The Headlands – International Dark Sky Park – Emmet County, Michigan
The Headlands is a park located just a straight shot down Central Ave west of Mackinaw City. The park itself has a number of trails for hiking and such but it also boasts one unique feature: the International Dark Sky Park. So what is a dark sky park exactly? It is a park that has been designed specifically for star-gazing that has met very specific standards of light pollution or “dark sky” if you will. It is open 24 hours a day and visitors are encouraged to stay till all hours of the night. They hold programs and events regularly so check their website for details.
We had heard of the Dark Sky Park prior to our trip up north so we figured we would go check it out. If you go after dark it is easy to drive right past it as the entrance is a bit hidden and the sign for it is set back off the road. When we returned in the daylight to grab a few pictures it was much easier to spot. To get to the Sky Park you must drive down an extremely narrow winding road. It is the only way in or out so I would suggest not trying to drive anything over-sized into the park. On several occasions we had to pull over and hug the side of the road to let traffic get by as it is not wide enough for 2 lanes. There is a small parking lot at the end of the road and a small dim-lit path to a great field overlooking the water. The grass seemed soft and well maintained and the view can not be beat!
Unfortunately, we happened to visit the park during a “super moon” which was an extremely bright full moon that overpowered everything and drowned out the stars. There was a man there with a telescope talking to the crowd about various things that would have been visible in the sky (had the moon not been so bright) and encouraged everyone to make use of his telescope to see the moon closer. He seemed to be a worker or a volunteer of some sort and seemed to be very enthusiastic. He was great to listen to!
We didn’t stay long, the moon was interesting but we wanted to see stars. Next time we are up that way we hope that the conditions will be more conducive to star-gazing so we can go back for another visit.
Betsy: It was a little creepy driving down the narrow road to the Dark Sky Park when we first went at night because 1) there were wood cut outs of people which made you think that they were real people and 2) the road was very very narrow and difficult to traverse when a car was coming in the opposite direction. We were all a bit disappointed that we were not able to see any stars but it was still a neat experience overall.
Chris: I like the concept of the Dark Sky Park, however, while trying to find it we wound up in an equally nice scenic spot that we could have had all to ourselves. I will definitely go back again when the conditions are right but to an amateur city-boy like me I’m sure just about any place out in the sticks would suffice lol.