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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dark Skies Communities: Westcliffe/Silver Cliff, Colorado -- A Cliffhanger?

     The International Dark Skies Communities of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado,

 just east of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the Wet Mountain Valley,

were part of our late January into February camping adventure. I read about the February camping sleep reset after returning home; unplugging definitely worked for me. Maizie, my pup, and I fell asleep to the moon setting and arose to or before the sun rise. {That sleep schedule continued after our return to Denver.}

      Most lights and street lamps in both communities have covers over them so that the light is directed downward only. Thus, evening skies are filled with a plethora of stars and a raucous view of the Milky Way. It also adds a cozy glow to the town while eliminating wasted upward light.

        It took nearly ten years for Jim Bradburn, a retired Denver architect, to convince folks in both communities to put the covers on the lights with the official designation as an International Dark Skies Community coming in 2015.

         The Smoky Jack Observatory in Westcliffe is a real treat in a community of about 1100 people (the combined populations of both towns which share a main street).

       I asked many folks there why these tiny towns connected to one another had separate names but no one had a definitive answer. A rancher laughed heartily when I said the answer would just be a cliffhanger, then. . .Maizie did not care either way and chose instead, a solar soaking.

     We did manage a trip to our favorite Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. We had the entire park to ourselves after a wave to the park ranger. (I have my Alternative National Park Service decal, of course).

       If only the Pinyon Campground at GSDNP had been open; talk about Dark Skies!

Have you been to any International Dark Skies Communities?

     1. Here's the list of current (pun intended) International Dark Sky Communities.

     2. And here's the "make it up as we went" route of our "Angel Bat Tour."

     {Paper maps work best in this part of Colorado; they're also lots more fun for meeting folks.} 


  1. You, Mary S., and I could make a Smith pilgrimage there. . .

  2. Were you the class clown? Perhaps clown with class ;-)?

  3. Glad to see you've gotten Maizie to share the driving.

    Never been to a dark sky community, as far as I know. And I'm not proud to me Danish. But, they're OK with being #2.

    (They've got a lot of competition, though.)

    1. It all wouldn't work if we didn't have number 1 and number 2. Take that any way you like. . .;-)

  4. Here's the current list of International Dark Sky Communities:

    Beverly Shores, Indiana (U.S.)

    Big Park / Village of Oak Creek, Arizona (U.S.)

    Bon Accord (Canada)

    Borrego Springs, California (U.S.)

    Coll (Scotland)

    Dripping Springs, Texas (U.S.)

    Flagstaff, Arizona (U.S.)

    Homer Glen, Illinois (U.S.)

    Horseshoe Bay, Texas (U.S.)

    Moffat (Scotland)

    Sark (Channel Islands)

    Sedona, Arizona (U.S.)

    Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky (U.S.)

    Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado (U.S.)

    A friend from Brown just bought a place in Borrego Springs, CA, for the dark skies.

  5. This lovely quote is appropriate for this week's Partial Ellipsis of the Sun and this week on the planet:

    "The stars we are given, the constellations we make."

    --Rebecca Solnit--

    1. Very similar to Leopold Kronecker's "God made the integers, all else is the work of man."

    2. Integer makes me think of injera, Ethiopian bread made from teff. It's an acquired taste, I suppose.

    3. Injera's great, a little like a sourdough crepe. What's an acquired taste, IMHO, is using it as a tablecloth and fork at the same time, tearing off gluten-free hunks of it with your fingers and scooping up wot-ever's on the table.

    4. That texture, though. I want to wipe the table with it, not eat it.

    5. No, you wipe the table with it, then eat it. Yum!

    6. Maybe it will grow on me. Our "Dames and Docs" group ate injera with doro wat, tomato and jalapeno salad, and a lentil dish.

      The thing I found most interesting is that Ethiopians don't like the feeling of silverware in between their food and their mouths. And they tend to use just one hand for eating. . .

    7. I first tried Ethiopian food in the 1980's, and I've always had it served on a platter, never on a table...

      I wonder if the aversion to silverware has to do with the vinegar flavor? You never use metal bowls or spoons when making sushi rice, they alter the flavor.

    8. eco, the vinegar hypothesis appeals to the scientist in me.

      Yes, our local Ethiopian restaurant serves the meal on a large circular platter; the injera hangs over the edge just a wee bit.

    9. Sadly the US used to be the good guys, providing assistance to non-industrial countries - I despise the term Third World. Cheaper and more efficient than bombing, a few billion for clean water and electricity earned us better relations in Latin America during FDR's time, for example. China is exchanging land and, most importantly, access to rare earth elements as their payment.

      Isn't it fun watching your empire die?

  6. Replies
    1. What a loss of a wonderful, vibrant man at only 68. Rosling died on February 7th, my dad's birthday. Dad also fought pancreatic cancer for over 4 years.

      Mind the gap!

  7. Replies
    1. Smokey actually represents the Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Dept (as well as the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council), not the Park Service, part of the Interior Dept. I've seen versions of this picture with "Wokey" on his hatband.

  8. Steph,

    Regarding your list, above, of dark sky communities... the ones closest to me in Minnesota/Wisconsin are Beverly Shores, Indiana, (sister city to Dinah Sill?) or Homer Glen, Illinois (I'll bet they have a great town league baseball team!) I like the concept of dark sky communities (but not the concept of benighted nations, in which direction I fear we may be headed) and would like someday to visit one.
    Most of them seem to have really nice names...
    Bon Accord (Canada) {sounds idyllic, irenic!)
    Dripping Springs, Texas (U.S.) {in no hurry, just drip, drip, drip...}
    Horseshoe Bay, Texas (U.S.) {I'll bet on the Bay, but never on Horseshoes or Grenades... to close for comfort}
    Sark (Channel Islands) {Cutty... nuff said}
    Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky (U.S.) {"Pootsee" is the name of my next kitten}


  9. Lego, kindly go dark and report back!

    Tonight might be a good night to go. . .

  10. There'll be dark skies over
    The Westcliffe of ...

    ... took me all week and I still don't have a finish for it.

    1. By the way, it was 80 degrees in Denver yesterday. Eighty. LXXX. On February 10th, historically a very cold and snowy day in CO. This is just weird.

    2. Colorado doesn't rhyme with over.

      80 degrees? Fake weather! Chinese hoax!

    3. Ah, Dover!

      Speaking of Chinese hoaxes, from now and forward, I will be using '45' only as suggested by Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King's daughter, Bernice King.

  11. Fresh off a day with six high school juniors preparing for the SAT/ACT. It was very long and very satisfying.

    Since eliminating at least two of four answers is an important strategy, I gave them each a polished coprolite (fossilized dinosaur poop) to remind them to eliminate and "do not be deterred!"

    They thought it was cool. . .

  12. New post on "March for Science: Earth Day, April 22" is now up.