It was Friday night, just after 11pm, and I was deathly bored. I scanned through my phone. Images of Thursday night’s aurora flooded Facebook. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park proclaimed that the Northern Lights may be visible again. I made a snap decision to head north.
Due in part to construction, and in part to preserve the dark I’m sure, the Dark Sky Park had changed their parking lot. Where once you were able to drive out to the viewing area, you now were asked to park across the street from the park entrance and walk the mile and a half. It was pitch black and my red light only illuminated the area right at my feet. Twice I was startled by cutouts of people standing in the forest, interpretive signage meant to educate visitors about the stars but instead serving to make me squeal like a 12-year-old girl.
When I arrived, I spent a few minutes talking to the Dark Sky Park’s director, Mary Stewart Adams, and thank her for her work in preserving the night for visitors like me. I am a huge fan of the work that Mary, and her staff and volunteers, have accomplished. I have been involved in building two history museums during my former career. I know the difficulties in selling a project. I also know the incredible benefit a multi-purpose building like this will be to our community. Every time I visit the Dark Sky Park I meet people from outside of Michigan that made the journey to Emmet County to visit this park. They stay in hotels. They shop downtown. They eat out. They spend. This building will attract more visitors and serve as a cultural and educational attraction in the region for decades to come.
After speaking to Mary, I turned my attention north, where the aurora glowed well beyond the horizon. I set up my camera in the dark, turning on my red-light flashlight for only a few seconds when needed. Below are a few of the images I captured.