Check the moon before visiting Arches National Park.

La Sal Mountain from Arches

La Sal Mountain from Arches

We had been to Arches National Park several times [see our suggested itinerary for a trip to the Southwest], but this time, I made it a destination.  I did not want to be there for a full moon.  I’m sure a full moon would look cool through an arch, but I wanted to see stars.

On a 2000 trip, we camped high in the Rocky Mountains.  When I looked up, at first I thought I was seeing a strange band of clouds.  Then I realized I was seeing the Milky Way.  I had never seen so many stars before.  We live on the light-polluted East Coast.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue on our 3rd day

During subsequent trips to the dry air of the West, there were still clouds or a bright moon interfering with my quest to see those stars again.  This year I heard about International Dark Sky Parks, places where light pollution does not keep one from seeing the stars.  Canyonlands National Park was rated a 2 on a scale of 1 to 9, nine being Manhattan.  But we were not prepared to camp, and Canyonlands has no other lodging.  Arches is rated a 3 because there is some reflection from Grand Junction, Colorado 70 miles away.  The sliver of moon would set before nightfall.  Three was good enough.

Rock climbers love Arches N.P.

Rock climbers love Arches N.P.

On our first night in Moab, we drove into the park.  We took a ride on the Colorado River the second day and were too tired to go back to Arches.  On our third day, we went back to Arches after a long day driving the spectacular roads in the area.  At the end of a long day of driving and walking around the arches, I was too tired to stay late again.

On that first day, we entered the park in the late afternoon.  There was still a surprising amount of traffic.  I think some people were coming because the park is open all night, and there is no fee late in the day.  Others were coming to see the stars.

We drove to Panorama Point where we had a three hundred and sixty degree view. We were early.  No one else was there.  As the evening wore on, a few more cars pulled in.  The sun set and a few more cars pulled in.

Double Arch

Double Arch

I was a little crazy.  I swore every time somebody came in with their headlights on.  I swore when someone else lit the light inside their car or used flashlights.  I swore every time someone drove down the nearby road heading back to the campgrounds.

But I was crazy — their little lights didn’t matter.  The sky was still darker than any experience we have ever had except during the 2000 trip.

Orion’s Belt has some of the brightest stars where we live in Florida.  At Arches, Orion’s Belt was almost obscured by all the other stars around it.

I took no night photos.  Just believe me.  It was wonderful.

Click on photos to enlarge.

P.S.,  I have added the U.S. Dark Sky Parks to the “Interesting Lists” page at the top.

This view of North America as seen in Google Earth shows colored areas that denote levels of light pollution as detailed in the New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness. Fabio Falchi et al./AAAS

This view of North America as seen in Google Earth shows colored areas that denote levels of light pollution as detailed in the New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness.
Fabio Falchi et al./AAAS

Advertisements

About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
This entry was posted in Travel Logs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Check the moon before visiting Arches National Park.

  1. JohnRH says:

    The Great Sand Dunes National Park is supposed to be good. We visited recently but were not there at night. https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/experiencethenight.htm

    Like

  2. Keith &Loraine Beckman says:

    The Arches are beautiful and maybe one day I’ll get to see them. Keith has seen them I think as he lived in Utah for quite a few years before coming to Oregon. Thanks again for the pictures etc. Love LK&W

    Like

I am interested in your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s