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Destinations



This section offers specific suggestions for where to go observing in different parts of the world. Amateur astronomers who have advice about where people can safely set up their telescopes for an enjoyable evening of viewing should submit all of their suggestions. These reports can come from locals who wish to write up advice for astronomers visiting their own regions, or people who've done some traveling and know where to go. And don't stop with good observing locations. Tell us where to eat, where to stay, what local club activities are like, what shows or tourist destinations are worth seeing in town, and what astronomy and general science attractions are worth checking out.

Nevada

Las Vegas:

Truth be known, this site is actually in the Mojave National Reserve in southern California, but it is barely an hour from Las Vegas and just over the state line. It's great for anyone making the long drag between Los Angeles and Las Vegas who wants to stop off for some really good observing, and who doesn't mind being within view of the freeway or who doesn't want to be too far from civilization. The site is at the exit for Cima Rd. It's about two miles east of a truck stop, and a few miles west of the ascent to the mountain pass. When you get off, head south toward the gas station. About a hundred yards beyond it, on the right, is a large dirt area (about 25 yards long, 25 deep) with fairly hard-packed soil. You can pull in to a comfortable distance from the road (there's plenty of turnaround room), set up a modest telescope or binoculars, and have really crisp, exceptionally dark views of the sky. It's not perfect, because the freeway and truck stop are so near, but the gas station closes before dark, and the road toward Cima gets very little traffic. This site is, of course, a use-at-your-own-risk location, as I have no idea who owns that particular piece of land, if anybody at all. It's merely a large turnoff by the side of the road, so it should be okay. There is a site about seven miles farther down Cima Rd. used by the Las Vegas club, but contact them before going. Also, don't be alarmed by any sudden loud braying you might hear nearby-there's a burro pen next to the gas station, evidently. (Submitted by Eric Adams, September/2001)

Virginia

Skyline Drive:

I spent two nights at Skyland Lodge along Skyline Drive, and the astronomical views at night were spectacular. Skyline Drive, which is a 105-mile road set atop a beautiful ridge in Shenandoah National Park (http://www.nps.gov/shen/), about 90 minutes west of Washington DC, affords access to some truly exceptional day hikes, camping, and horseback riding. There are three lodges on the drive, Skyland, the most elegant and the farthest north, Big Meadows Lodge, and Lewis Mountain Cabins. Our stay at Skyland, which sits at about 3,000 feet, cost us only $65 per night, including breakfast. We had a room in a little cluster of 4 that faced west straight down into the valley. At night, I placed my C8 Schmidt Cassegrain and my Fujinon 16x70 binoculars-my equipment at the time-on their tripods right outside our room's porch. There were no lights at all coming from any of the Lodge buildings, and no evidence of Washington DC, since we were on the opposite side of the ridge that faced east towards the city. The Milky Way was clearly visible. It's in a national park, so the entry fee is $10 per vehicle, but the gate is open 24 hours, except in hunting season from November through January.



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