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Tentless in the Rockies

Roger Benham

Early morning at our last campsite in the Canadian Rockies, Bow River Provincial Park, Alberta. The night before was the clearest night sky of the whole trip, after rains had moved through and cleansed the wildfire smoke. I slept tentless beneath the Summer Triangle of Deneb, Vega, and Altair.

Before bedding down, we were staring up at the sky and the occasional meteor. Then satellites, like a train of bright moving stars all in a line, started crossing the sky. This continued for several minutes. They were Elon Musk's latest deployment of Starlink. They went on for so long that it seemed I was seeing an artificial ring circling the Earth. Musk has over 3,000 of these objects in low Earth orbit now, and plans a total of over 12,000 to create a shell around the planet, to provide satellite internet.

One of my friends played Paul Simon's Graceland album in the car on this trip. Years ago, during the Reagan Administration, I'd lie in bed with headphones on listening to that. "These are the days of miracle and wonder, this is the long distance call... A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires..."

I fell asleep, wrapped in a warm sleeping bag, looking up at Cygnus, and spotting a lone satellite crossing the Milky Way. I felt almost a twinge of nostalgia for when spotting one was a rare occurrence, like seeing a meteor.

The future has arrived, in fire and drought and megalomaniacal artificial constellations that trammel the heavens. Yet the mountains and the rocks remain, and the rivers flow still from the shrinking glaciers down to the warming sea.

Roger Benham is a hiker, amateur naturalist, and recent law school graduate. He lives in rural Vermont. As a social activist, he's done refugee support in Greece and responded to climate disasters in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. Sometimes he tries to write about these experiences.

Alberta ::: Bob Dylan

After the Rain ::: McCoy Tyner

Watch the Stars ::: Pentangle

You Satellite ::: Wilco



Satellite of Love ::: Lou Reed

The Boy in the Bubble (Days of Miracle and Wonder) ::: Paul Simon