While I have not visited every single U.S. national park, I have visited a number of them. One of my favorite parks among those visited is Big Bend National Park in Texas. I have returned to this park more than any other, although that might have something to do with it being located in the state in which I currently live, despite the fact that it’s out in the middle of nowhere.
When offered a seat at the Big Bend Conservancy’s Dark Sky Dinner on January 16, I jumped at the chance. This dinner would be a “…signature Centennial event celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday,” as quoted from the Dark Sky Dinner flyer.
In 2012, the International Dark Sky Association awarded this national park with a Gold Tier status, representing a sky free of “all but the most minor impacts of light pollution.” The combination of low humidity and little-to-no light or air pollution makes Big Bend National Park a perfect setting for star gazing, even with the moon at first quarter as it was on the 16th. All of this, in turn, makes it ideal for capturing some night sky photography.
I departed for the park a couple of days prior to the dinner, flying from Houston to Midland then driving the two-plus hours to Marathon, located 70 miles north of the park’s Persimmon Gap entrance. The last two times I visited Big Bend, I drove my own car from home for a total of 13 hours, one way, from one end of the state to the other, basically. Arriving at Marathon, I stayed a couple of nights before transferring myself, camera gear, and luggage to the Chisos Mountains Lodge for that evening’s dinner. The lodge is the only brick-and-mortar accommodation within this vast park and one must make reservations months ahead of time to be guaranteed a room.