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The Lost Valley

Bemies Observatory

One of the best things about Lost Valley is the dark sky.  Lost Valley is located 10 miles East of the famous 200" Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar.  The camp's proximity to Mt. Palomar protects the dark night sky because of lighting ordinances in both Riverside and San Diego Counties.  If you would like the darkest skies for better viewing, plan your trip around a new moon.
Troop/Post 33 of Tustin built the Lost Valley Observatory and dedicated it to James Bemies (1922 - 1977); their Assistant Scoutmaster and Assistant Post Advisor.  At the time, Troop and Post 33 of Tustin was one the largest troops in the Orange County Council.  The large size of Troop/ Post 33 allowed them to build several large projects for Lost Valley, including the Beshears Amphitheatre, as gifts to the camp. Construction of the Observatory started in September 1979 and proceeded slowly for several years (part of the structure was torn down and later rebuilt).  The Observatory finally opened in 1984.
Prior to the Observatory, Lost Valley had several smaller telescopes, the first in 1965 (it is believed that the original pad and mount are still in place near the meadow well pumphouse).  These telescopes had to be set up and taken down for each use, so they were not used much.
The Observatory's main telescope is a 14" Newtonian Reflector. The telescope's mount is a German Equatorial Mount with a tracking clock motor.  This telescope was custom built in the 1960s.  In 2007, the staff repaired the mount and got the tracking motor back in working condition.
The telescope was donated to the Boy Scouts of America by a church in Fountain Valley.  The church's pastor found the telescope in the church's attic.
Our auxiliary telescope is a 10" Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain (SCT), Model 2120 with an LX5 mount.  This telescope is mounted on a heavy-duty tripod with a wedge.  The wedge allows us to align the telescope's orientation to the North Star.  Then a small motor tracks the stars across the sky.
There is little information on the history of the second telescope.  It was produced in the late 1980s and was configured for astro-photography.  The telescope was located in late 2006, improperly stored in the observatory.  Field mice had taken up residence inside the Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) and had left their nests, among other things.  After several evaluations by amateur astronomers, the verdict was to disassemble the telescope and sell it.  A Campmaster staff member volunteered to clean it.  After some research, the cleaning attempt was made.   After 8 hours both the primary and secondary mirrors were cleaned.  First light after the cleaning proved encouraging, so additional time and resources were put into wiring up the electronics.  The restoration proved to be successful and the telescope was used during the 2007 Memorial Day Family Camp when 150 campers viewed Saturn using this telescope.
If you have any information on the history of the telescopes or the observatory, we would love to publish it on the website. Please email any information to
Several improvements were made to the observatory in 2007 including red lighting and a computer with a simple planetarium program to select visible Dark-sky targets.  In 2007, we were able to show Scouts the Ring Nebula, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and other Dark-Sky objects.
During the 2007 summer camp season, the Nature Staff collected aluminum cans and sold popcorn to fund some purchases for the observatory.  Five pairs of binoculars and a Telrad sight for the 10" SCT were purchased with these funds.  Next on the list is a larger telescope case to help protect this telescope and house the binoculars.
During Summer Camp, the Nature staff teaches the Astronomy Merit Badge.  A requirement of the Merit Badge is night sky observation.  The Astronomy Overnighters are held Tuesday and Thursday nights.
We hope you come up and take a look at our beautiful night skies.  It will be a memory to last a lifetime.

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