Fish Lake Utah – Alpine Beauty & Brilliant Stars in Dark Skies!

September 2019 – We loved our hike and RZR ride near Red Canyon, Utah, but at 7,500′ elevation it was pretty toasty in the afternoons during summer’s final big heat wave. So we dashed further north and up to an altitude of 9,000′ at Fish Lake, Utah, where the early mornings were downright cold and the night skies were incredibly clear.

Star trails over RV in clear night sky

Star trails over our trailer!

The area around Fish Lake is hilly and filled with babbling brooks, ponds and pretty lakes. The Fishlake Scenic Byway is a twisting and winding route that goes between the villages of Fish Lake and Loa, Utah. The scenery is just gorgeous.

Scenic vista near Fish Lake Utah-min

A pretty lake with a hillside full of yellow wildflowers.

Fish Lake Scenic Drive Utah-min

The Fish Lake Scenic Drive takes in some spectacular views

Stream near Fish Lake Utah-min

We found streams and lakes galore

Views near Fish Lake Utah-min

The hills were full of pines, aspen trees and open meadows

Up in the hills above Fish Lake there is a stand of aspen trees called the Pando Aspen that is thought to be the biggest and oldest single living organism on the planet.

Aspen trees are not individual trees. Each one is connected to its neighbors, and the Pando Aspen is over 100 acres in size and is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

Pando Aspen Fish Lake Utah-min

At over 100 acres and 80,000 years of age, the Pando Aspen in Fish Lake, Utah, is the largest and oldest single living organism in the world

There are lots of hiking trails and dirt roads to explore in the area around Fish Lake. We drove past the Lakeshore Trailhead and could see a cute little wooden bridge going over a stream in the distance. We just had to check out the wooden bridge, so we circled back and let our pup Buddy lead the way.

Puppy ready to hike the Lake Shore Trail in Fish Lake Utah-min

The little wooden bridge at the start of the trail was too cute to pass up


There were three trails to choose from, and Buddy promptly ran straight uphill into the woods on the trail marked “Crater Lake.”

Of course, this wasn’t THE Crater Lake of Crater Lake National Park fame in Oregon (the upcoming November 2019 edition of our Trailer Life Magazine back page column features one of Mark’s glorious photos of THAT Crater Lake!).

But we were curious what THIS Crater Lake was like. So up we went behind Buddy.

The trail went straight up. Not just a little up, but a whole lotta up and up, and then up some more. We huffed and puffed and kept looking for signs that the summit was just ahead, but the more we hiked into the heavens the less likely it seemed that we would ever get there!

I hate to say it, but we finally had had enough of climbing and decided that since we hadn’t brought any water or prepared for a big hike it was probably best to save the view of this Crater Lake for another time.

Down we came, having seen only woods!!

Hiking Crater Lake Trail near Fish Lake Utah-min

We didn’t make it to Crater Lake, but we got a good hilly workout!

The streams in the area were delightful, and on most hikes and walks we were able to find a stream where Buddy could get a drink and play for a while before we turned around and headed back.

Creek near Fish Lake Utah-min

There are lots of creeks and streams in this area

Stream near Fish Lake Utah-min

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One day he had so much fun sprinting through a stream that he splattered mud on his face. He looked like he had put on makeup or was dressing up as a tiger!

Puppy with mud mascara-min

The mud was flying when Buddy zipped along the riverbanks!

In one spot wer found horses grazing by a stream. Such bucolic scenery!!

Horse grazing in Utah-min

A horse grazes in the middle of a postcard setting

Horses

These horses were very friendly

Buddy found a trio of cows and began talking to them in a very loud voice.

Puppy with cows-min

Buddy gave some cows an earful

Smiling puppy with cows-min

They seemed to take it in stride.

There are lots of dirt roads to explore too, and we headed down one that looked especially inviting. Unfortunately, no sooner had we started than we found the way blocked with huge boulders in front of an old wooden bridge. The bridge was pretty rickety, so that’s probably why the road was closed to vehicles.

End of a RZR ride in Utah-min

Our RZR ride ended when we came to a small bridge that was blocked. So we hiked instead!

No matter. We hopped out of the RZR and walked on the wide dirt road which was now wonderfully free of any kind of traffic.

The road followed a stream that was lined with wildflowers, and I soon realized the theme for this little excursion would be “wildflowers.” They were all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes.

Stream with flowers in Utah-min

The dirt road went alongside a stream.

Pink wildflower in Utah

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Unusual wildflowers in utah-min

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Beautiful noxious weed in Fish Lake Utah-min

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While we snapped pics of the flowers, Buddy ran ahead to scout for chipmunks and squirrels. One squirrel watched him warily from a branch high up on a tree.

Squirrel teases puppy during hike at Fish Lake Utah-min

This squirrel eyed Buddy from the safety of a high branch!

The flowers continued to enchant us as we strolled slowly along the edge of the river, and we were surprised how many were in full bloom so late in the summer season. Then again, we saw leftover winter snow in the nooks and crannies of the mountains, so these flowers had had a long wait for the warm weather to arrive!

Lavender wildflowers Fish Lake Utah-min

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Yellow daisies Fish Lake Utah-min

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Dandelion gone to seed Fish Lake Utah-min

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Yellow wildflowers on Fish Lake Utah hiking trail-min

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Suddenly, we noticed a bush with the familiar spiky leaves of raspberries. And sure enough, there were hundreds of tiny wild raspberries. These weren’t the big cultivated raspberries we all see in the supermarket. There were just a few bumps on each berry. But they were unmistakeably raspberries — and the birds and possibly the bears had been enjoying them.

Wild raspberries near Fish Lake Utah-min

Wild raspberries!

Down at the edge of the lake we found lots of marshy plants growing. A few herons and other waterbirds poked around at the water’s edge.

Weeds at Johnson Valley Reservoir Utah-min

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The weather at Fish Lake is unpredictable, and on several afternoons storm clouds gathered overhead and we could see rain falling in the distance.

One afternoon the clouds turned black while the sun shone through beneath them, making for a fantastically dramatic image.

Dramatic scenery at Fish Lake Utah-min

A wildly stormy sky heralded the start of an intense summer storm!

No sooner had I taken that photo than the heavens opened up. Hail the size of peas fell in torrents!

Hail storm at Fish Lake Utah-min

Hail pounded the lake

Almost as soon as it had started, the tempest ended and the sun came out. But the evidence of the hail storm was plain to see on our patio mat.

Hail on an RV patio mat-min

The sun came out right after the storm, but the hail stuck around for a little while

After a few days of afternoon monsoon storms, the skies cleared and we had sunshine all day every day. Late one evening Mark headed out the door and then dashed back in: “You wouldn’t BELIEVE the Milky Way!” he said.

We both grabbed our cameras and ran outside.

The MIlky Way was as bright as could be and was coming right down on top of our rig!

Milky Way over an RV in a clear night sky-min

We caught the Milky Way AND a shooting star over our rig!
(The shooting star is the thin line to the right of the Milky Way)

Milky Way with an RV night sky astrophotopraphy-min

The Milky Way came right down to our rig!

Luck was with us, and for the next few nights there was no moon in the early evening and the sky was completely clear of clouds.

One night we headed down to the edge of the lake with our gear and caught the Milky Way as it fell towards the lake.

Milky Way Fish Lake Utah-min

We drove out to the edge of the lake to get some shots of the Milky Way diving towards the water

Remote parts of Utah are known to have wonderfully dark skies, and the above photo shows just how easy it is for artificial lights to affect the magic. The yellow glow in the lower right part of the image is from just a handful of buildings behind the hill.

Mark took out his 12 mm fisheye lens and got some neat effects.

Milky Way Fish Lake Utah-min

A fisheye lens view

Milky Way Johnson Valley Reservoir Utah-min

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When we got back to our rig we noticed that the Big Dipper was right above it.

Big dipper over RV-min

The Big Dipper was right over our trailer

The Big Dipper can be used to locate the North Star which sailors and outdoor adventurers have used to navigate for ages. The North Star is in line with the last two stars in the bowl part of the Big Dipper.

Big dipper over RV with outline-min

The Big Dipper can be used to find the North Star

As I lined up the stars to find the North Star, I suddenly realized that this might be a perfect time to do a “star trails” photo.

It’s a little tricky to conceptualize, but as we stand on the earth and it rotates around its north-south axis, the stars in the sky appear to rotate around the North Star.

This reminded me of when I was a little girl and I used to spin around in a small room in our house with my head thrown back as I stared up at a light fixture in the ceiling. I would spin and spin while staring at that light fixture, and then when I stopped the whole world would keep spinning. I’d try to take a step and would promptly fall on the ground, totally dizzy, and crack up laughing. I thought this was hilariously funny and would do it over and over again!

Well, such is the silliness of a six year old girl making herself hopelessly dizzy. But now, many decades later, the star trails effect over our trailer was sensational.

I set the camera up on the tripod and left it to take a photo of the stars on a 14 mm lens for an hour at f/2.8 and ISO 64. When I tiptoed back out in the black of night and felt my way back to the tripod (without bumping into it or knocking it over!), I was thrilled with the image I saw on the back of the camera:

trails

Star trails!

Fish Lake is popular among fishermen and hunters, but it isn’t high on the list for other travelers. However, if you are looking for a quiet spot that is 20 miles away from the nearest real town (of 400 people), a place where there’s precious little internet access but lots of nature everywhere, consider putting Fish Lake, Utah, on your itinerary!

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More info about the area around Fish Lake, Utah:

Other blog posts from our travels to Fish Lake Utah:

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Black Hills National Forest, SD, RV Boondocking – Camping with Cows!

July 2017 – The US Forest Service, which manages all the National Forests in America, dubs its land the “Land of Many Uses.” The uses we love most are camping with our RV, hiking, biking and photography. But when we are on public land, we share it with folks who hunt, fish, ride horses, graze cattle and extract various natural resources.

For urban and suburban folk who come out to America’s public lands to smell the pungent fresh air and see the stunning scenery, the omnipresence of cattle can be a bit of a surprise. In our many years of nightly boondocking, we have found ourselves sharing our back yard with cows quite a few times. It is, after all, open range.

Open Range Grazing Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

In the west, the public lands are Open Range. Literally!

Cattle ranching is very much alive today, and cowboys really do exist in the real world, far from the classic TV shows and western movies. The other day, as we were driving to town in Buffalo, Wyoming, we came across a cattle drive going right up the highway.

Cattle drive across highway

On the highway one day we came upon a cattle drive. How cool is that?!

We crept past and were amazed at the huge number of cows and calves. The cowboys herding them were on horseback.

Cattle drive on horseback

The cattle were being driven by cowboys on horseback.

Slow traffic for horseback cattle drive on highway

This is what a traffic jam in the big western states looks like!

As we went down the line of mooing cows and watched the calves trotting along to keep up with their moms, it was like stepping back in time. America has a rich history in cattle ranching, and in many ways it is a way of life that hasn’t changed all that much in the past 150 years.

But technology has definitely made deep inroads, and besides using ATVs to zip around the many square miles of a ranch, it helps simplify many other things too. Towards the end of the herd of cows we came across a cowboy riding his horse with a coiled rope in one hand and a cell phone in the other! How much easier it must be to coordinate the herding process when you can simply call your buddy cowboy at the other end of the herd!

Cowboy on cell phone during cattle drive

Modern day ranching: a coiled rope in one hand and a cell phone in the other!

In South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest we found a lovely spot to camp with our RV for a few days, and as we were first setting up, we couldn’t help but take a few photos of our idyllic little campsite.

RV boondocking and camping in the US National Forest

Finding a beautiful place to camp in the National Forest is one of the biggest highlights of our lifestyle.

Boondocking in the National Forest is always a treat for the senses. In the early mornings we spotted deer nearby.

White tail deer in Black Hills National Forest South Datkota

Hi Neighbor!

A wild turkey caught Mark’s eye on a solo hike he did at dawn another morning.

Wild Turkey Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

A wild turkey fluffs his feathers and shakes his tail.

He’s not a birder, but his camera managed to catch a woodpecker searching for bugs, a robin carrying a bug in his mouth, and a stunning Western Tanager.

Woodpecker in Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

Woodpecker.

Robin with bug in its mouth Black Hills National Forest

Robin.

Western Tanager Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

Western Tanager.

Flying Western Tanager Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

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The nights were glorious. The Milky Way marched across the sky all night every night for a few days.

Milky Way with RV boondocking in Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

Starry, starry night!

Beautifully mysterious trail of clouds crossed the sky one night, and we were astonished later when Mark lightened his photos on his computer later and saw how much orange and pink lingered in those clouds.

RV under the Milky Way in Black Hills South Dakota

Wispy clouds cross the Milky Way.

RV under the Milky Way in Black Hills South Dakota

Clouds whirl past the stars.

But the most humorous and heartwarming aspect of this particular South Dakota campsite wasn’t the stars or the natural wildlife.

We were both jolted out of bed one morning by the raucous braying of a huge animal standing right under our fifth wheel’s overhang. Right under our bed! Good grief, what was that?

I jumped out of bed and poked my head out the door and found myself face to face with an enormous brown bull with a white face and an expectant expression. It was the ideal photo op. Our trailer and awning framed this huge bull’s head as he stared at me.

But I was in my PJs and was still wiping my eyes with disbelief, while my camera was tucked away in some safe place out of reach. By the time I got my hands on my camera, the bull was walking away to greener grass.

Cow by an RV in the US National Forest Black Hills South Dakota

This big bull stood under our bedroom and bellowed loudly to wake us up!

It turned out that his noisy braying — he sounded suprisingly like a very loud donkey on steroids — was a call to the herd to come check out our trailer. Before I knew it, our little buggy was surrounded with USDA Choice Grade A Grass Fed Beef!

Cows around fifth wheel trailer RV Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

Cows and calves check out our trailer.

Fifth wheel trailer RV boondocking with cows in the National Forest

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Over the next few days these cows came by our campsite on a regular basis. They seemed to be fascinated by us. And we were fascinated by them. We’d be sitting quietly minding our own business in our trailer when suddenly we’d hear the sound of grass being ripped out by the roots and footsteps clomping around in the dirt. We’d look out the window, and sure enough, there they’d be.

Herd of cows surround RV boondocking in the National Forest

We’re surrounded!

On a few mornings we woke to the trailer rocking as the cows rubbed their shoulders and scratched their itches on its corners.

Cow outside RV window camping in Black Hills South Dakota boondocking

I look out the window to see a peeping Tom!

Cow outside fifth wheel trailer RV Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

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Moms and calves would gather together and stare at us whenever they heard us come out of the trailer. The calves were skittish and would run away if we got too close, but the moms would stand calmly facing us, slowly grinding grass in their mouths and staring.

Cattle herd with fifth wheel camper RV in Black Hills National Forest

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Fifth wheel camper with herd of cows in Black Hills National Forest

The herd moves in on us.

One morning we were both woken from a deep sleep when we heard another strange sound just outside the trailer. We ran outside to see what it was and saw a balloon floating past. The sound we’d heard was the balloonist firing up the gas flame. Every few seconds he’d do that and the flame would fill the balloon with hot air to make it rise.

Balloon over RV boondocking in Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

The sound of a balloonist filling his balloon with hot air woke us up at dawn.

But it was those darn cows that kept the smirks on our faces and gave our days a special funkiness. I began to imitate their mooing, and that would make them turn around and look at me. I had to laugh when Mark commented, “That’s pretty good. You sound just like them!”

Grazing cattle Black Hills National Forest

All ears perked up when I mooed.

Mark took out his guitar one day and sat on our steps and played for them. They seemed to like the music and began mooing. Just like howling dogs, they seemed to want to add their own melody to his tunes.

Playing guitar for cows in US National Forest

The cows responded to Mark’s guitar playing by adding their voices in a moo-along!

A few calves got bold and ventured close to our truck. They were very intrigued by it.

A calf visits our truck in the National Forest

A brave calf approaches our truck.

Baby calf sniffs our pickup truck US National Forest

Another calf sniffs our bumper.

One day I came out of the trailer to find myself facing a lineup of cows. If I hadn’t knowd better, they would have seemed a little intimidating. They looked a lot like a gang of thugs in the hood.

Herd of cows and grazing cattle Black Hills National Forest South Dakota

The gang’s all here — in the hood!

Mark got busy taking portrait shots of a calf one day, and it was hilarious to see the little guy’s mind turning as he approached the camera.

Cow checks out Nikon camera

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Photography cow inspects Nikon camera

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Closeup of calf face

By placing the camera so low, Mark got a neat angle on this calf’s face.

Suddenly Mark saw his big wet nose and thick black tongue going for his camera. Uh oh!!

cow inspects Nikon camera Photography_

What does that thing taste like?

He pulled his camera away just in time, but when we started to pack up to leave the campsite a few days later, he discovered that one of the cows had gotten into our barbecue and had damaged the latch on the cover. He did a quickie repair job on the fly before we hitched up to leave.

Mother cow and calf in US National Forest

Camping in the National Forest sometimes gives us close encounters with cows.
It’s most fun with moms and their calves in Spring!

After we arrived at our next campsite, we found gooey prints from cow lips in a few places on our truck and trailer. Oh well! That’s all just part of the unusual experience of RV boondocking in the National Forest.

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Spring in Sarasota FL + Bryce Canyon’s Night Skies – in Trailer Life

We are very proud to announce that the March 2017 issue of Trailer Life Magazine features our article about beautiful Sarasota, Florida, plus a back page column about hiking Bryce Canyon National Park under the stars.

Sarasota's Three-Ring Circus Trailer Life Magazine

Trailer Life Magazine, March 2017
Text by Emily Fagan, Photos by Emily & Mark Fagan

Sarasota, Florida, is a fabulous place to visit in April, and we enjoyed five wonderful weeks there. For RVers that are heading north these days from the hotter parts of southern Florida, a stopover in Sarasota is a true delight.

Venice Beach Sarasota Florida

Venice Beach just south of Sarasota, Florida.

We have been fortunate to visit tropical beaches all over the world, most recently in Thailand but also in many parts of southern Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Frankly, not one of them has sand that is quite as pure white and fluffy soft as Siesta Beach in Sarasota. It is the texture of confectioner’s sugar! And the turquoise water is ever so inviting too.

Siesta Beach Sarasota Florida

Siesta Beach — Where the sand is like confectioner’s sugar!

But what surprised us was the many other things Sarasota has to offer. A century ago it was just a small fishing village, but the Ringling Brothers decided to settle in the town and make it the home base for their circus, and that changed it forever.

The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

The Ringling – Former home of the founders of the circus

Now, The Ringling is a fabulous museum that offers so much for tourists to see that you can get a three day pass — and you need it if you want to see it all.

Ringling Mansion Ca-Dzan Sarasota Florida copy

Ornamentation galore!

The Ringling estate’s mansion is a phenomenal building that is loaded with decorative arches, fanciful cornices, and an altogether fairy tale type of air.

Tourists at The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

The Ringling is a “do not miss” Sarasota excursion!

Out front there is a fabulous and enormous rock tile deck that looks out on Sarasota Bay. Standing there I tried to imagine what it was like back in the day when John and Mabel Ringling held parties there. Oh my!

Tile deck at The Ringling mansion Sarasota Florida

Even the deck is absolutely stunning, with inlaid colorful stone tiles.

The Ringling also has a museum that houses the stunning collection of European art that John Ringling collected. Mondays are “free admission day,” and when we got inside we were blown away by this immense art collection.

The Ringling Art Museum Sarasota Florida

The Ringling art museum is free on Mondays and is home to a stunning collection of European masters.

Out back there is a rose garden that was the pride and joy of Mabel Ringling as well as a gargantuan banyan tree.

Banyan tree The Ringling gardens Sarasota Florida

Out back we found a massive banyan tree shading a very cool bar!

Sarasota is one place where it would take a whole season of outings to run out of things to do. One excursion we really enjoyed was going to Jungle Gardens.

This is a zoo of sorts whose welcoming committee is a flock of pink flamingos who go out of their way to say, “Hello!”

Flamingo and photographer Jungle Gardens Sarasota Florida

At Jungle Gardens they hire pink flamingos to be the greeters!

They are extremely friendly birds, and even though they had plenty of natural spaces to stand around and do their flamingo thing in the water and under the tropical trees, one flamingo took a particular liking to Mark and rubbed his beak all over him!

Flamingo Jungle Gardens Sarasota Florida

True love… for the flamingo at least!

Jungle Gardens also has a wonderful bird show, and we were delighted by the antics of the various parrots. One parrot, a 79 year old cockatoo named Snowflake, was a seasoned professional when it came to performing. He was so old that he had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show before I was born!

He can still do great tricks, though, and we watched him ride a bike on a tightrope while a buddy macaw perched on a swing and went for a free ride below him.

Snowflake rides a unicycle with Andy riding underneath copy

Snowflake’s still got it at 79 years old!

There are lots of parks in the Sarasota area, and we got a huge kick out of watching native birds fishing, swimming and flying by us in some of these parks.

Great Blue Heron Sarasota Florida

The native wild birds are a sight to behold in many parks around town.

Sandhill cranes like Sarasota as much as people do, and to our utter delight and complete surprise, a pair of sandhill cranes had a nest with two eggs near a pond at a strip mall.

Sandhill crane with chick in nest Sarasota Florida

A sandhilll crane mom checks on her brand new chick.

On the day that they were due to hatch a large group of fascinated birders and photographers gathered near the nest and began to watch the arrival of the baby chicks through huge telephoto lenses and binoculars.

Sandhill chick and egg in nest Sarasota Florida

“Yawn…It was a lot of work getting out of that egg!”

This little guy was absolutely adorable.

Sandhill crane with chick in nest Sarasota Florida

“Oopsie!”

And the first little one was soon joined by its sibling while the parents pushed the egg shells aside.

Two sandhill cranes in nest Sarasota Florida

“Are you my brother?!”

Sarasota has lots of quirky charm, and there is a mascot that adorns many homes and businesses around town. Nicknamed the Tube Dude, this guy can be seen holding a toothbrush in front of the dentist’s office, wearing a baker’s hat in front of the bakery and sitting in a Kayak at the local surf and kayak shop. What fun!

The Tube Dude in Sarasota Florida

The Tube Dude at a coffee shop with a water bowl for his dog.

Trailer Life has posted our article on their website and you can read it here:

Sarasota’s Three-Ring Circus – Trailer Life Magazine, March 2017

Flipping to the back of the March issue, there is a photo of a wonderfully starry night taken from the Mossy Cove trail at Bryce Canyon National Park. We spent quite a bit of time at Bryce Canyon last summer, which gave us a chance to get out on the trails in the dark several times.

Stars over Fairytale Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park

Hiking Bryce Canyon under the stars is very rewarding.

It is a little eerie hiking in the pitch dark with a flashlight, but we managed not to fall over the edge and we saw some really cool skies.

Fairy Tale Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Night Stars

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Bryce Canyon doesn’t have super dark skies, so there is always a big of a glow on the horizon from nearby towns, but even so, the stars jumped out of the heavens.

Fairy Tale Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Night Stars

We ventured out into Fairytale Canyon

We were there fairly late in the season, in September, so catching the Milky Way was a little tricky as we had to get out into Bryce Canyon’s amphitheater of hoodoos in order to look back up towards the rim to see it. But we caught it sailing across the sky on several occaisions between 3:00 and 5:30 in the morning.

Milky Way Bryce Canyon National Park Fairytale Canyon

The Milky Way is easiest to see in late spring and early summer.

Milky Way and tree silhouette Bryce Canyon National Park

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Milky Way Bryce Canyon National Park

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Of course, we stayed out so long on these crazy midnight hikes that by the time we got back to our trailer the morning sky was just beginning to lighten into rich shades of blue. And sure enough, there was the Orion constellation hanging over our rig!

Orion constellation over RV Utah

Orion sails high above our trailer.

Trailer Life is an excellent magazine, and we were subscribers for years before we became writers and photographers for them. Whether you are a new RVer or have many years under your belt, if you own a towable RV like we do, you might enjoy subscribing for a year. You can subscribe to Trailer Life here:

Trailer Life Subscription

It’s not expensive, and what I like is that it is professionally edited by terrific editors and it is professionally laid out by a graphic artist which gives it a polish in the print edition that just doesn’t exist online, whether on magazine websites or on folksy blogs like this one.

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Interested in visiting Sarasota? Here are our blog posts from our stay there:

More Blog Posts from Florida

Curious about Bryce Canyon and/or Hiking Under the Stars? Check out these posts:

Night Skies in Waterton Lakes + All Night Timelapse of the Milky Way07/31/16

    A Few of the Other Articles We’ve Published in Trailer Life:

    Trailer Life Articles by Emily & Mark Fagan

    Our most recent posts:

    More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
    New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!

    Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers

    June 2016 – Waterton Lakes National Park enchanted us. After all the grand and imposing majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that we had seen in our RV trip on the other side of this mountain range at Banff and Jasper National Parks, there was an intimacy, charm and quiet elegance to Waterton Lakes that was very refreshing.

    Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    Waterton Lakes National Park… Stunning!

    The Prince of Wales Hotel really sets the stage for this special feeling at Waterton Lakes. We snuck down to the water’s edge one evening to get some photos of it reflecting its inviting warmth onto the lake.

    Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    The Prince of Wales Hotel has an inviting glow at night.

    How rare it is to find this unique combination of natural beauty juxtaposed with man-made beauty in a National Park.

    Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park

    There was something about that hotel glowing across the water that just looked so appealing. It must be quite a place to stay!

    Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

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    One thing we discovered quickly is that the night skies in Waterton Lakes National Park are extremely dark and absolutely jam packed with stars. The park is 35 miles away from the nearest “big” town, and by “big” I mean 3,700 people. So there aren’t any city lights to block out the view of the stars.

    We crept out in the wee hours of the morning one night and got a quick pic of the buggy hanging out under the Milky Way. Wow!!

    RV Roads Less Traveled Milky Way Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    Our buggy loves camping under the Milky Way!

    This gave me an idea to set up a time-lapse video showing the Milky Way moving across the sky. Watching the result after I woke up in the morning was a total thrill!

    So I did it again the next night and again the next. I combined all three nights into one 36 second video (below) which is very cool.

    The first two sequences in the video show the movement of the stars between an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise, revealing the entire night passage of the Milky Way on two different nights.

    Since it was mid-June, we were nearly at the Summer Solistice, and because we were above the 49th parallel, the nights were darn short! So, the time-lapse videos from each night run from 11:45 pm until 4:15 am. There’s not much nighttime in those parts at that time of year!!

    The third overnight sequence in this time-lapse video captures a bit of the Northern Lights playing in the sky for a short while just after midnight. Then, suddenly, the sky clears and you can see the Milky Way’s march across the sky that goes on all the time as our planet does its pirouettes across the heavens.

    Shortly after we had all this fun capturing the Milky Way in still images and time-lapse videos, we read an article that said that 80% of the earth’s inhabitants have never had the good fortune to see the Milky Way, because our night skies all around the world are so full of artificial light.

    The article went on to say that during a city-wide power outage in 1994 in Los Angeles which was caused by the huge Northridge earthquake, the police got calls from frightened residents claiming there was a big scary silvery cloud hovering overhead!

    As the time went by during our stay in gorgeous Waterton Lakes National Park, we found our days were action packed.

    Besides taking the wonderful Waterton Shoreline Cruise on the historic ship MV International along the length of the park from Waterton down to Glacier National Park in Montana and back (blog post here), we also got out on our bikes on the fabulous paved trail that wanders along the water and out of town a ways.

    Bike Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    We loved the paved bike paths (and walking/running trails) around Waterton Lakes.

    What a fantastic trail this is. The mountains soared into the sky all around us.

    Bicycle Path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    Mark rode off ahead of me into the pages of a cycling brochure!

    It is a fun, rolling ride that has a few tight turns. Reminders on the pavement — in French as well as English — kept us from going too fast!!

    Sign on pavement at Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    It was fun seeing official signs in French as well as English, even on the pavement.

    We ran on this trail and walked on it too. We never got tired of the views!

    Bicycle path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

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    There’s great cycling on the roads as well, and we saw some cycling groups going by. This is a fairly remote place, so the traffic on the roads was pretty light, making for some great road riding.

    Cyclists Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    The roads around Waterton Lakes National Park are great for cycling too.

    But Waterton Lakes can be enjoyed by other means besides a shoreline cruise on a boat or a bike ride. We saw a group of horseback riders out enjoying the views too!

    Horseback riders Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    A group on horseback took in the views across Upper Waterton Lake.

    The Red Rock Parkway is one of the main roads in Waterton Lakes, but it was closed for most of our time there. It did open on the weekends, though, and we had a chance to drive this wonderful scenic drive one Sunday.

    Akamina Parkway Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    The Red Rock Parkway took us into more distant parts of the park.

    It’s a very pretty drive, and at the end is lovely Red Rock Canyon. It is a neat surprise to see red rocks amid all this green and blue scenery!

    Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    It was such a great surprise to find red rocks in this
    mountain-and-lakes National Park.

    There was a thin stream of water flowing down the rocks, and we caught it in silky slow motion.

    Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    Red Rock Canyon was a pretty place to explore.

    What we really wanted to see, though, was wildflowers, and these were scattered along the meadows on either side of Red Rock Parkway. We didn’t see huge fields of them, but instead we found tiny individual flowers of all different kinds.

    Yellow wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    We found a pretty little wildflower looking up at the sun.

    Pink round wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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    Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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    Some of these were just the size of the end of my finger, and they were really delicate too.

    Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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    Mark discovered a little bed of lady slipper flowers. I’m used to these guys being fairly big (and pink!), but the tiny white ones he found were the size of a marble, if that. I loved the twisted pairs of ribboned leaves on each one. They were like the satin ribbons on ballet slippers… for Thumbelina or Tinkerbell!

    Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    This tiny lady slipper is so small only Thumbelina’s foot could fit!

    Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    Ladyslippers… and ribbon leaves to tie them with.

    We found Bear Grass and cheerful yellow daisies and more.

    Bear grass Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    Bear grass was blooming everywhere.

    Yellow wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    Some yellow daisies warm their petals in the sun.

    Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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    Dandelion flower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

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    We were both in our element for a few hours sitting amid the flowers in the meadows. I know there are great hikes out on the Red Rock Parkway, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this little dollhouse world of flowers.

    Sitting in the wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

    We didn’t get much hiking or exercise in, but communing with the wildflowers sure was fun.

    When we returned to town we were greeted by a pair of friendly deer.

    Deer at campsite Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    The fearless and ever so curious deer at Waterton Lakes were a highlight for us!

    And a chipmunk showed us just how tall he could stand when there was a prize to be had.

    Chipmunk reaching for food

    This little chipmunk did tricks for us.

    Waterton Lakes National Park is a really special destination, and it’s ideal for an RV trip. There’s a big campground with a variety of amenities in town and it’s just a stone’s throw over the border from the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana!

    Class C Motorhome Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

    Waterton Lakes National Park is a wonderful destination for an RV trip!!

    If you are planning an RV road trip to Waterton Lakes, there are more tips and links below.

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    Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)

    April 2016 – Canyonlands National Park in Utah is so big and sprawling that it has two entrances at opposite ends of the park. The south entrance is a 50 mile drive to the south and west of Moab, and it takes you to the Needles District. The north entrance is a 30 mile drive to the north and west from Moab and takes you to the Island in the Sky district.

    Hikers Utah Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky  Shafer Canyon

    Canyonlands National Park in Utah – Island in the Sky

    We had explored the beautiful pink and white spires of the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park a few weeks earlier on the Chesler Park hike, and we were eager to check out the vistas and views of the Island in the Sky district.

    Shafer Canyon didn’t disappoint…Wow!!

    Canyonlands Shafer Canyon Island in the Sky District Utah photography

    Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park Utah

    Although all of America’s National Parks are best enjoyed in depth over a several day period, with hikes out into the scenery to see the various sights up close, on this RV roadtrip we were doing a survey and an overview of all the beauty surrounding Moab.

    We dashed into Canyonlands National Park for a day to check out all the overlooks and scenery visible from the main road.

    White Rim Road Shafer Canyon Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah

    The wild White Rim Road zig-zags across the landscape

    We wandered around the overlook at Shafer Canyon for a long time soaking in the view.

    A fabulous and enticing dirt road snaked across the canyon. This is part of the 71 mile long White Rim road that we had seen a few days earlier at Dead Horse Point State Park.

    An intrepid jeep driver was descending a wall of the canyon near us. What a cool drive that must be. Someday!!

    Shafer Canyon Canyonlands National Park White Rim Road Jeep travel Utah RV camping

    The White Rim Road looks like quite a ride!!

    Each canyon and overlook in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands is beautiful.

    Hiking boots Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah

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    Canyonlands National Park Utah RV travel Island in the Sky

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    It had rained a few days earlier, and some of the depressions in the wide flat rocks were filled with water.

    Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah RV camping

    Puddles had formed in the red rock depressions.

    Funny thing is that we kept getting in each other’s photos!

    Photography at Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District Utah

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    And a few times we got in each other’s photos on purpose too…

    Hiking Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah camping

    Is that a painting behind us??

    The red rocks of Canyonlands National Park and the white capped mountains in the distance made a beautiful contrast.

    Red rocks snowcapped mountains Canyonlands National Park Utah

    Red rocks and snowy mountain peaks – Gorgeous!

    Utah Canyonlands National Park La Sal Mountains Island in the Sky

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    Without a doubt, Grand View Point has the most dramatic landscapes in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district.

    Canyonlands National Park Utah Grand View Point Overlook

    Grand View Point looks out over a crazy landscape

    Here the flat earth seemed to have been carved by an enormous stick that had been dragged across the land to gouge out a pattern.

    Canyonlands National Park  Grand View Point Overlook Island in the Sky Utah photography camping

    Nature’s handiwork – what a fabulous design!

    The tiny White Rim Road was still visible, but it was impossible to fathom the size and scale of this immense landscape before us.

    Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Grand View Point Overlook

    I just LOVE this pattern!

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    In the evening, our attention turned to the heavens. The southern part of Utah has some of the darkest skies in America, and the stars were thick above us.

    Stars Canyonlands National Park Utah camping

    There were layers upon layers of stars in the sky.

    As the night wore on, the celestial dance in the stratosphere became ever more intense, and the clouds of stars that make up the Milky Way practically jumped out at us.

    Milky Way Canyonlands National Park Utah Island in the Sky RV camping

    The Milky Way came to life in the heavens.

    Moab, Utah, is a wonderful destination for an RV roadtrip, and along with Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park, the Canyonlands Needles District and Newspaper Rock, the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park has to be included in the Moab “to do” list.

    RV Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah

    The whole area around Moab is wonderful for an RV adventure.

    And it doesn’t matter what kind of RV you have: big, small, new, old, solar powered or not, any kind of RV that can be driven or towed will fill the bill, and while we were there we saw some pretty unusual get-ups!!

    RV fifth wheel trailer towing_

    If you can drive it or tow it, any kind of RV will do!!

    For more info about Canyonlands National Park, check out the links below.

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