August 29, 2016

Summer Travel Series: Reach for the Stars at PARI

The Carolina mountains is such a mystical place, it can easily hide gems that you won't know are there unless you really look close enough. It's like a game of hide and seek except with this one, you get unfettered help from a reliable GPS device to find your way! Thank God for GPS!  Finding a place is made easy. Places like the relatively hidden PARI (Pisqah Astronomical Research Institute). This is why, pleaseeee don't let anything, by that I mean, your husband, complicate your straightforward route... And if your husband ever decide to override the ability of your GPS and tells you "I know where I'm going"... Um, no. Just no. Trust the freakin' GPS.

So, why did we choose PARI to explore this time?

Well, my travel buddy, aka the directionally-challenged-husband-behind-the-wheel, have always wanted to go visit PARI. I never understood his "obsession" for this place. He's been talking about going for years. Have no freaking clue what the place is all about. All I know is that each time he laser beams his enthusiasm and description of the place to my brains, I get visions of myself standing on top of a humongous disc of a gigantic radio telescope tower, just like Jodie Foster, and making my first contact!

As you can see, I got totally sold on the idea. I was like, "bring it on!", let's go!  

But first, I had a task of making sure we didn't get lost. at. all - because you know, husband behind the wheel.

If you look PARI up on the map, you will see that it's soooo out there, up in the middle of nowhere inside Pisqah National Forest. Getting lost is not a good idea. Not surprising though, since it used to be a NASA facility that was utilized during the war for military tactical defense. Thus it's "hidden" and sort of hard to find.

Luckily, we found the facility without a hitch (like I said. Trust the GPS!). Seeing the towering radio telescope "welcoming" you upon entry was simply breathtaking. It brought out the geek in us! And there is no shame in telling you that my geek squad, like in auto play, muttered them famous words in a synchronized chorus: "E.T. Phone home!" at the immediate sight of the iconic structure. Yes, we're proud of our geekness as well. 

And completed the geeky effect by doing this. Oh yeah!

More than a Tourist Spot
I must admit I was a little bummed that I did not get my own "Jodie Foster moment" on top of one of the radio telescopes disc, but I walked away with more fun than I expected. There was no tour schedule that day we visited, but we were accommodated with one. We also had a good time ogling at the unique scientific specimens displayed in their museum. One of them is a loan from NASA. A real-life working space satellite!

Moreover, it was like being in another world or planet, considering where we were. The place looked almost desolate. Void of "human presence" - except for us and the small staff present at the facility - the place looked totally deserted, but we loved it!  The place was quiet, uncrowded, and we got to explore the facility in peace! Total win!

The "heart" of a space satellite that once flew in space on loan to PARI from NASA


Far as I could go! 

I'd like to say that this facility is not only for the science geeks but a great place to learn about the planet we live in, what's out there and marvel at the scientific contribution of a facility that is once used by NASA. They offer educational programs for school-aged kids, educators, and for the rest of the family!

Geeky stuffs not your thing? Well, you can always explore the hiking trails, scenic views and the park observation decka place on top of a hill accessible by one-car-lane road. The ride up is worth it!

SMILE AT THE SKY with the iconic radio telescope as old as the cold war.

"This 4.6m radio telescope was decorated with a smiley face in the days before PARI was established at the formerly named Rosman Satellite Tracking Station. (During the Cold War it was a “friendly wave” to Soviet satellites orbiting overhead.) Smiley remains a symbol of PARI and a resource for students and adults to conduct authentic radio astronomy observations online from their classroom or other venue." - PARI

We're looking forward to trying one of their offered evening Stargazing programs where we can look at the sky and gaze at the stars through a space telescope. This is one of "my" motivations to come back and spend more time at the facility. I'm glad we actually went! If you're ever interested in a different kind of adventure, give PARI a try. This facility is worth a visit!

And next time I will be on top of that disc...maybe.

For more information, visit the PARI website.


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