Where Californians should ride to watch the Perseids meteor showers this week
This is a PSA to all the motorcycling star seeds out there: the Perseids meteor showers are visiting our skies, with peak sighting dates from August 10th to the 13th. This year, they show up just in time for a Friday night ride. If you're lucky (or if you can get somewhere really remote) you could even see the showers this weekend.
The Perseids meteors arrived in July and will leave at the end of August, but this is the week we'll get to see them bright and clear. If you're a Californian, you'll want to ride somewhere unpopulated, and away from city lights so you can get the best view. You may set up camp with friends (keeping in mind local fire bans) or just visit for an early morning. Plan to settle in before the big show, which you can expect to see in the early morning hours after midnight. At this time, you'll be able to watch anywhere from one to two meteorites glad past our Earth every single minute.
Big Sur, Monterey County
If you ride along the coast from LA heading toward San Fransisco long enough, you'll drive into the Big Sur State Park. What's excellent about star gazing here is that the view over the Pacific will illuminate every part of the journey, from the ride to the sunset, to the meteor showers. This path is ideal for bikers who plan to stay near modern civilization but are still looking for a nature haven and a (chillingly) dark sky. If you're taking a day trip, traveling with friends, or camping for the weekend, you'll be able to enjoy more hiking and sporting activities than most star gazing destinations. When the stars do start to shine over the Big Sur coastline, you'll be glad you're there during the peak of the Perseids showers.
Sage Hen, California
Taking highway 365, Sage Hen is roughly two hours north from Reno, and is one of the darkest, if not the darkest reservoirs in California. Just twenty minutes from the highway is what's guaranteed to be a stellar gazing site, Moon Lake. You'll want to do your research on this summer's fire policy, as Sage Hen has no official camping ground like those in a typical overnight park. But you'd be remiss to let this stop you. The appeal of Sage Hen is the lack of people around to cause light pollution. Even though it's more remote, you can set up by the water just thirty minutes from a Chevron with the full night sky above you. It's a deal that can't be beat. Sage Hen will allow you to see everything from the meteors to the milky way. Just make sure to keep an eye on weather warnings, and note local stores on your map where you can stop for essentials if needed.
Sagehen Meadows, Mono County
Didn't we just say this one? Yes, we did! Well, sorta. Sagehen Meadows is a campsite within the Inyo National Forest, located in the opposite direction of the lesser known, Sage Hen. These meadows are a non-serviced camping ground in a totally undeveloped piece of land two miles east of Highway 395. It's a straight shot from Reno, going south, and five hours from both the Bay Area and Los Angelos. Sagehen Meadows is a slight step above Sage Hen on the "roughing it" scale. (As in, it's called a campground, but don't plan for water fountains or outdoor toilets.) These Meadows are free of cost to camp in, and happen to be home to wild, wild horses. Basically, you're guaranteed a brilliant night sky.
Joshua Tree National Park
Encompassing the darker half the low desert, Joshua Tree is perhaps the most accessible stargazing sit for an LA biker. Usually booking with geological tours and programs, it's one of the more family friendly parks. Though, with Covid-19, some activities aren't currently offered. You won't want to underestimate Joshua Tree, either. There's no running water in most of the park, so plan accordingly. However, even at the roadside pullouts you're bound see some of the Perseids meteors passing by. If you want to adventure deeper onto the grounds and get a better view, you might consider hiking to Cottonwood Campground, which has the darkest skies in the whole national park. A pleasant two and a half hour ride in the cool, late afternoon, should get you there just in time to unfold your camping chair and share some laughs as you wait for the early morning sky to appear.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
For the San Diego locals, the scent of the wildflower filled fields of the Anza Borrego desert could very well put you to sleep before the star gazing's even begun. And, it's a fairly short ride! At Anza Borrego you'll be able to enjoy plenty of flowers, trees, and cacti through the various hiking trails, canyons and campgrounds. It's truly a gorgeous setting, and might be enjoyed best as an active day trip that becomes an overnight star-gazing stay by sun down. To watch the meteor showers, the best places to visit inside the park will be Blair Valley, Cup Valley, and the Fish Creek and Mountain Palm Springs campgrounds. Some locations inside Anza Borrego might be closed this week, so you'll want to check the state site before packing. Keep in mind that Covid precautions are still in place, and expect that less restrooms will be available than usual.