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Look to the Sky

52 Week Adventure Challenge

07.10.17

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Look to the Sky

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  • Kings Creek Meadow in Lassen Volcanic National Park.- Look to the Sky
  • A night-sky camp.- Look to the Sky
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory.- Look to the Sky
  • Night campfire in Joshua Tree National Park.- Look to the Sky
  • Night skies at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park.- Look to the Sky
  • Kitt Peak is located in one of the darkest sky areas of the U.S.- Look to the Sky
  • The Milky Way over Mount Rainier. - Look to the Sky
  • Orion keeping watch over a warm and cozy Pickett Butte lookout.- Look to the Sky
  • Three Sisters from Tumalo Mountain.- Look to the Sky
  • Dark skies allow for great views of the stars.- Look to the Sky
  • Hager Mountain is the perfect destination for stargazing.- Look to the Sky
  • Milky Way over Monument Valley.- Look to the Sky
  • The Milky Way reflected on Wellington Lake.- Look to the Sky
  • The Milky Way over Hager Mountain Fire Lookout.- Look to the Sky
  • Enjoying one of the darkest skies in the country at Great Sand Dunes National Park.- Look to the Sky
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Contributor

We’ve passed the halfway point in our #52WeekAdventureChallenge, and thus far we’ve celebrated the scenic places that make the outdoors unique and extraordinary. For this installment, however, we celebrate not a place but an infinite beyond. There are few things as compelling as the night sky at midnight. In the company of a friend or even alone, the innumerable stars pecked out of the darkness of space provoke awe and introspection and, from time to time, the click of a shutter release.

But forget about worldly things.

At sunset the curtain drops. Veiled by the daylight is a dome theater of distant starlight. If you’re far enough north, neon green bands might undulate on an invisible platform. Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing—if it’s up to us, you’re camping somewhere far away from artificial light—it’s a show that you have to experience to understand. For this installment of the #52WeekAdventureChallenge, we invite you to visit some of the best places on earth to watch the sky.

The experience on its own is enough to entertain in the backcountry, just sleep out in the dark. Sounds and silence are magnified by your sense of vulnerability, but the night sky is like a security blanket that quiets your fear. It rotates; meteors streak through the atmosphere, satellites lurch from horizon to horizon, and the Milky Way frames the night sky in a ring.

That said, there are also tools to engage with what you’re seeing. One of the simplest is a star navigation app on your smartphone, many of which are free, like Star Chart, SkyView, or Star Walk. The premium apps include a plugin for the phone’s gyroscope, which allows you to pan around the sky, and the phone will show you exactly what you’re looking at. In combination with a telescope or binoculars, you will gain an intimate knowledge of the night skies. And, of course, bring along your camera and shoot the stars.

But you must find the dark skies to begin with. That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of the best places to look up, all within a day’s drive from the big city.

Denver

Salt Lake City

Los Angeles

San Francisco

Portland

Seattle

Phoenix

Northeast U.S. and East Coast

  • Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania)
  • Staunton River State Park (Virginia)
  • Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park (North Carolina)
  • Pickett Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area (Tennessee)

#52AdventureChallenge

We believe good things come from people spending time outside. We strive to provide inspiration and supporting information on incredible adventures to make it easy for you to get outdoors and explore new places. We understand that life is busy, but we strongly encourage you to make time for outdoor recreation on a weekly, if not daily, basis. To keep you inspired all year, we've put together a list of 52 geologic features and adventure themes. Check them out and join us in our #52AdventureChallenge!

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