I have posted this before but I thought I would do so again since I was able to go out to FR006 Jay's Site and spend a wonderful night observing this last week. So we'll go with how to get to this location first off.
Here is a map of the Salt Lake Valley. If you live in the northern part of the Salt Lake Valley you can either take SR 201 out to I-80 or get on I-80 and head towards. Tooele. In Tooele you will take the SR 36 exit for Stansbury and head south. Stay on SR36 for a LONG time (until you come to Vernon, see below).
If you are in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley or in Utah County, take I-15 to the SR73 exit in Lehi. Then head west on SR73 towards Eagle Mountain and Cedar Fort. If you live in the western portion of the Salt Lake Valley, get on either Redwood Rd or Mountain View Corridor until it reaches Redwood Road and take Redwood Road south to SR73 by the Walmart and the Holiday/Chevron and turn right, heading west towards Eagle Mountain/Cedar Fort.
Once your on SR73 stay on SR73. You will take it out past the community of Cedar Fort and Fairfield and drive up to the top of Five Mile Pass. After going past the top of 5 Mile Pass (see image below) on the right you will see a toilet area and a place for 4WD and ATV and motorcycles to unload.
SR73 begins to curve north toward Tooele. BEFORE that curve, there is Tooele County Sign and a sign for the Pony Express with a left hand turn with a parking area if you were to recreate at 5 Mile Pass on the south side and then a dirt/gravel road that heads west. That road heading west is the Pony Express Road.
As you come down from 5 Mile Pass this picture below is what you will see. You want to turn left unto the Pony Express dirt/gravel road, you can see it on the left hand side and follow that out to Faust and SR36.. If they have graded the road lately, you can go up to 45mph during the summer. Winter I go about 30 to 35mph.
You'll now follow this road all the way out. It eventual turns into a paved road and you cross 3 sets of railroad tracks. Be careful here as the trains move fast out here. Stop and make sure your clear to go. On this road you can see the Vernon Hills (another good observing spot if you don't want to go all the way to the U.S. Forest Land), they are the smaller hills with the Sheeprock Mountains in the background. I was optimistic this night as it was cloudy but as evening came on, it totally cleared up. You can see that there wasn't hardly any snow out here as most had melted but the roads were soft, but not too muddy. My Outback handled it just fine and I think a car or van would have been good also. If you look back and check out my summer shots you can really see the difference in the desert here between summer and winter.
On the way out you'll pass several dirt roads on your right and left hand sides. One road on your left side is wide and straight. That road goes out to Pit n Pole. This is a second road off the Pony Express Route you can take to the Pit n Pole site also. IF you look REALLY carefully in the image, you can see the Pole sticking up behind an out crop which is about a third of the way from the left edge, or an inch from the clump of green bushes up near the center of the picture.
After you go down the Pony Express road, pass the three road road tracks, then go past two houses on the left and over a cattle guard in between them (your back on pavement by now) you'll come to a stop sign. Turn left. Now those who have come from northern Salt Lake or other areas to the north and have come down SR 36 the directions are the same for both from here. After turning or driving past the Faust turn if your on SR 36, this is what you'll see. A two land highway that is pretty straight and heading south. You'll pass on your right a turn for the Pony Express Route that is a dirt road, that will take you to Simpson Springs a wonderful location to observe in the non-winter months. Keep going straight heading south towards Vernon.
Soon you'll pass on your left the Vernon Forest Service/BLM Fire Service Station and then on your left you'll see the following items. First, on your left a Silver Sage sign with a cool Raptor Mail box behind it. Then on your right, a green Vernon sign. Finally, on your right you'll pass the Silver Sage. You can get food here, I can't eat there so no reviews on experience but from what I hear the burgers are good. They have a small grocery store and yes, prices are a little high as they are a LONG way out, and they have gasoline and stuff you can get if wish. I try to buy something there when I have time to give them some support. The people there are wonderful.
So once you pass the Silver Sage on your right, keep going on SR 36 and it will curve from heading south, to basically heading east as these pictures show.
As you turn the corner the road will straighten and you see the following:
The road straightens and you'll drive for just a few seconds down until on the left hand of the road you see a green and brown sign that says Benmore and Vernon Res. Your going to turn right unto a paved area that quickly turns into a long dirt road that goes south for a LONG drive out.
As the payment ends and you drive unto that dirt/gravel forest road, you will go over a cattle guard. There are five more (or so, not being exact here) that you'll drive over. I believe after the second cattle guard you'll see the Wasatch National Forest sign on the right.
This next image gives you a view of how long and straight this road is. Actually, don't let it deceive you, it is long, but it has some dips in it that you need to be careful of. The first picture is taken shortly after the Wasatch National Forest Sign. The second picture below is further down the road right before you go into a wash after a cattle guard.
I am going to share the next part, not because it is hard to get out to the end of the road, but because this is a somewhat treacherous part of the drive out. You'll approach a cattle guard and it is easy to see that you are going to go down a hill. In the summer when there are thunderstorms out here, the water washes down this part of the road forming ruts and exposing and collecting lots of rocks of various sizes. Be careful through here, slow down and watch out for ragged rocks. I haven't had a flat personally but I know someone who has.
Here is the cattle guard and the hill leading down into a gully for the road.
In the picture below you can see how you go down the hill into a S turn and then back up. During the winter it can get a little muddy here with water collecting if we have had a big snow storm and melt afterwards. I have never been threatened to get stuck here but like I said above, you just need to slow down through this part.
The image below shows what you have after you climb the hill in the distance in the picture above. It is a flat long dirt road that ends in a T.
As you approach the end of the road you'll see a series of 3 signs that are approaching. One on the far left is for directions of locations of various areas. One in the foreground is reminding you you are in the Wasatch National Forest Vernon Division in a work center area. The building with a roof holds signs that the Forest Service puts up throughout the year. Go to the end of the road, look around and then you are going to turn right.
At the end of the road, it T's and you'll see this sign in the picture below. Vernon Reservoir so you know is about 10 to 15 minutes away to the left and there are forest service restrooms there with toilets (no running water). Little Valley leads up over the Sheeprocks to one of my prime observing areas I have never shared with anyone. However that is for another day if you really want to go and camp over. You are going to turn right towards Bennion Creek and Harker Creek.
This is the forest service announcement center and they have put a new sign up here. This is now considered Bear Country and if your camping either at Vernon Reservoir, Little Valley or Dispersed Camping you should now take precautions for black bears. Put your food in a contained and locked container or put it up a Juniper or Fir Tree. I have NEVER seen a bear (have had a cougar visit several years ago and DWR has confirmed to me that cougar are in the area near the mountains as they come after the deer up there) but better to be safe. The bear warning is up in the upper right hand part of the signage. Hmmm, people wonder why I carry bear spray for protection . . . .
After your turn right you'll see and go over yet another cattle guard and keep heading west on this road. Okay, this is a desert but those are mountains with fir and pine and oak and juniper and man, isn't that just gorgeous!
As you drive down the road, you are going to come across another dirt road on your left as in this picture. As you approach you'll see the two yellow poles that are road makers and off to the right, a sign that says 006. This is FR006 and you are to turn left here and go up this road, heading south again.
As you drive down this road heading south, it will curve in a few places, but it really is pretty straight. In all my years in coming out here, there has only been one when I owned my Pathfinder when I stopped after about a mile, the mud was up to half way to my tired and I was in 4WD and I simply drove back out backwards, making it back to the main road at the bottom. This road can get muddy if you come out after a significant snow or rainfall, so be careful in winter. Don't freak out, if my Subaru Outback which is AWD can come out here in the winter and handle, most crossovers and SUV's and Trucks of similar make can do it also. Just be aware of conditions, your driving comfortableness and your vehicle and whether you can make it. Don't push it. It is a LONG way for help to come get you out.
The farther south you go, the farther up in elevation your going to around 6100 feet and you end up coming into Juniper areas. This means you are getting close to the two observing areas I and others use.
As you drive south on this dirt road, and come into the Juniper, look to the left (you can see the clump in the picture above to the left) and you will see an entrance with Juniper trees around the entrance and a open area just to the east of the road. This is Forest Road 006 Site 1 Owl's Roost. We have a family of owls that likes this location come January through March to April. They roost and raise their young here. Once in a Harry Potter like moment, they flew over the heads of my friend Alan's and I head as we waited to observe. That was a moment I will never forget for as long as I live. It was magical indeed!
This is what it looks like driving in after your turn left off of FR006. It is looking west back towards the road and to the south-west.
This shows you the open area where we set up and observe from for FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost. I am looking south here. This is the site I go to if I am having others observe with me and they are not familiar with the sites out here. The reason is I believe it is the easiest to find. It is a extremely great site with only one negative. From about dark until about 2 hours after dark you will have lights from SR 36 which is about 12 miles to the north shinning on you until they make the turn on SR 36 after the Silver Sage. That dies off and when it does, incredible! I just make sure never to look that way for the first couple of hours I observe. This is worse in the summer than in the fall, winter or spring when only stupid people like me go out to the forest land to use it in observing.
Now my personal favorite site, and if I go alone, the one your most likely to find me at unless I go up over to my secret location is the location I cal FR006 Jay's Site. To get there if you are at Site 1, get back (or if your on FR006 keep going south pass Site 1) on FR006 and head south (turn left). You'll notice we are gaining elevation and that is a good thing. No dew and speaking of dew, I have never had dew on my scope at either location. I have deployed a dew heater a few times but not a ton. Here is what FR006 looks like as you keep heading south past Site 1. Just a tad wet but not a lot of mud here yet.
As you drive down, guess what your going to see. Yep, ANOTHER cattle guard (the black and yellow sign). Slow down as in summer it is bumpy and in winter it can get muddy over it as snow collects and melts. You'll see that in the next images. The top one is looking back after I made the right hand turn into the dirt path/road that leads to the observing area Jay's Site. Just shows a little mud there. No biggie.
I stopped here and took a picture of what you will do RIGHT after the cattle guard and go over it. You will see a right hand turn so turn right. There will be a disperse camping area right to the right after you turn. Do NOT go there. That is not the location.
The camping is to the right, go past that and keep going to the single Juniper tree ahead so stay to the left. On this dirt path equal to that lone Juniper tree is a decent dip in the road so be careful if your vehicle doesn't have good clearance.
As you drive in, and go past that lone Juniper Tree is the observing area. You can set up right in front, or turn right, which I do, and angle my Outback to face back towards the main road but I set up to the right of that lone Juniper Tree in the picture. I'll share why in a second.
This shows why this is my favorite spot. Wide open area to set up and to the north, north-west are clumps of Juniper trees that act as natural shields that block out any lights coming from SR36. Again, there are not hardly any but I like being blocked naturally by them!
These two pictures better shows the clump of Junipers that block out any light from the north.
This is my southern horizon and it is AWESOME! SQM of 21.9 here is common. Drops in the summer because the Milky Way is just too bright out here!
This is the south-west to western view!
So there you have it. This is where I go ninety percent of the time to observe. The only thing and I mean the ONLY thing that stops me is mud. My Outback has handled good snow and mud in the past but I know my limits and I won't go since if the road is muddy, the sites are muddy and mud and mirrors don't match for me. Lucky for me this day, the clouds cleared out after I set up as they were predicted too and I had a wonderful night of observing. It was a late one but a special one. I had no one with me as I didn't feel like my friend Jeff would go with iffy prospects and I didn't open it up to others as most people are not as crazy to me and I think some of the pics above would have worried some. I never want anyone to be more concern about getting home then being able to enjoy their observing session.
I was dressed for the night, with my Merino wool base layers one, followed by fleece on my lower and upper half, then some flannel pants and shirt and a Merino wool sweater, my bibs, my Columbia Fleece zip up and then a wonderful warm hunting parka I have from Cabelas. Each to their own on dressing for the cold, but NOTHING and I mean NOTHING has ever worked better for me than dressing up like I was going duck hunting. I haven't duck hunted since I was in high school, but I know how to dress for that. I've gone back to that and as temps drop in the low 20's and upper teens this night, I didn't feel a thing. Combine that with sill base stockings and wool stockings over them in either my Columbia winter boots or my Kamik Winter/Snow boots, and a good Merino Wool baklava and I don't get cold!
After setting up, checking collimation with my Catseye and Howie Glatter and I have to share that I don't know what clicked but my Catseye tools are working as fast as my Glatter lasers for me now! Scope was dead on and I was set up in time to enjoy the late afternoon and early evening. I ate my dinner and checked my soup and hot coco thermos for latter and they were good to go. I had my Kind Bars ready also and an apple and banana. Yep, still losing weight.
Anyway as twilight feel, I was greeted by three separate packs of coyotes and they howled and snipped and barked around me; to the south, to the east and to the west. Surrounded! Not really, but I enjoyed their music well it lasted for about twenty minutes. Then as dark began to fall, and I had run the engine in the Outback for several minutes to ensure a good charge (I do have a jump starter with me just to be safe). I then just got out my observing plan and pulled my charts and sat back to enjoy the on coming of night.
I had a plan and I worked my plan quite well. Here are the sketches I made for that night. West in the sketches is at around 05:00-6:00 and North is at around 9:00-10:00 as a reference.
1. NGC 1358 & NGC 1355 (1358 large center, 1355 upper right); Galaxies in Eridanus: 12/6/2015; 08:45pm MST or 03:45 UT on 12/7/2015; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Dob; Type II Paracorr; Pentax 20mm & 10mm XW with 27mm Panoptic;
NGC 1358 has a bright envelope that my camera did not capture but my sketch does. It is roundish in shape perhaps a bit more oval than round. Grainy texture with a bright central region that extends ESE-WNW. Bright central region is the core and the bar.
NGC 1355 is moderately bright, well defined bulge at the core. Lays east to west as a streak of light that is easily observed.
2. NGC 1242 & NGC 1241 or ARP 304. Galaxies in Eridanus. FR006 Jay's Site; 12/6/2015; 09:32pm or 03:32 UT on 12/7/2015; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Dob, Paracorr Type II; 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW; 27mm Panoptic;
NGC 1241 is a bright and irregular oval and is elongated SE to NW. The galaxy is more spread out and has an uneven surface brightness. Strong bright core region with a stellar nucleus. I love my sketch of this but again, I am having difficulty with the camera (user error).
NGC 1242 is much more condense and smaller than NGC 1241. It is inclined with a brighter core region. Elongated SE to NW. Even surface brightness along it.
3. NGC 1232 Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus; 12/6/2015, 10:40pm MST or 0440 UT on 12/7/2015; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Dob; 7mm, 10mm, 20mm Pentax XW, 27mm Panoptic; Type II Paracorr.
This is a rather bright and fairly large galaxy. It is brighter in its central region with a stellar nucleus and spiral structure in evidence. Two arms are observable, First arm curves north than to the west. Second arm curves south and then to the east. The edges are strongly defined. Wonderful view of this object, which I sketched twice in the past, with the XX14i in 2010 and 2011. IF I get a request I'll include them here for comparison. Doubt that I will. Tonight's observation and sketch was the best of all three. Much prefer the new sketch as it reflects what I see. Nice that I can finally put down what I am seeing . . . Also a premium mirror, with larger aperture and a much darker sky shows in the new sketch as well. The FR006 Jay's Site had a SQM of 21.9 tonight and the Pit n Pole location usually comes in at 21.5 to 21.6 now where I did the other sketches.
4. NGC 1253 & NGC 1253A Spiral Galaxies in Eridanus; ARP 279; 12/6/2015 11:45pm MST or 0545 UT on 12/7/2015; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Dob; 20mm, 14mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW, 27mm Pantoptic as finder; Type II Paracorr.
NGC 1253 is a large spiral galaxy that is very bright and very diffused with not a lot of structure to it. There is a bright knot in the NE, not sure but possible hint of some structure there? Best viewed at medium magnification with the 20mm and 14mm Pentax XW. There is a western star embedded in the outer envelope. Oval in shape and elongated east to west.
5. NGC 1309 Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus. 12/7/2015 12:21 am MST or 0621 UT; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II, clear, cold 20 degrees F; 17.5" dob; 20mm, 14mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; 27mm Panoptic as finder; Type II Paracorr.
This is a very bright face on galaxy that is best viewed with high magnification, using the 7mm Pentax XW at about 320x. Irregular shape with mottling is evident in the envelope. Envelope is bright, brighter patch in the NE end. Possible spiral structure, possible. Bright round non-stellar core. I feel I captures the mottling well in the sketch with the hint to structure that I teased out of it.
6. NGC 1600, NGC 1601, NGC 1603 galaxies in Eridanus. 12/7/2015, 01:10am MST or 710 UT; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II, clear, cold, 18 degrees F; 17.5" dob with 20mm, 14mm, 10mm Pentax XW; 27mm Panoptic as finder; Type II Paracorr.
NGC 1600 is the large galaxy (it has an outer halo that is hard to see in the photo) and NGC 1603 is the bottom galaxy and NGC 1601 is the one to the left of NGC 1600. NGC 1600 is a mottled and elongated galaxy laying North to South. It has a broad concentrated halo with a very bright core region. The core region is showing in the sketch, look for the outer envelope that is much fainter. NGC 1603 is very faint, very small, roundish and even surface brightness. NGC 1601 is very faint, roundish and with a bright core region. Fun trio to observe.
7. NGC 1325 Spiral galaxy in Eridanus. 12/7/2015 at 02:00am MST or 0800 UT; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II, clear, cold 15 degrees F; 17.5" dob with 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; 27mm Panoptic as finder, Type II Paracorr.
NGC 1325 is a bright, large, spiral galaxy with a bright outer halo and a large bright inner core. Northeast end has a bright foreground star present. The SW end has more definition and tappers down. NE edge is less defined due to the star's impact.
NGC 1319 is a bright galaxy that is elongated SSW to NNE. Increases in brightness as you go toward the core region, with a sometimes stellar nucleus.
8. NGC 1421 edge on Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus; 12/7/2015, 02:25am MST or 0805 UT; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi II clear, cold, 18 degrees F; 17.5" dob, 27mm Panoptic as finder; 20mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW, Type II Paracorr.
Large bright, elongated galaxy that lays north to south. Galaxy has an even surface brightness on the main axis. There is a slight bulge near the center, more evident on the eastern (top) portion of the galaxy. Bright field star is in evidence on the SW side. Fun galaxy to observe.
9. NGC 1417 & NGC 1418 Spiral Galaxies in Eridanus. 12/7/2015 3:10am MST or 0910 UT; FR006 Jay's Site; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 16 degrees F; 17.5" dob with 27mm Panoptic as finder with 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW.
Wonderful Pair of galaxies! NGC 1417 is the largest and brightest of the two. Moderately bright and large, elongated NNW to SSE, almost North to South I'd say. Some mottling and hinting at spiral structure, possibly, included those details in the sketch as with averted vision I felt I could see the structure pop at times. Takes magnification really well. Brightening near the core. Averted vision a huge help on this galaxy.
NGC 1418 is a small and condense and bright galaxy that is oval in shape.
That was it. I wasn't cold, the car had started a couple of times to keep it fresh. I took my breaks, drank my water to keep hydrated (dehydration in the cold will help to lead to hypothermia) and drank my hot coco that stayed hot through this session as did my soup. I had a grand time listening to the night, observing, listening to some Christmas music and classical music and some rock. Just a blast! Packing up and driving home was fun though, I stayed way too late I think and probably should have slept over. Made it home and to bed safely though by 5:00a.m.!