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View Full Version : Looking for U.S. Geography/Farming/Astronomy Buffs



vsrenard
04-20-2016, 07:48 PM
Hey all,

I've got a setting for my YA fantasy novel that has been changing as I write, and I'm not sure such a place actually exists. I'm looking for a state/area that has:

Dark skies: does not need to be an actual dark sky park but needs to be dark enough to be able to see stars really well

Cliffs or other rocky area: Looking for a place where caves can be found, not big caves, but large enough to house a coyote and a couple of people who "visit" from time to time

Crop farming: Needs to be in a place where small-mid scale crops are farmed (I'll go with cattle instead, but only as a last resort)

I had originally thought of eastern Colorado, or Clayton Park, NM, but neither seem plausible. Story takes place in a rural town, but I can make up the town, just need the terrain to be accurate.

Any ideas?

Thanks!

Vanitha

blacbird
04-20-2016, 09:39 PM
Utah. Study a map.

caw

Siri Kirpal
04-20-2016, 09:39 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The area around the Jimez Mountains in NM would suit your purposes. Outside of towns the night sky is dark (and huge -- thunderclouds are impressive!), the area is rocky. Caves might be possible. There's some cattle grazing, but also small farming, mostly corn, chili peppers, squash, probably beans. Check out Espanola NM.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

alleycat
04-20-2016, 09:55 PM
The eastern half of Tennessee and that section of the country would generally fit your description.

Lots of caves and cliffs because of the limestone rock, small (compared to the midwest) crop farms, dark skies away from the larger towns, although probably not as dark as the desert and remote areas of the western US.

If you want to see photos of a cave that almost looks like aliens have visited, Google Rumbling Falls Cave. Also Rock Island and Fall Creek Falls State Parks.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/1b/96/00/1b96005a9a594adc5ed8ec0554bbc821.jpg

RKarina
04-20-2016, 10:00 PM
Much of the eastern edge of California, on into Utah and New Mexico could meet your suggestions.

In Southern California, the western edge of Imperial Valley (in Imperial County) meets ALL of your descriptors. The valley itself is a large agricultural area with everything from small family farms to large commercial farms. Plants, not livestock.
At the edge of the valley, moving up into the mountains is high dessert where there are a variety of caves. Nothing huge, but plenty large enough for wildlife or humans to take refuge.
City lights are either far off to the east, in El Centro, or on the other side of the mountain range (San Diego and its spread).

There are farming communities all throughout California's central valleys - any of them that are near mountainous areas will likely have some caves. Surprisingly, there are small farms all over the Mojave - including some outside of Death Valley.

cornflake
04-20-2016, 10:06 PM
South Dakota? You can see the Milky Way.

Richard White
04-20-2016, 11:07 PM
The Ozark Mountains in Southwestern Missouri.

a) Dark areas - not an issue. Lots of small villages and small towns (average between 300-3000) but no cities outside of Springfield. Especially if you have property that is near the lakeshore, you can have all the dark you want. I used to do a lot of star watching from my back yard and we were technically "in town".

b) Caves - Lots of limestone caves. I did my share of cave crawling in the woods behind our house - probably more than I should have looking back at it. *grin* Also there is a share of cliffs from erosion.

c) Crop Farming - The Ozarks have a number of small farms in the valleys between the hills. These tend to be very tightly held since good farmland is sparse in the Ozarks due to the thin soil on the hills.

vsrenard
04-21-2016, 12:00 AM
Utah. Study a map.

caw

Have been doing. Utah was a top choice, but the farming looks to be mostly cattle grazing. NM also really fit the bill, but it seemed like the rocky structures and small farming were at odds in the places I've looked at. Was really intrigued by the Clayton Lake State Park, but the terrain seems all wrong. At the moment, maps, the Internet, and Google Earth are the primary tools I can use.

Thank for the suggestions, so far. A lot of stuff I had not considered. I appreciate the ideas!

Chris P
04-21-2016, 12:09 AM
Central and eastern Kentucky. Or Tennessee (nods to Alleycat). The ex-wife grew up near Albany, KY. Lots of hills, no cities, tobacco and corn farming dominate and lots of woods too. Great places to hide a body! Um, if your book requires you to.

Siri Kirpal
04-21-2016, 01:56 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Agreeing that Imperial County California would be good. Not remembering which county it's in, but Palomar had one of the largest telescopes in the world when I was a kid in the '60s. Somewhere downhill from that would have farm land. With rocky terrain nearby.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

AW Admin
04-21-2016, 02:07 AM
Eastern Montana; talk to Bomber Girl.

ZachJPayne
04-21-2016, 04:12 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Agreeing that Imperial County California would be good. Not remembering which county it's in, but Palomar had one of the largest telescopes in the world when I was a kid in the '60s. Somewhere downhill from that would have farm land. With rocky terrain nearby.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal


Palomar is in San Diego county. Ocotillo Wells, which is on the SD/Imperial Border (or close to) has been rated as one of the best cities in CA for stargazing.

mrsmig
04-21-2016, 06:05 AM
Have you looked at Idaho? A major agricultural state, with very few large cities (so little light pollution) and topography that includes plains, mountains and plenty of ice and lava caves.

blacbird
04-21-2016, 06:20 AM
Addendum to my comment about Utah: Much of the western U.S., away from city lights, ought to be useful. The two best stargazing experiences of my life, that I remember, were on campouts. One in Utah, near Moab, on BLM land along a road to Dead Horse Point, a Utah state park with a fantastic view southward all the way to Canyonlands. The other, as a grad student, doing geological field work in rural Kansas, camped out at a state park on a beautiful summer night; slept outside and watched the stars above the way you'd watch a really good movie on TV a quiet night. Both these nights were cloudless and moonless, and no artificial lights around of any kind.

Oh, yeah, and both being in high summertime, the center of the Milky Way galaxy was directly overhead, at maximum brightness. Where I live now, in Alaska, I only get the much fainter outer edge of the Milky way, in winter, when it's customarily brass-monkey-alert cold. In summer, we don't get no visible stars.

caw

vsrenard
04-21-2016, 08:26 AM
You guys are awesome! Thank you!! You've given me lots of new places to check out. :)

vsrenard
04-22-2016, 12:47 AM
I loved Moab, btw. A recent trip out there stood firmly in my mind as a better setting than the Eastern Plains of CO, which was my initial setting. The only drawback was the lack of crop farming, which fits better in my story than cattle ranching.

Right now, it looks like the Jimez Mtns might be the best bet. The book centers around (shared) mythology and the Pueblos have some legends that fit in well with the rest of the book. I'm still researching though.

Has anyone been to the Mesa Verde park in NM? I'm wondering how tight the restrictions are around the cave dwelling there. I assume teenagers could sneak in fine, given how underfunded park resources are.

No need to stow a body. Yet! I'm planning a scouting trip once I've narrowed down the potential setting. Vacation resources are thin.

Chris P
04-22-2016, 12:57 AM
Mesa Verde is nice. You would have to sneak in, and as a reader I would buy it if there were other dwellings in the park that weren't open to the public (for poor condition, lack of funds, or whaterver) and therefore less guarded. But the ones you see in the pictures are pretty well protected.

There are also other dwellings on the Navajo Reservation near the Four Corners if Mesa Verde doesn't suit your needs.

Siri Kirpal
04-22-2016, 03:53 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

kuwisdelu is Zuni. You could ask her about the myths.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

blacbird
04-22-2016, 05:36 AM
Has anyone been to the Mesa Verde park in NM? I'm wondering how tight the restrictions are around the cave dwelling there. I assume teenagers could sneak in fine, given how underfunded park resources are.

I have. It's really ranch territory, not farming, and even the ranches are scattered. It's semi-desert today, and the Mesa Verde ruins weren't even discovered until a little more than 100 years ago, even then by a rancher searching for strayed cattle, as I recall. They are in an area very isolated by geography, probably for the protection of the Anasazi inhabitants, many hundreds of years ago.

And though Moab, Utah, is not farming country, many other regions of Utah are, but still pretty scattered and isolated.

caw

RKarina
04-27-2016, 12:54 AM
Palomar is in San Diego county. Ocotillo Wells, which is on the SD/Imperial Border (or close to) has been rated as one of the best cities in CA for stargazing.

And Ocotillo Wells is exceptionally close to small and large farming communities, as well as a short distance from the areas where you'd find the "mud caves" (they're dry, not wet, I believe the name came from the fact that they're formed/changed by shifting dirt during flash floods and they look like piled mud that has dried).