What a reduction that cooler temperatures are lastly right here. It’s a welcome change of seasons and an ideal likelihood to comfortably discover the most effective dark-sky locations within the Southwest. Whether or not you’re headed to the sunny Southern California coast or gathering with winter Texans on the Gulf Coast, the preferred winter snowbird journeys are sometimes full of stargazing below crystal-clear skies.
A Brief Listing of the Finest Darkish Sky Locations within the Southwest
The Southwestern desert has inky-black starry skies all yr. However in case you’re a climate wimp like me, exploring them in fall and winter is rather more interesting. As an astronomy fan, I take pleasure in planning our travels across the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation’s Darkish Sky Website Listing. It’s an excellent useful resource for finding North America’s darkest skies and likewise features a record of dozens of Darkish Sky Parks close to widespread winter snowbird locations. My favourite locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas embrace:
Arizona: Saguaro Nationwide Park
In the event you disguise from winter in Arizona, take a break out of your traditional spot and head south to Organ Pipe Nationwide Monument. Situated two hours west of Tucson, Organ Pipe isn’t solely an Worldwide Darkish Sky Park, however can be an Worldwide Biosphere Reserve. The twin designation signifies that together with a peaceable keep beneath Southern Arizona’s darkest skies, you too can expertise one of many few intact, undeveloped slices of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. It’s a two-for-one deal that takes your breath away with the starriest skies at night time and untouched desert surroundings by day. There’s a country, RV-friendly campground contained in the monument, however Ajo Heights RV Park provides full-hookup comforts simply minutes from the park entrance.
California: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Few snowbird locations are higher than California. Regardless of the various vivid lights obliterating the night time sky in massive cities like Los Angeles, the state has a surprisingly massive variety of darkish sky locations for RVers. One in every of my favorites is situated south of Palm Springs at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Many snowbirds flock there through the spring wildflower season, however California’s largest state park can be an excellent spot for cool, comfy stargazing in fall and winter. The park makes probably the most of its Darkish Sky Park designation. Throughout snowbird season from December to March, park rangers often host night time sky star events that provide you with loads of methods to dive deeper into astronomy and our place within the universe. There’s a country RV-friendly campground contained in the park, however I really like staying in consolation at The Springs At Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course. It’s an opulent residence base simply minutes from the park entrance. Nearer to Ocotillo Wells within the Anza-Borrego Desert, Leapin Lizard RV Ranch additionally treats friends to gorgeous views of the Milky Manner and surrounding stars. The park has 75 fenced acres for roaming.
New Mexico: The Cosmic Campground
In the event you’re flying south for winter by means of New Mexico, take a brief detour to the Cosmic Campground Worldwide Darkish Sky Sanctuary within the Gila Nationwide Forest. This particular RV-friendly boondocking spot is certainly one of solely 14 licensed Worldwide Darkish Sky Sanctuaries worldwide. Situated about 1.5 hours north of Silver Metropolis, you gained’t even must journey far to take pleasure in one of many few locations on the planet with exceptionally darkish, starry nights. For the reason that campground has no shade timber, fall and winter are nice instances to go to. What’s even higher is that you just don’t want a reservation for this first-come, first-served campground with a number of conveniences like stage parking for giant RVs, picnic tables, fireplace rings, vault bathrooms and concrete telescope remark pads that make it straightforward to arrange your stargazing tools and consider the nightly present.
Texas: Large Bend Nationwide Park & Surrounding Space
In all our travels within the USA, I’ve by no means camped below darker skies than alongside the Rio Grande River. Situated midway between the obvious lights of El Paso and San Antonio, the Large Bend Area is without doubt one of the finest locations for a one-of-a-kind celestial expertise. Whether or not you’re fortunate sufficient to attain a campsite reservation inside Large Bend Nationwide Park or go for the opposite rustic campgrounds simply exterior, the lengthy drive to get to this a part of the nation is all the time definitely worth the effort. Simply don’t go and not using a tank filled with gasoline, all of the groceries you’ll want and a willingness to drift. You could or might not have hookups, and it’s nearly sure that you just’ll be with out dependable mobile or web connectivity in most areas. In the event you’re in search of extra trendy conveniences, simply park about an hour north on the Misplaced Alaskan RV Park in Alpine.
The right way to Make the Most of Darkish Sky RV Locations
Having fun with the most effective darkish sky locations within the Southwest requires a little bit etiquette in case you’re round different observers, and a few frequent sense whenever you’re alone or in a gaggle.
- Get to your stargazing vacation spot earlier than darkish. Whether or not you’re tenting out below the celebs or headed to a star occasion gathering on foot, you don’t need car headlights to impede everybody’s night time imaginative and prescient, together with yours. Arriving earlier than darkish additionally offers your eyes time to naturally regulate to the approaching darkness.
- Use a pink filter over your flashlight lens. You should purchase a flashlight designed for night time use, however it’s simply as straightforward to forestall private mild air pollution by wrapping a sheet of pink cellophane across the finish and securing it with a rubber band.
- Ask others round you if it’s OK to make use of synthetic mild. Even a pink flashlight can intervene with images and telescope remark.
- Maintain campfires to a minimal, in case you make them in any respect. Campfire smoke blots out twinkly stars simply as a lot as a flashlight. You’ll get a clearer image of night time skies and not using a campfire.
- Be careful for wildlife. Whether or not you’re taking a hike or tenting out, loads of nocturnal critters are in your neighborhood. Scorpions and snakes come out at night time, so preserve a detailed eye in your palms, ft, youngsters and pets.
You’ll by no means search for on the night time sky the identical method when you get a style of the Southwest darkish sky locations. In case your internal astronomer is craving to come back out, the web site Go Astronomy is a superb useful resource to study extra in regards to the world’s oldest science of stargazing.