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Cherry Springs State Park

beginner ATM observing
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#1 Prasad

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 04:28 PM

I have decided to go to Cherry Springs State Park this year and camp there on my own. (I am not able to make it for CSSP or BFSP because of other commitments). I am new to Cherry Springs State Park and I have so many questions. The dates I was able to reserve are June 25 to 28 (3 nights) because it was fully booked starting June 28.

 

1. Where do I get to buy food? (How far, etc.)

2. The camping spot is called Airport A and B but not marked by that name in any map. I hope it will be Rustic Campground. 

3. Is that camp site manned by PA State Park people 24/7 or is it only during the day? 

4. How safe is the camp site (wild life is my concern)? 

5. I am able to see camp site reservations are filled in fast. Nice. 

6. How are the cellular signals at observing site? (T-Mobile)

 

Any advice to a first timer to Cherry Springs State Park is most welcome. I am mostly an observational person but I will attempt some beginner style imaging. 

 

Thank you


Edited by Prasad, 10 May 2019 - 04:29 PM.


#2 Cali

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 04:40 PM

Link for those unfamiliar with the park.

 

- Cal


Edited by Cali, 10 May 2019 - 05:01 PM.


#3 Mike W

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 05:11 PM

I go to Stellafane every year but wanted to try Cherry Springs this year but when I went to register all filled up? When does registration start?



#4 IMB

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 05:15 PM

<

<...>  6. How are the cellular signals at observing site? (T-Mobile) <...>

 

Unfortunately, very bad.



#5 Astrolite

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 05:30 PM

You may have already made a mistake! Airport A & B is not the observing field. That is a camp ground across the street from the observing field. People with telescopes camp on the observing field. They do not take reservations for the observing field, it is first come first serve but it never fills up. You register when you get there. The only time advanced reservations are required is on one of the two annual star party weekends. The Cherry Springs Star Party and the Black Forest Star Party. Believe me I have visited Cherry Springs on and off since right around 2000 and was just there last year. That is how it works. I would call them back and explain that you want to camp on the observing field, they should be able to confirm what I am saying. The only other weekend that is off limits is when Cherry Springs hosts the annual Woodsman event. Maybe you can get your money back. 


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#6 MikeMiller

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:33 PM

T-Mobile / Google Fi connectivity was better than the parks wifi during the parties last year. However this is from the astronomy field, I am not sure what it's like from the campground.
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#7 Prasad

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:54 PM

You may have already made a mistake! Airport A & B is not the observing field. That is a camp ground across the street from the observing field. People with telescopes camp on the observing field. They do not take reservations for the observing field, it is first come first serve but it never fills up. You register when you get there. The only time advanced reservations are required is on one of the two annual star party weekends. The Cherry Springs Star Party and the Black Forest Star Party. Believe me I have visited Cherry Springs on and off since right around 2000 and was just there last year. That is how it works. I would call them back and explain that you want to camp on the observing field, they should be able to confirm what I am saying. The only other weekend that is off limits is when Cherry Springs hosts the annual Woodsman event. Maybe you can get your money back. 

Oh OK. Two years ago I drove past the camping area and saw it completely filled up. This year I thought I could make a reservation and found all moonless nights were fully booked. That was why I chose three nights just before that. OK with me if moon rise is after 2 am. That is why I got Jun 25-28. I am incapable of staying up after that and also, I hate dew heaters though I do have a few. I have already phoned the reservation line once to make a change. I don't see any problem in calling them again. All they would do is charge me $10 each time I make a change lol.gif

 

Thanks for the suggestion... 



#8 Prasad

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 07:02 PM

I go to Stellafane every year but wanted to try Cherry Springs this year but when I went to register all filled up? When does registration start?

I am not making for Cherry Springs Star Party which is May 30th to June 2nd. I can not make it due to other commitments. I chose the next moonless nights (relatively speaking) based on availability. I will be most satisfied if I am able to view Milky Way with my naked eyes though I will carry a couple of scopes and binoculars.  



#9 scottmm2012

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 07:27 PM

Link for those unfamiliar with the park.

 

- Cal

That website is unaffiliated to the park and does contain incorrect information.  Such as, there are no cabins in the park...

The actual park website is located here.

To answer the ops questions:

1. Where do I get to buy food? (How far, etc.)

     There is a small grocery store in Galeton, (12 miles north on West Branch Road) and a couple of grocery stores in Coudersport (16 miles north on Route 44).  There is also a small general store just north of the park (1.5 miles north on Route 44) .

 

2. The camping spot is called Airport A and B but not marked by that name in any map. I hope it will be Rustic Campground. 

     As stated above.  The park is actually separated into three defined areas and Route 44 bisects the park into two distinct areas (south of 44 serious astronomers, north of 44 casual stargazers).  I believe the area you are looking for is the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field, located to the south of Route 44, which is the area that has been designated for the "serious astronomer" and not the casual stargazer.  That area was designated an overnight area and has rules, regulations, and permit conditions that all patrons should observe.  It is a first come first serve overnight area.  A permit is acquired by simply filling out an honor envelope located on the left side of the modern restroom as you are looking at the doorways on the information board.  Fill out the permit, insert payment ($15/per night/per 5 people or one family unit) and drop into the "Green" fee deposit tube with the DCNR sticker on top.  
     Airport A and B are the actual campground which is located north of Route 44 and is accessible from the public viewing/programming area.  This area has rules, regs, and permit conditions and is not as strict with lighting and equipment requirements.  This is the area where the park programming is conducted on most weekends.

 

3. Is that camp site manned by PA State Park people 24/7 or is it only during the day?

    Cherry Springs State Park is one of several parks of a much larger complex.  Park staff routinely check the park but the administrative office is at Lyman Run State Park located 6 miles to the north on West Branch Road.  Lyman Run has a beach, hiking trails, lake with concession (food, drink, and boat concession).
 

4. How safe is the camp site (wild life is my concern)? 

     Although the occasional wildlife visits the park there is nothing to fear.  Mosquitos and herons are the most obscene.

 

5. I am able to see camp site reservations are filled in fast. Nice.

     The campground routinely fills up by casual star gazers.  The Overnight Astronomy Observation Field very rarely fills up except for during the two star parties held there each year.  Check the park website for Advisories/Alerts for when the Astronomy Field may be closed due to events.

 

6. How are the cellular signals at observing site? (T-Mobile) 

     Verizon and T-Mobile have good service from all locations at the park.

 


Edited by scottmm2012, 10 May 2019 - 07:30 PM.

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#10 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 02:56 AM

4. How safe is the camp site (wild life is my concern)?

Be aware that there are black bears in the area and occasionally they pay the observing field a visit.  The same goes for skunks.  Take the proper precautions regarding foodstuffs.

 

Dave Mitsky



#11 Dakota Tobias

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 08:53 AM

Keep in mind, reagarding the north side, for "casual stargazers," you may very well be directed to a parking spot.  You can bring your own scope of course, but you will need to carry/wheel it to a suitable spot.  And there will be headlights.  Sometimes lots.

 

Once upon a time, one could roll into the field on the northside, park, setup & observe for a few hours, and leave without much fanfare.  Those days are gone.



#12 George N

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 10:12 AM

Keep in mind, reagarding the north side, for "casual stargazers," you may very well be directed to a parking spot.  You can bring your own scope of course, but you will need to carry/wheel it to a suitable spot.  And there will be headlights.  Sometimes lots.

 

Once upon a time, one could roll into the field on the northside, park, setup & observe for a few hours, and leave without much fanfare.  Those days are gone.

 

Is that true during the week too?

 

I've never been on that side of the road at night.

 

I have a couple of friends who stay at local B&Bs, Motels, etc. They pay for the Astro Field (South field) and set up / take down during the daytime. In the evening they park on the North side and walk in - and walk out when they are done observing to drive to their accommodations.

 

In over 10 years of star parties and off-times I've never heard of anyone having anything go missing on the Observing Field -- but I always lock up 'small expensive stuff' like eyepieces and cameras. Also, the Field is open during the daytime. The cycle groups have found the flush toilet and frequently stop there -- and then drive their bikes around the roads on the Field. Other than dust, I've never seen a problem. I've also seen some 'locals' walk their dogs on the Field in the evening - even tho that is against the rules.



#13 George N

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 10:33 AM

I go to Stellafane every year but wanted to try Cherry Springs this year but when I went to register all filled up? When does registration start?

 

Registration for the two star parties starts some 5 or more months early - but it depends on when the sponsoring clubs get to it. There is always an announcement in the "Star Parties" forum here on CN.

 

Considering 'springtime weather', short nights in June, and that Milky Way fans need to wait until well after midnight - I don't ever remember Cherry Springs Star Party filling up except once or twice just before the event when the weather forecast looked good. There's always a 'nearly full' crowd (except the one year it boomed and hailed all weekend). This year is the exception, with CSSP nearly full even before they set up their booth at NEAF. The guys saw me at breakfast before NEAF and asked why I was not registered. I said I planned to do it at NEAF -- and they said "You better hurry!"

 

Black Forest on the other hand almost always fills up months before the event. A combo of longer nights, high Milky Way at dusk, and the expected pleasant late August or September weather draws um' in! Maybe it's the realization that the cold weather will soon arrive and everyone wants one last warm observing run.

 

Good dark 3-day holidays are also popular at the Park. I've seen a near-star-party crowd over Fourth of July - and other nice dark summer weekends - some people spend a whole week. In October I've been there (below freezing after midnight some nights) with not even a dozen people on the field - but sometimes more. I love Cherry Springs in October! Leaves all turned, dry crisp warm days (jacket or even just a shirt and shorts) and dry low-humidity nights, with plenty of "Fall Galaxies" and then the Winter Milky Way up high by 2 AM. People don't know what they are missing!


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#14 George N

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 10:52 AM

I know that this has already been covered twice - but - to make it fully clear:

 

If you have 'astronomy equipment' and plan to be on the South Astronomy Field all night (the gate is closed after dark - full 'star party' rules apply) then come and set up there. No registration needed - you stop near the bathroom just inside the Park - taken an envelope and fill it out (I think the cost is still $15/night) and drop the envelope in the green tube. You keep one part to display in your vehicle window. If you are confused - just ask someone already there how to do it. In over 10 years I've never seen the Field filled - but close over a dark-moon Fourth of July. Yes the Rangers do check - for both the window display, and the 'astro equipment'. They are quite nice - but no equipment and they kick you out - and if you haven't paid - they will collect your $$ on the spot - while going over 'the rules' with you.

 

What's with the "astronomy equipment" restriction??? Well the 'just campers' discovered that Astronomy Field camping costs a good deal less than the campsites - so the Field started filling up with non-astronomers - my experience was seeing youth groups and bikers. While most obeyed the lights/sound rules, some didn't. Thus the change. Generally "DSLR on a tripod" does not count - but I did see a very nice group of families who were mostly imaging the Milky Way with DSLRs - but they did have a little 4.5" Newt on a little GEM -- new, and out of the box for the first time! I showed them how to use it - and let them view thru my Obsession 20.

 

Oh.... BTW.... there is a free "emergency contact" land-line phone next to the little Ranger office on the North side - just in case. There use to be a pay phone over there, but it cost the Park too much to keep it. My Verizon and the phone in my Chevy Silverado work just fine for the past few years, but ATT folks seem to have no cell service. You might have to walk around the field to find the best spot.


Edited by George N, 11 May 2019 - 11:17 AM.


#15 Tim Hager

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 04:15 PM

Thanks for all the information given in this topic.  Today is the first day of my retirement and I plan to do a lot of traveling to dark sky sites this spring summer and fall.  It sounds like during the week, the place may nearly be deserted.

 

...Tim


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#16 scottmm2012

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 04:54 PM

Thanks for all the information given in this topic.  Today is the first day of my retirement and I plan to do a lot of traveling to dark sky sites this spring summer and fall.  It sounds like during the week, the place may nearly be deserted.

 

...Tim

During the new moon you'll have your regulars (4 to 5), but the overnight astronomy observation field is fairly deserted during the week.  The star parties start on Thursday (CSSP) or Friday (BFSP) but is routinely filling up during the week prior to the parties.  Keep an eye on the park webpage for advisories and alerts to upcoming field closures.



#17 Mike W

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 09:39 PM

So if I drove down from upstate ny with my jeep and small camper would I be able to camp on the south field?



#18 John O'Hara

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 10:05 PM

So if I drove down from upstate ny with my jeep and small camper would I be able to camp on the south field?

Yes.  Once you pass through the gate, you'll come to the restrooms and a small kiosk on your left.  There you'll find registration envelops where you put in the fee for the number of nights you're staying.  You'll see a metal post set in the concrete where you place the fee.  The stub from the envelope goes in your windshield.  There are freeze proof hydrants on the field where you can fill your trailer's tank, and a dump station when you depart.  There are electric pedestals throughout the field for charging batteries and powering computers and scopes.


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#19 Prasad

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 06:54 PM

I was at Cherry Springs State Park yesterday. It was a well spent night. Milky Way was shining bright and almost casting my shadow on the ground. It is really long since I saw MilkyWay with my bare eyes like this. Enjoyed every moment. I did not run into any dewing or such issues at all. I was exhausted by 2 am and tried to catch some sleep. Next morning, of course, everything in the open was wet.  

 

A few points. 

1. I was met by a very friendly Park Ranger who gave me a familiarity talk. Sadly, he said, the astronomical site is booked by an event - Annual Woodsmen Show and so, all astronomers would have to vacate the ground on Sunday - July 28 until Tuesday, August 06. I could not understand why a non-astro event is held over a New Moon and astronomers are kicked out,  I returned home this morning. 

 

2. There is a "Cherry Springs Country Store", just under a mile away from Astronomy Observation field. It is open every morning until late evening and has most essential stuff including hot coffee. The store is owned by Dennis Stahl. A great friendly guy. I loved his coffee. I will not waste a trip to Coudersport next time I am at Cherry Springs State Park.

 

3. I also noticed that PA DCNR has provided several power outlet posts all over the observation field. All observers are permitted to draw power to run their equipment as well make coffee to stay awake at night. I will remember to carry am extension cord next time. 

 

4. Opposite side of the road facing astronomy field is a free parking and no fee observation field. Sadly people try to save $15 by parking there and drive out with shining bright headlights all though the night. The tree cover does not give sufficient protection to serious observers. It is better to pick a spot far away from the road. I made the error of picking a spot close to the gate. (Well, I still enjoyed my night with a few curse words, every-time a car shone bright lights in my direction).


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#20 scottmm2012

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:35 PM

 

1. I was met by a very friendly Park Ranger who gave me a familiarity talk. Sadly, he said, the astronomical site is booked by an event - Annual Woodsmen Show and so, all astronomers would have to vacate the ground on Sunday - July 28 until Tuesday, August 06. I could not understand why a non-astro event is held over a New Moon and astronomers are kicked out,  I returned home this morning.

68th Annual Woodsmen's Show, has been going on the first weekend in August since 1951.  Sometimes the new moon schedules itself during that weekend.  As stated above multiple times, check the park webpage for field closures.

 

 

4. Opposite side of the road facing astronomy field is a free parking and no fee observation field. Sadly people try to save $15 by parking there and drive out with shining bright headlights all though the night. The tree cover does not give sufficient protection to serious observers. It is better to pick a spot far away from the road. I made the error of picking a spot close to the gate. (Well, I still enjoyed my night with a few curse words, every-time a car shone bright lights in my direction).

Did anyone close the gate?? 

 



#21 Prasad

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:45 PM

68th Annual Woodsmen's Show, has been going on the first weekend in August since 1951.  Sometimes the new moon schedules itself during that weekend.  As stated above multiple times, check the park webpage for field closures.

 

Did anyone close the gate?? 

 

Yes, I know it is 68th year. I also noticed that it really starts on Friday Aug 02. That is what DCNR web page says. But why close the field early as Sunday, i.e., 5 days before the event date? 

 

Yes the gate was closed but the constant annoying traffic was from the "free" field on the other side of the road.. Cars leaving the field.. Sadly the trees do not block the light..  



#22 Prasad

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:56 PM

Yes, I know it is 68th year. I also noticed that it really starts on Friday Aug 02. That is what DCNR web page says. But why close the field early as Sunday, i.e., 5 days before the event date? 

 

Yes the gate was closed but the constant annoying traffic was from the "free" field on the other side of the road.. Cars leaving the field.. Sadly the trees do not block the light..  

Also DCNR web page does list the events but I did not see a note saying astro-field is closed. May be I was looking at the right page? 



#23 scottmm2012

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 08:51 PM

 

I also noticed that it really starts on Friday Aug 02. That is what DCNR web page says. But why close the field early as Sunday, i.e., 5 days before the event date?

I guess you should go check out the Woodsmen's Show and see why it may take 5 days to prepare for the event.

 

 

Also DCNR web page does list the events but I did not see a note saying astro-field is closed. May be I was looking at the right page?

Cherry Springs.JPG

 

 

Been posted in the Alert section, top of the park webpage since January 8th of this year.


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#24 George N

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 09:54 PM

Yes, I know it is 68th year. I also noticed that it really starts on Friday Aug 02. That is what DCNR web page says. But why close the field early as Sunday, i.e., 5 days before the event date? 

 

Yes the gate was closed but the constant annoying traffic was from the "free" field on the other side of the road.. Cars leaving the field.. Sadly the trees do not block the light..  

Well the Woodsman Show "owned" the place long before any astronomers showed up - the local economy was always about logging (until the gas frack'ing started). "The Deal" from the beginning was that if astronomers wanted the State to make major changes to accommodate them - none of it could interfere with the Woodsman Show. It's one of the compromises in life that one needs to make.

 

There was, at one time, also a major "flower show" that used the park, but that has ended.

 

If you are at the North end of the 'astronomy field' - you do have to 'live' with some head lights from the "short term observing area" as people pull out - but it is not that bad - except on Saturday when they have public programs. The whole idea is to offer an area for 'star gazers', Milky Way junkies, and those who just want to set a scope up for a few hours. It accommodates the 'locals'. Also, people who stay at local motels or B&Bs park their cars on the "north side" - so they can leave when they are done observing. Not everyone on the field is into "camping". About 2 years ago they added a "rule" ( I'm not sure it can be enforced ) that you have to have "astronomy equipment" to camp on the Astronomy Field. That was after folks realized that it is a lot cheaper to camp on the Astronomy Field compared to one of the 'primitive campsites' on the North side. The "astronomy field" was starting to fill up with motorcycle clubs, etc!

 

The Park is becoming well-known, thanks to all those articles about it in the NY Times, etc. The public programs were attracting 1,200 or more people - one time over 2000! They now make you register even if it is free - to limit the public programs to 400. They also use to lead the group across to the astronomy field after the program - but the thought of 1,200 people crossing a 2-lane highway in the dark scared the Staff enough that they stopped that. You will still see lots of people camping in the 'primitive campsites' walking across the road - hoping for free views thru the astronomers' scopes. Many are college students.

 

There is a plan - not sure how likely it is - to move the entrance for the 'short term' field and campsite area so the cars will go in and out to the west of the park - ending the head-lights flashing the field. The problem is of course money. During state budget negotiations about 2 years ago some politicians floated the idea of closing Cherry Springs. That was 'nex'ed' after the Governor visited the park.

 

Considering what you get - we are really lucky to have this place! A state park (public funds) devoted to dark sky astronomy (SQM readings of 21.85 or better on a good night)! Huge flat field on top of a mountain, grass & gravel roads, AC power (was not always there), water, flush toilet with red lights and heat ( also relatively new) - open 365 nights a year. Find another spot with anywhere near the 'observing rules' or astronomy-friendly set-up. anywhere else in the East. And remember - it's future is NOT guaranteed.

It all comes down to - you have to learn what it takes to use the park.


Edited by George N, 28 July 2019 - 10:02 PM.

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#25 George N

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 10:10 PM

.....

 

Yes the gate was closed but the constant annoying traffic was from the "free" field on the other side of the road.. Cars leaving the field.. Sadly the trees do not block the light..  

And where did that gate and its cover come from? The Dark Sky Fund support group paid for it.

 

And the trees?? They were planted by volunteers who showed up at the Dark Sky Fund group's 'work days'. Before they went in there was nothing blocking the north end of the field.

 

Want it better? Contribute $$ to the Fund..... and come and spend a free day or two working in the park on things like tree planting and fence & light block building.

 

Oh -- and believe me -- a few years back when the gas drillers would 'stage' a 100 frack'ing equipment trucks along the road right at the park - and would pull out in convoy at 2 AM to go down the dirt road to the West of the park -- the headlights and noise were a lot worse. It happened to me there two years on the October dark weekends. Thankfully that has ceased - at least for the time being.


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