On the run observing sites - Texas

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On the run observing sites - Texas

Postby william-sager » Mon Dec 17, 2018 2:15 pm

A recent astrolist post had Mike McCurdy's journey to find a clear spot with good weather for observing the Geminids. I have done this myself and the biggest challenge is figuring out where is a good safe spot. I'm hoping to lure other members to post their found hit-and-run observing spots from across Texas. We can make a list and it will be a resource for other wanderers.

Here's a start.

X-bar Ranch
8300 FM2119, El Dorado, TX 76936
X-bar is a for-profit "nature retreat" about 23 miles from Sonora, TX off of I-10, in between Sonora and El Dorado. It is considerably closer than Big Bend, if you want to run west for clear skies. It is darker than the Dark Site, with some sky glow from Sonora and other small towns. The horizon is low all around. You can rent a cabin, park an RV, or tent camp. I like the cabins because you can roll out when you want to observe and walk 50-100 feet out to the observing ground.
William W. Sager (Will)
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204
[email protected]
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Re: On the run observing sites - Texas

Postby kdrake » Wed Jan 02, 2019 7:11 pm

West of Grapeland, Tx on the west shore of Houston County Lake is a small park with parking lot and pier. The area is very, very dark - undiscovered hill country of east Texas. Recently looking on GE, it might have some light pollution from nearby lake houses. This part of Texas and back east towards Toledo Bend is really dark. But can be very humid.
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Re: On the run observing sites - Texas

Postby rene-gedaly » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:28 pm

taken from Astrolist Mar 9 started by Todd Murray
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Todd Murray via HAS <[email protected]>
Sat, Mar 9, 8:55 PM (3 days ago)
to HAS, Todd

Have any of you booked a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere because they have dark skies and you wanted a night away from the white zone light dome?

Just browsing the map a couple hours west of Austin, I see a few ranches and retreats, but nobody is obviously marketing themselves toward people who would rent a cabin for a couple days out in the middle of nowhere.

Is this a business model that exists? Maybe it should. I certainly would make use of it!

Todd M.
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Todd,
Check out X-bar Ranch near Sonora. They rent cabins and have pretty good skies.
Will

William W. Sager
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Todd,

I know of 2 B&B away from Houston.

The first is “Equinox Inn at Biscuit Hill” at Canyon Lake, about 200 miles away. To the south they do have the San Antonio light dome. This is run by a former member, Keith Hammons, of the Ft Bend Astronomy Club, and has a C-8 at the inn. They do serve breakfast. We have spent 2 nights there, but it was cloudy, so couldn’t comment on the skies.

https://www.equinox-inn.com/

Steve Goldberg
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The owners of Equinox also suggested “Sunset Inn in Mountain Home” half way between Kerrville and Fredricksburg. But no knowledge of the sky condition there.
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2x on Xbar Ranch. Home if the El Dorado Star Party. Great skies and good people.
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The Hill Country Alliance is just now lobbying for an amendment to the Hotel Occupancy Tax to allow expenditures for retrofitting bad lighting in Texas because they are getting dark sky tourism. Dripping Springs, Wimberly, Horseshoe Bay and Fredericksburg are all Dark Sky cities or almost there.

We also have HAS members who go to Leakey to observe.

Debbie
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3rd vote for X-Bar Ranch. They cater to astronomers, have cabins, tent camping, etc. And, the family that owns the ranch are very nice and very accommodating.

Doug Holland
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You might check into Enchanted Rock State Park but It would be camping. It is about 30 minutes N of Fredericksburg, hence in the area west of Austin you mention. They have good dark sky.

Around Fredericksburg there are quite a few B & Bs. If you choose one N of Fredericksburg you might find what you want.

Rusty
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You can go to a ranch that has cabins as well as campsites. About 6 hours west of Houston. XBar Ranch. Look up on internet. It is where the Eldorado Star Party is held in the Fall. Bottle 2ish night skies

karl baltz via HAS
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karl baltz via HAS <[email protected]>
Sun, Mar 10, 10:42 AM (2 days ago)
to has, Rusty, karl

X Bar Ranch south of Eldorado TX. About 6 hours west of Houston. Approx. 15 minutes north of I 10.
Host site of Eldorado Star Party every Fall. Has cabins and campsites. Rooms have their own shower and you have full use if the Ranch House.
They also have two offsite houses for larger groups.
Rgds
Karl Baltz
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I searched VRBO.com near Telegraph, Texas and found a place that might work. It's dark between Junction and Sonora.
https://www.vrbo.com/7613811ha?noDates= ... uded=false

drako
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I've observed numerous times from Fort Griffin State Park between Throckmorton and Albany. The park ranger is very astronomy friendly.
Use the resource at https://www.lightpollutionmap.info/#zoo ... 0FFFFTFFFF

To help find that dark area. Call the folks that are renting and ask questions about outdoor lighting and area light pollution. Some don't know what you're talking about but if asking the right questions, you can figure it out.
drako
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Bortle class 3 skies are available 2 hours NE of Houston on the Sam Rayburn reservoir. I stayed at Jackson Hill Marina & Park. They have modest cabins and an onsite restaurant. Best part is a large beach/picnic area on a spit of land protruding into the lake. It is clear cut so fairly unobstructed views and there are no lights in the area. It was a great spot for the Geminids shower. Jackson Hill is west of Lufkin, on the east shore of the reservoir, off Hwy 147.

Mike
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If you don't mind driving 15 hours, you might look at this page.

http://www.doityourselfrv.com/texas-to- ... dium=email

and here https://www.vrbo.com/search/keywords:Ma ... uded=false

There are some dark spots south of Alpine

drako
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We've often gone out to the Frio area out near Garner State Park. The Frio Lodge has been friendly and convenient. Their lodges are around very large open area between hills, almost like a bowl. Quite dark.

Brad Thomas
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The Austin club observes up by Canyon of the Eagles. It’s on the north east end of Lake Buchanon & I know there is a Resort up there. Would be worth looking into also.
Jayne Lambert
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Mountain Home is just off I-10 between Kerrville and Junction, not Fredericksburg.

Anything that close to Kerrville will have noticeable light dome, but the skies over head will be good.

I had a place 8 miles west of Mountain Home, between highway 41 and I-10 for 36 years, sold it 2 years ago. Sky overhead very good, with the exception of the Kerrville light dome. All 7 of the Little Dipper visible with direct vision.

Rusty
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Any of you still remain in contact with Bill Georevich? This discussion has just reminded me of when I met Bill in the late 80s - early 90s at TSP. We had discussed his Window Pane Observatory and we listened to some of his recordings he had made in his studio in Santa Fe of the group Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Also some of the tweaks he had made to those recordings. The group had just formed up (1984) and their music really was the genre that I liked to listen to.
Bill had a Window Pane Observatory that had just moved to Ajo, Arizona. He told me that not only did he move it due to his problem with allergies but that Ajo had that San Diego weather flow and was clear most every night. The fascinating story of the observatory can be found at http://wpo.net/wpo.html and at http://wpo.net/wpo.html#moving-wpo-to-az

drako
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Haven’t heard of him in years Good question for Todd, what month do you want to go ? It makes a difference. BW

I would normally recommend April or late Oct. in Texas. Over the last year, that has flown out the window...

drako
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I would hope to take the kids, so ideally over summer break. Winter or spring break is good too for long term planning.

Todd Murray
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tim lewis via HAS <[email protected]>
Mon, Mar 11, 11:37 PM (12 hours ago)
to tim, [email protected]

I spent a couple of nights 3 years ago at the devils river state natural area. It costs $20 per night to reserve a bed in their bunkhouse. Skies are probably 2. Downside is that it’s over 20 miles on a rough gravel road. I have to run a power cord out the bathroom to power equipment. Also, you need to take your own food and water
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Terlingua certainly is dark – I spend a week camping there every year for other reasons than astronomy but moon permitting, do take a telescope from time to time. The residents care about their dark skies and argued against the height of two, proposed large cell towers because of the excess lighting required by the FAA.

https://bigbendgazette.com/2018/08/29/p ... -270-feet/

Chris
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Such a good list. Will Sager started a topic under the ​Space Station V (the Lounge) Forum called ​​
On the run observing sites - Texas
For purely selfish reasons, I'm going to plop this thread into that topic for future reference.

Master Observer Ed Fraini told me he had to travel to hunt down a few remaining Herschel objects and considering the weather pattern here recently (how long before weather becomes climate, btw?), I'm gonna have to do the same to finish up the remaining objects on five lists I'm trying to complete.

Oh, and here's one I've been to for a really neat Astronomy Weekend: https://ubaru.org/home/AstronomyWeekend. Dr. Kim Arvidsson from Schreiner University spoke on stellar evolution during the weekend and then later agreed to speak to us at H.A.S. remotely from his office. UBarU is also an IDA Dark-sky place. Here's that link: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/.

The bunks there were so well made I told Sherry Irby about them and we (mostly she) got them for the women's, family, and men's bunkhouses.

Rene Gedaly
[email protected]
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Rene Gedaly, Forum Moderator
Texas 45-Visual, Web Tech Team, Observatory Trainer, Historian, President 2015-2017
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Re: On the run observing sites - Texas

Postby william-sager » Wed Mar 13, 2019 6:04 pm

Hi folks,
I compiled a list from emails. Please send more and I will add them.
Cheers,
Will
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William W. Sager (Will)
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204
[email protected]
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Joined: Wed May 15, 2013 8:22 pm


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