It’s really dark at Big Bend Ranch State Park — and that’s a good thing

Dec 03, 2017
Pam LeBlanc and Cate Barrett record an episode of Barrett’s podcast, “I Could Never Do That.” Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman

When the sun sets on a moonless night at rugged and remote Big Bend Ranch State Park, the night wraps around you like a black velvet cloak.

That darkness recently earned the coveted International Dark Sky Park status for the 315,000-acre park in Far West Texas.

As a result, Big Bend Ranch State Park and its neighbor, Big Bend National Park, now form one of the largest contiguous areas under dark skies protection in the United States. The parks cover a combined area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

That’s big — and much of that terrain is blow-out-a-candle-in-a-cave dark.

RELATED: Camping at Big Bend Ranch State Park? Bring two spare tires

“Big Bend Ranch State Park is known for its remote location and the feeling of being in the wilderness. Preserving the dark sky is key to that experience and something all visitors treasure,” Mark Lockwood, Region 1 Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said in a news release.

But it’s not just about ambiance for campers and visitors. Artificial lights can turn night into day for animals, plants and insects, with deadly effects. Light at night can cause birds that hunt to fly into buildings, act as a “fatal attraction” for insects, disrupt mating behavior of frogs and toads, and confuse birds’ migration patterns.

Dark sky designations are based on strict outdoor lighting standards and community outreach.

RELATED: For a much-needed dose of solitude, head to Big Bend

Big Bend Ranch State Park is the fourth park in the Texas State Parks system to receive the coveted status from the International Dark-Sky Association. The others are Copper Breaks State Park, South Llano River State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park.

Embrace life

A couple of weeks ago, Carrie Barrett and I shut ourselves into a room at the Austin American-Statesman office, turned on some recording equipment, and started to chat.

We talked about my Year of Adventure, which so far has included a running in a naked 5K race, rappelling down a 38-story building dressed as Wonder Woman, and jumping off the 10-meter platform into a swimming pool at the University of Texas.

All those things scared me. I did them anyway.

RELATED: Fit City declares 2017 her Year of Adventure

So should you. And I don’t necessarily mean do the exact same things I’ve done, although it’s been pretty darn fun.

Do what scares you. Do what makes you feel alive. Don’t sit on the edge of the pool and worry about getting your hair wet or smudging your makeup. Embrace life. Scrape your shins and feel the cold water and crawl around in the dirt.

Barrett unveils our interview in her “I Could Never Do That” podcast, which launched about four months ago. (Listen to it at icouldneverdothat.libsyn.com. It’s also available on iTunes and Stitcher.)

So far, Barrett’s series has featured local athletes including paratriathlete Laurie Allen, English Channel swimmer Katy Dooley and Ironman triathlete Chuy Amaya.

RELATED: A New Normal: A year after spinal injury, triathlete works toward a new kind of racing

“(The podcast) speaks to people who are doing things that most of us would say ‘I could never do that.’ It dissects how they’re doing these things. We talk about the fears they have, the tactics they use to get over those fears and we talk about the courage it takes to do these things and that courage isn’t an absence of fear. It’s going on in spite of your fears,” Barrett says.

She hopes that after hearing some of the stories, people will go from “I could never do that” to “Maybe I could.”

And another podcast

That’s not the only podcast I’ve appeared on lately.

Jarod Carter, founder of Carter Physiotherapy on Bee Caves Road in Austin, dropped by recently with his recording kit, and got me to talk about everything from hammock camping to backpacking the John Muir Trail and some of my favorite stories over the years. (Man, just ask me a question and I can talk for days!)

RELATED: Oil field flares creeping closer to McDonald Observatory

Carter’s podcast, the “Active Austin Podcast,” features Austin-based fitness and health care professionals talking about trends and sharing tips on improving health and fitness. Guests have included Stronghorn Fitness founder Jess Martin, Austin Fit Magazine co-owner Alex Earle, and sports psychologist and former University of Texas team psychologist Tim Zeddies.

To listen to my episode of Carter’s Active Austin Podcast, go to www.carterpt.com.

And more bikes

Rocket Electrics, which sells those zippy and trendy new electric bikes, recently opened a second location downtown.

Unlike the original Rocket Electrics store on East Riverside Drive, which sells e-bikes made by Pedego and Easy Motion (prices start at a little over $1,000 for the least expensive models, although most cost between $2,200 and $3,000), the new store specializes in high-end Riese & Müller bikes.

RELATED: Electric bicycle puts extra oomph in every pedal stroke