiece and continuing capturing data on m81/m82. I got a total of 14.5 hours of data on the pair of galaxies and logged at least 50 objects visually. Overall it was a grand time spent both with the family and doing some world-class observing! The only two slight downsides that I will mention about this location is that it is inside a canyon and the horizons are blocked by about 20° The cabins are also a bit of a walk from the parking location. They do provide you with a little cart to help carry your gear. On the plus side, local light pollution is almost nonexistent. Overall this is an awesome spot to do some really great observing/imaging! I will return there for sure!