Wednesday, November 14, 2018

ROADTRIP: Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge State Park
Sun shines into a crevice at
Cathedral Gorge State Park.
I am willing to bet, when people think of Nevada, they do not think of world-class parks, but some of the most iconic landscapes are in the Silver State. While Cathedral Gorge State Park might not be quite as known as Valley of Fire, people usually recognize the unique pillars of ash, formed when sediment eroded in a now-dry ancient lake bed.

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Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions spewed ash, which settled in a nearby lake. As the lake dried, the sediment eroded and not only can the result be seen today, you can actually walk into and explore the narrow -- sometimes claustrophobic -- crevices between clay pillars towering above. It's breathtaking to venture into these roofless caves, especially as the temperature plummets, and I felt it was a testament to visitors as well: People have been coming here for more than a hundred years, and we're still allowed to touch.

There are two entrances to the park, and they are connected by a hiking trail. Driving up to the formations is also permitted in some areas. The north entrance provides an overlook to see the formations in the ancient lake bed from above. We got to the park late in the evening and visited the overlook before deciding to come back exploring the next day. For photographers, the light is tricky in the canyon, and having the preview from the overlook helped a lot for planning the next day's visit. We also didn't get to explore the path down from the overlook as it involved stairs and one of us was still recovering from a broken leg.

Cathedral Gorge State Park
We also opted to stay in nearby Echo Canyon State Park as the campsites had more cover. There are campsites in Cathedral Gorge, located in the middle of the canyon, and day use areas, but because of the landscape and location, they have minimal cover and likely would be very hot and crowded in the middle of the day.

Unlike some of the parks we visited on this trip, Cathedral Gorge is well known, easy to get to and boasts a unique landscape, so the services and personnel were more plentiful. The nearby town of Pioche was also worth driving through and somewhere I know we'll be back to explore. Plus, as pointed out in this great video from Nevada State Parks, the formations are constantly changing, so you never know how it will look when you visit.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

ROADTRIP: Angel Lake

Angel Lake is located near Wells, Nevada, and is a beautiful spot for fishing, camping and swimming.

One of the great things about visiting all the Nevada State Parks is getting to hear where all the parks staff likes to go in the areas we visit. On our recent trip to Wild Horse State Recreation Area, we had the pleasure of talking with Andrew about other places we should visit in the Elko area, and he mentioned Angel Lake.

Angel Lake is located just south of Wells in the Humboldt Range of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Andrew warned us that Angel Lake fills up fast and it's easy to see why. The road up to the lake is a beautiful paved drive that climbs to 8,000 feet, which deadends right at the lake ($6 to park). The week we visited, temperatures were climbing past 100 in Fernley, so the cold, clear water of the glacial mountain lake were more than welcome.

The area is a strange mix of jurisdictions, with most of the area being USFS, and the two campgrounds subcontracted to private companies. When we were there, they were only marginally maintained, and not as well as when these facilities are more professionally staffed as with the state parks. We stayed at Angel Lake Campground, the facility located directly adjacent to the lake, which was obviously more heavily used that Angel Creek Campground, located farther down the hill, and paid half price ($8.50) for a site because there was no water available (no explanation was given).

Angel Lake Campground
Angel Lake Campground. See more photos.
So for the price, this was a great site, and the view was spectacular. My complaint with campgrounds holds with this one: They are too close together and you can hear everything. The people closest to us had a loud talker and I have a loud snorer, so we cancelled each other out, but it's annoying. There are no trees for cover either, so you can really see everything as well. The bathrooms were clean and neat, but there were bags of trash piled at pretty regular intervals along the road; I'm not saying the flies were hella crazy only because of this, but it certainly didn't help. Also, the host's area was really... not welcoming, and you are instructed to "see host" before you take a site, so that's not so fun.

Angel Lake Campground
Angel Lake Campground. See more photos.
But all in all, so beautiful and a wonderful mid-week escape from the desert heat. The lake is stocked with trout, but it's really small, so I don't think they probably get to any great size. Boats are allowed without a motor, but again, you aren't going to get a lot of people out there without running into each other. The morning I went out, I was all alone (except for about 50 ground squirrels lined up on the bank drinking), the melting glacier water running down the mountain side and tiny trout babies biting my toes. Heaven.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

ROADTRIP: Beaver Dam State Park

Beaver Dam State Park Nevada
Cactus blooms in Beaver Dam State Park. See more photos.
Nevada State Parks has a really lovely passport they give out that has suckered us nicely into trying to visit every park in the state (well done, NSP). Not like it's a hardship; the Nevada State Park system is incredible; our state is diverse and beautiful, and the parks are no exception.

Recently we set out to see the parks we hadn't been to yet along highways 80 and 50 in eastern Nevada, but after getting out, we turned south, and ended up getting eight parks knocked out in the three days we were gone.

Beaver Dam State Park was one of the most surprising. As far as we could tell, the park was completely deserted. We were traveling the third week of May, to avoid Memorial Day traffic, so it was still a little early in the season, but as far as the heat goes, I wouldn't want to go any later into the summer. As an added bonus, and another reason not to delay into the summer, wildflowers and cacti were in full bloom all over.

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The road in to Beaver Dam is dirt/gravel, but it was not heavily used, so there is no need for four-wheel drive or a high-clearance vehicle. Honestly, the road was nicer than many of the paved roads we drove during this trip. Once in the park there were some areas where high-clearance was nice, and during the winter months the roads would probably be difficult for cars.

Beaver Dam State Park Nevada
Waterfall Trail crosses a creek before heading toward the Utah border.
We didn't get a chance to do a lot of exploring, but we'll definitely be back as the area was gorgeous. The campground looked well maintained, and was in a really beautiful area overlooking the water. The sites were very close together and the brush was sparse, so neighbors would be visible/audible if the site was crowded, and you can't reserve sites. We also noticed port-a-potties, so I'm not sure if the regular bathrooms were closed if there was other construction or renovation going on.

This is a pretty primitive park in that they don't cater to RVs or ATVs and your phone probably won't work; this is more for the hikers and fisherpeople. The area is rocky and mountainous, so the hiking trails are fun, if on the more strenuous side, especially if it's hot outside. All in all, a great, out of the way place where we can't wait to spend some more time.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

ROADTRIP: Roger Williams Park

Soundtrack for this roadtrip: 96.9

Since Roger Williams Park is so close to me, it might not technically qualify as a roadtrip, but if you're not in the Providence area, it's definitely worth the trip.
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On more than 400 acres, you'll find some serious New England beauty -- especially this time of year. Fall color hasn't been the greatest -- the poor trees around here were decimated by gypsy moths (I'm not sure if they tried to do anything this year, but they've been a scourge since last summer) and a series of storms has taken many of the remaining leaves -- but you can see where this park would shine no matter what the season.

One reason this felt like a roadtrip to me was because I'd wanted to visit Roger Williams Park every time I passed the exit. I knew there was a zoo, and Providence friends have told me there are trails, but I didn't realize until getting the meeting location for the New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS), there's also a Botanical Center.

Although I will go back for the many other attractions in the park, the Botanical Center would have been my first stop regardless, and it didn't disappoint. The NECPS has a carnivorous plant bog in the Botanical Center -- the first permanent installation I've seen. The center also has a wonderful collection of "house plants"; I wonder anew every time I see these home store staples in a much more natural setting. I rarely have more pleasure than when I'm reminded that the most commonplace things shine beautifully when they aren't removed from their place in nature.

The park also houses a museum and planetarium, a carousel and swan boats on one of the copious ponds. Be very careful of runners; honestly, the setting is so gorgeous, getting distracted is easy.