We love star gazing at night. So we planned for a “rustic” tent site, one with no electric and non-flush toilets, at Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Cherry Springs was just named one of the best places to camp in Pennsylvania. It has over 80 acres of wild untouched land.
We went onto the website to reserve a campsite during the “new moon phase,” the time when the moon shows only the slightest sliver of light. It’s the phase when the moon begins to show again in the night sky. You can learn more about the new moon phase here.
We got the last available tent site for October 26 and 27, 2022, the time of the new moon phase. The campground closes October 30. We got our camping equipment together and were planning to air the tent when my husband checked on our reservation. He called the park and spoke to a park ranger. Nope! Our reservation never took and all the sites were reserved.
Luckily, we found out before we got to the park. Undeterred, we had to “camp” at a motel, Laurel Wood Inn in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, for the two nights. We personally called to make the reservations this time.
We packed the car on a rainy Wednesday and headed northwest across Pennsylvania, hoping the clouds wouldn’t follow us. We drove for hours, in and out of the clouds on slick roads all the way to Cherry Springs State Park. A tedious drive. We missed a lot of peak autumn leaf season, but we found a few trees still had color.
Trying to remain positive, we visited the star viewing area. If we could only get into the observatory, I thought it might protect us from the rain. But no one was around. It didn’t matter. We wouldn’t be able to see past all the clouds to find any stars.
The good news was we had a second night, a second chance, to see the stars. Thursday dawned bright blue and chilly. My hopes were as full as the sunshine. We put on layers of clothing and went for a short hike, the Cherry Springs Working Forest Interpretive Trail.
That night, we donned all our warm clothes and grabbed the sheet of plastic we brought for under our blanket because of the wet ground. We took our telescope and a flashlight covered in red tissue paper. There are light restrictions at the park. No white light. “All flashlights should have a red filter,” it says in the brochure. And you need to keep the light pointed to the ground so as not to blind any star gazers.
You should arrive before dark to set up any equipment and stake your claim on the ground at the public viewing area. They have night programs and guest speakers at the viewing area in the summertime. You need to register for these.
While my husband fiddled with setting up our telescope, I reclined on the blanket as the stars materialized before my very eyes. I could have lain on that blanket all night long, watching the night sky dress with the magic of the Milky Way. My mind plucked out a few star clusters, or constellations. The Pleiades, also known as The Seven Sisters, was bright and clear. It looks like the Small Dipper, only with more stars in line. Shooting stars lit the night sky. Space stations and satellites moved in every trajectory.
We only skimmed the surface of this great state park. So many more trails to explore. Nights to fill with stars. We’ll need to try again in 2023 to schedule a rustic campsite during a new moon phase at Cherry Springs. This way my husband won’t need to drag me and my blanket away from the star viewing area, kicking and screaming all the way.
Oh wait! I didn’t mean to reveal that part. You’re supposed to be quiet when observing the night sky. I was quiet. I was quiet. Until I had to leave. If we camped there, my husband could snuggle into his warm sleeping bag in the tent and go to sleep. Me? I’d be outside the tent with my sleeping bag so as not to miss a single shooting star.
Thanks so much for reading Camping with Five Kids. Please stop by again! Till then, enjoy life’s adventures.