Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Sky Without Stars

A Sky Without Stars
by Dave Adalian

The greatest bane of astronomers is encroaching light.

When the Moon is full or the neighbor leaves his porch light on all night the splendor of the starry sky is ruined.

Fortunately, in Tulare County (Calif.) we can always retreat to the countryside and the vast open acres of croplands and grasslands.

My favorite place to remove myself from the lights of an increasingly bright Central (San Joaquin) Valley is the lonely cattle country of Yokohl Valley east of Rocky Hill.

Out among rolling hills covered in brown grass baked in the heat the sky is still a jewel encrusted dome, where thousands of lights dazzle on a velvet backdrop. Just minutes from downtown Visalia (Calif.), where the star clouds of the Milky Way are never seen, our home galaxy stretches itself from horizon to horizon so beautifully it pulls the breath from your body.

Just five miles down a winding two-lane road there is isolation almost complete, where seeing more than two cars in a night is heavy traffic. Owls cry in the dark. Coyotes yip and laugh and howl to one another among the silhouettes of ancient oak trees standing sentinel on far away ridge tops. It is so quiet you can hear the clicking screech of bats finding their way through blinding inkiness.

Yokohl Valley is a place that I hold dear, and it has been my secret retreat for a dozen years. Now, I’m sharing it with you.

You’d better get there soon.

I’ve been selfish with my hideaway, but no more. As many people as can come should see the wonder of this hidden foothill valley before it’s gone.

An international corporation has decided to turn my secret Eden into a retirement community. If our leaders lend support to this idea, the splendor of Yokohl Valley will soon be no more.

The land will still be there. The stars will still shine overhead, too, but we’ll never see them in the glow of a thousand shining street lights.

Come out to Yokohl Valley before the Sun sets and let the blazing summer turn into cool, dark night around you. Let the sweet smell of wild grasses baked in the sun fill your senses. Hear nighthawks’ screams echo among the rocks and feel the chill on your skin as the coyotes call to one another across the empty spaces.

See the stars shining over this doomed valley before they’re lost forever.


Join the Tulare Astronomical Association for a public star party this Friday, 9:30-11:30 p.m., at the Purcell Observatory, 9242 Ave 198, south of Tulare (Calif.) and 2.1 miles west of Hwy 99. Information:


This column originally appeared in the Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta and Tulare (Calif.) Advance-Register on Thurs., July 13, 2006.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful story. I've seen the ruin of this valley coming for many years because I was born here. I have lived out in the countryside of Tulare County and smelled the scents of which you're referring to. I've heard the coyotes, owls and bats. And best of all, I've seen the entire night sky in all of it's brilliance. That was many years ago, but I still remember. You're right. One day we won't see the amazing night sky anymore, nor will we hear the coyotes, owls and bats. The imposing sound of vehicles, people, lawn mowers and such, will be in their place. The sweet smell of the countryside wildflowers and plants will be replaced with the disgusting odor of garbage, sewage, and cigarettes. I truly believe that the people who are in charge of this county, all of the cities, and government in particular, could care less if they finish it all off. There's a new breed of people here now that litter our once beautiful lands. There's a new idealogy of thinking, or not thinking, rather, and not caring. I think this is what bothers me the most. So anyway, thanks again for your story. Now I don't feel so alone in my way of thinking about what I see happening here and not liking it. Happy stargazing!