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#451 Exnihilo

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Posted 23 November 2021 - 03:45 AM

From Phoenix AZ, I like to go about 100 miles to the north east, just south of the Salt River Canyon. It’s right on the edge of Native American land, and very dark. It’s about a mile altitude, so it gets cold in the winter. I love that spot, but I haven’t been able to get over there for quite a long time now.


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#452 Scoper47

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Posted 26 November 2021 - 07:16 PM

Here are some of my favorite viewing sites that I have used since like 2013.

 

Like a fisherman's favorite "honey holes" I will only give general information and no pictures.. More info. is available by doing your own web searches.

 

Just about any of the Kansas state park camping areas; most are around the dozen or so state lakes/reservoirs in Kansas like Fall River Lake and Cedar Bluff Lake that have skies rated Bortle 2, 3, or 4.  You can select a camping spot, pay for it (usually for $15 to $20 per night depending on if you want electricity or water; primitive ones are the cheapest.)  For astronomy, avoid weekends and especially holidays, and warmer months from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After September, there are few people camping, so you should have the place pretty much to yourself until like late April.

 

Cimarron National Grasslands, north of Elkhart Kansas. Camping area is located off K 27 highway @ 15 miles north of Elkart, Ks. Cimarron National Grasslands has an office and info in Elkart Ks. They can tell you the best places to use your scope. The campground is a very good spot and will usually only have a few other campers. The camping fee is only like $10 per night, primative only.  This area is rated Bortle 2 dark gray, but when the skies are really clear, which is often, it has seemed almost borderline Bortle 1 to 2. 

I have used this area for dark sky observing about 6 different times over the years. 

 

Black Mesa area around Kenton Okla on the west tip of the Oklahoma Panhandle (also area of the Okie Tex Star Party) This is probably my favorite dark sky area within a days drive from my home.  Some may disagree with this, but when it is really clear at night it is rated SQM 22. and it is Bortle 1. How good is it? There are amateur astronomers who travel as far as Australia to the Okie Tex to experience the night skies here.  I have taken about 11 or 12 different scoping trips here over the last eight years.  Again, do a web search on this area. There are at least 4 different B&B's, guest ranches, and lodging in the area where you can use your scope there on their property, and who can give you lots of info plus great places to stay or camp.

 

Clayton Lake State Park, NW of Clayton NM, is an IDA dark sky area, Observed there one night in March 2016. Bortle 2 dark gray. pay camping is required to stay there at night for astronomy or any other activity.  They do have full camping hookups.

 

In the Texas Panhandle I have used Copper Breaks State Park on two different trips, it is Bortle 2 dark gray. The same as for camping and night use as Clayton Lake. You can pre pay at their honor box. Both Copper Breaks and Caprock Canyon SP's are IDA certified dark sky areas.

I have been to but not used Caprock Canyon State Park located west of Copper Breaks SP. It is just as dark if not darker that Copper Breaks, and when I explored it in the daytime a few years ago is an absolutely stunning park!

 

Tetter Rock area, NE of Wichita Ks, and east of Cassoday Ks in the Flint Hills.  This is actually on private land, but is available for anyone to use at night. I would use a google map or GPS locater to find it.  It is off a dirt road kind of out in the middle of nowhere.  The road leading up to the crest of the rock monolith is kind of rough, look out walking around for cattle poop, and be aware of possible rattlesnakes. But it is up high and you have an almost 360 deg unobstructed view in all directions.  It is Bortle 2.

 

Just about any of the Missouri Conservation Commission parking and camping areas that are Bortle 4, 3  or 2.  These are mostly intended for parking for hunters and fishermen to park and or camp. I have used Bonanza CA and Bunch Hollow CA numerous times. The state will usually have info booklets at these spots. Most these areas are gravel and about the size of a couple of tennis courts or a basketball court. You might contact them around November and December: deer hunters during rifle deer season will literally take over these areas for parking and camping spots, unless you like having lots of non-astronomy hunters shining white lights at you, I would avoid these areas during rifle deer season.

 

Double R Guest Ranch, north of Mullen NE and south of Merritt Lake home of the Nebraska Star Party. This is without a doubt Bortle 1. I stayed at one of their cabins where I could not see any light domes in any directions. It was in August 2015 and it was hot, and with the mosquitoes you would think it was D Day to attack me!  I had to use this face mask and just tough it out the one clear night I had. I learned that there are exceptions to the red light only rule for astronomers. How dark it is there?  I walked a few steps to get something out of my cabin around midnight only using my red flashlite, it was not enough,  I tripped and fell on my behind on the dark porch deck, lucky I only had a scratch. I learned my lesson: red lights be dammed; from then-on I always used a white flashlight to carefully get to the cabin door.

I have not used any of the other Bortle 1 areas around the sandhill country and Nebraska Star Party area, but I hope to this next year.

 

Any place in the Big Bend area of Texas including the Ft Davis area. I have used 3 areas on a 5 day trip in April 2017 and had clear dark skies the whole time.  Three nights at Marathon Motel dark sky area. It is actually Bortle 2 IMO, but still worth it. They were doing track work at night and motor cyclists coming in and out at night were the only annoyances.

 

Stillwell Campground, Bortle 1, NE of the Persimmon Gap entrance to Big Bend NP. I stayed one night, picked a camping spot and paid the small fee of like $7.00.  Terrific dso observing as dark as I have ever seen. I kept my "Bad Dog" brand pepper spray and a club handy in case any unfriendly Javalinas dropped by.  Saw one in my rear view mirror as I was driving back the next day.

 

X Bar Guest Ranch, NW of El Dorado Tex.  Bortle 2, got one of my best views of NGC 5139, NGC 5128, and NGC 4945.

 

Last, but not least. Rusty's RV Ranch in the SW corner of New Mexico near Rodeo NM. I rented one of their RV trailers (actually a small moble home). I enjoyed 5 first class clear, dark, but windy nights March 29 thru April 2, 2019. I highly recommend this place! It is listed Bortle 1.

Much of New Mexico and Arizona seem to have lots of great places and places to stay for first class deep sky observing. not just near Rodeo NM, but also north of there in the Gila Mountains area around Silver City NM and north to Magdalina, NM. If you are fed up with overcast skies, then come to the dry clear southwest and its Bortle 1 and 2 western skies.

 

Check these places out.

 

Phil


Edited by Scoper47, 27 November 2021 - 06:29 PM.

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#453 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 11:11 PM

My favorite observing site is my grandparent's property in Northeast Michigan. I have two fields to choose from with good horizons, a camper parked on site that I have to myself unless it's hunting season, and bortle 3 skies. There are darker sites in the area, but the convenience of observing on private land with utilities makes this a great place to spend the night. I also have family directly next-door and in the area, so I have people to hangout with during the day and in the event of any problems. I often run up there just for a night during new moon. The only negative is the distance of 220 miles each way door to door. I like to drive, but mileage and gas use add up! I just returned from an observing session yesterday, but winter weather made the drive take 6 hours and trapped me on a closed freeway a mile from my exit for 45 minutes until I turned around... Unfortunately this site becomes a much larger pain in the winter, but I can't complain!  

 


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 28 November 2021 - 11:23 PM.


#454 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 28 November 2021 - 11:21 PM

 

 

I have a few favorite sites of my own.  The first is my mother's house south of US-23 between Omer and Au Gres.  It is Bortle 2-3 on a good night with good transparency.  The biggest issue there is that it is only a mile or two from Lake Huron and the property is very marshy.  This results in many nights with high humidity and associated low transparency (and lots of bugs).  It also often requires very active dew control measures, even for visual.  That said, on a good night M33 is easy with the unaided eye.  

 

The second semi-private site I have access to is my father-in-law's cabin on the North Branch of the Au Sable river off of McMaster's Bridge Road north of M-72.  While densely wooded, there are a few clearings where the zenith is visible.  This site is probably Bortle 1-2 and is one of the few places east of the Mississippi where I have seen the summer Milky Way cast a shadow.  It is truly magnificent.

 

 

Great to hear of someone else observing in Northeast Michigan! I have always wanted to try somewhere off M-72 since I see how empty this area is on my way to my site at Hubbard Lake. You make me want to try even more! Those dang trees are the biggest problem for observing around the Huron National Forest though.


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 28 November 2021 - 11:21 PM.


#455 Anakin

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Posted 15 December 2021 - 02:31 PM

“So Cal astronomers”. I was looking for some help finding a place to stay and observe in Tehachapi, California. I would like to find some dark skies on the same property with a modest place to stay. Any comments are appreciated.

#456 LuckstedM

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 06:39 PM

Alex, Weis14, I live on McMaster’s Bridge Road just one mile south of North Down River Rd.  Just a mile south is Ermine trail where I generally set up my scope. There is a clear cut there with nearly a 360* view of the horizon. There is no visible man made  light in this area and if it wasn’t for the humidity in the summer and clouds in the winter it would be astronomical heaven.



#457 Starman1

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 06:51 PM

Anakin, 

Due to the light of Bakersfield to the west, and Palmdale/Lancaster/Rosamond/Mojave to the East, Tehachapi isn't as dark a place as you would hope.

It's a yellow-to-dark-yellow LP zone.

If you are there, however, you are a very easy drive to Lebec, CA, where there are places to stay.

And Lebec is a very short drive from Mt.Pinos (dark green zone) or Chuchupate (green zone), where the skies are appreciably darker than in Tehachapi.


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#458 Mike Q

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 09:31 PM

My back yard is what I have. Typical rural Ohio skies. Hopefully once the fields freeze up I will get out in the middle of it where I have no light around me at all.
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#459 Anakin

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 07:47 AM

Thank you Starman1

#460 Anakin

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 07:47 AM

Thank you Starman1


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