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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Science Getaways: T- 4 months

By Phil Plait

Science Getaways is a company my wife and I started so that science enthusiasts (and you better face it, since you're reading this, that's you) can go on a vacation that has extra science added. For me, science isn't a career or a hobby -- it's a lifestyle. I can't get enough, even on vacation, so we figured why not put together vacation deals that have bonus value-added science?

The first Getaway is September 16 - 20 of this year, and it'll be at the C Lazy U ranch, an all-inclusive luxury ranch in the Rocky Mountains. We visited there last year and it's incredibly beautiful. The views are spectacular, and you're really out in the middle of nature there.

Which brings up a funny coincidence. This morning I was going through some photos I took, and stumbled on one I took last year when I was up in Rocky Mountain National Park filming a science documentary. When we finished shooting we packed up the gear and headed down the path to the van. As we made that long walk, I looked over to my right and was pretty surprised to see this:

About two dozen elk were just standing or sitting around, casually watching us and other hikers as we stumbled down the path! It was astonishing; they were very calm and satisfied to just watch us walk by, although the male -- that's him with the antlers -- was eyeballing us to make sure we didn't get too close to his harem. He didn't have to worry. I was too busy trying not to kill myself carrying the big camera tripod over my shoulder; wandering off the path to get a closer look at his wives wasn't really on my mind.

As I looked at the picture of the elk I started thinking about seeing more of them now that the weather is warmer and we start weekend hiking in the Rockies again. That's when I thought about Science Getaways -- the ranch hands told us that in late summer it's common for herds of elk to walk across the ranch grounds. Elk are big -- like horse-sized deer -- so that must be quite a sight (check out these photos of elk at the ranch in the winter). And that's not all we're likely to see; there are mule deer, pronghorn, eagles, and more -- maybe even moose. Biologist Dave Armstrong will be with us to point all that out and tell us about what we're experiencing, too.

I'm really looking forward to the nature hikes. That area of the Rockies is surpassingly beautiful (you don't have to take my word for it; here's a family who wrote up their experiences at the ranch). Of course, once the Sun goes down, the reins of science will be passed from biology to astronomy. I think of all the things about this, that's what I'm most excited about: clear, dark, crisp skies, and unfettered access to telescopes! I'm bringing my Celestron 8", and there will be other 'scopes there too. The views will be amazing, whether you're looking out over the mountains, or up over the mountains!

If you're interested, take a look at the site we've set up for Science Getaways. Also, my friend Maria at Skepchick interviewed me about this, too. If you have questions please drop us a line!

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