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Dark site anxiety

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#26 Allan Wade

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 08:26 AM

I might consider to get a gun.

Yes, this too. You can never have too many guns when you are observing to keep yourself safe.


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#27 airbleeder

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 08:34 AM

  I observe alone whether at home or at a dark site. I don't spook easily, but I am aware of my surroundings.

   I would never trespass as that is asking for trouble either with law enforcement or some irate land owner. It is easier to ask, than to explain why you didn't. Lottsa luck obtaining permission AFTER you're caught.


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#28 Springman

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 09:11 AM

If you take your gun don't forget your shovel.


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#29 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 11:18 AM

Hi MSH,

 

Since you appear to be living in Toronto (like myself), here's the places where you go and that I'm quite familiar with. 

 

  • Long Sault Conservation Area (the parking lot), traditionally the location for the monthly dark sky outings that used be organized by RASC and interrupted for obvious reasons last year. Plenty of space. Bortle 4/5 now (I measure it every time I go). Northern and eastern sky are pretty decent, there's light pollution to the south-west. On good nights for astronomy, there can be a dozen observers and imagers, some RASC members, more not, I think it became known on some social media outlets as well. Occasionally you have a car coming for other reasons, they see the parking is not empty so they leave. Summer nights have fireflies. About 1hr of driving from Toronto via 401 or 407.
  • Glen Major Forest (the parking lot) - a site 15-20min closer but more light polluted (there are large cities to the south). Some RASC members go there. I went a few times but prefer the above for the darker sky.
  • RASC members have access to a private observatory near Collingwood.
  • if you leave on the west side, Forks of the Credit is another place. 
  • a truly dark location is farther east, North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve (Bortle 2). 

If you have more questions, feel free to PM me for details.

 

Clear skies,

Razvan


Edited by RazvanUnderStars, 19 June 2021 - 11:19 AM.

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#30 airbleeder

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 11:39 AM

If you take your gun don't forget your shovel.

    Someone might be a bit trigger happy if anxious. I sure wouldn't want to walk up on them, especially at night.


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#31 tommm

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 11:50 AM

I think the main problem is that you've been conditioned to fear being out in the dark alone by those few bad experiences.  You need to get some good experiences to neutralize that. Next time you go take as little equipment as possible. The main purpose of the trip should be to re-condition yourself, observing is secondary.  If you can get there while there are a couple hours of light left that can help. You can wind down, walk around and get familiar and relaxed with your surroundings.  It won't be at all scary in the light, and after dark you can recall that familiarity to help calm yourself. Stay as long as you can, take breaks to just look around and make yourself relax.

If doing that a couple times doesn't help, then I think you will need to have someone to observe with. You can set up away from each other and stick to your own scopes if you like, just having someone there will do it for you I think.


I observe alone in the most remote places I can get to in reasonable time since to me, by far the biggest danger is other humans. Wildlife doesn't bother me, in fact I like to hear them and see them. If you think they are getting too close, just talking will usually scare them off, and if not, chucking a few good-sized rocks will.  I've backpacked and hiked for several decades, and that has always been my experience.

I hope you can become comfortable or find an observing buddy.


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#32 Sketcher

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 01:34 PM

OK, so all dark sites are not equal.  They're not all equally isolated, etc.  Circumstances relating to the finer details (such as human population density, wildlife species, etc.) aren't going to be the same for all of our observing sites.  Yet, there are reasonable approaches in dealing with dark site anxiety -- regardless of the site.

 

The below is for situations in which you have no alternatives to going alone.

 

Rule #1:  Know where you are, and who owns the land.

Rule #2:  Make sure you have permission to use that land for your astronomical purposes.

 

Recommendation #1:  Before using the site for astronomy, become familiar with the location by spending some serious, quality-time there in the full light of day.  If it helps, do this on multiple days..

 

Recommendation #2:  At least initially, for your first dark sky session, arrive at the site in daylight to set up and get settled before dark.

 

Recommendation #3:  For your first session or so, just go with naked eye and binocular astronomy.  On subsequent sessions setup progressively more complex equipment -- if complex is something you do.  Stay for as long as you feel reasonably comfortable and secure.

 

Recommendation #4:  Make frequent use of that same site so that you eventually end up feeling like it belongs to you -- and that you belong there.

 

You should not bring a firearm -- especially since you have anxiety issues.  You'll have an unlocked car door nearby in a worse-case situation, along with the additional ability to drive away in the extremely unlikely event that such actions were to become necessary.


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#33 rhetfield

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 01:39 PM

The wife doesn't like being in a dark area by herself, even if she is with me. She is convinced she will get eaten by a large animal. Tends to work out better if she stays in the car. There have been times I have been worried about nighttime noises in bear country.
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#34 Echolight

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 02:21 PM

So far, I've only viewed from home. When I eventually do make it to a dark site, it'll be a weekend trip at least. Although I might carry a little scope down the road a piece to look for an hour or so. 


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#35 rajilina

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 03:50 PM

I like the suggestions to find some club members to observe with. One person in our local club has a detailed Google map with good sites pinned to it that are astronomy-friendly. Also, being prepared as to where you can legally observe without trespassing will help with some of your fears. Network… contact landowners, make friends with them… get permission to be out there, and then take good care of the site as if you own it.

 

I also think that some of the fear of being out alone is because our modern society has lost contact with the night sky. We’re so used to having everything illuminated, computerized, and pumped up with technology, that we aren’t comfortable anymore with the darkness and relative silence of the natural world.

 

I have a private site I have access to. There is NO ONE around. And I used to have the same anxiety about being out there at night that you do. I’m female, and there’s also an extra anxiety about being female and alone in the dark… would I be able to protect myself from anything that could happen? My husband isn’t much interested in astronomy, and I don’t really have many close friends interested in it either. So unless I can find some club members who want to drive an hour and a quarter to my dark site, I have to go on my own, and plan on sleeping in the back of a truck before I make the return trip home.

 

What helped me the most was just telling myself over and over that I would be fine, and powering through those first few anxious times out there by myself. Yes it was a bit scary, and yes, I wasn’t sure if I would get bothered or harassed—it’s a private site, but that doesn’t prevent people who shouldn’t be out there from coming anyway. I took a gun with me (I should note here I have extensive firearms experience) to make sure I had some recourse if anyone harassed me, as well as more than enough water, food, and supplies to outfit an army. But after a few times I soon learned that there wasn’t anything really to be afraid of. I actually got used to coyotes howling close to me, and when they don’t, I miss them. Other normal night noises don’t much bother me anymore. I usually have a gravity chair with me and when I get tired of the scope, I lay back in the gravity chair and just take it all in. Half the time, I end up falling asleep in the chair and it is so nice and comfortable to take a nighttime nap outside!  I now get lost in observing, and the hours fly by to the point that I feel real disappointment when I realize I’ve been up all night and the dawn is already on approach. 

 

The rewards, to me, are worth working through the obstacles in finding good observing sites and getting used to being out there.


Edited by rajilina, 19 June 2021 - 04:07 PM.

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#36 Mornamarth

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 05:08 PM

I envy many of you for mainly 2 reasons: 1) you got park where ranger actually care if you are there and why 2) you have clubs who actually observe frequently in group. Where I live my biggest problems are people. Too many people who drunk or simply assxxxes have nothing better to do during the night that give trouble to you (nothing serious usually laughing at your expenses, scream at you and so on) and no police, ranger, guard or anyone around. That is quite uncomfortable when you are alone with thousands of euros and 50kg of equipment with you, let alone injury or anything else. I join a local club, a very good bunch of fellow, friendly and all, but they are more preoccupied on scientific divulgation to masses than actually spent time together with eyes on eyepieces. Maybe because many of them leave in surrounding countryside and are quite happy to look at the sky from their porch. God I felt so insecure in this nation (just plain complaining and self pity). I bought a piece of land some time ago, but there is another terrible thing in Italy that people, who doesn't live here, don't really understand:bureaucracy. I purchase some land, but I cannot put a small wood observatory on my land. I cannot even fence my land, because municipality doesn't want "to lose the nearby hunting reserve". Bah! Anyway I understand your discomfort and have no other suggestion than join a club or, if you can, buy a home distant from the monsters we called cities

Edited by Mornamarth, 19 June 2021 - 05:10 PM.

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#37 MellonLake

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 05:15 PM

Hi MSH,

 

Since you appear to be living in Toronto (like myself), here's the places where you go and that I'm quite familiar with. 

 

  • a truly dark location is farther east, North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve (Bortle 2). 

If you have more questions, feel free to PM me for details.

 

Clear skies,

Razvan

North Frotenac Dark Sky is about 40 min. further than Lennox and Addington Dark (also Bortle 2) sky via the same roads.  You literally have to pass Lennox and Addington to get to North Frontenac.   FYI - There is a little known site called Nirvana that is about the same distance as North Frontenac that is Bortle 1 (tiny bit of LP in the extreme south), it is an abandoned airfield with no man made lights, not one, no roads visible and fabulous sightlines (I would only observe there if you have a buddy) but it is fabulous.  The picture below was at this site with my cell phone:

sagittarius small.jpg


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#38 csa/montana

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 05:41 PM

Let's please keep guns out of this discussion.


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#39 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 06:17 PM

Correct, I should have added Lennox & Addington. Observers from Kingston use it. I've been there during the day twice. I was concerned it could get crowded as the concrete pad is smaller than North Frontenac. I don't remember, did they install privies at L&A? NF has them, which keeps the site cleaner. Nonetheless, it's an excellent choice as well.

 

The Nirvana site (if that's the real name, it's perfect!) looks absolutely fantastic. If you don't mind, I'd appreciate if you PM me the location. As light pollution spreads, I have to travel farther and farther from Toronto so am looking for safe sites where I can catch a few hours of sleep before driving back the next day. I'll be doing some observing from Manitoulin Island as well in September, but that's a really long drive. 

 

Thanks,

Razvan

 

 

North Frotenac Dark Sky is about 40 min. further than Lennox and Addington Dark (also Bortle 2) sky via the same roads.  You literally have to pass Lennox and Addington to get to North Frontenac.   FYI - There is a little known site called Nirvana that is about the same distance as North Frontenac that is Bortle 1 (tiny bit of LP in the extreme south), it is an abandoned airfield with no man made lights, not one, no roads visible and fabulous sightlines (I would only observe there if you have a buddy) but it is fabulous.  The picture below was at this site with my cell phone:

attachicon.gifsagittarius small.jpg


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#40 bunyon

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 07:05 PM

Hard to say. Observing from a spot where you don’t know the owner or usual traffic sounds uncomfortable. As does using a spot frequented by non astronomers.

Which isn’t much fun.

Finding a spot that is dark, peaceful and where you have explicit permission can be tough to find. I suspect when you do that most of your anxiety (about the spot at any rate) evaporates. Good luck with your search.
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#41 vsteblina

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 10:00 PM

OK, so all dark sites are not equal.  They're not all equally isolated, etc.  Circumstances relating to the finer details (such as human population density, wildlife species, etc.) aren't going to be the same for all of our observing sites.  Yet, there are reasonable approaches in dealing with dark site anxiety -- regardless of the site.

 

The below is for situations in which you have no alternatives to going alone.

 

Rule #1:  Know where you are, and who owns the land.

Rule #2:  Make sure you have permission to use that land for your astronomical purposes.

 

Recommendation #1:  Before using the site for astronomy, become familiar with the location by spending some serious, quality-time there in the full light of day.  If it helps, do this on multiple days..

 

Recommendation #2:  At least initially, for your first dark sky session, arrive at the site in daylight to set up and get settled before dark.

 

Recommendation #3:  For your first session or so, just go with naked eye and binocular astronomy.  On subsequent sessions setup progressively more complex equipment -- if complex is something you do.  Stay for as long as you feel reasonably comfortable and secure.

 

Recommendation #4:  Make frequent use of that same site so that you eventually end up feeling like it belongs to you -- and that you belong there.

 

You should not bring a firearm -- especially since you have anxiety issues.  You'll have an unlocked car door nearby in a worse-case situation, along with the additional ability to drive away in the extremely unlikely event that such actions were to become necessary.

What Sketcher said....really good advice. 

 

Getting old and camp a lot in the middle of somewhere.  I do carry bear spray. But I have never had to use it.

 

On my own property, the issue is usually elk.  But a couple of nights ago, a bear did wander past my observation deck. 

 

Sketcher's recommendation #4 is important.  I have spent more nights alone in the woods working than observing, but even then it does take a bit of time to get totally comfortable sleeping alone miles from the nearest house or road.


Edited by vsteblina, 19 June 2021 - 10:52 PM.

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#42 Bill Weir

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Posted 19 June 2021 - 11:55 PM

Let's please keep guns out of this discussion.

The OP and many of us responding are Canadian, it’s usually if not always not in our playbook.

 

Bill


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#43 airbleeder

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 08:51 AM

The OP and many of us responding are Canadian, it’s usually if not always not in our playbook.

 

Bill

🤓 I think it was the Beaver.


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#44 jcj380

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 09:01 AM

I also think that some of the fear of being out alone is because our modern society has lost contact with the night sky. We’re so used to having everything illuminated, computerized, and pumped up with technology, that we aren’t comfortable anymore with the darkness and relative silence of the natural world.

Very true it seems.  I sometimes stay at AirBnB's in dark sky areas and one young woman from the city said in her review that she was freaked out by the *quiet* at a farmhouse.  confused1.gif


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#45 MSH

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 09:41 AM

(sorry if I get the replies wrong...)

 

 

Since you appear to be living in Toronto (like myself), here's the places where you go and that I'm quite familiar with.

 

Long Sault Conservation Area (the parking lot)

I've been meaning to try this place next, it's one of many starred 'dark site' places I saved on google maps but haven't visited yet (just Richardson's Point so far). 

 

 

If you can get there while there are a couple hours of light left that can help. You can wind down, walk around and get familiar and relaxed with your surroundings.

I'll keep this in mind for next time. I was rushing to get to Richardson's point before dark, by the time I was carrying my mount up the hill I couldn't see where I was going cool.gif

 

 

Someone might be a bit trigger happy if anxious. I sure wouldn't want to walk up on them, especially at night.

Guns aren't an option up here, and if they were I'm honestly too scared to use them. I got to shoot some 9mm guns in Georgia once, and it was definitely fun but there's something weird and unsettling having all that power in your hand, and it's crazy how you can just walk into a store, buy one (with a silencer if you want), and walk out. The uber driver who took me to the range told me everyone carries guns down there.

 

 

So far, I've only viewed from home.

I live on the 6th floor of an apartment building, so it's not easy for me to set up unless I drive somewhere. I've gotten permission from my superintendent to set up on the roof before, but she has to be up there to supervise. She's really nice but talks a lot, to the point that it's not really an option for me anymore lol.gif

 

 

What helped me the most was just telling myself over and over that I would be fine, and powering through those first few anxious times out there by myself. 

I'll try to keep this in mind for next time, especially now that I'm more equipped with all this advice from everyone. In the back of my head I kind of knew there wasn't anything to really be scared of (literally the worst I saw were fireflies and some car headlights) but in the moment it's hard. 

 

 

FYI - There is a little known site called Nirvana that is about the same distance as North Frontenac that is Bortle 1 (tiny bit of LP in the extreme south), it is an abandoned airfield with no man made lights, not one, no roads visible and fabulous sightlines (I would only observe there if you have a buddy) but it is fabulous.  The picture below was at this site with my cell phone:

This place is on my list to try, it's just hard to tell how to actually get in there, I can see the airstrip on google maps. That picture looks great, the last time I saw the milky way like that I think I was 8 years old lol.gif

 

 

 

Getting old and camp a lot in the middle of somewhere.  I do carry bear spray. But I have never had to use it.

 

On my own property, the issue is usually elk.  But a couple of nights ago, a bear did wander past my observation deck

I think I've seen Grizzly Man one too many times because I was definitely worried about bears, even though I have no idea if they're around much in Southern Ontario. Maybe I'll get some bear spray just in case...

 

 

I sometimes stay at AirBnB's in dark sky areas and one young woman from the city said in her review that she was freaked out by the *quiet* at a farmhouse.

As a city dweller I kind of get where she's coming from lol.gif



#46 csa/montana

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 10:02 AM

The OP and many of us responding are Canadian, it’s usually if not always not in our playbook.

 

Bill

 Makes no difference; this is a US based site, and we don't allow discussion of guns, for protection or otherwise.



#47 FoxIslandHiker

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 10:07 AM

Let's please keep guns out of this discussion.

Why?

 

Is the mention of firearms for personal defense prohibited by Cloudy Night rules?

 

I looked at the General Observing Forum Guidelines and I see no such prohibition.  Maybe I didn't look in the right place.  I asked this in all sincerity not as a provocation.

 

My bortle 2 dark sky site is in a clear cut area on a dead end logging road in the Olympic National Forest.  There I see evidence of use by others including empty beer cans and broken bottles.  Many years ago (seems like another lifetime), I was at times a young, drunk troublemaker.  I was never a mean drunk but alcohol brings out the worst in some.  As I am alone on a dark, dead end road where I might encounter a group of young, drunk troublemakers, the need for personal defense occurs to me.  I pray that I will never encounter such a group and that if I do, I will be able to make friends and diffuse the situation.  But I will not be defenseless.


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#48 FoxIslandHiker

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 10:09 AM

 Makes no difference; this is a US based site, and we don't allow discussion of guns, for protection or otherwise.

CSA/montana: Our posts crossed in cyber space.  I can take mine down if it is in violation of CN rules.



#49 Polyphemos

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 10:50 AM

If you’re concerned about personal protection, and everyone should be, bear spray is effective and easy to use with little to no training, which cannot be said about the alternatives.  Bear spray and insect repellent are two items I carry to all remote sites.


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#50 airbleeder

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Posted 20 June 2021 - 11:59 AM

   OFF! Familycare would be my first choice for defense. Smells like oranges leaving a pleasant scent trail for tracking, unless the body happens to be left in Florida.


Edited by airbleeder, 20 June 2021 - 01:50 PM.

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