Observing Friday, June 12th, 2015; Increasing Population Impact on Dark Sites; Not just LP

I was able to get out and go observing on Friday, June 12th, 2015.  Skies were mixed as the following pictures show but they cleared off nicely after sunset and the heating of the day went away.

Here is the long dirt road leading out to the Forest Land south of Vernon off of SR36.  The nice thing is that they have now paved the entry way so no more water/mud holes and it makes turning unto the road A LOT easier! 

Looking west from my observing site.  I will write more about this below, but on this night, we were having solar panels installed on our house so I was much later than I wanted to be getting out to the observing sites. However, I was not prepared for the amount of RV's and Fifth Wheel trailers out there.  Beautiful though isn't it? I love observing at these locations usually. 

Again looking West.  Some clouds but they gave way to clear, beautiful skies that night. 

On the way out I stopped out at Pit n Pole and this is the road leading into the site (looking east).  It is really over grown on the side now and quite narrow.  Lots of green out there right now. 

In the picture above you can see a native Utah wild flower for the West Desert, Globemallow.  Bright orange and in full bloom throughout the desert making it look so wonderful. 

This gives you a feel for how green it has gotten out at Pit n Pole.  This a month ago was barren of vegetation and you could easily drive and park and set up a scope here. Not any longer. 

     So I arrived out of Vernon about six-thirty and found that all my observing sites that I prefer were taken on Forest Road 006.  In each there were at least 3 to 4 RV's or fifth wheel trailers set up in a circle or quadrilateral type formation.  I was able to go a a spot I have used and not shared because I don't want a ton of people going there. I considered and I mean I really considered heading south-east to some land I own, but I have it leased right now and that would mean calling the rancher to let him know I would be on it and there are cows on it and I just didn't want to have that hassle.  The forest land is darker anyway by a touch so I decided to stay here.  

     On the way out to Vernon I found that the road called the Pony Express Road, that was paved and then torn up, had been graded very nicely with new gravel laid down.  I was able to drive 55mph to 60mph all the way out and the same coming back. On the way out I passed several male pronghorn with excellent horns and with females nearby.  Here is a shot of one of the bucks and a doe with him. 

     Seeing Pronghorn is no big deal though I do enjoy seeing wildlife on my excursions. It enhances the experience for me.  At Vernon and once settled, I unloaded and set up quickly.  The 17.5 was up and ready in about 25 minutes, which included aligning the finder. I am really, REALLY considering dropping the finder scope on the 17.5 and simply using the Panoptic 27mm or 35mm as a finder eyepiece and then working my way down. My final decision is out though I have done that often in the past.  

     I now waited for twilight to move into night so I grabbed my binoculars and went to work counting the number of RV's and fifth wheel campers to the east. On Forest Road 006 ie FR006 I could see sites 1, 2, my new favorite, 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and I counted 20 RV's and fifth wheels just in those sites.  Below me, as I moved onto the dirt road I was on, I could count another 12 spread out. That makes for 32 and that didn't count the 14 I counted that had gone toward Vernon Reservoir. By the time evening had settled and I was observing, another 10 RV's and fifth wheels had come up the long road from SR36, and several had to turn back down FR006 and head toward Vernon Reservoir. I don't know why, but that made for 56 RV's and fifth wheels that came out to the forest land south of Vernon that night. I guess the good weather or the first really great weather of summer since school had gotten out combined with cabin fever just drove a bunch of people out. 

     I worry though because in May when I got out to Pit n Pole, there was a similar thing going on out there. Far more RV's and fifth wheel trailers with ATV's out there then I have ever seen in the past. It seems that as the population grows, sites that have been private in the past, or pretty private, may not be that way come summer.  I do not worry about fall, winter or spring as conditions for most are too cold to venture out and that leaves this area open to amateurs to come out and use.  Summer though, I fear the weekends means early arrival if you want a spot to observe, or another hour or longer drive to the west to avoid the crowds.  I have other land areas I can use, one is a good 2 1/2 hours to the north but it is a place used for family and family only and it is usually booked with extended family using the cabin there. We own it, but I am not always ready to drive the 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get there. In winter, it is even a longer drive.  So I guess my options are to learn to make do with the public land and the public's use of that land as that usage increases, or to find a new area which in truth I have, but it is not one I will reveal as I don't want a lot of people showing up there. This option is secluded, on public land, is elevated and is dark, darker then the forest land near Vernon and only about 30 minutes farther away.  My other option is too look for land up by this location which has public land available and find a small section and purchase that for my own observing.  Time will tell.  

This night I spent more time in Leo and in Virgo, working on my H2500 list for those two constellations. In addition I got some time in Corvus to work on those items there, and I finished working some globs in Ophiuchus.  In all I sketched 8 objects, observed a total of 26 galaxies, 6 globular clusters, 3 planetary nebula and 5 open clusters. Not a bad night at all.  I am planning on getting out this Tuesday and probably Wednesday for two nights and then calling this new moon session good.  Good weather this week.