Today is Connor and I’s last day exploring dark sky parks, or at least the closest places to them. See, the problem we kept running into is that though many of these locations are designated by the International Dark-Sky Association as dark sky parks, they are still operated by the National Park Service (NPS). This means that their hours of operation have not changed, and so many of the national monuments and parks close between 4 – 4:30 p.m. How are you supposed to go and take advantage of these locations’ dark skies, if you can’t even visit during night hours?
With many of these locations having been designated dark parks just a few years ago, I understand that a period of time will exist between then and when most people will recognize many of the places I had hoped to visit – such as Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument or Capulin Volcano or Walnut Canyon National Monument – are places with naturally dark skies being protected from light pollution. By writing this blog on just some of the Southwest’s numerous international dark sky parks, I hope to bring this fact to attention. Further, I hope that as more people begin to recognize that these historic sites can be enjoyed as much, if not more at night than during the day. Perhaps when the demand is great enough for these places to be open at night, the NPS will leave them, or at least parts of them available for nighttime visitors.
Until this change occurs, however, I will continue to enjoy dark skies wherever I can find them. Tonight, that means hiking through public land to North Catamount Reservoir, a spot just east of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and just north of Pikes Peak. As we made our way down a snowy valley, Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills glowed in the distance. Down by the main body of the reservoir, we watched the moon rise and the stars shine forth from nothing as the melody of a half-frozen stream tickled our ears. Walking for miles through the snow, mud, and ice, we enjoyed the last mountain views we might get for some time before returning to this magical part of the country.
I want to end this post by thanking everyone who helped make this trip possible. First, to Connor – without you I would never have been able to take on a trip as long and rigorous as this with such ease and grace. Thank you for being a truly life-long friend, and I hope this is just the beginning of many more adventures to come.
To Professor Law, thank you for all the honest and much needed advice on my writing. You have always a huge source of inspiration and motivation for improving myself and my work, and for that, I really can’t thank you enough. You have shown me what I can accomplish when I set my mind right, and I so look forward to working with you for years to come.
I want to give a huge thank you to my Mom and Dad, for having raised me and provided me every opportunity available when it comes to that which I’m passionate about. You have made this trip possible in more ways than one, and I am deeply grateful for your love and support.
Lastly, I want to thank all the wonderful people I have met and who have hosted me along my way. You all have renewed my faith in this cause by showing me how deeply you, and many others still care about dark skies.
This will not be the end of this blog, though I will be taking some time off now as my final semester at Cornell begins.
Thank you all, and remember – go out. Be still. Be silent. Enjoy the stars.