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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Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On August 27, 2020, we left for a three-night stay somewhere in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. We had no reservations but were open to staying in a campground, returning to the last location where we camped, or trying something new. As we headed up the mountain, we realized we would arrive just before dark. We determined to try a new boondocking spot we had investigated during our last trip. We ended up staying right on the Hayden Fork of the Bear River at 40.806183, -110.874523. The view from our trailer was phenomenal, as pictured. The site was quite sloped towards the river, but some previous occupant had dug a hole for the left trailer wheels that brought us close to level. A few blocks under the right wheels, and we were all set.

We fished the Hayden Fork for a few hours on Friday and Saturday and caught some small trout. We also took our float tubes and kayaks to Butterfly Lake on Friday. At the lake, my son and I were completely schooled by our mother/wife. The fish were larger and more plentiful than on the little river. On Saturday we fished the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River where we had great luck last year. The three of us only caught one fish this time around. The Stillwater Fork was much lower, being a month later than last year’s visit.

While at this location, we checked out a few of the surrounding sites. Our favorites are at 40.805357, -110.875007, 40.804432, -110.875664, and 40.807726, -110.873388. All three are within walking distance of our campsite. Our favorite is the first of the three, and for a group of two or three trailers, we liked the last of the three.

This was a quick and relaxing trip. We slept in each day, fished, hiked, played board games, watched movies, and ate great food. It was the last of summer in the Uintas. The highs were in the mid 70’s and the lows in the high 30’s. While I don’t think it has yet frozen at this location, there were very few insects, and virtually no mosquitos. It was simply beautiful and relaxing.

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Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, we decided to get out of the valley heat and go camping for a few days in Utah’s high mountains. We determined to go to Washington Lake, believing there would be some walk-up sites available if we arrived early. We arrived at noon, and there were plenty of walk-up sites with nothing and no one in them but had reserved signs hung on their posts. Evidently, the camp hosts in this area routinely reserve these sites for people who drive up and pay for their site days in advance. I think this defeats the purpose of walk-up sites, but who can argue with camp hosts that believe they’re kings of their realms. We tried nearby Trial Lake Campground and Lost Creek Campground but found the same behavior – reserved walk-up sites. No worries, we went over the 10,000-foot summit and headed for Sulfur Campground. It had a few sites available, but just north of Sulfur are a few dirt roads that offer boondocking opportunities, so we went there.

This place was quite nice. It had a great view of a vast meadow, distant mountains, a huge forest, and had a few trees of its own that provided shade and a great place to hang the hammock. Obviously, it was much less crowded than the nearby campgrounds, and the price was right!

On this outing, we tried our new pop-up screen room. It literally took a minute to put up, and it was easily moved afterward. It does take a few more minutes to insert some stakes in case of wind, but in less than five minutes, you can have a shelter that protects you from the rain and the mosquitos. However, when the sun strikes the roof of this beast, it radiates inward and cooks you alive. You can choose to be a bit too warm, but protected from the mosquitos, or enjoy the cool mountain air and get eaten alive. Fortunately, on this trip, we enjoyed a nearly constant gentle breeze that kept the bugs away.

Just north of our camping site on Highway 150, there are a couple of more dirt roads that offer excellent camping opportunities. These locations are closer to the river than we were camped, and we’d like to return and give them a try. Near one of the campsites, we discovered this beautiful beaver pond complete with a lodge. We use to enjoy fishing these ponds and would like to come back and give it a try.

We traveled a short distance south to Moosehorn Lake, where my son, wife, and I fished for a couple of hours. We’ve never had much luck fishing this lake, but it looked inviting. The campground associated with Moosehorn is nice but better suited for tent campers or very small RVs. The lake is quite small; I fished its length several times from my float tube.

The last couple of nights of our five-night adventure were shared with our daughter, her husband, and their beautiful children. We had fun playing with their children, playing board games, shooting BB guns, starting fires, etc. One of the best features of boondocking is no campground rules. There are no quiet hours, no occupancy limitations, no vehicle limitations, etc. Obviously, it is essential to be polite to others, but there is generally so much space between campers, nothing you do bothers others, it’s great.

As always, being in the mountains makes me appreciate life more. Being home makes me look forward to the next time I can go camping in the mountains.

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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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Wedge Overlook Campground, Utah

On November 2, 2019, we packed quickly and made a mad dash to a nearby BLM campground called Wedge Overlook. We wanted to get away for one night to do some astrophotography under relatively dark skies. The skies at this campground are rated at a Bortle Class 2. We were surprised by the number of other campers this time of year, but we found site #6 available. Unlike most campgrounds, this BLM campground has no amenities other than a plethora of rock fire rings built by previous campers. The best part of these sorts of campgrounds is that the sites are 1/4 of a mile apart. It’s just like camping in complete solitude.

We arrived at the campsite at about 3 pm, set up camp quickly, and got the telescope set up for a night of photography. The sunset was at about 6 pm, and by 7 pm, it was dark enough to begin polar alignment. The moon set about 11 pm, and I used the dark skies to perform some needed telescope maintenance and to get used to my new ASIAir device to control the telescope mount and cameras. At 2 am, I focused my attention on the Horsehead Nebula area in the Orion Constellation. I configured the system to take 200 60 second exposures and went to bed. The image shown here is the result.

At 6 am, I arose to finish up the photography tasks, dismantle the entire system, and pack it carefully away. We joined a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Huntington, Utah, for their worship services. After church, we raced home for other activities. This trip was a quick 24-hour adventure, but it was surprisingly relaxing and pleasant to be under the bright stars.

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Twin Hollows Campground, Utah

On October 16, 2019, we set out for Twin Hollows Campground in southern Utah. We were searching for warmer weather, a BLM campground that would give us some space at a ridiculously low price (free), and that was near some other locations of interest.

Twin Hollows Campground is immediately west of Highway 89 just south of Mount Carmel Junction, Utah. The “sites” are simply dirt, sand, and maybe a rock fire ring. We were fortunate and acquired a site with a living tree. Some of the sites are too sandy for large RVs but may make excellent sites for those in light vehicles, jeeps, tents, etc. The sites west of the main dirt road are along the East Fork of the Virgin River. Those on the east of the main road are up against a steep hill/cliff that climbs towards the highway. The sites in the southern half of the campground are protected from the sounds and sights of the highway. However, the northern half of the campground was much noisier and exposed to highway traffic. Side-by-sides and other off-road vehicles routinely travel the main dirt road.

On the east side of the campground, there is a very short hike called the Belly of the Dragon. I would guess the length of the hike is about 0.5 miles roundtrip. There is a 5′ to 6′ ledge at the beginning, but the rest is extremely easy to navigate. The Belly of the Dragon is a manmade tunnel that crosses under Highway 89. It is made of soft sandstone and is covered in signatures and art of varying quality.

Twin Hollows Campground is approximately 15 miles from the east entrance to Zion National Park. The east entrance seems less traveled than the main entrance, but it was plenty busy even in October. After entering the park, we traveled through a 1.1 mile-long tunnel that has several windows out of the cliff face it’s carved along. RVs must pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel. The shape of the tunnel forces tall vehicles to travel down the center of the tunnel, consuming both lanes and necessitating an escort.

I don’t much care for the crowds associated with Zion National Park, but our quick tour revealed a couple of gems worth the visit. The Fall colors in Zion were spectacular. The red rock, green trees, and blue sky are usually beautiful, but add yellow and red foliage, and it made every view amazing. The East Rim Trail was a good bang for the buck. The views were great, and the effort to get there was low, and the crowds weren’t too bad.

From the same parking lot that is used to access the East Rim Trail, you can access a nice slot canyon. It’s a simple climb down, a short hike through the slot canyon, and then back to the parking lot. I don’t believe this one is marked and so the crowds go the other way.

In addition to Zion National Park, we drove south for 30 minutes to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The campground there looked interesting, and we may plan a trip back to try it out. We also headed south to Red Canyon and hiked in and back about 6 miles through sand. We were so worn out by the time we almost got to Red Canyon, we turned around and headed back. We’ll do this again, but we’ll bring a side-by-side or some other transportation to get us down the very sandy road. Transport in and out would make the slot canyon much more fun.

We returned from our Fall adventure on October 20, 2019, after joining an Orderville congregation of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their Sunday service. It was a lovely trip with day time temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s and nighttime temperatures as low as 21, but usually in the mid 30’s. The weather was great, the site was spacious and free, the stars were beautiful, and the company was fantastic!

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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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