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Go Here: Pine Mountain: An escape from smoky skies 

Who's this trip for?

This trip is great for families who love the outdoors and science.


he eclipse may be over, but that doesn't mean there aren't still majestic wonders in the sky waiting to be discovered. And while much of Oregon may be presently smoky or recently torched by wildfire, the desert east of Bend is in pretty good shape. So this week, I'm sending you to Pine Mountain Observatory, just off of Highway 20 southeast of town about 30 miles.

Pine Mountain Observatory is dedicated to astronomy education and research. Run by the University of Oregon, the observatory is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights until the end of September (it'll open back up Memorial Day if you don't make it out there the next two weekends).

From the highway, drive 8 miles to the summit, a campground and the observatory. As you climb the 6,300-foot peak, you'll be awarded with terrific views of the sagebrush desert below you as well as the Cascade peaks. At the top, you'll see telescopes in their domed protective houses, looking like space-age robots planted in the sage landscape. University of Oregon chose the location in 1967 to make good use of the dark skies of this lightly populated section of the Eastern Oregon high desert.

Programs start at sunset. A tour guide will give a lecture on astronomy, after which visitors are invited to peer through the telescopes into the heavens. Interpretive programs are dependent on weather, moon phase and sunset time. Clouds will cancel a program, a full moon will diminish star visibility and a later sunset time will push the program start time back. How late the observatory stays open is up to the volunteer, and may be anytime between 11 p.m. and dawn. Plan to camp or drive home very late!

Have fun stargazing.

: Pine Mountain is 30 miles southeast of Bend, just south of Highway 20. Watch for signs from the highway just past Millican.

Kim Cooper Findling is the author of Bend, Oregon Daycations: Day Trips for Curious Families and the Central Oregon ambassador for Travel Oregon. See kimcooperfindling.com.

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