Sequoia National Park's First-Ever Dark Sky Fest

The park gathers Milky Way buffs and big tree fans for a sparkly starry night.

BACK TO THE SKY: People have used the term "back to the land" for more than a few decades now. It's a call to living closer to the earth and the seasons and to our own inner clocks and the larger clock that governs patterns and nature and weather and time. Saying "back to the sky," though? Yeah, that's not quite in common use, or in use at all, really. Which is a shame, given that the very dark, very star-sparkly sky known by our great-grandparents, and even our grandparents, doesn't exist in many of the places we exist now. Sure, we can still pick out the Milky Way in a larger city, even with the street lights, but what of distinctive constellations and particular stars? A lot of squinting and guessing and frustration is involved. Enter the Dark Sky Festival, which is becoming a more common event in our country's national parks and remotest spots. It's a gathering that truly takes people "back to the sky," to the very dark and low-lit, or no-lit, heavens, where picking out Cassiopeia or Pegasus was a cinch, telescope or no telescope. Lassen National Park has one, at the beginning of August, and the sequoias? They're kicking off the first-ever Sequoia National Park-based Dark Sky Festival from July 25 through 27.

LOOK UP, SKY MAVENS: If you've been among some of the biggest trees -- or, for that matter, living things -- on earth at night, you know they nicely frame the sky when you look up. The Dark Sky Festival will add to that magical mix telescopes, astronaut speakers, talks about the constellations, and other goodies to enhance the experience of being in near pitch-blackness (save the starshine). Ready to return to velvety night, if only for an evening? Pencil in a sequoias adventure near the end of July.

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