Dark Sky Park

My sister posted an interesting link on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/no22wd2) the other day which mentioned a park in Northern Michigan called The Headlands.  This is the only park in Michigan right now that has the distinction of being called an “International Dark Sky Park.” 

According to the International Dark Sky Association, the definition of such a park is, “a public land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” There are a number of guidelines and requirements that a place must meet in order to be designated an official Dark Sky Park.

The Headlands is located about two miles west of Mackinaw City in Emmett County, Michigan. There are about 550 acres of natural woodlands and over two miles of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan. In the park, you can hike, bike or cross country ski on marked nature trails. There is no admission charge and there is no camping in the park but visitors can stay as long as they want to view the night sky.

Many people have never been to a place that wasn’t illuminated by city lights at night. They don’t even know what they’re missing in terms of the beauty of the night sky without the pollution of city lights. My relatives live in Montana on a ranch about 25 miles away from the nearest town. I remember camping out in my grandparent’s yard with my cousins. We’d wake up in the middle of the night and the sky would be blanketed with stars. It felt like they were hanging right above our heads and we could almost reach up and touch them.

I would highly recommend a star gazing trip if you’ve never had a true experience outside of the city. This Dark Sky Park sounds like a good road trip to me. As Vincent Van Gogh said, ”For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

(Sources: http://www.hellyeahdetroit.com/2014/04/11/first-dark-sky-park-in-michigan-opens, http://www.darksky.org/idsp/Guidelines/IDSP%20Guildelines%20Final-May13-BP.pdf, http://www.emmetcounty.org/darkskypark