Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Dark Skies and Lonely Lands


Joshua Tree National Park still provides dark skies.

©Bert Gildart: Several days ago we departed Anza Borrego and the campsite at Pegleg where we had parked our Airstream for the past three months. During the course of our stay we met wonderful people and enjoyed our explorations of this huge desert park.

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll most likely be posting a few blogs reflecting  on our stay in this the largest of all of our nation’s contiguous state parks. There’s much about our experiences there that have yet to crystallize.

One of the features that attracted us to Anza Borrego was its night skies; and the small town of Borrego Springs takes great pride in declaring that it is devoted to preserving its night-time environment. We became fascinated with this concept and decided that while heading back home to Montana, we’d make stops at areas claiming a dark-sky status.


Not many such places are left, but several national park administered areas still remain that way and I’ve written about several to include Organ Pipe and Death Valley.

Although Joshua Tree National Park is surrounded by huge metropolitan areas, nevertheless, it claims a dark-sky status. We camped high in the park at Jumbo Rocks Campground and because late campers were driving through – and because the moon was still up – I waited until 3 a.m. to take my photo.


L to R: Joshua Tree still provides dark skies for those camped at Jumbo Rocks; Chloride Production is a lonely land separating two national park administered areas; Mojave National Preserve.

No problem getting back up as we mature gentlemen have a built-in alarm that needs to be attended to several times at night.

Earlier I had found a spot for our Airstream that offered an ideal foreground. The spot enabled me to set up my tripod immediately outside the trailer and then return inside and read, waiting for the long time exposures to complete their course. I made a one-hour exposure, shown here, and several other short exposures using high-ISO readings. Obviously it was the one-hour exposure that created the lengthy star trails. I may show the other images in subsequent postings for they are also instructive.


Our next destination was Mojave National Preserve and from previous experience we knew that this desert region offers lands that are incredibly lonely meaning that the possibility for dark skies was great. But on this occasion, although the completely isolated camping was blissful, a thin haze filtered in advertising the one night we had for night photography would not be ideal.


Sun sets over Mojave National Preserve, also offering dark sky potential -- just not this time.

But as photographers know, you go with what you have. In this case, it meant the haze would mute the sun, creating a huge orb which I could further dramatize using an extreme telephoto lens.


Though lonely lands and dark sky areas still exist they are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and that makes a commentary on our burgeoning human populations. Mostly, these growths have occurred in the past 100 years, and if this growth continues, what will it be like 100 years further down the road?

May lonely lands and dark skies be with us forever.


*Armed Escort in Organ Pipe


4 Responses to “Dark Skies and Lonely Lands”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    After just returning from White Pocket I can tell you….the skies are not distorted with light pollution. What was amazing on this trip was the moonlight! While out for the evening we didn’t need our flash lights or headlamps. The moon was so bright we cast very definite shadows for the evening.

    Safe travels Bert!

  2. Murray Clarke Says:

    A great website Bert. I am quite envious. All the best to you and Jane, many thanks for your kindness at Borrego Springs……….Murray

  3. Adam & Susan Says:

    You, our friends, are the stars no matter where you are! Great pics.

    Love to you both and let’s talk upcoming dreams soon,

    Adam y Susan

  4. Barbara Says:

    My husband and I just returned from Anza Borrego when we had perfect weather for astrophotography. We stayed in Blair valley where there was one other camper with telescopes and cameras. We were lucky enough to see the Panstar comet briefly.

    We attended college in Montana and are looking for good dark sky sites to include in our Montana vacation plans. We travel in a 21′ airstream class B van so we’re nimble and can dry camp for three or four days at a time. As you must know, finding dark camping sites isn’t easy as most RVsites are cursed with unshielded lights and word of mouth seems to be the best way to find dark camping sites.

    We live in Davis California where the light pollution is pretty awful. We have a small observatory so John can do some photography at home.

    I enjoy your website! Thanks for any help you may offer.