Eastern Sierra: Sublime Stargazing Spots

Stop and gaze up at Mono Lake, Benton Hot Springs, and other dark-of-dome destinations.

AN ECLIPSE STATE OF MIND: Even if you don't have plans to travel to the central-ish part of Oregon, or another prime, in-the-path spot for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, you've likely got a few cosmic matters thrumming through your heart. Thank summertime for that, when camping and backyard dinners and other alfresco events put us outside after sundown, and thank the general mystery that an eclipse so curiously conveys (though, of course, science, not mystery, is at its fascinating heart). The Dark Sky Festivals, too, inspire us to ponder astronomical notions, and as they tend to be centered around the warmer season, we're more apt to enjoy Dark Sky-style musings when July and August are in full bloom. There are other ways to appreciate planets and stars and nebulae far from our own home base, and they only involve getting to a location known for its lovely lack of light. It so happens that a goodly stretch of...

HIGHWAY 395, and some of the pretty towns and stop-over places along it, gets the whole look-up-and-go-deep yearnings that those of us who live in city-bright places possess. If you need to address this particular yearning, and you want to fold more wonder into your world, consider a Mono County idyll, where spots like Mono Lake, with its otherworldly tufa towers, and Benton Hot Springs, a place blanketed in delightful darkness, await. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest isn't too far, too, so toodle to Inyo County, and up, up, up to the higher elevation (think 8,000-plus feet), for a serious look at Saturn or Jupiter. One excellent recommendation from the Mono County tourism people? A Mono Lake photography visit, one that happens in the evening, should involve at least a little moonlight, the better to illuminate all of that surreal and superb tufa. For more picks, check in with the Mono County and Inyo County visit teams, to see where the locals recommend communing with the cosmos.

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