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Natural Bridges, Hovenweep, Bears Ears, Arches and Canyonlands here I come!

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#1 jrbarnett

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 06:55 PM

A few of us OFLI-ites are visiting the southeast corner of Utah on the cusp of fall, with cooler nights in store, and in the wake of the regional monsoons.

 

We'll be basing in either Natural Bridges or Hovenweep National Monuments.  Both are plenty dark.  Both have lots to see and do onsite.  And both are close to other areas of natural beauty and/or paleontological and/or archaeological interest.  Personally I want to hike Devil's Garden to Dark Angel spire in Arches, False Kiva in Canyonlands and most of the archaeological sites scattered among the canyons that open into lower Butler Wash.

 

There will be 7 or 8 of us.  Most are equipped with 4WD ladder-framed vehicles (pickup trucks or jeeps/4Runners).  We'll be car camping for lodging and observing, but will be highly mobile by day so the entire region from Moab to the Colorado and Arizona borders) will be at our disposal.

 

High elevation?  Check; 6500-7000 feet.  Dark?  Check; Bortle 1-2 for most of the region.  Interesting daytime activities?  Ancestral Puebloan ruins, abundant dinosaur footprint trackways, stunning geology (canyons, spires, fins, mesas, buttes, you name it) - it's an astronomer and naturalist's paradise.

 

Expect a detailed write-up with loads of impactful images to whet the appetite for travel to dark skies.  If you're an American, it is UNAMERICAN not to delight in road trips.  If you're an American astronomer such road trips take on an entirely new dimension.

 

More to come...

 

- Jim       


Edited by jrbarnett, 20 September 2019 - 09:28 AM.

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#2 Knasal

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 09:00 PM

Bart Scott me!

 

https://youtu.be/tKnG06-oYcg

 

Kevin grin.gif



#3 csrlice12

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 11:19 PM

Pics, we all will want pics.


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#4 azure1961p

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 10:41 AM

Nice to hear from you Him and glad to read your post.

 

Pete



#5 jaraxx

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 10:47 PM

 Great minds think alike - I should be there by next weekend. About next Friday or Saturday, you can catch me eating breakfast at the Ecklectic Cafe in Moab. If I'm there for supper, it'll be the Baja Grill and excellent fish tacos.

If you get the chance, the San Rafael Swell is worth a visit (or ten or twelve). That area north of Hanksville is D-A-R-K.



#6 tchandler

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 10:54 AM

Having ventured 4 times by vehicle (from Ontario) to that corner of the globe, I totally get your enthusiasm. It’s geology and geomorphology on steroids. 

 

Tolkien wrote that the most beautiful two word combination in the English language was “cellar door “. Road trip comes in at a close second!

 

Looking forward to your reports.....


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#7 Traveler

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 12:25 PM

Don't forget to go to the Moab Brewary Jim! First a nice eat and then a nice beer investigation. Have fun you and your group! 


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#8 jaraxx

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Posted 25 September 2019 - 09:12 AM

The weather doesn't look good. Hurricane remnants in the four corners and a big dip to the south in the jet stream. Might wait a couple of days before leaving....



#9 Migwan

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Posted 26 September 2019 - 06:34 AM

Put a lot of miles on both a jeep and f150 out there.  So much rock (sandstone)  that its kind of freaky.   Spiritual, if you like.   Just wish it was warmer in the winter, which is when I travel these days.  Look forward to reading all about it.  A few pics would be nice.   jd


Edited by Migwan, 26 September 2019 - 06:34 AM.

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#10 asterope62

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Posted 26 September 2019 - 08:29 AM

I was down there Labor Day weekend,  fantastic dark skies!



#11 jrbarnett

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 10:24 AM

Okay, we're back.  I am working on a CN Article about the region, the National Monument, astronomy there and other fun things to see and do.

 

One point I'll make here and cover in greater detail in the article is that though this is an International Dark Sky Association designated Dark Sky Park (the first in fact), the Park Service does almost nothing to educate visitors about light pollution or implement "dark hours" in the campground.  I think the Association needs to work on some kind of auditing of parks once designated.  As the brand becomes more meaningful to have, they may have some leverage to compel certain minimum light control requirements for designees under threat of taking the designation away.

 

- Jim


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#12 Diana N

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 10:31 AM

Okay, we're back.  I am working on a CN Article about the region, the National Monument, astronomy there and other fun things to see and do.

 

One point I'll make here and cover in greater detail in the article is that though this is an International Dark Sky Association designated Dark Sky Park (the first in fact), the Park Service does almost nothing to educate visitors about light pollution or implement "dark hours" in the campground.  I think the Association needs to work on some kind of auditing of parks once designated.  As the brand becomes more meaningful to have, they may have some leverage to compel certain minimum light control requirements for designees under threat of taking the designation away.

 

- Jim

The National Park Service is woefully uneven in its handling of lighting and in its attempts to educate the public about the night sky and the effects of light pollution.  A few parks do a good job with their lighting, but the majority I have been to do not.  While I know their budgets are stretched, an unshielded light is an unshielded light.  I agree that more followup by the IDA (and more pressure from us, the star-gazing public) is needed.  In too many parks, the night sky is still an afterthought.


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#13 vsteblina

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 05:34 PM

Park Service budgets are NOT "stretched". They have the largest budgets of all Federal land management agencies and the simplest mission.

 

.......former FS, BLM and NPS employee.


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#14 mountain monk

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 09:31 PM

Have a great trip, Jim. I first drove through that country in the autumn of 1959, and I still can't get enough of it. I have friends in Castle Valley, Moab, and Bluff, so I am still down that way occasionally. And say hello to the Mexican Hat for me--I did the first ascent with Royal Robbins many moons ago...1963? Oh dear, makes me feel old.

 

Dark skies. Jack 


Edited by mountain monk, 11 October 2019 - 09:33 PM.

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#15 csrlice12

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 11:53 AM

Yea, its expensive to just leave it be...especially from those who have to trash things with every breath.



#16 Diana N

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 12:12 PM

Park Service budgets are NOT "stretched". They have the largest budgets of all Federal land management agencies and the simplest mission.

 

.......former FS, BLM and NPS employee.

That just makes the poor park lighting even more inexcusable.



#17 REC

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 12:22 PM

A few of us OFLI-ites are visiting the southeast corner of Utah on the cusp of fall, with cooler nights in store, and in the wake of the regional monsoons.

 

We'll be basing in either Natural Bridges or Hovenweep National Monuments.  Both are plenty dark.  Both have lots to see and do onsite.  And both are close to other areas of natural beauty and/or paleontological and/or archaeological interest.  Personally I want to hike Devil's Garden to Dark Angel spire in Arches, False Kiva in Canyonlands and most of the archaeological sites scattered among the canyons that open into lower Butler Wash.

 

There will be 7 or 8 of us.  Most are equipped with 4WD ladder-framed vehicles (pickup trucks or jeeps/4Runners).  We'll be car camping for lodging and observing, but will be highly mobile by day so the entire region from Moab to the Colorado and Arizona borders) will be at our disposal.

 

High elevation?  Check; 6500-7000 feet.  Dark?  Check; Bortle 1-2 for most of the region.  Interesting daytime activities?  Ancestral Puebloan ruins, abundant dinosaur footprint trackways, stunning geology (canyons, spires, fins, mesas, buttes, you name it) - it's an astronomer and naturalist's paradise.

 

Expect a detailed write-up with loads of impactful images to whet the appetite for travel to dark skies.  If you're an American, it is UNAMERICAN not to delight in road trips.  If you're an American astronomer such road trips take on an entirely new dimension.

 

More to come...

 

- Jim       

Sounds like a great trip! Lot's to see day/night. What scopes are you guys bringing?

Clear skies!



#18 SkyRanger

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 04:53 PM

Okay, we're back.  I am working on a CN Article about the region, the National Monument, astronomy there and other fun things to see and do.
 
One point I'll make here and cover in greater detail in the article is that though this is an International Dark Sky Association designated Dark Sky Park (the first in fact), the Park Service does almost nothing to educate visitors about light pollution or implement "dark hours" in the campground.  I think the Association needs to work on some kind of auditing of parks once designated.  As the brand becomes more meaningful to have, they may have some leverage to compel certain minimum light control requirements for designees under threat of taking the designation away.
 
- Jim


Jim, I wrote the grant for the 16” Starmaster at Bridges and was its principle operator for several years. Was it in operation while you were there?

Gordon G

Edited by SkyRanger, 12 October 2019 - 05:29 PM.

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#19 bunyon

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 06:28 AM

Nice to see Gordon here. I stayed at bridges for two weeks while he was the ranger there and there was a lot of info on astronomy, darkness and he put on a nice sky tour with the 16. I’d hate to hear that’s no longer the case.

I asked a few fellow campers to turn out small lights and they were quite amenable.

Edited by bunyon, 13 October 2019 - 06:28 AM.

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#20 jrbarnett

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 07:37 PM

Sounds like a great trip! Lot's to see day/night. What scopes are you guys bringing?

Clear skies!

We're actually done with the trip.  Scopes were a C11, C9.25, 10" f/6.6 Dob, 80mm triplet, and a 8" f/4 Newt equipped with Gen III Night Vision.

 

I'm collecting the group's photos and videos and working on an article.  I'll share a few choice photos here along the way in advance of the article.

 

We generally just waited them out (the light polluters).  Rarely did any of them stay up past 10pm, and certainly none of them bothered looking up.  I mean pristine Bortle 2 skies vs. your 10,000 lumens white LED Coleman lantern - who wouldn't pick the lantern?  I bet they set it up on the coffee table at home and stare longingly into the glare, imagining that they are camping.  whistling.gif

 

Ray Taylor (CNer GeezerGazer) and I drove most of the Butler wash 4WD trail, and explored a couple of the canyons in adjacent Comb Ridge emptying into the wash.  Those canyons are chock full of Ancestral Pueblo ruins, pictographs and petroglyphs.  I'd like to go back and just camp along Comb Ridge in Butler Wash, and explore every single one of the wash-facing canyons along the ridge; maybe do 4 canyons a day for a week or so.

 

Regards,

 

Jim

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Edited by jrbarnett, 15 October 2019 - 07:44 PM.

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#21 tchandler

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 07:51 PM

Coming from southern Ontario with all of its noise, I was utterly astonished at the sheer silence of a long-abandoned Utah cliff dwelling. I could hear birds fly over, and the sound of my own heartbeat. That part of the world is a feast for all of the senses.


Edited by tchandler, 15 October 2019 - 07:52 PM.

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#22 jrbarnett

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 07:56 PM

And here's a link to Ray's NV images from the trip...

 

https://www.cloudyni...-phonetography/

 

Consider this an appetizer.  :grin:

 

- Jim


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#23 jrbarnett

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 08:04 PM

Coming from southern Ontario with all of its noise, I was utterly astonished at the sheer silence of a long-abandoned Utah cliff dwelling. I could hear birds fly over, and the sound of my own heartbeat. That part of the world is a feast for all of the senses.

That is so true.  At one ruin we encountered a group of other hikers coming down from further up the canyon.  They weren't especially boisterous, but made enough noise that we knew they were coming fifteen minutes before they dropped down from the ledge just beyond the ruin.  At another ruin an elderly gentleman and his wife (locals) showed up and chatted us up.  It was rather funny to say we were from California and get a few seconds of processing silence before conversation resumed.  But unlike the other hikers, these two were quiet in approach.  I saw them before I heard them.

 

City folk (me included) always seem to be in a hurry for one reason or another.  It takes me about 4 miles of hiking and scrambling to "take the edge" off so that I am calm and patient in the wilderness.  These locals seemed to have all the time in the world.  They were kind enough to show us some rock art in the canyon that we had missed.  We had a nice conversation with the other (noisier) hikers too back at our respective vehicles along the trail.  They were two recently retired Seattle couples on holiday trying to decide what they wanted to do with the rest of their time on this pale blue dot.

 

I've started compiling my retirement onboarding list; step 1 - stop and smell the roses.  Step 2 - repeat step one.  :grin:

 

Best,

 

Jim


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#24 bunyon

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Posted 16 October 2019 - 08:15 AM

I recall reading somewhere - not a reputable source - that it takes people at least 10 days to truly relax on vacation and that the common American vacation of a few days, while not bad, really doesn't do as much good as we think. 

 

I have no idea how true that is but I know I feel different when I get a longer time off, especially if it is somewhere quiet and slow paced. 



#25 Big_Eight

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 07:03 AM

Glad you were able to enjoy the beauty of the area. I grew up in that area born in Moab. That whole area is amazing and Natural Bridges is amazing.

 

I wasn't much in to astronomy back then but I'm a Geologist so you can guess how that interest came about. I grew up seeing the stars at night in all of their colors and beauty. On a clear days I used to hike to the top of south peak in the Abajo Range and sit up there and view the panorama. I could see ship rock, La Sal Range, San Juan Range and if I turned around the Henry Range.

 

Now I'm just North of Denver and absolutely miss the real dark sky's of Southern Utah.


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