Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

On October 15, 2020, we left for a three-night stay in Cathedral Gorge State Park near Panaca, Nevada. We chose this location primarily for the warm daytime temperatures and the clear skies forecasted for astrophotography. The park didn’t disappoint. The daytime temperatures reached 80 degrees, the early morning temperatures were close to 40 degrees, and the night skies were clear and reasonably dark.

We first populated site 16. This site is a nice pull-through that will easily support 35-40 foot long RVs. It is a beautiful site with several shade trees. It was the last appropriately sized site remaining when we arrived. However, no location near the site is suitable for viewing the night sky. The next day we moved to site 6. Site 6 is well distanced from other campers, has a great tent pad, offers great night sky views, but doesn’t have much shade.

All of the campground sites have electrical hookups offering 20, 30, and 50 Ampere circuits. There are also water spigots throughout the park. Like many state parks, there are bathrooms with flush toilets, sinks with running water, and showers. There is a paved bicycle trail that runs from Panaca to Cathedral Gorge State Park. It would be a fun place to bring bicycles and enjoy the ride.

We arrived around noon on the 15th, set up camp, and then went on a 4-mile loop hike. We started the loop an hour before sunset, hoping to catch dusk and wildlife it might bring. We didn’t see any wildlife, but the scenery was interesting and beautiful.

We also enjoyed investigating “the caves” that aren’t really caves at all. They are narrow slot canyons that aren’t very long but quite tall. It’s a little like a cave without a ceiling. There aren’t very many of them, but it’s a fun activity. There are also a few ruins left by the CCC built in the ’30s. They also left a wood and mud sunshade that is now used as a picnic area.

On Friday afternoon, we took a short road trip through Caliente, Nevada to Kershaw-Ryan State Park. We stopped for burgers, fries, and drinks in Caliente and took them to the state park for a picnic. This park is an amazingly beautiful oasis in the middle of a very stark desert. You can see how arid the background of this photo is, but luscious vegetation can be seen in the foreground.

This park was once someone’s farm, and they grew fruit trees and grapes. There is a natural spring that still runs today. While it was beautiful when we were there, I can only imagine the relief from the heat this place yields summer visitors. After lunch, we took a couple of very short hikes around this tiny state park.

After leaving Kershaw-Ryan State Park, we went to Panaca Spring. This is a warm, not hot, spring that is used today to irrigate the nearby farms. However, before it escapes the initial pool, it is a fun place to swim. The water is clear, allowing good views of the numerous small fish. This time of year, the spring is about 4′ deep and about 84 degrees. It is certainly not a soaking kind of hot spring, but it isn’t a cold swimming hole either. It was perfect for a warm and sunny day swim.

One evening, I set up the telescope to show my son and wife some of the planets. We were able to observe Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. Uranus was just a dot like the stars, Mars wasn’t as red as they expected, but Jupiter and especially Saturn were very pleasing to observe. We also looked at several galaxies and nebula. It is nice to see the beautiful things that God made for our enjoyment. Later that evening, I connected a camera, computer, and other electronics to enable some astrophotography. I enjoy the combination of the awe-inspiring creation and the technology that enables its capture.

Saturday evening, I captured three deep sky objects: NGC 7293 or the Eye of God, M 45 or Pleiades, and several objects surrounding the Horsehead nebula. These objects are 650, 444, and 1375 light-years from earth, but with modest equipment and some post-processing can be seen in all their glory.

Cathedral Gorge State Park was a fun and relaxing place to spend a few days in the fall. The temperatures were great, the hikes and scenery were awesome, the outings were fun, and the astrophotography was rewarding. There are certainly darker spots for astrophotography, but I think the images are evidence that it is dark enough.

We’ve been to this state park before, but we’ll probably go again. Young children would really like “the caves,” and we can’t resist taking grandchildren to places we think they’ll like. I can’t wait to see and hear them among the rocks and crevices of Cathedral Gorge State Park.

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Cherry Campground, Utah

On June 19, 2020, we traveled a very short distance to Cherry Campground near Springville, Utah. We occupied site 5 and enjoyed it for Friday and Saturday night, and most of Sunday. We were accompanied by our daughter, son-in-law, and their three young, and fun, boys. They occupied site 3, a double site, that gave their family plenty of room to play and enjoy the stream. It was a beautiful place to spend Father’s Day.

Hobble Creek, is very small at this point in the canyon. It’s perfect for children to wade, build dams, and even fish. My wife caught a few small fish, but due to the shallow water, the fish were very skittish and require a stealthy approach. Sites 3 and 7 have a nice beach sort of entry into the creek. The other sites along the creek are a bit more abrupt. Surprisingly, there were very few mosquitos or other insects. We set up a netted table covering expecting mass amounts of bugs this time of year and this close to a slow-moving stream, but it was entirely unnecessary.

We spent most of our time in site 3 with our family. Our site, site 5, fit our trailer nicely but was awkwardly close to site 6 with little underbrush or trees between the sites. Each time we walked out of our trailer, it felt like we were stepping into the neighbor’s camp.

If you’re looking to camp with others, the two best neighboring sites are sites 3 and 4. Site 3 has plenty of space for tents, games, or socializing and site 4 is a short distance away. If however, you’re looking for a single site, site 7 is a gem. Site 7 is the last site on the creek and there are no campsites to the west or on the door side of most RVs, just woods and the creek.

This is a very nice campground for being 15 minutes from a city. On the weekends the road is busy, but tolerable. We look forward to returning.

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Riverside Campground, Idaho

On June 10, 2020, we traveled to one of our favorite campgrounds, Riverside in Idaho. This was our first outing of 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we haven’t dared to leave the house and go camping. In addition, my new job has taken a lot of my attention and time. We’ve been to Riverside Campground many times. On this trip, we had reservations for site A3. It isn’t our favorite site, but at the time of our reservation, it was about the only site left. It was perfectly adequate, and we would stay in it again. It is such a lovely place and the weather was great. It was a bit windy at times, but while that impeded the fly fishing it also swept away the mosquitos.

Site A3 is across the campground road from the Henry’s Fork River, but there isn’t a campsite across or near A3 to block the beautiful views. The site has plenty of room and is very private. In this campground, loop A, and B are paved while loop C has gravel roads and parking spots. Loop C is a bit more primitive and that’s intriguing, but the forest is a bit thinner resulting in less privacy between sites. Just writing about the place makes me want to return.

On the first night of our stay, we got in quite late, having dealt with a flat tire on our trailer, and were invited to dinner at the cabin of our dear friends. We leveled the trailer in record time and joined them for dinner. That was a beautiful gesture and made our evening very nice. Having been isolated since mid-March, due to COVID-19, we ate, laughed, and talked until after midnight. On Saturday night we had dinner with the same couple at the Trout Hunter Lodge. The Trout Hunter entrees weren’t great, but the appetizers and desserts were very good.

While at Riverside we spent a little time each day fishing. The fishing wasn’t great, but we had fun and enjoyed passing time doing something we love to do together. All of us caught at least one fish. Due to the wind each day we didn’t make it to Henry’s Lake, but we’ll get that another day.

On June 14th the forecast was for 20 mph winds on our drive home. To get out before the wind we arose at 5 am and pulled out at 6:15. The wind was already blowing at 15 mph, but we were just ahead of the stronger winds. We dumped the trailer and arrived home at about noon. I can’t wait for our next journey.

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Indian Creek Campground, Utah

On August 30th, 2019, we gathered for a large family reunion at the Indian Creek Campground in Utah. This campground consists of seven large group sites. There is water, pit toilets, a tiny stream, quite a bit of shade from Aspen and other trees, a large fire pit, a couple of large tables, and a large dutch oven table. There are a lot of decent tent spots and ample parking for several RVs. The high altitude setting makes this campground reasonably comfortable even in the summer. During our stay, it was warm in the sun, nice in the shade and chilly in the evenings.

It is eleven miles of dirt road to get into this campground from either the north or the south. The road from the north is pretty good but so narrow in a few spots that one of our party had their trailer hit someone else’s trailer going on the road in the opposite direction. It took a lot of effort to get them by one another. Perhaps the road from the south is wider, but we don’t know.

During the weekend family members rode 4-wheelers, side-by-sides, and went fishing at nearby Potters Ponds. In addition, we participated in board games and outside tournaments. I spent a couple of late nights capturing starlight through my telescope that resulted in an image of the Western Veil Nebula.

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Riverside Campground, Idaho

On August 14th, immediately after work, we traveled to one of our favorite campgrounds, Riverside in Idaho. We’ve been here several times, but this time was unusual. First, for the first time, we didn’t have work at Brigham Young University – Idaho. Second, we stayed in site number two that we’ve wanted to try for some time. Finally, we camped with three couples we consider to be great friends.

On one of the days, my wife and I escaped upstream to do a little fishing. The Henry’s Fork River always produces some fish and captures you with the hope for the occasional big one. On this particular day, we caught a few, and while no huge fish were landed, I caught a decent one early on. These early catches sustain you on the river for quite some time, but eventually, we gave it up and returned to our friends.

On Thursday, August 15th, we planned a potluck sort of dinner. I had volunteered to acquire and cook ribs for everyone, so I brought our Traeger smoker along. The ribs cooked for roughly six hours and I thought they turned out fantastic. Regardless of the quality of the ribs, the cooking location couldn’t be beaten, outdoors with a great view of the Henry’s Fork River. I want to acquire a more portable smoker and do this more often. During the cook, I used up my 33 Ah battery, then my 20 Ah battery, and finally connected the inverter to our trailer. Our solar panels kept the trailer batteries fully charged while smoking.

On Friday, many of us floated down the river downstream from Big Springs to the bridge over the highway. After arriving at the bridge, several of us stayed to eat Mexican food. The next day several of us floated down the Henry’s Fork River from the Osborne Bridge to Riverside Campground. Both floats were rather slow, but fortunately, we were in kayaks and paddling sped us along. The very last stretch of the second float was faster and a lot of fun.

On August 18th, most of us returned home. The weekend with friends was terrific. I hope we’re able to go camping together again soon. I love camping, and it is even better with friends and family!

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Washington Lake Campground, Utah

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 31st, 2019, we traveled from Porcupine Campground in Idaho, through Evanston, Wyoming, where we acquired supplies and arrived at Washington Lake Campground in Utah. Our family has been camping, backpacking, fishing, and even snowmobiling in the Uinta Mountains for more than 30 years, making it a fitting place to end our journey. If this wasn’t enough to draw us to this picturesque lake, we had our oldest son and his family joining us in their RV a few days later.

We arrived at Washington Lake at about 6 pm and found site 40 available. It’s right near the entrance to the campground and away from the lake. While we first thought it wasn’t great, we learned to like being away from others and out of the pedestrian traffic to and from the lake.

After being in this site a few days, we decided that while I had to go back to work on August 5th, my wife and young son would remain for the remainder of the week. I would rejoin them on the weekend of August 9th. In my absence, our daughter and her three sons joined my wife and stayed in our trailer. When I returned on the 9th, Washington Lake Campground was host to my wife and me, two of our sons, one daughter, a daughter-in-law, five grandchildren, and a friend of my youngest son. It was a great 11 nights of camping. Washington Lake Campground has a 7-day limit, so we had to leave the camp and return. While gone, we dumped the trailer and acquired freshwater. We, fortunately, retained site 40.

On August 1st, we were outside looking at the stars about 10:30 pm when I noticed an unusually bright and new star in the Big Dipper. Then I realized this star wasn’t a star at all, but a satellite. Looking up likely candidates in an astronomy application on my phone indicated that it was the International Space Station. It was amazingly bright.

The Uinta Mountains contain many lakes and streams, and decent fishing in most of them. On August 2nd, my wife and I and our youngest son fished the stream that flows out of Christmas Meadows on the north side of the Uinta Mountains. It was the first time our 13-year-old put together his nymphing rod, tied the line, and chose a nymph to use. We walked down to the river together, and I asked him to pick a fishy spot. He identified a slow run of water near a fast-moving piece of water and indicated he would fish it. It looked like an excellent seem and a sweet hole. On his first cast, he pulled out a beautiful fish and the largest I had seen in this river. He walked downstream a few dozen feet and after just a few more casts caught a 23-inch brown trout, the catch of the century on this little stream. I think he’s hooked!

While at Washington Lake, we enjoyed walks with our children, grandchildren, and of course, our favorite dog, Leo. Leo loves the water and goes nuts when someone catches a fish. He loves to wade and swim and doesn’t mind looking like a wet rat.

The grandchildren inevitably find a way into the water. Whether it is intentional or unintentional is sometimes hard to tell. On at least one occasion, I witnessed a young grandchild playing blissfully near the water’s edge when an older sibling snuck up behind them and, while parents were distracted, gave them just enough of a push to plunge them into the lake. Grandpa doesn’t tell!

On August 11th, 2019, our 31-night journey through three states came to an end. We hauled the trailer home and began to adjust to home life. It was hot, there were lots of errands to run, and work was relentless. It took us no time at all to wish we were back in the mountains. We’ll have more camping trips in 2019, but the big one is over until next year.

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Porcupine Campground, Idaho

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 29, 2019, we headed to Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho. We left Smith’s Trout Haven late in the afternoon and headed east and then south a mere 78 miles. Porcupine Campground will be our last stop in Idaho on this journey and the last two nights we’ll spend with this son and family. Idaho campgrounds have been exceptional, and I wish Utah would step it up. The one thing I won’t miss about Idaho is the boat checks every time and place you enter the state.

We arrived before dark and took site 15 that we reserved earlier in the week. It was a nice back-in site and quite private as long as you didn’t need to use the tent site that seemed to be adjacent to the neighboring campsite. Our son and family occupied a site a few places west of site 15. We spent most of our campground time at their site where the children had their stuff, could be in the trailer and didn’t have to walk down to our place.

On July 30, 2019, we went to the Minnetonka Cave ticket booth and reserved a spot on the morning tour for all nine of us. We then drove to the cave entrance and waited for our tour time. The cave tour was enjoyable, particularly the relief from the outside temperature. While this isn’t a Carlsbad Cavern or Lehman Cave, it is interesting. While there are a lot of stairs, the level of exertion did not exhaust the small children in our group.

After our cave tour, we went to the northeast corner of Bear Lake and swam and played at the beach. The water was relatively warm, and the beach is very gradual. To get waist deep, I had to walk about 500′ out into the water. This feature makes it great for small children and fun for the rest of us.

After swimming, we ate dinner out and then headed back to Porcupine Campground, had a fire with the grandchildren and their parents, and ate smores. An enjoyable and exhausting day!

On July 31, 2019, we bid farewell to Idaho for the last time on this journey. We headed south to Evanston, Wyoming to shop for food and propane, and then headed south to the Uinta Mountains of Utah. We were hoping to find a campsite in the Washington Lake Campground, but without reservations, we left with trepidations.

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Smith’s Trout Haven, Idaho

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 28, 2019, we traveled for about five hours and arrived at Smith’s Trout Haven. Seems like kind of a funny name given that the stream that flows through it is tiny and the “fishing” pond is grown over, mossy, and uninviting. However, aside from the name, this place has a lot to offer, and the owners/operators are amazingly accommodating. Truth be told, the pond is likely filled with large trout, I just wasn’t willing to try.

Smith’s Trout Haven has many sites with 30 Amp hookups, and every site is covered in grass, unlike the typical campground fare of dirt or gravel. We had reserved a spot a day or two earlier, but upon arrival, we were invited to take any spot, so we chose site 58. Our site had a fire pit, a picnic table, and a small Pavillion. We paid $30 for the spot and use of electricity, and an additional $10 fee for a late checkout. The late departure enabled us to leave our trailer in place until 7 pm the following day instead of trying to find a parking spot while we enjoyed Lava Hot Springs. While we began the evening alone, a couple of other campers arrived late, but we were all well separated.

The RV park is quite large, and the views are pleasant. It is essentially a large parcel in farming country. The neighboring farms and ranches are a good distance away. There are few trees, but overall this is an excellent place to stay while enjoying Lava Hot Springs.

On July 29, 2019, we began our day at Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools. There are four or five small pools with water that varies in temperature from pool to pool from about 102 degrees Ferenheight to about 112. I enjoyed the coldest of the batch, while others were far more adventurous. After an hour or so, we walked downstream along the river to the Olympic Swimming Complex. There we met our son, daughter-in-law, and some of our grandchildren. We played for several hours and ate some mediocre snack bar food.

On our walk down the river, we noticed that many people were riding tubes down the river. At the bottom, they paid a small fee to have a truck take them and their tube back to the top to repeat the float. We’ll have to return and give that a try.

In the late afternoon, we returned to fetch the trailer and head to the next destination of our adventure. Smith’s Trout Haven was a great place to stay near Lava Hot Springs. Town and activities were only about a mile away. That is just far enough to be out of the hustle and bustle and traffic, but close enough to zip in and play. Next up is Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho.

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Indian Trees Campground, Montana

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 26, 2019, we left Luby Bay Campground in Idaho. We made arrangements to meet one of our sons and his family near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, so we headed in that direction. We traveled to Indian Trees Campground in Montana.

We made reservations for site 13 at Indian Trees Campground, but I am quite sure that reservations are never needed for this place. We arrived on a Friday, stayed two nights, and the campground never reached even a third of its capacity.

According to the campground signage, it is named Indian Trees because Native Americans came here and peeled the bark away from the trees to get to the soft edible bits. The annual harvest left the trees scarred. Wounds that were made between 1830 and 1890 may still be seen on some of the campground trees. Evidently, we had plenty of food in our fridge because we weren’t tempted to give the trees a try.

There is a small commercial hot spring near Indian Trees Campground. One afternoon we drove by it to see if we’d be interested in soaking, but it wasn’t tempting enough. After my ankle injury at the Pine Flats Hot Spring, I was done with hot springs for a while. However, they did have a very ingenious portable sprinkler that made us laugh.

On Saturday, we drove to Sula, Montana to buy new two-day Montana fishing licenses and then fished the Bitterroot River downstream from Sula. We were quite successful and had a lot of fun. We caught fish on red and green colored Euro Nymphs. The river was perfect for euro nymphing. It’s a river, but not too large, easy to cross as needed, and fun rapids that pour into reasonably deep pools. I’d love to return and fish it some more.

We enjoyed site 13 at Indian Trees Campground. The site was a pull-through that was plenty long enough for our 27-foot trailer and our truck. Also, there were trees between our site and the campground road, providing some privacy. However, the site itself was tiny, and the table and fire pit were very close to our trailer.

When we return to this campground, we’ll reserve, or hope to be lucky and acquire site 8. It is our favorite. It is a back-in site with a driveway that is at least 50 feet long. The site is all by itself at the end of the campground and has a large table and fire pit area.

On July 28, 2016, we left Indian Trees Campground and headed to Smith’s Trout Haven near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.

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Luby Bay Campground, Idaho

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 23rd, 2019, we traveled from Lindbergh Lake in Montana to Luby Bay Campground near Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle. We only stayed at Luby Bay for three nights, but we would have loved to stay at least a week. It was a beautiful place with a lot of fun things to do. Unfortunately, our site was reserved by others for the weekend, and we had to move on. We will return to Luby Bay Campground and Priest Lake.

Rather than taking the direct route to Priest Lake, we traveled west on Highway 2 between Kila, Montana and the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 56. Along this path, we stopped at Kootenai Falls. The falls were spectacular, and the two short hikes are worth taking. One hike takes you across a swinging bridge, those are always fun, while the other takes you to the upper falls. The water is a spectacular glacier sort of color. The entire drive down Highway 2 and then south on Highway 56 were well worth the additional time it took.

We reserved our site at Luby Bay when we planned the remainder of our trip during our stay at West Mountain Campground. With such short notice, the only reservable sites were way in the back of the upper loop of Luby Bay Campground. We were disappointed not being right on the lake, but after arriving, we were thrilled.

Our site, campsite number 40, was terrific. It was well away from other campers, densely wooded, lots of flat terrain around our campsite, and the most beautiful light that trickled through the trees. In contrast, the sites in the lower loop are placed close together and not nearly as private. When we return, we will definitely choose a site in the upper loop.

That first night began routinely, we ate dinner, hung out at the campsite, and simply enjoyed soaking up the place. At about 11 pm we were sitting out under our trailer awning, probably the only people awake in the entire campground, watching another lightning storm blow in.

This one literally blew in. The wind whistled through the trees, the lightning flashed, and the thunder boomed. While watching, we heard a loud crack and a deep thud as a massive 30” diameter tree came crashing to earth just one campsite away from where we were sitting. Well, it didn’t quite make it to the ground because someone’s car attempted to stop its descent. The vehicle lost the brief battle. The trunk of the tree smashed through the car to the floorboards.

We ran over to their campsite to ensure that no one was injured. It’s a weird feeling being a first responder. You’re not sure what to expect. We yelled into the tent and received no response. Being afraid that they took refuge in their car, we peered through what was left of the vehicle in the hope that no one was there. Fortunately, the tent owner had temporarily returned to Spokane, and the car owner was camped across the road at another site. While no one was hurt, a few people were traumatized enough to leave camp. This experience certainly made for more sincere family and individual prayers that night.

The next morning, we inspected the damage and found that the wind had blown the top 40 feet off of a 90-foot tall tree, blew the top portion over a tent and canopy, and deposited it on top of that poor little car. Two other trees toppled during the night, and fortunately, no one was hurt.

After looking around the area and taking in the devastation, we left for Hill’s Marina to meet Rich Lindsey who we booked to take us fishing on Priest Lake. We had hoped to have our son catch some big lake trout or other large fish. However, the storm the night before messed up more than the trees. The lake was rough, the weather was unsettled, and Rich gave us little hope of catching fish. We tried for two hours and gave up. The lake is beautiful, and we’ll come back and give it another try. That evening, we licked our wounds from the fishing experience and ate dinner at Elkins Lodge. The food was fine, but frankly, I prefer the meals my wife and I make while camping.

On July 25th, 2019, we arose late and had brunch at Hill’s Lodge. Afterward, we rented a third kayak from Hill’s Lodge and headed north to Beaver Creek Campground where my wife, son, Leo, and I launched our kayaks and headed towards what is known as the Thoroughfare. We paddled across the northern shore of Priest Lake and then turned north up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake.

It was about 2.5 miles up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. The two main ways to get to Upper Priest Lake are by boat or hiking. There are numerous campsites scattered around the upper lake for those willing to haul in their gear. The scenery is breathtaking. The color and clarity of the water in places is impressive.

Along the way, we saw many birds, some fish, and plenty of beautiful sights. The roundtrip was about 5 miles and took us about 4 hours with plenty of stops and easy paddling.

After our paddling experience, we chose to have dinner at Hill’s Lodge, yes we were getting lazy and finished the evening streaming a little TV. What a fantastic day!

The next day was a moving day. While pulling out of Luby Bay Campground, we dumped the trailer for an additional $8 and headed to Indian Tree Campground in Montana.

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