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Starry Night

 Head south for an unobstructed view of the night sky. 

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Peering up at a black sky ablaze with stars is among the most rudimentary yet spectacular outdoor experiences available—one that many believe may be lost to future generations because of increasing light pollution. For 15 years, the nonprofit Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley (DSWMV) has been working to safeguard the expansive panorama in the neighboring southern Colorado towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. Earlier this year, the area received the state’s first International Dark Sky Community designation, meaning the Centennial State municipalities are among fewer than 50 designees worldwide dedicated to protecting views of the heavens. “We’re maintaining the legacy of the night sky,” says DSWMV president Jim Bradburn. “Just two-and-a-half hours from Denver, you have this site where it looks like you can touch the Milky Way.” Earning the title required adjusting city and residential lighting in both towns to shine only downward and raising local awareness of the issue through in-school education and community events. (The International Dark-Sky Association estimates that as much as $3.3 billion of energy is wasted in the United States each year through illuminating areas unnecessarily.) A new observatory just off Westcliffe’s main street gives visitors to the valley, which is situated between the Sangre de Cristo and Wet Mountain ranges, another way to see the stars. If you’re hoping to wish on one this summer, we suggest taking a road trip to south-central Colorado.

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