Do you know what Milky Way Season is? I learned about the Milky Way as a kid in school but I didn’t realize there was a season for viewing it. Milky Way Season is the window of time in which you can most easily see the Milky Way: March to October depending on location and weather conditions. The best time to go is the summer because you have the largest window of opportunity. You need to be away from the glow of city lights, and you will have better luck on clear nights with a new moon.
There are several places that are great for Milky Way viewing. My recommendation is to go to one of the many national and state parks for a few nights of rest and relaxation with your family, your friends, or even go solo. To add even more fun, I have matched up some Milky Way viewing locations with ghost stories and paranormal history for some scary campfire fun. The 8 options I have listed is just a small sampling of the great places you can visit to appreciate what you might find in the dark.
Joshua Tree National Park
The Joshua Tree National Park offers a lot of activities in its vast acreage (about 800,000 acres) all year-round. You can enjoy camping, hiking, birding, stargazing, rock climbing, horseback riding, and backpacking. Evidence of people living in the area goes back for at least 5,000 years with the first being the Pinto Culture, followed by the Serrano, Chemehuevi, and Cahuilla Indians.
Joshua Tree Inn
Built in 1949, the inn is just 5 miles from the park. It has a mere eleven rooms however that hasn’t kept notables from staying there. Overnight guests are said to include John Wayne, Emmy Lou Harris, Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Keith Richards, the Eagles, and the Byrds.
Room 8 is allegedly haunted by musician and songwriter Gram Parsons who died in the room back in 1973. On that night he is said to have ingested a large amount of alcohol and then purchased morphine from an unknown man believed to be another overnight guest. It is believed he later overdosed on the morphine. He had a fondness for Joshua Tree National Park and wanted to be buried there.
His family planned to bury him in Louisiana rather than respect his wishes so a couple of friends stole his body and drove it to the park. There they tried to cremate him by throwing several gallons of gasoline on him in the casket and lighting him on fire. Their efforts failed and, ultimately, what was left of his remains was taken back and buried in Louisiana.
Yellowstone National Park
On March 1, 1872 Yellowstone became the first national park. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, boating, and stargazing are just some of the things you can do at the park. Species, including many whose migratory travels bring them back to the park each year from winter journeys south.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel
The Lake Yellowstone Hotel was constructed in the late 1880s. It took nearly two years to complete the hotel. Initially the Lake Hotel consisted of only a handful of rooms but owner R.R Cummins decided there needed to be much more. The hotel had several transformations which included the addition of a two-story wing and a solarium in the late 1920s. Today, the hotel is known as the Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins and is the most historic hotel in Yellowstone National Park
Of course………there are stories of ghosts in Lake Yellowstone Hotel of course. Among them are two drowning victims that are seen outside by both visitors and staff. I was not able to confirm the drownings however the reports appear over and over again. There is also a woman that has become known as Matilda who is dressed in flapper clothing. She appears on the back end of the second floor and quite often by people outside as she watches from one of the second floor windows.
There is also a man seen in uniform as if he was once employed at the hotel. He is dressed in early 20th century clothing and is most often seen assisting with luggage. He is reported to be friendly and gives advice about the Yellowstone Trails. It sounds a bit off to me but who knows?
Mammoth Springs Hotel
The first Mammoth Hotel, also called the National Hotel, was constructed in 1883. It was one of the first “grand” hotels in a national park and was revered among visitors. It would have a major facelift in 1911 – 1913 with the addition of an east wing. Another renovation in the 1930’s resulted in part of the hotel being demolished, the dining room separated from the remaining lobby and east wing, but with a recreation center and cottages that still exist today.
Paranormal activity has been reported over the years from both guests and staff members. Quite often doors are said to open and close on their own, furniture moves out of place, shadows are seen, and voices, footsteps, and laughter are heard. Sometimes the spirit(s) interfere with housekeeping so the staff has learned to deal with it by moving on to another room and coming back when they are finished.
Grand Canyon National Park
The hotel opened to the public in 1905 as a part of a chain of hotels owned by Fred Harvey Company. It was designed with Swiss chalet and Norwegian villa influences to appeal to the elite of the time. The elite found it to be truly elegant and visitors over the years include Sir Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, and so many others. Located on the canyon rim, El Tovar offers guests an opportunity to appreciate the canyon in comfort.
Visitors and staff have reported hearing voices, the feeling of being watched, someone pulling on their clothing, and touching them while they sleep. Some also reported seeing an apparition of a man on the third floor.
Grand Canyon Cavern Suite
Want to experience something different? The Grand Canyon Cavern Suite is known as the “largest, deepest, darkest, oldest, quietest motel room in the world.” The cavern is 22 feet underground where you will be surrounded by walls more than 65 million years old. It comes with a hefty price tag though so bring some friends along to share the cost.
Discovered in 1927 by Walter Peck, the caverns have changed hands over the years with the cavern suite created in 2010 by the current owners. Take an elevator down to the room to find a living room and two double beds. You will also find a restaurant and RV park onsite if you do not want to pay to stay in the suite.
It has been reported that 8 people have died on the property. Paranormal reports include hearing voices, an uneasy feeling, seeing shadows that appear to be Native Americans, and an apparition of a man at the bottom of the elevator shaft.
Big Bend National Park
Howard Everett Perry, a prominent Chicago businessman won some desert property in a poker game which he discovered was rich in cinnabar (an ore of mercury). The area was known to have mercury however Perry’s mine would later be known to have the richest deposits. In 1903 the Chisos Mining Company came to be.
Perry’s wife was back in New England and he wanted an elegant home suitable for his wife to greet her when she arrived. It was designed with Moorish influences and built overlooking the mine with nine bedrooms. It was also the only home known to have a wine cellar in the region.
Upon the mansion’s completion, Perry sent for his wife. According to lore, she arrive, spent the night, then left and returned to New England. She allegedly never spent another night in the home Perry built for her.
Perry died in 1944 but it is believed he has not left the Mansion. Visitors report hearing and seeing voices, footsteps, and an apparition that is believed to be a male spirit. They also report hearing the voice and laughter of a woman that has yet to be identified.
Not exactly near the park, Marathon is approximately 100 miles from Terlingua. Alfred Gage felt the area didn’t really have much to offer travelers by way of lodging so he decided he would build a hotel. It opened in April 1927 but Gage would die just a year later.
Guests and staff have reported experiencing something unusual in rooms 10 and 39, the porch, and in the hallways. It is believed that there are three spirits with one of them being Gage. Reports include voices, footsteps, being touched, and apparitions both inside and outside.
The hotels I listed above have so much to offer you. A nice getaway can do wonders for you giving you the opportunity to recharge. So go. Commune with nature and appreciate the beauty of the dark skies. But be careful. You may not be alone in the dark……