Our Trip to Silver Cliff and Westcliffe
August 28-31, 2019
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We decided to make this trip to Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, Colorado (affectionately known as "The Cliffs") because they are designated by the International Dark-Sky Association as the ninth Dark Sky Community in the world, and the first in Colorado. With an elevation of almost 7,900 feet, it is the nearest to the heavens, Plus, they have the Smokey Jack Observatory in Bluff Park at the West end of Westcliffe, with its state of the art, 14-inch computer-controlled telescope, one of the largest in Colorado. We scheduled our trip to be there during a New Moon, so there would be no light pollution from the moon.

On the first night of our three-night stay in the Lazy S Ranch rental house outside of Silver Cliff, CO (Map is slide #1), we attended a Star Party at the Smokey Jack Observatory, about a 14-mile drive from the rental house. The Star Party was FREE with donations gladly accepted.

To say the view of the stars at the observatory and park was spectacular, beautiful, amazing and breathtaking are mere understatements. There are no words to adequately convey the number and beauty of the stars we could see with the naked eye. In our entire long lives we have NEVER seen so many stars live in the night sky. We could easily see the expanse of the Milky Way stretching across the sky. Then you add the viewing of individual celestial objects (Jupiter, Saturn, Deneb, various other stars and nebulae) through the 14-inch computer-controlled reflector telescope - and your mind is even more blown.

I did not even attempt to take photos, even though I brought my Nikon D40x DSLR camera and tripod, because it is so technically challenging to do properly, and even more so in the pitch black dark. So, we just looked up and marveled at the unbelievable sky and enjoyed the 2 1/2 hour presentation by the two guides, Courtney and Lin Miller (thank you so much for your expertise and entertaining and informative presentation) and viewing through that great telescope. Also, most of us caught a glimpse of a meteor streak across part of the sky!

Check out this video to get a sense of what it was like: These Towns Go Dark to See Starlight

When we got back to the rental house about 11:00pm, it was pitch black outside and we had almost as spectacular view from the rear deck.

Be sure to view the 2 VIDEOS.


Click on an image to start a Slide Show with that image.
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Our 76.8 mile, 1 hr. 31 min. route from our home in Colorado Springs to the towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, Colorado.

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On CO Rte. 96 heading West into the Wet Mountains which forms the eastern edge of the Wet Mountain Valley where the adjacent towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe are located.

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As we approach the town of Silver Cliff in the Wet Mountain Valley on Rte. 96, we see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Blood of Christ Mountains), which form the wesern edge of the Wet Mountain Valley.

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We just entered Silver Cliff, a designated Dark Sky Community, is East and directly adjacent to West Cliffe, another designated Dark Sky Community.

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As wer enter Westcliffe, looking West, we see the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range just past the western edge of the town.

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The very welcoming sign outside the Westcliffe Town Hall.

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The Westcliffe Town Hall.

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Looking West down Main St. in Westcliffe towards the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the other side of which is the San Luis Valley, the largest and highest alpine valley on Earth, and another one of our favorite destinations.

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Another view looking West down Main St. in Westcliffe.

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A map of the Sangre de Cristo Range and the Wet Mountain Valley on the side of one of the buildings in downtown Westcliffe.

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Cathy taking a break from the hot sun, sitting on a covered patio along Main St. in Westcliffe.

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Joe under the covered patio with the bronze sculpture, "Reading Time" by Bill Bond.

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Cathy and Joe enjoying the shade on the patio on Main St. in Westcliffe.

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Some interesting store fronts on Main St. in Westcliffe.

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A model train on the second floor of a store front on Main St. in Westcliffe.

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A bronze sculpture, "the Good Book" outside the bowling alley and restaurant on the West side of Westcliffe.

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The Engine House Railroad Museum, which is part of the All Aboard Westcliffe Heritage Center in Westcliffe.

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The Engine House Railroad Museum, which is part of the All Aboard Westcliffe Heritage Center in Westcliffe.

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We enter the Engine House Railroad Museum.

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Some Railroad artifacts on display in the Engine House Railroad Museum.

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Cathy, among the model R.R. displays, talking with the curators of the Engine House Railroad Museum in Westcliffe.

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More Railroad artifacts on display in the Engine House Railroad Museum.

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A model railroad layout in the Engine House Railroad Museum. (Be sure to view the Videos.

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A model railroad layout in the Engine House Railroad Museum. I had this same style (Lionel 027 gauge) model railroad layout, and that exact transformer controller, when I was a teenager living on Long Island, New York. (Be sure to view the Videos.

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Part of a model railroad layout in the Engine House Railroad Museum. (Be sure to view the Videos.

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Part of a model railroad layout in the Engine House Railroad Museum. (Be sure to view the Videos.

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Cathy talking with the curators near part of a model railroad layout in the Engine House Railroad Museum. (Be sure to view the Videos.

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We are about to enter the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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The main building (a former railroad station) of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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Pretty flowers outside the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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A display room in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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A display room in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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A display in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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The station master's desk in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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The telephone and telegraph on the station master's desk in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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The telegraph on the station master's desk in the main building of the Westcliffe All Aboard Visitor and Interpretive Center in Westcliffe.

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Looking West at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Bluff Park on the western edge of the town of Westcliffe.

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Joe taking pictures of some pretty flowers at the edge of Bluff Park with the Sangres in the background and the Smokey Jack Observatory off to the left.

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Some pretty flowers at the edge of Bluff Park.

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Some pretty flowers at the edge of Bluff Park.

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Some pretty flowers at the edge of Bluff Park.

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A panoramic view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range from Bluff Park on the western edge of the town of Westcliffe. That is the Smokey Jack Observatory in the right foreground.

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The Smokey Jack Observatory, one of our primary destinations on this trip to attend a star viewing party the first night of our stay in the Westcliffe area. Under it's retractable roof, it has one of the largest telescopes in Colorado, a 14-inch computer controlled reflector (mirrored) telescope.

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The path at the edge of Bluff Park down to the Smokey Jack Observatory.

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A beautiful view of the Smokey Jack Observatory with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.

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Another view of the Smokey Jack Observatory with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background.

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The Smokey Jack Observatory, showing the tracks on the right for the retractable roof.

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Our star guides, Lin and Courtney Miller, pose with us and the Smokey Jack Observatory telescope after they gave us a fabulous two and a half hour live presentation of the spectacular stars, galaxies and Milkey Way so beautifully visible with the naked eye and dramatically close up through the 14-inch telescope.

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Cathy and Joe with the Smokey Jack Observatory 14-inch computerized telescope after our 2 1/2 hour star viewing party.

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The entrance to our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch located 3 1/2 miles up gravel road Rte. 271, about 10 miles East of the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.

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The entrance to our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch located 3 1/2 miles up gravel road Rte. 271, about 10 miles East of the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.

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The front of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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The front door of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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The TV room of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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The master bedroom of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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A second bedroom of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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The kitchen of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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The living room of our VRBO rental house on the Lazy "S" Ranch.

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A bottle of white wine and a cracker and cheese board left as a nice greeting for us by our friendly and accomodating host, Robert Serio.

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The sun room off the living room at the back of the rental house.

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Cathy and Joe on the back deck of our rental house.

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Joe relaxing on the back deck of our rental house.

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Cathy relaxing and taking in the beautiful view on the back deck of our rental house.

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A panorama of Cathy relaxing and taking in the beautiful view on the back deck of our rental house.

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The beautiful view from the back deck of our rental house.

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A beautiful panoramic view from the back deck of our rental house.

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A beautiful view of the sunrise on the Wet Mountains from the back deck of our rental house.

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As we leave Westcliffe, heading North on CO Rte. 69, we see this gorgeous view with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the lsft.

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Also, to our left as we leave Westcliffe, heading North on CO Rte. 69, we see the historic Beckwith Ranch.

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The original main entrance gate to the historic Beckwith Ranch.

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The original main entrance gate to the historic Beckwith Ranch.

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The main house of the historic Beckwith Ranch.

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The main house and barn of the historic Beckwith Ranch.

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The entrance door to main house of the historic Beckwith Ranch. A self-portrait?

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