Desert Sky Show: Geminids and Ursids

The meteor shower makes its wowza return.

THE EYE-POPPING WONDERS... of the desert are too numerous to count, but just about every aficionado of an arid and eternal landscape can pick a favorite. Maybe it is spying the first blossoms atop a prickly pear pad, blossoms that are so sunset-y in hue they might give an actual sunset some competition. Perhaps you love to come across a bighorn sheep standing with chilled-out majesty on the side of a rocky incline, or a sudden water sighting in the middle of total dryness may make you catch your breath. Whatever your route to awe in the desert, it is likely a great one, though most of what we love about dryer spaces occurs on the land itself. There is, however, a lot to be said about what happens above a desert, too. And it turns out one of the desert's biggest shows is when a meteor shower comes to town, and while cosmic events don't belong to any single place from which they may be viewed, let's get down to it: The desert is one of the best places, if not the most primo, #1, amazing-amazing place to witness nighttime sky shows, thanks to the clear air, low lights, and vastness of the low-lying horizon. With that in mind, best hightail it to...

ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK, or Death Valley National Park, or Joshua Tree National Park, or the Salton Sea, or the scrubby-spectacular destination of your choosing, for December is Geminids meteor shower time. The sky-streaky occurrence isn't all December long, mind you, and the Ursids come along around the winter solstice, so plan out your dates now for Dec. 4 through 16. The biggest night for some "did you see that?!" type sights? You'll want to pitch your tent on Dec. 13 (and look to the Anza-Borrego Foundation, which has great suggestions on how to best enjoy the event from the beautiful Southern California desert). Spying any of the shower, of course, isn't predictable, and there is the thrill of looking in the right direction at the right moment. But being surrounded by cacti, and rocky hills, and ancient ravines, and the occasional coyote howl, feels like the way to set the scene, whatever you might spy in the sky. Need a break from the pre-holidays? Let the Geminids draw you to the desert, and out of day-to-day doings for a night.

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