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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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

As is our family tradition, we took off on Wednesday November 21, 2018 for a Thanksgiving holiday camping trip with numerous members of our family. We all returned home on Sunday November 25. This year we went to Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, Nevada. We stayed in group site 3. There were approximately 45 of us with numerous RVs and tents. This is definitely not low impact camping, but we did our best to leave the site better than we found it.

Various adults were assigned to cook breakfasts and dinners for the entire group. Each family was on their own for lunches. On Thanksgiving we had a huge traditional meal with turkey, a turducken, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, and numerous pies! While camping for Thanksgiving is awesome, one of the best parts is scraping the waste into the fire pit and you’re done. Not quite this simple, but easier than at home.

The day time temperatures were in the mid 60’s and the lows were in the low to mid 40’s. During the days we played games, talked, worked on our RVs, and went on hikes. During the evenings we played board games and enjoyed the huge fires we built.

The geology and scenery are amazing in this part of Nevada. The slick rock is easy to hike on with great traction. It is simply a joy to hike to the top of peaks and ridges and enjoy the colorful views. It’s fun to watch the family grow over the years and watch grandchildren grow and out pace the aging grandparents, us!

I am thankful for a large and wonderful family that likes to be together. I am grateful for employment that gives me the opportunity to provide for this tribe of mine and enjoy time with them. Most of all, I am thankful for a great wife and mother who keeps us organized, gets us together, and sees to all of our emotional and physical needs, Thanks Beautiful!

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Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada

On October 19, 2017 we travelled to Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada. The campground is approximately two and a half hours north east of Las Vegas and about an hour and a half west of Cedar City, Utah. I am sure this is a very hot and uncomfortable place in the summer months, but this time of the year it was perfect.

We took site number 5 which was flat and long enough to accommodate our trailer and the truck parked sideways across the entrance. The site had 30A and 50A electric hookups, but no water or sewer. While we used the electric, it would be much more appreciated in the summer when the AC would likely run day and night. The site also had a nice table, shade from the sun and a fire pit. The only strange thing about the site is that it is surrounded by posts. We learned through experience that if you park to close to the posts to make room for the truck, the pop outs will run into the posts. We only had to move the trailer once.

To the rear of our trailer the view was simply flat desert with distant cliffs. However, this provided great views of the stars and an occasional glimpse of wildlife.

One night I was grilling hamburgers and had three slices of cheese at the ready. I wasn’t using any light source as the glow from the trailer and natural light provided just enough to get around. I stepped into the doorway of the trailer to ask my wife a question and then immediately returned to the grill. When I went to place the cheese on the burgers, it wasn’t where I left it, it was gone. I don’t know what took it, but it was kind of creepy thinking something was paying enough attention to me to notice when I left and what I had left behind. Perhaps it was one of these little rabbits? I was just grateful that whatever it was it wasn’t a meat eater. I had more cheese, I didn’t have more burgers.

Over the next few days my wife and I along with our son and his friend hiked around Cathedral Gorge. Most of the hikes are short and pretty easy. There is one four mile hike that we never got around to doing because my wife severely sprained her ankle. We were all enjoying the Caves, which are really super narrow canyons, when the kids came to get me because my wife had heard her ankle make a terrible noise and she was in severe pain. I thought at first they were pulling my leg, pun intended, but sure enough I found her in real agony. We walked very slowly back to the trailer, got her seated, the ankle wrapped and put on ice. She took the next couple of days off while I cooked, cleaned and entertained the children. I am still not sure she really hurt her ankle 🙂

On October 23rd we headed home. We enjoyed Cathedral Gorge and will come back to hike the trails we missed.

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