For those who are looking for an excuse to camp and build a great fire in the dead of winter, the skies are preparing for a remarkable display of light. On the morning of Jan. 31, during the two hours before sunrise, we will witness a lunar eclipse on the second full moon of the calendar month, making it a blue moon.
The close coincidence of this event with the perigee of the moon, the closest orbit point to Earth, will amplify the amount of light by 14 percent, making it a super moon. According to NASA the covering of the moon with Earth’s shadow will take place from 5:51 to 7:07 a.m., with the peak of the eclipse at 6:29 a.m.
The combination of these phases will motivate many to bring out their telescopes and their warmest sleeping bags to spend a night out of town.
Given that not a lot of people are camping this time of year, most BLM campsites are likely to be available. But the key is to find a location with ample view looking west.
To watch the moon illuminate the towers of Castle Valley and the La Sals, head to Onion Creek. This campsite has one of the best ground views of the valley as well as access to the river. To view the valley from above there’s no better place than Castle Valley Overlook, in the national forest, which can be accessed by driving through Sand Flats. It’s a much smaller and more intimate campsite on the edge of a cliff with fire rings hidden between boulders.
Another possible location — which few people ever frequent — is the Rainbow Rock campsite that can be found off of State Route 313. The ground levels out for a few miles, giving rise to enormous sandstone fins with striations of different colors. This location is a bit more primitive and the dirt road goes through several washes making it a weather-sensitive drive.
If you want to stay close to town a good option is driving down Kane Creek Road past the switchbacks where the valley opens up before Hurrah Pass. There are a series of campgrounds with 360-degree views, as well as towers and spires in the background.
Another great idea is to take the drive to Goblin Valley. Watching the countless goblins and hoodoos take form in the night would no doubt be an unmatched experience. One can walk about the otherworldly labyrinth of nooks and gnomes as the night fills with the light of a strange moon.
In case you can’t get away from town mid-week — or winter camping is just not your definition of fun — you can still watch the eclipse by setting your alarm clock a little bit before 6:29 a.m., when totality is due.
If you miss this one you’ll have to wait another year until the next lunar eclipse on Jan. 21, 2019.