Dark Sky Preserve

Last night, I went to this place in Ontario, the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve. It’s about two hours north of Toronto, and it’s a protected area where uhh.. it’s dark. I gotta admit, I’m not up on all the details, but if you Google it, it’s supposed to be a place where lots of people go and take cool astronomy photos, the long exposure ones with star trails and stuff.

I left later than I should, and I knew that I’d get there after dark, which could potentially be annoying, but I’d researched a bit and it seemed like there would be a small parking lot, then a little walk to an area where I sort of assumed a bunch of people would be taking pictures/using telescopes. The reason I thought that was that the previous 2 nights had been amazing nights to see the Aurora Borealis, and yesterday night was looking very promising as well. On top of that, yesterday was the first night of the long weekend, so I figured people would be up for getting out and stargazing.

I drove most of the way on a main highway, but the last 45 minutes were on this incredibly dark paved country road. I haven’t been on it before, and it’s very, very twisty, with tons of hills and sudden 90 degree turns. Of course I’d been on it maybe 10 minutes before some lunatic in an SUV zoomed up behind me and passed me, which seemed crazy.

About 15 minutes after that, I saw fire about a half kilometre away, and as I got closer to it, I could see just an enormous fire roaring behind a house. I’ve seen people burning trash, but this was so big, and just blazing so strong. I couldn’t get a great look at what was going on though, because of the darkness, and the house and some trees blocking it, so I just kind of figured ehh, it’s probably just a very big trash fire.

There was a pickup truck a bit ahead of me at this point, and he drove by just before me and didn’t slow down, but then maybe 30 seconds later, he pulled into some house’s driveway, backed out and turned around and started honking his horn like crazy. I got up to him just as he was finishing his manoeuvre and I slowed down and opened my window all the way, to see why he was going crazy on the horn. I thought for sure he was going to say “That house is on fire!” but he just ignored me and kept driving, it was so weird.

I feel like someone reading this might think this post is all about the fire, but honestly I just went “ehh, this is weird as hell, I have no clue what’s going on, there’s definitely not a building on fire and every car I have encountered out here is acting like a maniac, so I’m just chalking that up to a trash bonfire” and I just kept driving.

I got to the dark sky preserve soon after that, at about 10 p.m., and there were a couple of cars who got there at the same time as me, and a couple who had just parked. I got out, grabbed my camera bag and tripod and started heading in.

Once I got in, it was so weird, all these groups of older teens were coming in with camping gear, even though it was already pitch black, and they were going to set up camp. I couldn’t see anyone set up for star-watching or anything. I am not going to get into the details of me trying to get photos, but I took some star pictures, and they were not good -I had some technical issues. I wound up leaving after an hour. The aurora borealis apparently showed up maybe 2 hours after that, which sucks, because I had kind of planned to really wait it out, on the basis that I thought there would be lots of other photographers around. The only other star-watching people I saw was a group of young people from the area who showed up at the same time as me with a telescope. They were nice and we set up near each other, but nobody else showed up.

As I was leaving, I walked through this short path that has trees on either side, and I heard a very loud, completely weird sound, almost like water running. I stepped to the side as a guy came near me, making just an insane racket, and as he got close, I realized it was some kind of mook dragging a 20 foot tall tree (that he had presumably ripped down) to his campsite.

I remember seeing a car commercial that was filmed at this place, and they made it look like a really remote, pristine place where people go to solemnly commune with the night sky. This was not my experience! There was this one moment where for some reason, it had become quiet for a minute. I clicked the shutter on my camera, which was set for a 60 second exposure, and I did lean back for a minute and look up at all the stars, and I was thinking that despite everything, it was a pretty cool place. About 5 seconds into that moment, I heard an extremely loud drunk girl yell “RYAN REYNOLDS WAS PERRRRFECT FOR THAT ROLE!” That was about when I started packing up.