Days of Nights

in search of dark skies

Category: dark skies (Page 1 of 2)

Joshua Tree National Park CA

Some aspects of my journey are becoming personal pilgrimages. This is the first time I have visited Joshua Tree National Park. The album “Joshua Tree” by U2 was released in the spring of 1987. It had a very profound effect on me. Very powerful music. So I played it a lot the four days I was here. I was very lucky to get a campsite without a reservation. Nestled in among these amazing rock formations. A form of granite that forced its way through the earth’s surface and has been subsequently eroded away. Besides the large population of Joshua trees, a type of yucca, there is a surprising variety of plant life. More tree magic. Juniper, pinyon, and live and scrub oak. There is evidence of human habitation here as old as 1000 years. And there are spaces that invoke a sense of sacredness in me, because of the layout, rocks, trees, open space, orientation. I create my own space for my morning yoga by determining north from the location of Polaris and hopefully finding a mountain or a tree to direct my attention for my routine. Dark skies are better than I would have imagined considering the proximity to Los Angeles. Observations hampered by clouds. But still two brief opportunities were rewarding.

campsite. Belle campground

Joshua trees and granite formations

human habitation


massive Joshua tree



live oak. scrub oak.

scrub oak


Organ Pipe National Monument. Pima County AZ

Organ Pipe National Monument. Pima County AZ. Its southern boundary is the Mexico border. I t is hard to comprehend that a line on the map that wasn’t there before 1853 could make such a difference. the south Puerto Blanco Road runs right along the fence/traffic barrier. On the other side in Mexico Hwy 2 with roadside businesses and a steady stream of traffic. Many trucks. And a small convoy of Mexico Border Patrol. They have a different style from their U.S. counterparts. Very distinctly military with camo pickups with a machine gun mounted on the roof with a soldier standing at in the bed. The weather, the trees and cacti, the pronghorn and coyote, and nature itself do not recognize this boundary. The same for The People (Tohono O’odham0 who have lived here for generations. The Sea of Cortez and the souhern end of the Sonoran Desert is only 70 miles away

King of Arizona National Wildlife Refuge. Yuma County AZ.

I have become rather fond of the National Wildlife Refuges. They are quiet and dark. It’s about the wildlife not people. Yet there is a presence of the ancient ones that is very strong here.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Pima County AZ.

After a week of Phoenix and Tucson and spending a large chunk of money on truck repairs, it was time to retreat and park myself for awhile. No driving. No spending money. Buenos Aires was just what I needed. In addition there are very dark skies and I stayed to watch the lunar eclipse. This became an experiment in managing my water resources. I ran out of fresh water in the trailer and maxxed out the gray water both on the 9th day. I had an extra 12 gallons in the truck and drew of 5 of the gray water into a separate container. There are those who scatter their gray water in the bushes. I am not doing that. So practically speaking, the way I do things, I am good for 8 days. Which includes doing dishes twice daily, a light laundry, a body wash, and washing my hair.

This area is 10 miles from the Mexico border so there is a lot of Patrol activity. White SUVs along the roads, including driving through the refuge, and overhead aircraft, F-15s, surveillance jets, and helicopters.

The nearby town of Arivaca is interesting. It has been here since the 1700s. Formerly had its day when mining was going on about 100 years ago. Now being populated by artists, humanitarians, and tourists. Just outside of town is the unique La Siesta RV Park. Steve has been theme-ing it with vintage travel trailers. Nice park. Nice guy.

Great Basin National Park. dark skies.

21 September

Snow mixed with rain all night and all day. Elko Hills (7510 ft./ 2289 m.) looking very wintry. It is still summer! Night time temperatures have been below freezing all week, down to 25 F./-3.8 C. a couple of times. A real challenge to stay comfortable and find things to do.

It has been a challenge to do meaningful stargazing in the trailer park. There is a bright fluorescent light at the restroom a short distance away that illuminates this half of the park. I guess there is a good reason for that. Though better lighting could be installed. I am not the one to advocate for change. Each site also has a low watt light at the electrical hookup. Most of the residents have turned theirs off. But there are a few that do interfere with my darkness. The best that I can do under the circumstances is to find a spot that is shielded both by the truck and the trailer. The Milky Way is just barely visible. So I guess this qualifies as a dark sky site. The restroom light for some reason turns itself off at 430 am while it is still dark. It is about this time that some of my neighbors start leaving for work. Which means their porch lights go on, and of course they have their headlights on as they drive out. I could drive just a short distance away to enjoy better conditions. There is a lot of open land to the north. But is is interspersed with private homesteads. I have chosen not to get up and go out at 1200 o’clock midnight in close to freezing temperatures driving into unknown neighborhoods calling unnecessary attention to myself. So I will be looking forward to just being able to set up camp under truly dark skies and being able to enjoy them with little or no effort. This is just the beginning.

Full Moon. September 2017

The smoke-filled skies produce red sunsets and orange moons.

And from the night before:

Simpson Springs. Tooele County UT

I only want to make you aware of the beauty and the depth that is out here, after you turn off all the distractions. The stars do their own thing, each in its own place, each in its own way. As the day becomes night, the fire in the west becomes a faint glow. The stars slowly appear, each in its own succession of brightness. Tonight Jupiter, of course, is visible before darkness. Then Arcturus, and one by one, the sky is filled with celestial beings. True darkness is attained with the appearance of the Milky Way, arcing over the eastern horizon from Sagittarius to Cassiopeia. Saturn shows up in Ophiucus. It is all here for us to ponder and enjoy. Unfortunately we are being robbed of this precious resource by light pollution.

Box Elder County UT

August 30 2016. Configuration of Antares, Mars, and Saturn in Scorpius.

The Milky Way and Sagittarius.



Adler Planetarium. Chicago

10.Adler Planetarium. Chicago

Grainger Observatory. Phillips Exeter Academy NH.

astronomy. Phillips Exeter Academy

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