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Help me plan a road trip in October

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#1 Guydive

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 07:44 PM

I've been out of the US for an extended period due to COVID, and now returned. before getting back to real life, I was thinking of going out for a one month road trip. 

the plan is to buy an old minivan, taking the rear seats out, throw a matrass and a dobsonian at the back and hit the road.

I'm currently in NJ, and was thinking about getting to the south west / Rocky mountains around beginning of october for like 9-10 days of observing around the new moon.

 

I need some recommendations on nice dark sites that will be accessible with the minivan. currently no plan so pretty open to every suggestion in the west (I think I'll leave California and pacific for later) 


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#2 Stellar1

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 08:30 PM

Well this may be out of the way just a bit but, you would love a dark sky park in Michigan called Headlands International Dark Sky Park. My wife and I took an awesome road trip out to Mackinac Island/Mackinaw City and a few other picturesque towns in that area. It was awesome, the highlight by far was Headlands, hats off to the state of Michigan, they did a dark sky park right. Yeah it’s a bit northwest of your intended direction but, considering the timeframe of your road trip it is a place worth the extra miles. Mackinac island itself is awesome, no cars just pristine shorelines and horse draws carriages and more bikes that you’ve seen in your life cause that’s how you get around (we biked around the whole island along the shore) was beautiful. Below I am including the link for Headlands, not only is it an awesome dark sky park but, there’s a tonne to do and see in the immediate area. 
 

https://www.midarkskypark.org

 

https://www.mackinacisland.org


Edited by Stellar1, 19 September 2021 - 08:32 PM.


#3 Guydive

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 08:36 PM

Well this may be out of the way just a bit but, you would love a dark sky park in Michigan called Headlands International Dark Sky Park. My wife and I took an awesome road trip out to Mackinac Island/Mackinaw City and a few other picturesque towns in that area. It was awesome, the highlight by far was Headlands, hats off to the state of Michigan, they did a dark sky park right. Yeah it’s a bit northwest of your intended direction but, considering the timeframe of your road trip it is a place worth the extra miles. Mackinac island itself is awesome, no cars just pristine shorelines and horse draws carriages and more bikes that you’ve seen in your life cause that’s how you get around (we biked around the whole island along the shore) was beautiful. Below I am including the link for Headlands, not only is it an awesome dark sky park but, there’s a tonne to do and see in the immediate area. 
 

https://www.midarkskypark.org

 

https://www.mackinacisland.org

Thanks, it does sounds lovely but defiantly outside the main rout so maybe in the future. sounds perfect for a weekend!


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#4 Medic002

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 09:13 PM

If you plan on driving anywhere through Kentucky you need to make a stop at Cave Run lake it is a very beautiful lake full of slate that makes it a baby blue color most of the year. There are lots of small rope bridges at some nearby state parks in the area you can walk across also if ur not afraid of heights and them swinging a little while u walk across lol. A few caves also not far away u will have to research a little to find them.

 

https://www.dreamsti...e-run-lake.html


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#5 spereira

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 08:03 AM

Moving to General Observing.

 

smp



#6 csrlice12

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:31 AM

There are lots of dark sites in Colorado....the Sand Dunes, the DAS has a blue zone dark site, around Fruita area.  Just look at a map of Colorado and cross out Denver and Co Springs, the rest is pretty Good.  For a real life experience, try Capulet Volcano Natl park in Northern New Mexico....Bortle 1.  


Edited by csrlice12, 20 September 2021 - 09:32 AM.

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#7 astronomus1930

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:32 AM

New Mexico has wonderful skies- Chaco Canyon or around the Deep Sky West Remote Observatory.

 

Clear Skies!



#8 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:46 AM

I've spent many wonderful nights at the free campgrounds at the Navajo National Monument. It's at 7200 feet and the skies are very dark and clear.  

 

Jon



#9 Guydive

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 10:21 AM

I was thinking maybe to leverage the trip and maybe do the nights next to the some attraction such as Grand Canyon or Yellowstone



#10 river-z

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 10:27 AM

Chaco, Gila National Forest, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon… sounds like a splendid fall trip. Chilly at night but not too cold.

Yellowstone in October is beautiful by day but would be quite cold at night. It might even snow.

#11 Starhustler

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 12:35 PM

In New Mexico, Clayton Lake State Park is a good place to visit, its a International Dark Sky site, its a small park, not usually crowded, very dark skies, RV hookups, dinosaur tracks and a small observatory that a local club maintains. Early in Oct there is the Okie-Tex Starparty only about 40 miles or so from the park.

 

Steve


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#12 ShaulaB

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 01:10 PM

The Dodge and Chrysler minivans have Stow and Go seating, which is great. We have owned these vehicles and it is amazing how much cargo space is useable.

Rental fleets frequently use these makes of minivan. Unfortunately, rental costs are ridiculously high now.
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#13 Scoper47

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 01:19 PM

In New Mexico, Clayton Lake State Park is a good place to visit, its a International Dark Sky site, its a small park, not usually crowded, very dark skies, RV hookups, dinosaur tracks and a small observatory that a local club maintains. Early in Oct there is the Okie-Tex Starparty only about 40 miles or so from the park.

 

Steve

I travel to the Black Mesa/ Kenton Ok area for trips to dark sky observe usually a couple of trips a year and stay for a three or four days at one of the guest ranches there. Personally, I don't care for star parties like Okie Tex.  I am interested in concentrating on observing, not socializing, looking through other peoples scopes, and dealing with crowded conditions at these events. 

I have observed at Clayton Lake SP before. You will need to select a campsite and pay for it. There are other state parks that are dark sky certified like Caprock Canyon and Copper Breaks in the Texas Panhandle.  I have observed from Copper Breaks on a couple of trips. All these state parks have Bortle 2 skies or darker.

One thing though, I would avoid camping at these state parks on weekends and especially holiday weekends especially in the warmer months. I try to go on weekdays.


Edited by Scoper47, 20 September 2021 - 01:28 PM.


#14 Scoper47

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 01:45 PM

I've been out of the US for an extended period due to COVID, and now returned. before getting back to real life, I was thinking of going out for a one month road trip. 

the plan is to buy an old minivan, taking the rear seats out, throw a matrass and a dobsonian at the back and hit the road.

I'm currently in NJ, and was thinking about getting to the south west / Rocky mountains around beginning of october for like 9-10 days of observing around the new moon.

 

I need some recommendations on nice dark sites that will be accessible with the minivan. currently no plan so pretty open to every suggestion in the west (I think I'll leave California and pacific for later) 

Some advise for observing in the west.  Along with dark skies you will also get some smoke affected skies. This may sometimes limit you to some of the brighter dso's. You will occasionally have to deal with observing when it is windy and clear. Cover and tie down your scope when you quit for the night.

It get colder at night in the west so bring plenty of warm clothing and sleeping bag.  Make sure you keep your gas tank nearly full and have plenty of food and groceries. It can be long distances between these services.


Edited by Scoper47, 20 September 2021 - 02:12 PM.


#15 Guydive

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 02:15 PM

Some advise for observing in the west.  Along with dark skies you will also get some smoke affected skies. This may sometimes limit you to some of the brighter dso's. 

is it really that bad? what areas are still affected by the smoke? 

I mean the whole point of driving to the west is to be able to enjoy the faintest objects



#16 Scoper47

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 03:38 PM

is it really that bad? what areas are still affected by the smoke? 

I mean the whole point of driving to the west is to be able to enjoy the faintest objects

Just a suggestion: Don't just depend on what you read here. do your own research on these places online.  


Edited by Scoper47, 20 September 2021 - 03:38 PM.


#17 Scoper47

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 03:42 PM

There are lots of dark sites in Colorado....the Sand Dunes, the DAS has a blue zone dark site, around Fruita area.  Just look at a map of Colorado and cross out Denver and Co Springs, the rest is pretty Good.  For a real life experience, try Capulet Volcano Natl park in Northern New Mexico....Bortle 1.  

I contacted Capulin NP last year and they said they close the Nat. Park before dark.  There is an area outside the gate to the park where people can set up their scopes and observe.



#18 Guydive

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 03:46 PM

Just a suggestion: Don't just depend on what you read here. do your own research on these places online.


Off course. But as long as you brought it up.. 😀

#19 MEE

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 08:11 PM

Could you do: southern route (Arkansas, TX, Oklahoma) on the way there and northern route (Nebraska) the way back (or reverse)?

Also: are fall colors of interest to you? That may be another factor in your planning

#20 ABQJeff

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:40 PM

As mentioned above Okie-Texas Star Party in western OK right by NM border is during new moon week in October.

Another place in New Mexico is El Malpais National Monument. The three most popular trail heads are open for night sky purposes. Lava Falls trailhead is the darkest spot (Bortle 1-2) and is easier to access than Chaco Canyon (and it is as dark as Chaco). Trailhead has picnic table, restroom, leveled gravel lot. Note: you cant camp at the trail head (just observe) but the monument does have a campground, as does neighboring El Morro National Monument (which is an IDA certified spot, Bortle 2).

I would recommend a stop for a night of observing on way to AZ/Grand Canyon.

Capulin National Monument (Bortle 1-2) in northern NM allows observing as well, but no restrooms other than the Pinon…

#21 ABQJeff

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:46 PM

Oh and Cosmic Campground in Gila Wilderness (SW New Mexico) is a favorite for campers.


Edited by ABQJeff, 20 September 2021 - 09:47 PM.


#22 Guydive

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 06:20 AM

Could you do: southern route (Arkansas, TX, Oklahoma) on the way there and northern route (Nebraska) the way back (or reverse)?

Also: are fall colors of interest to you? That may be another factor in your planning


I can, but I don't know about OkiTex. As mentioned by a different user above, I would rather just observe by myself. Regarding the foliage, I was thinking about returning through the appalachian mountains

#23 csrlice12

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:20 AM

Just remember, October weather at altitude out West can be Summerlike, or Winterlike......and sometimes both in the same day.



#24 MEE

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 09:45 AM

Regarding the foliage, I was thinking about returning through the appalachian mountains[/quote]

Depending on the timing of your return trip, some or possibly most of the Appalachians may be past peak.

See www.smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map for more details

Colorado may get some good colors as well
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#25 Migwan

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 03:17 PM

Regarding an astro-trip out west, you might want to watch out for stowaways. 

 

Chances are in October the above suggestions in OK, northern NM and northern AZ will be ideal.  The Cosmic Campground in NM is a bit south of Chaco Canyon and would be handy if a diversion for weather is needed.  

 

If you manage to catch a cold snap, a more southern line might include the west side of the Guadalupe Mountains, Davis Mountains, Big Bend, Cosmic Campground, Chiricahua Mountains and Organ Pipe.   This line is not quite as dark as the other, but warmer is sometimes in fashion.  

 

Enjoy 


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