Summer Travel Quest #25

Witness Astronomical Fireworks in New Mexico

Few places in the U.S. rival the Land of Enchantment when it comes to views of summer skies
by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher Posted Jun 13th 2014 7:34a.m.

An award-winning travel writer and family vacations expert, Suzanne is always up for a summer road trip.

For city folk and suburbanites alike, a summer stargazing getaway under New Mexico’s dark skies can be a revelation.

Truly pristine skies as nature intended them are hard to find these days, which might explain why astronomy programs have flourished in the Land of Enchantment, whose state government began regulating outdoor lighting 15 years ago to protect its exceptional night-sky viewing. In the summer, the Milky Way is directly overhead, where the atmosphere is at its thinnest, and the skies reveal the clearest viewing with the greatest multitudes of stars. Even without a telescope, you can easily pick out the Beehive Star Cluster and the feathery wings of Cygnus, the swan constellation.

INSIDER TIP

Be sure to ask the owner, Michael O’Connor, for a guided stargazing tour with his 10-inch reflecting telescope.

Perched on the edge of the vast Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico, 30 miles northwest of Silver City, Casitas de Gila sits beneath some of the darkest skies in the continental United States. Each of the five adobe-style guesthouses features a kiva fireplace, traditional ceiling vigas (wooden beams), a kitchen, a separate sitting and dining area and—the kicker—a tripod-mounted spotting scope and star charts. It’s all you need to brush up on your constellations or spy the moons of Jupiter from your porch. If you like, you may wander to a dedicated viewing area to share your wonderment with fellow guests, who range from novice stargazers to hardcore astronomy enthusiasts.

During the day, you can explore the 265-acre property’s 6 miles of hiking trails, soak in a hot tub perched on a cliff above Bear Creek, go horseback riding, hunt for rocks and minerals or venture further afield to explore the ghost railroad towns of Shakespeare and Steins.

Just be sure to get back by dark.

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An award-winning travel writer and family vacations expert, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is always up for a summer road trip.

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MORE SUMMER TRAVEL QUESTS

23) Get Patrick Henry to Take a Selfie

24) Lounge on the World's Longest Porch

25) Witness Astronomical Fireworks in New Mexico

26) Taste Tupelo Honey

27) Watch a Movie in a Cemetery

>> All 99 Summer Travel Quests

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Use the hashtag #99SummerQuests to share your own summer travels, and follow along with us at @MapQuest and Instagram.

NASA's 360-degree view of the Milky Way
NASA's 360-degree view of the Milky Way
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