When I was younger, well before the teenage years pulled me in other more social directions, I remember going out in the evenings onto our large front lawn and lying down near our lonely, dying apple tree to stare up at the night sky. While light pollution from our close to the city location did not make for perfect viewing, it allowed enough of a glimpse into the star dotted darkness for me to feel the vastness of our universe and start that human journey of contemplating my place in it.
I eventually outgrew these solitary moments but they still hold a special place in my heart. They were moments of peace and reflection that sadly were so easily lost once my time was filled with the busyness of adulthood. But, even now, I still remember the softness of the grass cushioning my still body, the endless darkness of the sky above and the feeling of wonder as I stared into the vastness and dreamed of the stars. There is something comforting in staring up at the night sky.
When the continued impact of COVID-19 meant we had to pivot yet again and delay our long planned trip to Scotland for a second year, we opted for a US based destination instead and headed to Utah. I was drawn to all those pictures I had seen of red rock formations and expansive desert landscapes so foreign to my own wonderful coastal home. It was an amazing adventure that did not disappoint. And, when that hot desert sun disappeared, we experienced the night sky of my childhood.
Utah has nine International Dark Sky Parks. What is a dark sky park?
While we traveled through a few dark sky destinations during our journey, we had planned on one special stop specifically because of the night views. We had booked a yurt for an overnight stay at Dead Horse Point State Park.
We finished eleven straight days of hiking through Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks with a 4 mile hike (out and back) to Dead Horse Point Overlook. We weaved through the Rim trail in the late afternoon desert heat until we arrived at the overlook. The views were hazy but beautiful. After our hike, we settled into our yurt. We grilled sausages for dinner while sipping wine on the deck, enjoying the expansive dessert views, and waiting for the darkness to come.
The transition started off slowly as the first star (or perhaps Venus) appeared in the dusky sky and for a brief moment remained the only light visible. But, as the darkness deepened the stars started coming out slowly at first but then eventually accelerating until they fully illuminated the black sky. While my husband used his constellation app to identify the groupings of stars, I just enjoyed the quiet vastness of it all and the momentary return to my childhood.
Sadly, I have no pictures to share. I’m not a talented enough photographer to capture the stars in the sky. Maybe it’s enough to have captured them in my memory as I did in childhood.
I also didn’t have to travel all the way to Utah to find dark skies again although I do recommend the trip.
Maine has many rural areas and places free of light pollution where you can experience the night sky including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument which has recently been designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The image below is a view of Mount Katahdin from the Katahdin Loop Road at the National Monument taken during a trip we took a few years ago. The views were spectacular throughout the national monument and while we visited during the day I can easily imagine the skies are plenty dark and covered in stars once the sun goes down.
Check out Dark Sky Maine for more tips on how to enjoy the stars in Maine.