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Night-vision rafting mixes technology, nature

VAIL, Colorado – A short bus ride from Vail, stargazers gather on the banks of the Colorado River as they prepare to take a moonlit rafting trip…

VAIL, Colorado – A short bus ride from Vail, stargazers gather on the banks of the Colorado River as they prepare to take a moonlit rafting trip. It`s a five-hour ride where rafters – armed with night-vision glasses -savour the last gasp of summer.

Tour creator Darryl Bangert came up with the combination of a night-rafting and star-watching trip three years ago after looking through a pair of night-vision glasses in a dark room. I was absolutely blown away, he said.

The glasses take small amounts of available light and amplify it millions of times, said Marcy Walsh, of ITT Industries Night Vision.

On the river, the waters are calm, the guides are seasoned, and the voyagers are unencumbered by paddles.

We took the paddles away from the people with the goggles, and we don`t let them chew gum. You can only do so many things at once, Bangert said.

The tour begins with a stargazing lesson from astronomer Jimmy Westlake, who points out constellations like Scorpius and warns the explorers that if they can`t identify the north star by the end of trip, they risk having to walk home.

On a recent trip, rafters spotted a beaver lodge and its inhabitants as well as some swallows as the guides navigated toward an area of the upper Colorado River. A half-hour stop to search for constellations proved just as successful, with some gazers lucky enough to spot a shooting meteor.

In a final flourish, guides treat the rafters to some mild rapids before the journey of exploration comes to a close.

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