Casitas de Gila
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Map and directions to Casitas de Gila
Almost the perfect observing location, as dark a site as you can ask for in the country, a very comfortable room to sleep through the day, and high speed wireless internet! Could an observer ask for more? Why is it not perfect? It is not on a mountaintop, and it is a fairly long drive from anywhere, about four hours from Tucson. But these are quibbles, as an observing destination the Casitas are hard to beat!
Another drawback, there are five casitas, and not all of them will be occupied by amateur astronomers, so there might be a few lights on. Simple solution, ask Michael for a place to setup your scope away from the casitas, there are 90 acres of land available so this should not be a problem. Another solution is to politely ask your neighbors to turn off their lights and invite them out for a look through the scope, this usually works very well! Most of the other guests don't usually last long past dark and you have the night to yourself.
For reservations and information go to the Casitas de Gila website.
Telescopes setup in front of the Los Animalitos casita
Sky Quality: The Casitas are located on a hillside with a large creek about 200ft below. The surrounding hills block the horizon to 10-15 degrees in elevation in many directions, particularly the ridge just to the east. The southern horizon is lower with clear views into Grus and Centaurus. There seems to be little problem with adiabatic (cold night air) flow down the creek degrading seeing as the site is well up on the hillside. In several visits the seeing has been consistently good, six or seven on the Pickering scale, no great nights have been observed yet, have to keep trying.
Light Pollution: The sky is as dark as anywhere you will find in the continental United States. There are no light domes visible on the horizon. Only a very faint glow comes over the ridge from Silver City 25 miles away, and that is easily drowned out by the rising Milky Way. The only lights will be from adjacent casitas.
View from the Casitas across Bear Creek to the Gila Wilderness
Access: The site is accessed by state highway until the last five miles into the hills, which is good graded gravel that can be driven in any vehicle. There are a few large bumps on the Casitas driveway that will require going very slow if driving anything with low ground clearance. The turnoff in Gila can be hard to spot, be sure to follow the directions given.
Facilities: The Casitas offer one and two bedroom rentals, with kitchen, fridge and barbeque grill, full bathrooms and very comfortable sleeping arrangements. There is no air conditioning, seldom an issue at the higher elevation. Efficient radiant floor heating makes each casita very comfortable in cold weather. Power is available if you bring your own extension cord. WiFi internet access at each casita.
Security: Security is good, with little fear of leaving your equipment out when you go to bed. Bring in the small, high value items like eyepieces and just cover the scopes for the day.
Dark skies over the telescopes
DirectionsTravel time is about four hours from Tucson, almost all on interstate freeway and good state highway until the last four miles from Gila. Gas is available at many points along the way, but getting gas in Lordsburg would be recommended for price, a large Loves station at the west end of town usually has good prices. Cell phone coverage becomes spotty north of Lordsburg through the hills, good around Silver City, then again spotty back into the hills.
Excellent directions are sent with the reservation confirmation letter, be sure to have them handy in the car when you go.