Canon XSi EF18-55mm - 30" @ f/3.5, ISO 1600, 18mm focal length, wide angle - no editing, processed with StarStax. Two Quadrantid meteors, interfering planes edited out, about 150 stacked images
January 3, 2014 1am - 7am / grey zone northeast of Payson, AZ
~ 25-30 degrees F / seeing +10 mi, no wind / slight Light Pollution from Payson to the southwest
Driving out of Mesa at around midnight with two friends, I had 3 prospective sites mapped out around the Christopher Creek and Kohl's Ranch area which were all gated up. I did some exploring up the Zane Grey Hwy and finally found a suitable spot with good 360 degree horizon views. The faint band of the winter Milky Way wrapped around behind us and the light cloud coverage completely dissipated by the time we spread out a tarp, sleeping bags and heavy blankets, passed around hot coffee, and snuggled up for the long haul.
It was too cold to count meteors on my phone app (for science), but the peak seemed to set off around 4AM with many faint streakers all over and a few long bright burners in the NE topping out at maybe 50/70 per hour all together.
I also brought along my 8" Dob to take full advantage of the dark skies, practice my star hopping skills, and round out the entertainment for the two friends that accompanied me. We observed M42/43 and the whole Orion nebula complex in stunning detail. Then moved along to the adjoining Flame and extremely faint inferred Horsehead nebula (finally bagged it!), on to some clusters in Cassiopeia/Perseus and Canis Major, multiple elliptical galaxies in Virgo and the triplet in Leo, got a really good look at M51 the Whirlpool galaxy in Ursa Major, Saturn in the wee hours and the gem of the night that we came back to a few times - Callisto's shadow transit on the face of Jupiter at near opposition! A lucky treat that I should have had the foresight to plan into the session with the latest Jovian moon activity breakdown in Sky & Telescope's December issue.
Pretty epic night overall - frost covered everything by sunrise and we all endured the cold nobly, but foot warmers were definitely missing. Cold weather clothing and tips/tricks post coming soon.
Get out there!