Colorado Dark Skies Class

Colorado Dark Skies Class

$135.00$185.00

Clear

May 7 & 8 to Westcliffe and Silver Cliff and The Great Sand Dunes National Park
1 Graduate credit will be offered through The Colorado School of Mines
In addition to our observation and discovery of some designated Colorado Dark Skies, we will visit nature preserves and observe wildlife in their habitats and, learn about the geology and ecology of the areas, hike, visit museums and visitor centers to learn more about the uniqueness and history of this part of Colorado.

Colorado Dark Skies  Class is two days and  is offered for 1 semester hour graduate credit through Colorado School of Mines. It can also be used for continuing education and recertification licensure with The Colorado Department of Education.
Cost of the class is $185 for 1 graduate credit through the Colorado School of Mines or $130 without credit.

May 7 & 8 to Westcliffe and Silver Cliff and The Great Sand Dunes National Park
1 Graduate credit will be offered through The Colorado School of Mines
In addition to our observation and discovery of some designated Colorado Dark Skies, we will visit nature preserves and observe wildlife in their habitats and, learn about the geology and ecology of the areas, hike, visit museums and visitor centers to learn more about the uniqueness and history of this part of Colorado.

This two day class is offered for 1 semester hour graduate credit through Colorado School of Mines. It can also be used for continuing education and recertification licensure with The Colorado Department of Education.
Cost of the class is $185 for 1 graduate credit through the Colorado School of Mines or $130 without credit.

Class Agenda

Day 1 May 7, 2021

We will meet in Westcliffe at 9-9:30 am to go over the day’s itinerary. Afterward, we will walk together to All Aboard Westcliffe, an interpretive center and Railroad Museum filled with historical artifacts and memorabilia showcasing Custer County’s rich railroad history.

Bluff Park 30 Main St and Smokey Jack Observatory are a short walk from All Aboard Westcliffe. At this popular festival and stargazing destination, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and find a footpath to take in some of the views.

A mile and a half up Main Street (which becomes CO 96 headed east) from Bluff Park you’ll find the Silver Cliff Museum. Once, Silver Cliff’s town hall and firehouse, this building now holds artifacts depicting history and life that revolved around mining in the area.

Trails, hikes, waterfalls, reservoirs wildlife areas
Next, we will head for Alvarado Campground, where you’ll hop on the Venable Trailhead for a 1/2 mile or so hike to the famous Rainbow Trail. You can also continue hiking to the picturesque Venable Falls, about 2.5 miles up the Venable Trail so plan on 5 miles round trip for that one if you decide to later go.

Finish your daily activities at, DeWeese Reservoir State Wildlife Area where amazing sunsets, good fishing, and a variety of wildlife await.

Smokey Jack Observatory
We will head back to Smokey Jack Observatory to view the night skies.

The observatory was constructed in 2015 on the southwest corner of Bluff Park at 100 S. Adams Blvd. in Westcliffe. The Smokey Jack Observatory boasts a retractable roof and a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with computer-guided pointing and tracking. Here you can view the heavens of the majestic night sky. The SJO has become an exciting top destination for people from around the world during their visit to Custer County.

 

Day 2 May 8, 2021

Today we will be heading to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
The Great Sand Dunes joins three other national park sites in Colorado and two dozen national parks around the U.S. that have been designated as International Dark Sky Parks. Furthermore, this is a wonderful location to visit for the Dark Sky Colorado class.

This designation recognizes Great Sand Dunes for the exceptional quality of its dark night skies and for the park’s commitment to preserving and educating about the night sky.

Options for driving to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

The most challenging is Medano Pass
For this route, you will head south on CO 69 to traverse Medano Pass, This road/trail will deliver you directly into the park. However, keep in mind that this scenic route requires four-wheel-drive and high-clearance vehicles. Depending on run-off parts of the road often flood and as this takes you directly into the Park you can get bogged down in the soft sands on the eastern edge of the dune field.

The second most challenging is the redundantly named Pass Creek Pass
If you don’t have a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, or you worry about getting stuck in deep sand or fording through potentially flooded roads, you can try the partially, paved Pass Creek Pass. To get there, (turn west just north of Gardner) to U.S. 160 near LaVeta Pass.

The easiest and most commonly driven route is over LaVeta Pass
This way takes a bit longer but is the most popular route. To get there, you will travel via the town of Walsenburg to U.S.160. Additionally, you will go over La Veta Pass which is an easy, paved road. From U.S. 160, you’ll head north on CO 150, just west of the town of Blanca to the Sand Dunes.

Meeting up at the Sand Dunes

Once we reach Great Sand Dunes National Park we will meet at the Visitor’s Center. Understandably, you will marvel at this geologic anomaly at the foot of the high, alpine, Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After a brief visit to the Visitor’s center, we are free to experience the dunes and learn how they originated from large lakes that once covered portions of the San Luis Valley millions of years ago.

A complex geology
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has a complex, geologic, story. For instance, intense volcanic activity built the San Juan mountain range to the west of the modern-day dunes. In addition, tectonic activity raised the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north and east of the dunes. Further, a rift, or place where the Earth’s crust is being pulled widened the valley even more.

There are many options for experiencing the tallest Dunes in North America. You can surf their sandy slopes, hike the challenging, shifting, hills of sand, hear sand sing, draw a picture of the dunes, bird watching, in the nearby wetlands, take some photographs or you might even find some fossils.