Astronomy for RVers: Dark skies in Texas

Another great park that caters to astronomers.

By Chris Fellows, Serenity Mobile Observatory

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Are you ready to hit the road with your telescope? Well, let me tell you a story about another great place to haul your kit and get out under a glorious night sky.

The Marathon Motel and RV park in Marathon, Texas, is on a remote stretch of Highway 90 in the southwest of Texas. Just about 40 minutes north of Big Bend National Park, and about the same distance southeast of McDonald Observatory, Marathon sports a Bortles scale 1 sky and holds star parties almost every clear night. You should also plan to take a sundown trip to Marfa, only a short drive to the west, and see if you can spot the famous Marfa Lights.  

I spent a week there in late May 2018 and was very pleasantly surprised. The motel has 12 cute bungalow-style rooms, 20 RV sites, and also accommodates tent campers with enough room for a very large group in the tent area. The entire park was kept meticulously clean and manicured, and I didn’t see so much as a cigarette butt on the ground.

A fulltime resident astrophotographer, name of Bill Ramey, rolls out a 20” Obsession and a 13” homemade dobsonian telescope for park visitors to gaze through almost every clear night. Bill was very accommodating, knowledgeable and friendly, and I highly encourage you to go to one of his talks if you stay at the park. The night I took the short walk over to the big scope he treated us to wonderful views of M13, the great globular cluster in Hercules, M51, a pair of interacting galaxies in Canes Venatici, and a spectacular view of M81 and M82, a galaxy pair in Ursa Major. The park also provides three level and powered concrete telescope pads for visiting astronomers where you can set up your rig with unobstructed views in all directions. Like I said, very accommodating.   

Marathon Motel and RV Park is also a great value. It has two large and very well kept gathering areas for park guests with barbecue grills, seating for dozens of people, and fire pits. There are clean and private bathroom/shower rooms and on-site laundry facilities. The RV sites have great WiFi access and cable television hookups. Electricity is included in the very reasonable daily, weekly and monthly rates. The city of Marathon is very small but has a grocery store and a few restaurants within just a couple of blocks of the motel grounds. 

The park was quiet for the most part but there are some train tracks across Hwy 90 that are used several times a day/night, and the engineer isn’t shy about that horn. It didn’t bother me, but I am sure some won’t enjoy the midnight run. I didn’t get a chance to meet the owners, Danny and Mindy Self, but everyone in the park said they are great people and I am sure they would love to have you come stay with them.

Marathon Motel and RV Park is a great and economical destination for anyone wanting to get that telescope out of the city lights and into a nice dark sky. So if you’re in the south of Texas, anytime of year, plan a stop at this little gem and say “Hi” to Bill for me.

Till next time!

Clear Skies,
Chris Fellows, Serenity Mobile Observatory

Find Chris on Facebook (or, if you’re lucky, at your campground). (Editor: Check out his amazing photos on his Facebook page!)

##RVT847

 

 

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