Wolf Creek Utah Observing Site

I went to Wolf Creek last night, observing til 4:00a.m., packing up and going to sleep in the sleeping bag and my two person tent and had a blast! Lots of things happen. I observed 12 Herschels with sketches; 4 more galaxy pairs, several planetary nebula, and M-27 where I observed the central star and according to my sketch I made, there were 8 observable stars within the nebula. That was the first time I have observed the central star in M-27, so though not exciting for many, it was for me. More on that in a coming post.

I wanted to post some pictures I took of the site and share what it looks like, which is vastly different from the West Desert of Utah. I will be processing my sketches this weekend from my observations of the last three days and then get them up by Sunday night.

Here are the images of Wolf Creek:

Coming down Highway 35 from Francis near the pass you'll turn right at this sign.

After turning here, you'll see the bathrooms in the group camping area but you'll turn another immediate right onto the dirt road that winds around and through a campground area. This is the last stop of Forest Service potties so if you don't like using nature, get out here and use them. The road comes out of the campground area to the image below and it is rough in places (see below) so pay attention. If you want to view, and it is beautiful, have a friend or family member drive, or stop and look around! Also, watch out for wildlife, they are around.

Yes, the road is rough in stops. Here a wash out has exposed rocks (was there last year also). I've taken a Nissan Altima up there with no problem.

Eventually as you go out about 2 miles on this dirt forest service road, you'll come to a Y or some call it a T fork. You'll be going left here. Make sure you go left, not right.

After turning you'll see this forest service road marker:

Here is a closer image of the forest service road marker:

This is how you know you're on the right way. Right after the turning left and the forest service road marker, you'll see this shot up "Dead End" sign. Your heading in the right direction (the Dead End sign may or may not be there anymore).

Coming down this road you are at about 10,000 feet in elevation or 3048 meters for this outside of the United States. That is an open ridge to the right and forest to the left. The forest on the left has unimproved campsites where you can park a camper, set up a tent etc. for spending the night. This is what I did last night and often when I come here as it is 1 1/2 hour drive home and when finishing a session at 4:00a.m., I'm on a Rocky Mountain high from observing but that fades as I tear down and the sleeping bag or cot, depending on what I bring is looking good.

You can following this road for 0.8 miles or 1.29 kilometers, you'll come to a wide open meadow and a wide ridge (its to the right of the road) with plenty of sage bush this year because of our very wet spring. Usually it isn't so covered and there are some wonderful places to set up. Yes, just simply turn on to the ridge and drive out. Watch out though, sheep like this area and there is usually plenty of sheep poo reminders around (dried usually).  Actually, there isn't a bad spot unless you set up in an unimproved camp site and only have zenith.

A famous grove of trees that are out near the edge of the ridge line.

Once in a while I don't set up on the ridge, and for  this night I chose to set up not out on the ridge, or open area, but right before it. There was a unimproved campsite behind me and it provides outstanding views to the east, south and west, while the north is only impacted up to 20 degrees by the trees. It worked for me this night.

Duchesene Ridge. Scopes by the many can set up here if they want.

Here you can get a feel for the views of the sky I had from my set up. I'm not one to get into a mode that I have to setup on the same spot as I like to mix things up and try new things. Results in growth in life I believe. Anyway, I do get to the point though that I will have four or five spots I like to set up and this is one of them. This pictures is looking east.

Looking south included SE to S to SW:

Looking west to north-west

Looking north. Like I said, your blocked from about 20 degrees down but I don't want to look at anything in the north that low anyway . . . it is either getting to low, or it is rising and will come up in the sky later. The cap is on because someone was driving by and the road is about 20 yards to the south and I didn't want dust on the equipment . . . yeah, who am I kidding about no dust. Isn't that a known impact from going to a dark site?

Looking SE, S to SW with the Belt of Venus (dedicated to Jeremy Perez for his wonderful site and inspiration).

Looking east to south-east with the Belt of Venus visible.

Looking south to south-west.

I love to hike, and I don't mention it to most outside of my family, but my biology/forestry days made me learn over 300 native plants, native to the Western United States and about 100 wildflowers. It's a hobby that has grown and remains with me and I think I may get into sketching them as well. Here are some images as I tend to take pictures instead of sketching them.

Magic time. I can feel the peace and calm of being alone and up in the high country. More on the session coming up and a review of the views between the XX12i and the XX14i. The images are different than the desert ones but both are very beautiful in their own way. May the skies be clear where you are.


  1. Shane L. Larson7/16/2010

    Hi Jay,
    I followed your sig link from CN over here to your blog. This area up by Wolf Creek looks great -- do astronomers gather here often, or is this just a destination you use? I don't often have to leave Paradise to observe, but we have been looking for camping/observing compatible sites around (that are low on ATV traffic!).

    Clear skies,
    -- Shane

  2. Shane,

    Wolf Creek is a fantastic site. It is used by members of the Ogden Astronomical, Salt Lake Astronomical and BYU and Utah Valley Astronomical Society. There are formal campgrounds that you pay for, or like I said and if you want, PM me your email and I can send you images of the unimproved campsite behind where I was set up.

    I haven't seen hardly any ATV up there, so that has been good. Fun and enjoyable area. The only bathroom facilities are in the formal campground but it is easy enough to bring a camper etc (most people do that up there) and get into one of the improved sites.

    Here are some links. There is an error in the directions. It says take Exit 148 and it is now Exit 146 to Hwy 40 south.

    Adjust the directions as you need. Hope it helps.

  3. Also, in August, SLAS is scheduled to go there. Sometimes you'll run into a fellow amateur and other times you'll be by yourself like I was last night.

  4. Looks great! Reminds me of the high mountain sites I used to observe from in Arizona. I can smell the pine.

  5. Anonymous7/17/2010


    Question for you: How do you process your inspirational sketches? Do you draw them on white paper and scan them and then process them into a negative? Just wondering because I'd like to do something similar. Thanks, Ranny

  6. Ranny,

    1. I sketch at the eyepiece using 60lb sketching paper and these resources found at my April 21st sketching post:

    See Jeremy Perez's website for tips (best sketching resource online I firmly believe):

    2. I observe first, making notes on my observing sheet and doing a rough sketch on a circle I have on the bottom of my observing form. The observing form is available here on my website, look in the links on the right, but any observing sheet with a sketching area will work.

    3. I then move to the sketching paper which I have placed on a Museum Tote Clipboard that is large similar to which I found at my local Hobby Lobby for $8.99. I like the handle and the size and the rubberband holds the pencils. Thanks to Tom over at CloudyNights for posting about these!

    4. I place the sketch in my protect zip lock clear case to protect it from any dew or spills, drops from a drink etc.

    5. At home I take out my sketches, compare them to the notes on the paper and then clean them up on the paper.

    5. Next I go outside and spray it with Blair Workable matte (well, until the current can is gone, I just received for free 7 cans of Krylon workable Fixatif that should work either, and free is best!). That protects the product from the pencil lead smearing etc.

    6. When dried, I scan the sketch, clean it up a little in the scan, and then save the image as a jpg. I then go into GIMP, which is a poor man's version of Photoshop (yet pretty powerful) because it is freeware (never heard of a virus or anything with it). In GIMP I round off any stars that need rounding (for some this is a no no but I have no personal problem with it and since these are MINE, I get to decide what to do with them), and there are usually a couple and then I begin add details using the tools to the object.

    6. Last thing I do is invert it and save it.

    7. I have a tutorial typed up that is about 1/2 way done, but I think I am going to use my Flip Camera and create some short video tutorials using the digital method I use and post them on here in segments so they fit. I'll do that next week as I process the sketches from the last week.

    I hope that helps, and I hope the movies may help more and others like the idea.

  7. Andrew,

    Yes, I love the smells up in the high country. Wonderful time of the year and with the wet spring the wildflowers are truly beautiful up there.

  8. Anonymous7/17/2010

    Thanks for the informative details. I've seen many examples, but I like the way yours look and going through your blog, your dedication to a process is apparent. I plan on giving it a try. Clear skys! Ranny

  9. Jay,

    I am organizing a Family Camp for a group of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts at this campground in late June. One of the activities that was asked about to go with our theme of "Space, the Scouting frontier!" was a start party, or some stargazing.

    Would you know of any groups in the area that might be willing to help us out on this? Would you be willing to help?

    I can be reached at

    Thank you.