For the third year in a row, an astronomy buddy of mine who has a home and observatory in the Dragoon Mountain Ranch area east of Tucson in southern Arizona invited a few of us from the local astronomy group to come down for a week of observing under dark skies in early March 2019. We benefit from the very dark skies and high elevation this area offers, and his nicely-equipped observatory is located much further south 32° N) than we normally observe from in Victoria ( 48.5° N) on the west coast of Canada!
My full itinerary is listed below in my travelogue. Feel free to click on what location interests you, however if you click on the top-most locale, there are links at the bottom of each page (just above the Comments section) to take you to the next article – from beginning to end. This is the best way to explore the whole trip as it happened, day by day.
- Victoria to Phoenix to Dragoon Ranch – flights from Victoria, BC, Canada to Phoenix, Arizona, USA – pick up my Tesla rental and my friends and I drive to Dragoon Mountain Ranch
- Dragoon Mountain Ranch – day 1 – getting settled and observing and photographing the night sky
- Dragoon Mountain Ranch & Council Rocks – an Apache stronghold in the nearby hills offers great hiking in picturesque topography
- Bisbee, Tombstone & astronomy – an historic mining town, the wild west, and night sky wonders
- Dragoon Mountain Ranch – 3 days to observe and image the night sky, share wonderful meals with friends, and experience the Pima Air & Space Museum
- Dragoon Ranch to Phoenix to Victoria – airports, car rentals, and flights home to Canada
Southern Arizona & Astronomy – gallery of all photos for this trip
How it started
My friend who has a hobby ranch and observatory in southeast Arizona has offered to host some of my astronomy buddies and I at his place for a week in the spring over the last few years. This presented an opportunity to see southern Arizona and experience the ecology, history and culture of the southwestern USA. When he once again repeated his invitation for 2019 I jumped at the opportunity since I enjoyed myself so much in previous years. This year, I flew to Phoenix and rented a Tesla Model 3, driving to Tucson and onward to the ranch.
How it evolved
As I did in previous years, I wanted to see more of southern Arizona than just a week of observing at Dragoon Ranch. Unfortunately, the last few days at the ranch were not much fun, since I developed a sinus infection and was forced to cut my trip short so I could return home and seek medical treatment.
My friend’s offer includes free accommodation for the week while my astronomy buddies and I are at his place, providing we arrange for our transportation, and self-cater our meals. Overall, the trip cost me a reasonable CD$310/day including airfare, spending money, entrance fees, food, and splurging on the Tesla Model 3 car rental. I am paying with Canadian dollars with the US$ costing me about CD$1.35.
So was it worth it?
This trip was a very rewarding. At this time of year, southern Arizona is not oppressively hot or windy, so just a light coat is needed during the day. At night in the high desert, it can get quite cold, approaching freezing some evenings, so a winter coat is needed. Although I didn’t get to see the new sights I was hoping for this year, it was still a wonderful getaway experienced with good friends.
We had good weather while at the ranch – at least four out of the eight nights were clear enough to observe, with little or no wind or cloud cover. Observing the night sky from this very dark part of North America is exceedingly rewarding for an amateur astronomer such as myself, and to be able to experience this with my observing buddies is special. I didn’t have to lug any heavy astronomy gear down with me, since my friend’s observatory is so well equipped. All I took with me was camera gear I normally travel with, so it is an easy travel experience with wonderful rewards!