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The Magdalena Ridge Observatory tour is about an hour and a half caravan drive from Star Village leaving in the early afternoon. The tour ends up atop a 10,600' mountain by way of a narrow winding dirt road. From dark until about 2230 you may setup your telescopes and observe, or just sit in a chair and watch the Milky Way. At about 2300 the caravan will start back down the mountain, arriving back at Star Village around midnight. Overnight camping and observing will not be possible. There is a small kitchen and bathroom facilities at the visitor center which is along the road between the 2.4m telescope and the interferometer buildings. Be prepared for cold weather and bring your dinner and snacks. If the weather does not look good then the tour may be cancelled.
1. Make sure your vehicle can make it. The road is quite steep, and the average
speed is around 10 mph. The slow speed can cause cars to overheat, because
there is not much air flow through the radiator. Bringing a jug of water just
in case will not get you laughed at.
2. Make sure YOU can make it. The road is steep, windy and narrow. Most of the road is not wide enough to turn around on, or to let an oncoming vehicle pass. There are some places to pull off to the side, but not many. It's about 13 miles from US60 to the top and it takes one hour of driving.
3. Altitude sickness doesn't require a trip to Mt. Everest. People have felt ill even after making the trip to the top of our little mountain, and have had to turn around and go back down. Headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath (other than the shortness of breath you get from being at 10,600 feet) should not be sneezed at. If you don't feel well let one of us know right away. You generally don't just "get better". You usually get worse until you get down to lower elevations.
4. The weather is your friend, most of the time. Storms can pop up around these parts just about any time of the year and the tops of the Magdalena Mountains are one of the great attractors for lightning in the country. There have been dumps of 2" of rain from October storms in short amounts of time along with high winds and large hail. Keep an eye on the clouds. They're not just pretty. The weather will have to be very good to start the trip up the mountain, but New Mexico weather could still surprise us once we are up on the mountain. Bring food for dinner...and maybe even breakfast. You never know.
5. Because the weather can be fickle make sure you leave your camp site at Star Village ready for a surprise wind or rain storm. Shoot, even be prepared for snow.
6. It's cold up there. Once the sun goes down it will get cold fast. Plan accordingly.