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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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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Pine Flats Campground, Idaho

July 2019 Trailer Trip

On July 11th, 2019 we left home and headed to Pine Flats Campground northeast of Boise, Idaho. This was the first segment of our much longer journey depicted in the included map. We arrived late in the afternoon and found one available spot on the far side of the campground from the river. We camped for three nights and departed for cooler air on July 14th, 2019.

On our way, we decided to stop and view Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho. These falls are 45′ higher than Niagara and 1000′ wide. They were very impressive and worth the stop. The associated park has a convenient parking area for RVs.

After arriving at Pine Flats Campground, we chose a site, the last available site. It was great, had sufficient shade, and was quite private. However, we learned that southwest Idaho at an altitude of just 3,700 feet in July is way too hot for relaxing around camp. The afternoon heat drove us to use both generators to power the air conditioning unit, something we rarely do.

While at Pine Flats, we enjoyed the local hot springs, rafted down the Payette River, and went to an outdoor play. The hot springs are a 10-minute walk to the west along the Payette River. They are not developed beyond what visitors can muster by stacking rocks and damming up the falling hot water. The resulting pools are about a foot deep and can hold three or four people. They were quite warm and enjoyable.

On July 13th, we headed down the canyon to raft down the Payette River, “The Main,” with Idaho White Water Unlimited guide services. This stretch of the Payette has class 2 and class 3 rapids. The price was reasonable, the guide, Justin, was fantastic, and the water was very refreshing. The experience made all three of us want to try the segment of the river just upstream from where we rafted that includes some class 4 rapids. I guess we’ll give that a try next time.

After rafting, we headed back up the canyon, changed our clothes, checked on our dog, had a quick dinner, and headed back down the canyon to an outdoor play. We saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the Starlight Mountain Theatre. The play isn’t my favorite, but the lead actors did a phenomenal job. It was a pleasant and rustic cultural experience to end our long, but enjoyable day.

On July 14th, we arose very early, walked down to the hot springs, and enjoyed a relaxing soak. I returned to the trailer to acquire a camera, but in doing so slipped on the rocks near the hot springs and seriously injured my ankle. I still made the 10-minute walk, fetched the camera, and captured a few memories before recognizing the severity of my wounds. We returned to the trailer, dressed my wounds, dressed for church, drove down the canyon, and joined the saints in the Garden Valley congregation. Afterward, we returned to our trailer and prepared it for departure and the next leg of our adventure.

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