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Where to move out west for Dark Skies?

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#1 sink45ny

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:22 PM

Good quality of life, Low crime, not too far from civilization? Presently live in the high tax state of NY and will retire in a couple years.

 

Thanks for your input!!


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#2 timmbottoni

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:30 PM

Good quality of life, Low crime, not too far from civilization? Presently live in the high tax state of NY and will retire in a couple years.

 

Thanks for your input!!

Interested in the replies too - subscribing to this thread. I live in the high crime, high light pollution, high tax (and yet still broke) state of IL.  But we're number one in most people leaving the state!  lol.gif


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#3 Ericco79

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:39 PM

Just as a side, people joke about us here the south, but I don't ever hear about anyone retiring to the north! :)

 

I'd be curious to the replies too.

 

Eric


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#4 rgsalinger

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:45 PM

I like New Mexico as the best combination of weather and culture and living expenses. I have a remote system out there and I have more data than I can get to. I'm about 2 months behind right now in processing things. The area between Albuquerque and Taos is replete with places you can observe from or build an observatory. I live in California near (1 mile) the coast. It's much better than anywhere in NY for dark/clear skies but NM is the place to go. Second choice would be Arizona but Tucson/Phoenix are just too hot in the summer for my taste. Look around where there are remote observatories and see how close to those locations you can tolerate. My own "thing" is high speed internet. We just use the internet too much to have to use satellite or really slow wireless. 

Rgrds-Ross


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#5 Larsenbd

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:47 PM

Eden, Utah. There is a dark sky park nearby (North Fork), on the back side of the Wasatch Mountains east of Ogden Utah. It has spectacular views of snow-covered mountains, easy access to 3 ski resorts in the winter, and within 1h of the Salt Lake Airport. High-elevation, dry and clear climate, with a mountain range between Eden and the urban light pollution nearby.
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#6 D_talley

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 01:56 PM

I second moving to New Mexico. I had the chance to live there two years and it was wonderful.  I was able to setup in my backyard and image all night.  I shot more objects in those two years than I did in 8 years on the east coast.  Clear skies and low humidity.  Plus if you are a photographer, there are a lot of things to photograph in the desert and old towns. 


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#7 NEOhio

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 02:11 PM

I'm just living vicariously reading this thread, but as an Ohioan used to having coyotes as the local non-human apex predator and thinking about some recent CN threads, let me also request suggestions specifically for bear- and cougar-free western dark sky areas. 



#8 fcathell

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 02:12 PM

Southern New Mexico or Arizona. I live just 5 miles NW of Tucson and I can see the Milky Way from my front yard but there is city glare to the SE.  An 8 mile drive to the other side of the Tucson Mts gives me pitch black skies.

 

I have heard that the area around Socorro, NM is fantastic. It's a "boonie" town, however.

 

Frank 


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#9 Codbear

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 02:41 PM

If you wanted NO state or city income tax (as has NYC for example) and somewhat cooler summer temps than Arizona and New Mexico, northern Nevada is a great place to live. 

 

There are many towns that range from just a few hundred people to 40-50,000 that have great skies.

 

Sounds like you need to take a road trip to some of the places mentioned to see what combination of weather, seeing, crime rate and taxes suites you the best.


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#10 isogroup

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 02:54 PM

Sedona, AZ.  Amazingly clear skies, no light pollution rules for the whole town, Flagstaff and Lowell Obs nearby.  Also, some big crater in the ground up the road.


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#11 JHollJr

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:01 PM

Places in Wyoming or Montana? I like the winter.
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#12 NiteGuy

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:12 PM

Some very good places exist in Arizona if you choose wisely and can fit your location to your everyday needs. This means living a ways out of small towns or a long ways out of cities. Grocery shopping and medical access can then become issues.

 

The Phoenix area, while beautiful, is low-altitude desert, making it difficult for summertime observing because, it's often still 100+ degrees at midnight. Observing under those conditions is like observing out of a pot of boiling water...lots of heat wave turbulence! Getting to higher altitude (in summer) dark sites can also mean a longish drive from most areas in Phoenix.

 

Tucson just may be the amateur astronomy capital of the world. Living here will place you in the midst of a whole battalion of astronomy enthusiasts. Tucson is at a higher elevation than Phoenix, making it about 10 degrees cooler on average throughout the summer. It is also well placed for getting to significantly darker, cooler, higher elevations with just a quick, short drive.

 

Prescott area in Northern Arizona enjoys a great year-around climate at it's forest surrounded 5000+ foot elevation. Always named one of the top 5 places in the country to retire, this area is growing all-too-rapidly. Light pollution is somewhat of a problem but you can be in very dark skies in only 20 to 30 minutes. So far in 2018, we've had about 30 clear nights, 5 semi-clear nights and only 4 cloudy nights. Except for about 3 weeks in December, we've literally skipped winter this year. Today, in Prescott Valley, we have clear skies, no wind, and we're headed for a 71-degree high.

 

Flagstaff is another beautiful Northern Arizona area but its 7000 foot elevation makes for short summers and significant snow in winters. About half the residents here also have a home in Phoenix for the winter season. Traffic is very heavy at all times of the day, even though it's more of a quiet college town. If you like forests and skiing, Flagstaff is the place to be. Sedona is stunning and has a great year around mix of climate with its 4000 foot elevation. Traffic in summers can be very heavy with visitors, making it challenging to get around town, especially at certain times of the day. That said, if you can live in Sedona, it would be like living in a National Park...totally surrounded by beauty. Payson is another excellent choice, surrounded by beautiful forest and very dark skies.

 

Then there is the Monsoon Season. Personally, I would rule New Mexico out simply because their Monsoon weather in the summer is much heavier than Arizona's. In fairness, New Mexico winters are better than Arizona's. The Monsoon season generally runs from mid-June to as late as mid-Sept but, most years, is only about two months long. Monsoon season is an incredibly beautiful time of year, like a 2nd spring, with flowers blooming and everything greening up. Many Monsoon days are totally clear until about noon, stormy from about 2 to 6 PM, then clearing around sunset...of course some days will just refuse to clear up at night. The Monsoons really cool things off in the afternoons, making temps very pleasant in summer, at least at higher elevations.

 

So there's my way-out-west report. Oh, a few more things you should know... we haven't had any wagon trains attacked or stage coaches robbed in well over 100 years now and, since Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday left town, Whiskey Row in Prescott has calmed down quite a bit.


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#13 havasman

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:13 PM

Northern Nevada, Northcentral/Northwestern New Mexico, West Texas

 

Nevada and New Mexico are states with lesser economic profiles outside of the main cities, resulting in some areas with less access to services. Also MUCH of the land is government owned. But they're just beautiful.

I'd probably suggest you take a grand driving tour.


Edited by havasman, 08 February 2018 - 03:14 PM.

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#14 photoracer18

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:22 PM

I am originally from New Mexico and since I have family still there it is where I am going back to when I retire. Lots of good dark sites and it still has a climate and seasons. Miss the food as #2.


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#15 Adun

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:31 PM

Why not south?

 

Good quality of life, Low crime, not too far from civilization? Presently live in the high tax state of NY and will retire in a couple years.

 

Thanks for your input!!

 

There's Australia, and New Zealand.

 

I noticed many retired foreigners settled in Ecuador when I traveled there for work (I'm from neighboring Colombia). Cost of life is much lower here (so, a higher quality of life for a given NY pension/income), weather is much less severe, and healthcare is less expensive (lots of "health tourism" from US/EU).

 

And you can't beat southern skies.


Edited by Adun, 08 February 2018 - 03:31 PM.

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#16 Bob4BVM

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 03:59 PM

 "Low crime, not too far from civilization" do not belong in the same sentence IMHO. 

Add 'dark skies' to that sentence and you really have a hopeless cause !
"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth"   -Steve McQueen

 

As for "bear- and cougar-free western dark sky areas",  pull-eeese !
I have hunted, fished, hiked and yes, stargazed, remote wild places for most of my life. In so doing i have spent countless nights on my back with nothing but the deep skies of far eastern Oregon and Idaho for shelter, i can only shake my head in wonder at that kind of comment. 

Sure enough, there ARE "lions, and  wolves, and bears" (no tigers though). Barring sheer stupidity on the part of humans, they are not a problem most (99.999%) of the time.

For the remaining .001%, you get to rely on your SELF, so you can go prepared accordingly per your choice, if that small fraction scares you.

 

I think it was Terry Russell who said:
"Learn wilderness and you don't fear anything. Except people afraid"

 

CS
Bob

 


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#17 photoracer18

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 04:04 PM

I look at it this way. There is crime everywhere although the amount varies, therefore I like having the legal option to carry a firearm even if I don't choose to most of the time (which is why I like living in a constitutional carry state like WV right now). Oh yeah and my #2 hobby is the action shooting sports. Most foreign countries don't allow firearms so that is why they are not on my list regardless of the SOL.


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#18 Rickster

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 04:20 PM

Here are some things to consider, from someone that lives under dark skies.

 

As a general rule, I have found that people are similar along a given east/west interstate highway.  For example, I have spent most of my life near I70 in Kansas.  When I lived and worked in the Pittsburgh area (not far north of I70), I found it easy to get along with the natives.  This works both ways.  I know a number of people that moved from the Pittsburgh area to Kansas and got along great.

 

I would recommend living in or near a county seat.  Around here, the small rural towns are drying up while the county seats continue to hold their own.  The county seat that I live in only has 2500 people, but we have everything needed on a day to day basis.  From my house, I have the following within walking distance; groceries, fuel, dental, medical, banks, auto repair, firehouse, ambulance, hospital, city police, county sheriff, flowers, chiropractor, hardware, lumber, autoparts, etc.  And if I can't get what I need locally, I have a 55k town within 20 miles that has all the big box stores.  What I can't get there I usually get from Amazon.  It is extremely convenient and efficient.

 

Living way out in the sticks may appeal to some, but it can be a real pain.  My mom is in her 80's, widowed and lives in a SW Kansas town of pop 800.  When I visit her, I try to take care of her handyman jobs.  Her town has one little hardware store and no lumber yard.  I spend most of my time driving 30 miles (one way) to a town of 25k (the county seat) to get parts.  And even then I often can't find what I need.  The nearest big box lumberyard is 2 hours away.

 

The other thing about living in the sticks is how long it takes an ambulance to get you to a hospital if you have a heart attack or hurt yourself.  This gets more and more important as we get older of course.

 

I don't want to take a position on immigration here, but I do think it is fair to say that most people prefer to live in an area where their ethnic background is in the majority.  The majority is rapidly changing in some of the areas that have been mentioned.

 

Taxes.  In addition to looking at state taxes, be sure to check on local taxes.  Most low population areas do not have an industrial tax base.  The cities and counties rely on real estate and personal property taxes.  So, although you might be able to buy a $500k house for $150k, it will be taxed as if it were $500k.  State income tax may also be higher.  At one time, I worked in Nebraska near the Missouri border.  Real estate taxes were 4 times higher on the Nebraska side of the border.

 

Crime.  Yawn.  Seriously, it is like Mayberry around here.  There is no need to lock your house or car, although some people do.

 

And that is because everyone knows everyone and they think your business is their business.  I have known people that moved in from metro areas that were very bothered by this.  It is not uncommon for a neighbor to say something like, "Hi Joe, I noticed that there wasn't any activity around your house over the weekend.  Did you visit your daughter in Colorado again?"

 

As far as dark skies go, I feel like I have the best of both worlds.  I live on the boundary between dark and polluted skies.  And that is what I would recommend.


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#19 fcathell

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 05:21 PM

At least here in AZ I feel safe when I'm alone at one of my dark spots.  Concealed carry is legal here without a permit (that's why car jacking is almost unheard of now.  The last person that tried it in the Phoenix area got a 9mm vasectomy!) I always carry a piece in a holster by my side on these outings.  Never have had to pull it out of the holster. I think most criminals are afraid of the dark!

 

Frank 


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#20 JayinUT

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 05:43 PM

St George Utah or there about. St George is close to Cedar City which has a Shakespeare Festival in the summer and a university, SUU.  Your close to Zion's, Bryce, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Grand Canyon, and Capital Reef isn't too far.  There is a small club, St. George Astronomical Society LINK  with some good activity there. They know of some good dark sites near St. George also.  Be warned, it is hot there, VERY hot in the summer 110 to 120 F is not unheard of.  Nice winters that are free of snow though.  Lots of snow birds there.  Washington Co. is a growing county though (but most areas out west are right now).  


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#21 NEOhio

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 09:54 PM

 "Low crime, not too far from civilization" do not belong in the same sentence IMHO. 

Add 'dark skies' to that sentence and you really have a hopeless cause !
"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth"   -Steve McQueen

 

As for "bear- and cougar-free western dark sky areas",  pull-eeese !
I have hunted, fished, hiked and yes, stargazed, remote wild places for most of my life. In so doing i have spent countless nights on my back with nothing but the deep skies of far eastern Oregon and Idaho for shelter, i can only shake my head in wonder at that kind of comment. 

Sure enough, there ARE "lions, and  wolves, and bears" (no tigers though). Barring sheer stupidity on the part of humans, they are not a problem most (99.999%) of the time.

For the remaining .001%, you get to rely on your SELF, so you can go prepared accordingly per your choice, if that small fraction scares you.

 

I think it was Terry Russell who said:
"Learn wilderness and you don't fear anything. Except people afraid"

 

CS
Bob

Agreed, one is far, far more likely to die of a heart attack or an accident out in a remote region than a bear or cougar attack, or even more likely to die while driving to or from the site.

 

But, here is the problem. That reptilian part of my brain doesn't work on rational, logical reasoning. I've lived my entire life in Ohio, with no bears, no cougars. If I were to be observing alone out in bear/cougar country, I would not be able to relax and enjoy myself. It does not matter that this is not a rational, it is there nonetheless. So, if I were ever to move out west for dark skies, it matters to me.

 

I think the best comparison might be an arachnophobe finding a spider in his/her bedroom that escapes under the bed. That spider is perfectly harmless (well, except perhaps in the case of our Aussie friends :-) but you are not going to sleep very well that night. 


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#22 Bob4BVM

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 11:11 PM

 

 "Low crime, not too far from civilization" do not belong in the same sentence IMHO. 

Add 'dark skies' to that sentence and you really have a hopeless cause !
"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth"   -Steve McQueen

 

As for "bear- and cougar-free western dark sky areas",  pull-eeese !
I have hunted, fished, hiked and yes, stargazed, remote wild places for most of my life. In so doing i have spent countless nights on my back with nothing but the deep skies of far eastern Oregon and Idaho for shelter, i can only shake my head in wonder at that kind of comment. 

Sure enough, there ARE "lions, and  wolves, and bears" (no tigers though). Barring sheer stupidity on the part of humans, they are not a problem most (99.999%) of the time.

For the remaining .001%, you get to rely on your SELF, so you can go prepared accordingly per your choice, if that small fraction scares you.

 

I think it was Terry Russell who said:
"Learn wilderness and you don't fear anything. Except people afraid"

 

CS
Bob

Agreed, one is far, far more likely to die of a heart attack or an accident out in a remote region than a bear or cougar attack, or even more likely to die while driving to or from the site.

 

But, here is the problem. That reptilian part of my brain doesn't work on rational, logical reasoning. I've lived my entire life in Ohio, with no bears, no cougars. If I were to be observing alone out in bear/cougar country, I would not be able to relax and enjoy myself. It does not matter that this is not a rational, it is there nonetheless. So, if I were ever to move out west for dark skies, it matters to me.

 

I think the best comparison might be an arachnophobe finding a spider in his/her bedroom that escapes under the bed. That spider is perfectly harmless (well, except perhaps in the case of our Aussie friends :-) but you are not going to sleep very well that night. 

 

So what do you think the bears and cougars are going to do, eat you ?   People are a long way from their normal diet...  Cougars have an overwhelming preference for deer. Bears are (in spite of Hollywood) mostly herbivores, filling in a bit of protein here and there with small animals and carrion. So, unless you have already been dead for some time (in which case it won't matter :) ) , you don't need to stress about them either. FWIW, I have had them scratching within feet of my tent more than once. Early one morning my wife woke me up to see two big blackies pawing for grubs 20 ft away in our back-country camp. I was prepared to defend, but the need never arose, we just laid in our bags watching the show for 20 minutes as the bruins got their usual breakfast. Then we got up and had ours :)

 

Come on out, find a place to settle, then go spend some nights alone in the wilds & all those worries will pass. You may even find your real connection with the Earth in the process, something that is sadly long-lost on most of our race. It is a treasure very few will possess in this life, only because they never looked for it.

 

I can only repeat...  "Learn wilderness and you don't fear anything. Except people afraid"

 

CS

Bob


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#23 radial195

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 10:26 AM

Kingman, Az! 3500 ft. elevation, temps in summer afternoons rarely break 100 and it cools off nicely when the sun goes down. Winter nights can be below freezing, but not very often. 20 miles NE from Kingman, on rt. 66 is a small golf course community, Valle Vista, where I live, dark skies, low humidity, generally steady seeing. The Kingman area was the Number 2 site when the survey to site the National Observatory was being done in the late 50's. Kitt Peak was eventually chosen, but Hualapai Mountain, 8 miles from Kingman, was right there with Kitt Peak for dark, transparent, steady skies!

 

Search for a CN thread on, "Hualapai Valley Observatory" for views of the valley. As a professional astronomer, who has ties to this area says, "I don't want green to do astronomy, I want brown!"


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#24 MG1692

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 10:59 AM

Here are some things to consider, from someone that lives under dark skies.

 

As a general rule, I have found that people are similar along a given east/west interstate highway.  For example, I have spent most of my life near I70 in Kansas.  When I lived and worked in the Pittsburgh area (not far north of I70), I found it easy to get along with the natives.  This works both ways.  I know a number of people that moved from the Pittsburgh area to Kansas and got along great.

Agree with this. I live in Western Kansas. As you travel west along I70 the land is gently tilting. At Hays you are 2000 feet above sea level. By the time you get to Colby your at 3000 feet. 

 

I have bortle 3.5 skies within 10 minutes of my home. While that is not as good as some areas, getting the altitude improves transparency noticeably. The downside is we dont tend to get decent seeing. So if you are a double star or planets person, this would not be the best place for you.  



#25 timmbottoni

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 03:16 PM

Awesome discussion!  Thanks everyone!

 

We did a family vacation a few years back.  Flew to Grand Junction CO, then drove to Utah to see parks including Bryce, Zion, NORTH Rim of the Grand Canyon which happened to be during the June stargazing event, then on to Arches. 

 

Loved the scenery, but would like to get away from the snow and cold in the Winter.

 

Of course there is always the Big Island of Hawaii - I have an article here on CN from 2006 that I wrote, and if you have never watched the sun set from 9300 feet at the VIS, on Mauna Kea, and seen the dark skies and amazing seeing you have to go at least once.

 

Will have to take a trip out West and visit some of the suggestions though, because it would be more practical, and I think Western or Central Texas might be an area of interest to really look around as well.

 

Timm


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