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Road trip- Arizona and New Mexico with scope

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#26 Skylook123

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Posted 24 May 2013 - 11:03 PM

If there is interest in the Grand Canyon Star Party, send me an email at the address below and let me know, and I'll get you what you need.

In the 10 years I've been participating in GCSP South Rim, I've observed until 2 AM in t-shirt, shorts, and Tiva sandals, and I've seen people wearing parkas and wrapped in motel bed quilts at 5 PM. All generalizations are false, and flexibility is essential.

Can't emphasize enough about hydration. At the high desert altitude, the moisture evaporates from your body constantly; when you're spitting cotton balls, it's too late to think about a drink. In the worst cases, the moisture is the way your nervous system, including your brain's cognitive thinking ability, gets its job done and I've seen people from "the flatlands" have real motor skill problems when waiting too long between drinks of non-alcoholic beverages. Don't let those electrolytes escape!

#27 Stargaz18

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 10:43 AM

Although I did a quick scan of all the responses I didn't see anyone mention Meteor Crater. If I missed it I appologize. That's one place I'd like to see, on my bucket list.

#28 chaoscosmos

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 12:48 PM

Getting into the planning stages now, and it's been awhile since I've done this extensive a trip by car (usually take trains and planes etc). For some kind of protection, I'm not a gun person so I won't be going that route. However, I am thinking maybe I should take something along, like pepper spray? What are people's thoughts on this or what suggestions would you have? My feeling is that common sense is the best tool to keep safe, and having a weapon of some sort can potentially be as defeating as it might be helpful. Or not?

#29 Tony Flanders

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 04:40 PM

Although I did a quick scan of all the responses I didn't see anyone mention Meteor Crater. If I missed it I appologize. That's one place I'd like to see, on my bucket list.


Absolutely! It's stupendous.

#30 BarbMoore

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Posted 25 May 2013 - 09:23 PM

New Mexico is an open carry state

#31 Tony Flanders

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:49 AM

Getting into the planning stages now, and it's been awhile since I've done this extensive a trip by car (usually take trains and planes etc). For some kind of protection, I'm not a gun person so I won't be going that route. However, I am thinking maybe I should take something along, like pepper spray? What are people's thoughts on this or what suggestions would you have? My feeling is that common sense is the best tool to keep safe, and having a weapon of some sort can potentially be as defeating as it might be helpful. Or not?


If you don't feel comfortable with carrying a weapon, it's pretty much guaranteed to be self-defeating.

If you do feel comfortable with carrying a weapon, it has a smaller -- but still quite significant -- chance of being self-defeating.

I've traveled quite extensively in and out of the U.S. I have never carried a weapon, and I've rarely been in a situation where I could even imagine using one.

#32 dpippel

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:48 PM

Agreed. I've explored, camped, hiked, backpacked, and mountain biked all over the desert southwest for over 20 years. I've never been in a situation that made me feel I needed a weapon.

#33 Skylook123

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 04:31 PM

I know it's late, but here's a list I give to folks asking about what's happening around the Grand Canyon area around the time of the star party:

The area around the Grand Canyon offers many attractions and activities in addition to the Park itself and the Grand Canyon Star Party. Flagstaff, Arizona is the home of Lowell Observatory with one of the best visitor activity programs in the world.

Lowell Observatory

Nearby Flagstaff is Sunset Crater, which erupted less than a million years ago, and Wupatki National Monument.

Wupatki National Monument

A bit further east are The Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Meteor Crater (actually, Barringer Crater).

Barringer Crater

The town of Page, AZ includes many activities including the Glen Canyon National Monument, Rainbow Bridge, and Antelope Canyon.

Glen Canyon/Rainbow Bridge
Antelope Canyon

One little known but very significant astronomical feature in the Page area is the Paria Canyon Archeo-Observatory, a site used by successions of Native American groups going back 3000 years. The art panels tell an amazing cultural story of Lakota, Paiute, Hopi, Navajo, and other cultures but it's a strenuous hike back to the site, crossing seven creeks, and does take a bit of planning and time to perform the visit, but is a cultural astronomy gold mine.

Two other off shoots on the I-40 path across Arizona are Sedona, with the jaw dropping red rock geology and quite a New Age cultural experience (pick up one of the many local free newspapers and contact a personal channeler - you might have once been King Tut or Charlemagne),

Sedona, AZ

and, for Eagles fans, Winslow Arizona right off I-40 where you can visit Standing On The Corner Park and see elements of the song Take It Easy in murals and sculptures,

Standin' On The Corner Park

or, my favorite stop, visit the first monument built anywhere after 9-11 to the fallen New York first responders using actual steel from the destroyed Twin Towers. Not on maps, we stumbled on it by accident walking near the hotel we were staying.


Have a safe trip!

#34 BillFerris

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:15 PM

Folks should know that travel between Flagstaff and Page includes a significant detour that Mapquest is not aware of. Due to a collapse of Hwy 89 north of Bitter Springs, drivers should plan on turning right on Hwy 160 to Tuba City. Continue northeast on 160 to Hwy 98, then turn left on 98, heading north and west to Page. This adds about 50 miles and an hour to the one-way drive time.

Bill in Flag

#35 chaoscosmos

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 05:31 PM

Bill, it looks like Page is the route to the North Rim? Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon Star party is probably outside of my time frame anyway. It starts June 8 and I will need to be back home on the 9th.

#36 Skylook123

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:05 PM

Good point, Bill; I forgot about the collapse.

#37 bob71741

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:13 PM

"Bill, it looks like Page is the route to the North Rim?"

The route to the Grand Canyon North Rim from Flag is okay with out detours; when you get to Dripping Springs, take 89A to Marble Canyon-Jacobs Lake- and South to the North Rim.

89 at Dripping Springs is the route closed to Page.

#38 BillFerris

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:15 PM

Ray, the most direct route to the north rim from Flagstaff is via Marble Canyon. You would take Hwy 89 north to Hwy 89A, turn left on 89A, cross the Colorado River at Navajo Bridge and continue west along 89A below the Vermillion Cliffs to Jacob Lake. At Jacob Lake, take left on Hwy 67 all the way to the north rim entrance. The Hwy 89A intersection is no more than 1-2 miles from the damaged section of Hwy 89. Nonetheless, it is quite a long drive from Flagstaff. The South Rim of Grand Canyon is much closer but it sounds like your travel schedule doesn't have much room even for this detour. It's probably best left for another trip when you'll have more time.

Bill in Flag

#39 BillFerris

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:22 PM

Jim, I was surprised Mapquest didn't include this detour in its directions for the drive from Flagstaff to Page. As you might recall, the collapse happened more than three months ago in February. With this weekend marking the official start of summer travel, I'm guessing a few visitors to our fair state will be surprised--and a little irked--by this delay. Hopefully, the bypass route has made into the databases for the most popular GPS devices.

Bill in Flag

#40 chaoscosmos

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 06:31 PM

As I work through my plan, I think it would be ideal to find a couple of bed and breakfasts where I could set up my scope near the building and room.
One has been mentioned; if anyone knows of any other B&B's in a dark sky zone, I would appreciate hearing about them.

And Bill, I think you're right. Just hitting a few spots will be best.

#41 Jay_Bird

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 03:37 PM

Some great replies and lists of places to consider.

For astronomy or science, I agree with Lowell Obs., Meteor Crater, and Northern AZ Museum in AZ and the VLA, the White Sands Missile Range Museum, the New Mexico Space History Museum, and the small Robert Goddard museum in NM, plus the museums near old town and balloon park in Albuquerque. If you go to the missions SE of Albuquerque the road through Belen / Los Lunas goes near a big NM astronomy store. The 'Owl Cafe' mentioned above in San Antonio NM (S from Socorro) is near the entrance to the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge.

It's hard to go wrong with the territory you plan to cover.

If you can car camp with your dog, then every national park campground is a dark sky site. Grand Canyon might be booked up and lucky to find a mid-week walk in campsite. But Sunset Crater or others in AZ, or El Morro national monument in NM (drop south from I-40 to take Rte 53 past Zuni and El Morro, also near Acoma Pueblo and El Malpais national monument) would be less crowded, same for Angel Peak between Chaco and Santa Fe. Some of my friends try to avoid national or state park fees. I buy the national annual pass and always get my money's worth - several visits a year makes the card cheaper than pay as you enter.

Be aware of temperature for your dog! especially in car. If he's a dark german shepard he may be at risk for overheating in strong sun too.

You might see if there are bed and breakfast near Magdalena, Quemado or Pie Town NM along Rte 60 on the continental divide between Holbrook AZ and the VLA & Socorro; or between Carrizozo and Roswell along 380, or near Cloudcroft along 82, much further to the east. I don't know of astronomy B&B there offhand, but the skies are dark.

If you go past the Gila wilderness in NM via Rte 180 to Silver City and Las Cruces (on the way to White Sands museum and national monument) be sure to try eating at 'La Nueva Casita' in Las Cruces.

Good luck, clear skies for your road trip.

#42 hm insulators

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 04:12 PM

Flagstaff is in a forested part of Arizona and if you like hiking, there are a number of trails near the town. And here's another vote for Lowell Observatory and Meteor Crater. The last time I was at Meteor Crater was during the annular eclipse of the sun about a year back. I had gone up there to try to catch the "ring of fire" effect that wouldn't be visible from Phoenix. As it turned out, I still wasn't far enough north and east to get the ring of fire, but it was still impressive--seeing a solar eclipse at the exact spot where a meteorite bashed into the Arizona desert some 50,000 years ago really lets you know we are part of a whole larger universe. And the last time I was at Lowell Observatory, they had the solar telescope out.

Oh, and they even open the 24-inch refractor for public stargazing some nights when the weather is clear, which in June shouldn't be much of an issue. July and August does bring the monsoon and its possible thunderstorms, which actually is why those two months are my favorite time of year in Arizona, although the last couple of years, the monsoon has been more like a "non-soon," at least around Phoenix.

So what ultimately happened to the Kauai trip?

#43 Kevdog

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 04:50 PM

There was an astronomy B&B just north of flagstaff, but I think it's closed down :(

Not sure if there are any others still open, but there used to be several in AZ that had dark skies, areas to set up and telescopes to rent. Was looking to stay at one for a weekend away, but haven't found one that is still operating :(

#44 KidOrion

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 07:50 PM

In the old days of the mid 90s, my then-girlfriend (now Mrs. KidOrion) and I were among the crew that ran the 24-inch scope at NAU's Adel Observatory. Among other things, we used to let the public aim the several-ton scope and choose whatever targets they liked for as long as they liked. The old scope is gone but a new one is at the NAU Observatory. I don't know if they still allow the public to steer the scope, but it might be worth an inquiry. We had a number of 4-5 hour sessions with a handful of visitors doing mini-Messier Marathons and such on Friday nights.

#45 chaoscosmos

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 10:29 AM

Well, I am getting on the road this Sunday, June 2nd. Main stops will be Albuquerque for three days where I'll explore the town and photograph and out of which I'll take a day (or evening) trip or two. Then to the four corners area and Mexican Hat, Utah / Valley of the Gods. Drive through Monument Valley on the way back to Flagstaff and westward home.

Weather forecasts are in the 90's most of the way- yikes!- and a mix of sun and partial clouds. Hopefully I'll have a clear night or two or three.

#46 dpippel

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 12:24 PM

Have fun Ray! Area weather is looking good for the next week. Clear skies and great seeing to you!

#47 Kevdog

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 08:59 PM

And report back when you're done. Heading to the Canyon this weekend for the star party. Good time to be in northern AZ.

110F here in phoenix.... not so good to be here in the daytime!

#48 BarbMoore

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 11:48 PM

http://www.casitasde...stargazing.html

http://www.casacuma....stargazing.html

http://gosw.about.co...darkskies_2.htm

#49 chaoscosmos

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 12:38 PM

Hello everyone. Well, I returned last night and had a very nice trip. I was limited at times with having the dog along as to where I could stop (excellent companion though so no regrets bringing her), however I don't tend to do the typical tourist stops anyway, so I just loved the drive and wandering around, getting immersed in that vast expanse of southwest desert. I spent most of the time doing things other than astronomy. If anyone is interested in spending time in Albuquerque, I would highly recommend the hospitality at the B&B I stayed at there. PM me if you're interested. I got the scope out only the last two nights, at 'Valley of the Gods' Utah. Dark sky was good, a little wind, so seeing wasn't ideal, but on the whole it was a good spot, and the area is beautiful. Good B&B there too in a very remote location.

I stopped just overnight in Flagstaff first evening, and took a turnoff about 10 miles west before I got to town, and checked the night sky there for a few minutes. It appeared excellent- very dark. If you were to take a trip for night sky observing purposes primarily, there are literally thousands of square miles to choose from. I did drive south of Albuquerque one night but dark clouds and storm conditions were predominate, and frankly, not being familiar with the small towns down there I don't think I would have felt comfortable just pulling over somewhere on the spur of the moment.

Temps on the trip were comfortable for the most part, in the low 90's. I observed into the night at Valley of the Gods, comfortable in a T-shirt. Stopping in places like Yucca or gas stops in the Mojave- it felt like a furnace.. Winds are common and I was told by a resident of Albuquerque that's the biggest weather issue there. One night about 11pm we had a gale force wind come through for about 5 minutes. Looked as if it would have been dangerous to be outside at that time.

All in all, the biggest thing I brought back is a growing love of the desert.
The scale is just something else. The rusting cars and whatnot are like an art installation no museum in even the greatest cities can compete with.

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#50 davidpitre

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 04:20 PM

Well, I am getting on the road this Sunday, June 2nd. Main stops will be Albuquerque for three days where I'll explore the town and photograph and out of which I'll take a day (or evening) trip or two. Then to the four corners area and Mexican Hat, Utah / Valley of the Gods. Drive through Monument Valley on the way back to Flagstaff and westward home.

Weather forecasts are in the 90's most of the way- yikes!- and a mix of sun and partial clouds. Hopefully I'll have a clear night or two or three.


Dark skies and good hikes close to Albuquerque can be found in the Pecos Wilderness.






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