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Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There?

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#1 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:09 PM

I've got 5 days to burn next weekend and am seriously considering a solo trip here during New Moon. I've never been, and the Monument is smack-dab in the middle of some of the darkest skies in the United States. Has anyone ever observed there? If so care to share your impressions?

#2 Chris Greene

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:12 PM

Not specifically there but I've done a star party at Bryce and they should still be going on weekends.

My favorite area of the country and I'm thinking of making a run down there myself next week.

#3 mountain monk

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:24 PM

I've spent months of my life there, and I will get back to you later with some specific suggestions. What kind of vehicle will you have?

Dark skies.

Jack

#4 FirstSight

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:29 PM

Not specifically there but I've done a star party at Bryce and they should still be going on weekends.

My favorite area of the country and I'm thinking of making a run down there myself next week.


I would think central Idaho would also have some of the darkest skies in the country as well, with spectacular scenery. Perhaps finding accessible, level spots with clear enough horizons might be a bit more challenging than the Grand Staircase/Escalante region, remote though much of the latter is.

#5 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:32 PM

Not specifically there but I've done a star party at Bryce and they should still be going on weekends.

My favorite area of the country and I'm thinking of making a run down there myself next week.


Bryce is right next door. I plan on being there from the 4th through the 7th, leaving on the 8th.

#6 SpaceConqueror3

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:32 PM

While visiting Bryce Canyon NP several years ago I camped at a KOA in little town of Panguitch, UT which is at around 6500ft elevation or so. Despite being in town, the sky was still pretty remarkable. I had a great time with my 80mm Orion Short Tube. But be prepared for it to be really cold if you go. I remember shivering in my tent in late September as it was only 25F in the early morning as we weren't ready, gear wise, for it being that cold at night.

#7 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:37 PM

I've spent months of my life there, and I will get back to you later with some specific suggestions. What kind of vehicle will you have?

Dark skies.

Jack


Much appreciated Jack. I'm driving a 2005 Toyota 4Runner 4WD and was eyeing some of the primitive campsites in the north end of the Escalante Canyons unit off of Burr Trail Road. Any insights/suggestions/warnings you may have would be most welcome. I've already checked the road conditions report for the area on the BLM website - judging from the number of washout and impassable listings it looks like the rains have been good this summer.

#8 Chris Greene

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:49 PM

Chris, there are vast unpopulated areas of Idaho that indeed have very dark skies. The problem is that many of them are in designated wilderness so unless you're backpacking in a scope, they aren't accessible. Fortunately, much of southern Idaho, north and south of the I-84 corridor have skies *most* people would kill for.

#9 Jay_Bird

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 01:46 PM

A long August weekend at the Escalante/Petrified Forest State Park campground and lake, which is NW of the town of Escalante, Utah, afforded one night that followed a day for monsoon moisture to dissipate, that was a tie for darkest skies I've seen, and that includes comparison with a number of fairly remote national parks. Going more backcountry should be memorable! Be sure to try the pizza at bed & breakfast & bar place on east side of Escalante.

#10 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 02:12 PM

Thanks for the info and the tip about the pizza Jay. After 4 days in the canyons a cold beer and a few slices may be like a little bit of heaven. :)

#11 bunyon

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 02:22 PM

I found myself in Escalante for a couple of nights about 5 years ago. I simply drove south of town on some dirt road for about 20 minutes, stopped and set up. No one came by all night and it was one of the darkest nights of observing I've ever had. Just a fabulous place. Have fun.

#12 Jay_Bird

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 02:32 PM

I forgot to add this before:

As I'm sure you've studied, the area is full of great hikes from longer Calf Creek Falls trail to east, to shorter but colorful mesa-top trail with lots of stone 'logs' and regional views at Petrified Forest State Park.

You may have to ask a ranger at Escalante's visitor center for the national monument to get directions to one of the more unique: extensive dinosaur trackways in the monument 20-30 miles southeast of Escalante.

#13 Seldom

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 02:32 PM

Burr Trail is paved until you get almost to Notom Bullfrog road. I doubt there's much nighttime traffic, so you shouldn't have to drive too far from pavement to get quality dark.

Definitely don't drive Rt. 12 in the dark. Views south of Burr Trail are spectacular, as are the unguarded drop offs off the Hogback.

Re: quality eats.

North from Burr trail on 12 - Capitol Reef Inn in Torrey has good dinners and Slackers has a good burger. The SunGlo diner in Bicknell has legendary pies.

South from Burr Trail on 12 - Fosters at Bryce has terrific soups.

#14 mountain monk

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 05:39 PM

dpippel,

Escalante is a place dear to my heart. I started traveling the canyons there in the autumn of 1963, after running Glen Canyon. I've done first descents of slot canyons, led week-long wilderness group trips, private trips, and made dozens of long solo trips.

General. I would divide it into four sections.

Grand Staircase, with innumerable observing sites and some good elevation. Very isolated, and roads can turn grim after rains. Black, black, black zone.

The Escalante river and western side canyons (the best desert canyons in the world). Head down the Hole-in the-Rock Road. Great trail heads from Harris Wash (probably gray zone) down to Davis Gulch, where the road leaves the Monument as becomes 4X4. No reason to go farther--you start running into the light dome from Bullfrog Marina. Unfortunately, all the trail heads have group camping, and this is a busy time of year. I would pull off before you hit the trail head, set up, and crash; or, see if anyone is at the trail head and if not set up. Very little traffic here at night. Check with the rangers at the office in Escalante about camping--it can get complicated, stupidly so. Not many patrols in the middle of the night though--a benefit of sequestration. I'd risk it. Leave your scope set up and crash in the SUV, no tent---you're not camping, you're just taking a nap between observations!

On the east side of the Escalante... Head out east from Boulder on the Burr Trail. Go beyond the end of Long Canyon. Wolverine Petrified Wood Area is good. Notice the little "cutoff road" by Little Death Hollow. Nobody uses it. Or go to the end of the road at Moody Canyon--if you can get there. You will pass a line shack. Keep going and park on a slight hill just after you cross the creek. Don't go much farther; the road leaves the Monument and there mind breaking sections ahead. There are fewer people on the east side of the river.

North of Boulder on Route 12, below the rim of the Aquarius Plateau. Just as the road turns decisively north you will find a turnout with a panoramic view of SE Utah. Nearby are two-tracks leading to various very un-offiicial camp sites. Get off the road and set up. About 9,500 feet. Gets my vote as one the best observing sites in the U.S. Black, black, black.

That should keep you busy!

Campgrounds. Petrified Forest State Park: blue zone, nice sites, and, and...SHOWERS! Calf Creek: always full and down in a canyon. Pine Creek: same, and only a few sites. Not many official campgrounds in the Escalante country.

Have a great trip

Dark skies.

Jack

#15 FirstSight

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:00 PM

North of Boulder on Route 12, below the rim of the Aquarius Plateau. Just as the road turns decisively north you will find a turnout with a panoramic view of SE Utah. Nearby are two-tracks leading to various very un-offiicial camp sites. Get off the road and set up. About 9,500 feet. Gets my vote as one the best observing sites in the U.S. Black, black, black.


But watch out for the large number of cattle grazing open-range in this area, including quite a few wandering along the pavement of Route 12 itself! Many of the cattle are not inclined to be in any hurry to move out of the way of an approaching car, and a substantial portion of them are of a variety which has black coloration. Or at least that was true in summer 2012 when I made that trip.

#16 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:08 PM

Have a great trip

Dark skies.

Jack


Jack, just wow. Thanks a million for the great information! You've given me a lot to think about. Right now I'm seriously considering heading down Hole-in-the-Rock Rd. to the primitive camping area near Sooner Rocks. There's also camping allowed in previously disturbed areas within 50 feet of the road along FR260, FR275, and FR280 as alternative options, as is the Cutoff Road near Little Death Hollow that you pointed out. Since I'm going to be there for four days and nights I'd rather set up a camp than try and poach something sleeping in my vehicle. From what I can see on the chart, the whole chunk of territory along Hole-in-the-Rock Rd. is in a black zone.

The area you mention north of Boulder sounds VERY tempting, but at 9500 feet it's gonna be c-c-c-old up there. Probably too cold for my thin desert rat blood this time of year. I'll definitely keep it in mind for early summer though. For this trip I think I'll try to stay below 5000 feet.

Once again. many thanks for the benefit of your years of experience in the area. It's obvious that you love the place. Although I've been to Moab and Canyonlands many times this will be my first visit to Escalante and I'm really looking forward to it.

#17 lintonius

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:27 PM

I've never been, and the Monument is smack-dab in the middle of some of the darkest skies in the United States. Has anyone ever observed there? If so care to share your impressions?



Excellent idea!
The GSENM is a huge area, but you've narrowed it down to the area I'm most familiar with... Boulder, the Burr Trail, and Escalante. Bryce has a lot more light scatter from the big-time lodging nearby. I live to the north, over Boulder Mtn. and, though I haven't observed over there yet, there's several places I'd like to try. I'll have to get back to you on those... I've got to get down to Capitol Reef for my astro-volunteer duty. Looks like we have a good evening in store. :)
http://cleardarksky....fNPUTkey.html?1
Linton

#18 mountain monk

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:37 PM

Linton,

Oh, poor you! You have to go down to Capital Reef for "astro duty." :)

Dark skies.

Jack

#19 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:40 PM

Indeed. What a chore! ;)

#20 dpippel

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 06:45 PM

I've never been, and the Monument is smack-dab in the middle of some of the darkest skies in the United States. Has anyone ever observed there? If so care to share your impressions?



Excellent idea!
The GSENM is a huge area, but you've narrowed it down to the area I'm most familiar with... Boulder, the Burr Trail, and Escalante. Bryce has a lot more light scatter from the big-time lodging nearby. I live to the north, over Boulder Mtn. and, though I haven't observed over there yet, there's several places I'd like to try. I'll have to get back to you on those... I've got to get down to Capitol Reef for my astro-volunteer duty. Looks like we have a good evening in store. :)
http://cleardarksky....fNPUTkey.html?1
Linton


Have a great time Linton! Let us know how it was when you get a chance.

#21 JayinUT

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 10:39 AM

Be aware that if the Government shuts down this next week all the National Parks will close (but not the support for mining for gas and oil). Also the BLM will halt all non-emergency use of their land as well link. I'm not sure how they'll stop use of Forest Land or BLM land though. Anyway, just an FYI.

#22 Seldom

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 01:20 PM

Be aware that if the Government shuts down this next week all the National Parks will close (but not the support for mining for gas and oil). Also the BLM will halt all non-emergency use of their land as well link. I'm not sure how they'll stop use of Forest Land or BLM land though. Anyway, just an FYI.


What effect will that have on the Utah Star Party? (FS land)

#23 dpippel

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 02:01 PM

Jay - A government shutdown won't affect access to GSENM, and if it does happen there won't be anyone on patrol either I'd wager.

Seldom - Should have zero effect unless the area you're accessing is gated.

#24 JayinUT

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 06:28 PM

I agree with Dippel that if your using BLM land and don't need services or are using land non-gated, you should be fine. Their police officers I believe will remain on duty from what I read but in all the years of using BLM land, I have only see an officer once on actual BLM land. DEA I saw once but that is a different story.

From a September 25th memo by the BLM Management on the impacts if the Government Shut Downs. Here is the link to the PDF.

Visitor Management: The BLM will close and secure visitor centers and facilities on public lands. Visitor activities that require a permit may be canceled or postponed. Contracted operations such as trash collection and toilet cleaning will be suspended. If practical, areas will
be posted with signs that state that no patrols, maintenance or other management activities will be provided including emergency or rescue services provided by BLM.

Special Recreation Permit Authorizations and Concession Leases
Commercial, competitive, and group authorization for events and activities --Concessions and some commercial outfitter and guide special recreation permits can continue operations as long
as they do not need BLM field monitoring and regulatory oversight in the short term, and are not operating in sites that have been closed. No new activities or launches will occur unless they meet the exceptions discussed above. New permit applications, modifications and renewals will not be received or processed. However, cost recovery events scheduled within 48 hours of the onset of the shutdown, which would pay BLM staff salary, will be allowed to proceed. Other
events scheduled to occur during the government shutdown will be canceled, postponed, or suspended. Vendors’ operations will be suspended. Individual permits in special areas- No new entries or activities will be allowed at the time of the
shutdown. Use of permitted areas should be ended as soon as practical, and no longer than within 48 hours of shutdown, such as at Long Term Visitor Areas or Aravaipa Canyon.

Volunteers
Volunteer activities would be discontinued during the shutdown.
Campgrounds and Other Recreation Sites
Campgrounds, boat ramps, and other recreation sites will be closed or posted as closed in areas where public access cannot practically be restricted. All facilities will be operationally shut down and posted accordingly, with gates locked, restrooms locked, and water systems shut down. Consistent with other Federal recreation providers, occupied sites would be given 48 hours to vacate, with the area shut down as the last visitor leaves. Shutdown activities for the
sites would be completed within the 48 hour period. Campground hosts and other volunteers would be given the same 48 hour period to vacate, and should not expect to receive any reimbursement for this period. National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS)
NRRS will be shut down. This is consistent with sister agencies that use the system. Refunds for previous reservations will be available through normal NRRS processes.
BLM Agency Technical Representative will initiate a closure of all BLM Rec.gov facilities.
a) All BLM facilities will have a message posted at a bulletin stating the site is closed until
further notice.
B) Recreation.gov will not allow anyone to make reservations for any BLM facility.
c) The Recreation.gov contractor will be open for business throughout any closure for customer service only and will NOT be taking advanced reservations.
d) Area POCs will be responsible for lifting closures once the shutdown has ended - (since each area may have slightly different reopening plans and time frames, they must notify Active
Network (NRRS contractor) when to resume normal operations specific to their facility).

So yes, there are impacts on BLM land and the National Parks in the area will be closed if this happens.

In terms of the Utah Star Party I contacted the office this week and since I paid for a permit on the Forest Land they will honor that permit in lieu of us using primitive camping sites which is what we intended. The campgrounds by Vernon Reservoir will not have the bathroom's drained until the shutdown is ended IF it happens but they should be functional. Also Thursday is looking like 20% chance of showers, Friday night should be clear as is Saturday and Sunday (I may stay through Sunday we'll see).

#25 lintonius

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Posted 29 September 2013 - 12:28 AM

Linton,

Oh, poor you! You have to go down to Capital Reef for "astro duty." :)

Dark skies.

Jack


Yeah Jack... it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
No pay... late hours... but hey, the fringe benefits are great! :grin:
Linton






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