Spring has sprung, fall has fell, and damn it's nice as hell! When the tulips start to bloom, people look up from their screens, walk outside, look at the big blazing orange ball in the sky and yell, "Huzzah!" or ask, "WTF is that?" Then, they run to big open spaces, such as Utah's Mighty Five, by bike, car or plane to get a good weekend dose of Vitamin D, exercise and fun. We Utahns love our parks and backwoods. They are one of the many reasons some of us stay in this politically odd state. Oh, to sit by a campfire after a river run or a day hike in a red rock canyon and look up at the night sky to see the stars we miss living along the Wasatch Front. The bigger the city, the fewer stars that can be seen, because there's too much light pollution from streetlamps, buildings, illuminated signs and thousands of exterior fixtures on homes.
My Navajo friend from high school once told me he looks at the night sky and sees the stars as just "holes in the blanket." I remember watching Halley's Comet slowly cross the sky in 1986 from the top of a houseboat on Lake Powell. Wow. That sight, with the bazillions of stars, planets and the Milky Way, was an image I will never forget. On a clear night—and in a dark sky—you can see star clusters, more than 80 constellations, spiral galaxies and the International Space Station circling Earth. Finding dark skies, though, is getting harder and harder as cities grow. This isn't just a Utah problem; it's an international issue. As a result, concerned citizens have lobbied for, and helped create, Dark Sky Parks.
Utah just got its latest Dark Sky Park designation at Dinosaur National Monument. Other Dark Sky parks include Antelope Island State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Weber County North Fork Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Canyonlands National Park.
According to visitutah.com, more than 60 International Dark Sky parks and communities are certified or seeking a place among the finest dark skies in the world. Appallingly, 80% of Americans can't see the Milky Way in their location due to light pollution. This means we are really lucky to have so many local opportunities for stargazing (when Mother Nature isn't dumping record rains or snow on our heads). You can get more information at the Utah Office of Tourism (300 N. State, 1-800-200-1160) at the top of Capitol Hill, just below the capitol building.