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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There?
      #6104177 - 09/27/13 01:09 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?

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Chris Greene
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 12/04/05

Loc: Dark Sky, Idaho
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: dpippel]
      #6104194 - 09/27/13 01:12 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.


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mountain monk
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 11/06/09

Loc: Grand Teton National Park
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: Chris Greene]
      #6104233 - 09/27/13 01:24 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


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FirstSight
Duke of Deneb
*****

Reged: 12/26/05

Loc: Raleigh, NC
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: Chris Greene]
      #6104248 - 09/27/13 01:29 PM

Quote:

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.


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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: Chris Greene]
      #6104252 - 09/27/13 01:32 PM

Quote:

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.


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SpaceConqueror3
super member


Reged: 09/19/13

Loc: Phinney Ridge, Seattle, WA
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: mountain monk]
      #6104253 - 09/27/13 01:32 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.

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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: mountain monk]
      #6104266 - 09/27/13 01:37 PM

Quote:

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.


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Chris Greene
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 12/04/05

Loc: Dark Sky, Idaho
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: dpippel]
      #6104288 - 09/27/13 01:49 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.

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Jay_Bird
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 01/04/06

Loc: USA
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: Chris Greene]
      #6104386 - 09/27/13 02:46 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.

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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: Jay_Bird]
      #6104428 - 09/27/13 03:12 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.

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bunyon
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/23/10

Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: dpippel]
      #6104438 - 09/27/13 03:22 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.

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Jay_Bird
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 01/04/06

Loc: USA
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: bunyon]
      #6104453 - 09/27/13 03:32 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.


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Seldom
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 08/05/12

Loc: N of Cedar City Light Dome
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? new [Re: dpippel]
      #6104454 - 09/27/13 03:32 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.


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mountain monk
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 11/06/09

Loc: Grand Teton National Park
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: Seldom]
      #6104737 - 09/27/13 06:39 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


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FirstSight
Duke of Deneb
*****

Reged: 12/26/05

Loc: Raleigh, NC
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: mountain monk]
      #6104779 - 09/27/13 07:00 PM

Quote:


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.

Edited by FirstSight (09/27/13 07:02 PM)


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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: mountain monk]
      #6104790 - 09/27/13 07:08 PM

Quote:

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.


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lintonius
sage


Reged: 12/13/05

Loc: south-central Utah
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: dpippel]
      #6104811 - 09/27/13 07:27 PM

Quote:

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.com/c/CptRfNPUTkey.html?1
Linton


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mountain monk
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 11/06/09

Loc: Grand Teton National Park
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: lintonius]
      #6104834 - 09/27/13 07:37 PM

Linton,

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

Dark skies.

Jack


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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: mountain monk]
      #6104838 - 09/27/13 07:40 PM

Indeed. What a chore!

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dpippel
scholastic sledgehammer
*****

Reged: 04/05/13

Loc: Desierto de Sonora
Re: Grand Staircase Escalante NM - Observed There? [Re: lintonius]
      #6104845 - 09/27/13 07:45 PM

Quote:

Quote:

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.com/c/CptRfNPUTkey.html?1
Linton




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


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