A Las Vegas Light Show — WOW!!

September 2017 – Just before I left on a whirlwind trip to Paris — the City of Light — we experienced one of the most dramatic light shows we have ever seen anywhere. It was put on by Mother Nature and staged in the valley north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

She used the city lights as a backdrop and spotlights mounted on a building in front of us as footlights!

Lightning in Las Vegas_

Bolts of lightning fill the night skies over Las Vegas

We were camped at the Clark County Shooting Complex RV park, a nice little RV park that sits up on a hill north of Las Vegas. We were there because we needed air conditioning in the 95 degree late summer heat during our stay.

RV at Clark County Shooting Range Las Vegas at sunset

Storm clouds light the sky in bright colors at Clark County Shooting Complex RV Park.

The high vantage point of the park gives RVers fabulous views of the city lights at night from every campsite. In the mornings we were woken by folks enjoying target practice.

As we stood outside, marveling at the majestic colors of sunset and watching thick and dark storm clouds swirl across the valley from the mountains on the distant horizon, we suddenly heard the wind pick up and felt some raindrops on our cheeks.

A lightning storm begins at sunset in Las Vegas

Rain falls from storm clouds at sunset.

Then we saw bolts of lightning flashing in the distance. Wow!!

Lightning over Las Vegas Nevada

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Lightning bolts in Las Vegas Nevada

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For the next half hour we stood and watched the most incredible lightning show either of us has ever seen. Huge bolts of lightning burst out of the sky and struck the ground in rapid fire succession.

Lightning storm over Las Vegas Nevada

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Lightning bolts over Las Vegas Nevada

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At first, as we stood there, we kept saying to each other, “We really should get out our cameras and try to capture this!” But lightning is hard to pin down in a photo, and we didn’t think the lightning show would go on much longer.

We have a fancy lightning trigger that attaches to a camera and automatically clicks the shutter button every time it senses lightning, and it works pretty well. But we had bought it for our old cameras and hadn’t upgraded its cable to match our new cameras.

Lightning in Las Vegas Nevada

A single bolt strikes from the heavens above.

Twin Lightning bolts in Las Vegas Nevada

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So we stood there with our mouths gaping open and our feet rooted to the ground as massive lightning bolts flashed across the valley in front of us. To our amazement, the show kept going and going and going.

Lightning bolts over Las Vegas Nevada

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Suddenly, Mark said something about how you could leave the camera shutter open for long periods and just let whatever lightning bolts fell stockpile themselves onto the image. That was all the hint I needed! I flew into the rig to grab my camera and tripod. As I dashed back out I bumped into Mark in the doorway. He was hot on my heels going to get his gear too!

Lightning bolts Las Vegas Nevada

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We set up our tripods and left the shutters open for 30 seconds at a whack with the aperture stopped way down, at f/22, and base ISO.

We took our first shots and let out whoops and hollers of excitement when we saw the images on the backs of our cameras.

OMG!!

Lightning storm over city lights in Las Vegas Nevada

Studying our photos later, we noticed different colors in the lightning bolts.

Lightning in Las Vegas Nevada

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The only hard part was guessing where the lightning would strike next, because it was all over the sky and all over the valley.

But we could see we were getting awesome images, and we just kept clicking the shutter buttons every thirty seconds for the next 10 or 15 minutes, jumping up and down and shrieking with excitement between shots.

Lightning storm over Las Vegas Nevada

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Lightning bolts over city lights Las Vegas Nevada

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Miraculously, after the first few drops of rain fell, Mother Nature pulled the curtain of dripping clouds away from the stage. We were able to stand in warm dry air — and blustery winds — and witness the stunning power of earth’s beautiful forces without getting wet.

Lightning storm Las Vegas Nevada

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What a night this was — a night we’ll never forget! And thank goodness we grabbed our cameras when we did, because there wasn’t a single flash of lightning in Las Vegas for the remaining 16 days we kept our buggy there!!

Lightning storm over city lights of Las Vegas Nevada

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Lots of people come to Las Vegas to experience the bright lights of the big city. But these bright lights, thrown from God’s hand across the valley surrounding Las Vegas, dwarfed any light show that might have been happening downtown!!

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Other blog posts about photography and capturing the night sky on camera:
Photography – Our gear and the resources we have used to learn to take great pics

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Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)

May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.

Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico Photographing the Eggs

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.

Exotic Landscapes Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.

The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are no hiking trails in Bisti Badlands, but walking in any direction takes you to cool rocks!

But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.

Cracked eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

In one corner of the Bisti Wilderness there is a collection of rocks that look like alien eggs or pods.

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Cracked egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.

Alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.

Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.

Eggs on pedestals Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

A creature from afar?

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”

I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!

Human eating alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Oh no!!

Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.

Eggs alien egg factory Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.

Photography at the Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

With such long shadows sometimes we had to incorporate our own shadows!

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.

Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.

Exotic egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Each egg was decorated with a unique pattern.

Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.

Alien shellback Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.

Decorated egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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And some don’t have any decorations at all.

Egg in shell Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.

Eggs at sunset Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

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And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.

Sunset Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.

We’d brought our big flashlight with us which is like a car headlight (review here). We put it on its lowest setting and began playing with it doing “light painting” on the rocks. Cool!

We also had two smaller 1000 lumen pocket flashlights (review here), and we experimented with using them for light painting as well. The smaller, dimmer lights produced a wonderful effect.

721 Cracked eggs at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

We did a little “light painting” on the eggs with a flashlight as it got dark.

A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

The nearly full moon created a starburst in the sky at dusk.

Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico with UFO

What’s that flying over the cliffs?

As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!

UFO Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

OMG – They’re shining their spotlight on our rig!

But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.

I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.

Stars at cracked eggs Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Eggs by the light of the moon.

Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.

Stars at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

As we hiked out we saw more and more stars.

Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.

Stars over hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Stars over the hoodoos.

Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!

Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.

RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.

This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.

Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!

More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”

In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.

In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”

As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!

So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):

The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.

Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps

If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

Night hikes and starry skies:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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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!!

    Grand Canyon’s North Rim – Magnificent & Intimate by Day or Night!

    October 2016 – After driving through the red rock wonderland of the Vermillion Cliffs in northern Arizona, we found ourselves at 10,000′ elevation on the Kaibab Plateau in beautiful pine forests. This is the home of the Grand Canyon where the earth seems to have split apart, revealing the massive crimson hued jagged walls that rise up from the Colorado River thousands of feet below.

    Red cliffs of North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    Red cliffs at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    The Grand Canyon runs east to west for 277 miles and spans as much as 18 miles between its north and south rims.

    A huge region towards the middle of the chasm has been set aside as Grand Canyon National Park, and it has two entrances you can drive to, one on the north side of the canyon and one on the south side. At each of those spots you can wander along the rim and peer over the edge to look 6,000′ down.

    North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona view through trees

    A glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the trees.

    The South Rim is much more popular than the North Rim and is quite overrun with tourists, many making a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list trip from far distant corners of the planet. It is wonderful, but it is extremely busy.

    Colorful cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    View from the North Rim.

    The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a bit out of the way, so far fewer people go there, and most visitors are from the surrounding states. The North Rim sees 10% of the tourist traffic that the South Rim does and is 1,000′ higher in elevation.

    Chasm North Rim Grand Canyon Arizon

    Looking across the Big Ditch!

    The North Rim has a very special lodge that was built by the National Parks Service in 1927. This wonderful and inviting stone building is perched right on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and the huge picture windows look out on a spectacular view.

    View from Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

    The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim – What a view!

    There is also a huge dining room where diners can eat dinner while watching the sun cast its golden glow across the ridges of the canyon right next to their table!

    Dining Room Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

    A historic and beautiful spot for a dinner…with a world class view!

    Outside the lodge there is a low stone wall and a line of big wooden chairs where you can sit and take in the view over a beer.

    View from deck of Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

    The deck behind the Lodge offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink and take a few pics.

    What a fantastic place!

    View from deck Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim Arizona

    Tourists kick back at the North Rim.

    There is a feeling of intimacy and wonder on the rim here as strangers chat with each other and snap pics and take in the incredible view, enjoying a unique National Parks experience.

    Deck view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    A short trail leads from the edge of this deck out onto a peninsula that just into the Canyon and ends at Bright Angel Point.

    Hiking to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    The trail to Bright Angel Point at the North Rim

    This is a fun paved path that provides endless opportunities for jumping up on the rock pinnacles on either side to get a better view.

    Hke to Bright Angel Point North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    There are lots of places to scramble a little higher for a better view.

    Of course, the best light in the Canyon is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

    North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona View

    Late afternoon’s golden light brings out the contours of the jagged cliffs at the Grand Canyon.

    The sun was sinking in a very hazy sky when we were there, but the towering walls of the Grand Canyon still radiated a soft light, as if from within.

    Golden hour North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona overlook

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    Rock formations North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    Here and there couples and friends staked out a spot on a precipice to watch the sun fade away.

    Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    Catching the sunset at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    As the shadows crept up the canyon walls from the bottom, the tips of the craggy peaks held the light the longest.

    View of Red cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    In the final few moments of daylight, a thin ribbon of orange hovered over the Canyon.

    Chasm view North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    As the sun sank deeper behind the horizon, the colors in the sky grew ever more rich.

    Sunset North Rim Grand Canyon

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    Once the sun was gone from the sky, the contours of the Grand Canyon flattened out, revealing beautiful patterns.

    Color Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    Patterns in the view at the Grand Canyon after sunset.

    Without any shadows to show depth, near and far blended together.

    Patterns North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    Cliffs North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    Because of the 10,000′ altitude at the rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very cold, except in midsummer, and the Grand Canyon Lodge closes October 16. The 45 mile drive on Highway 67 between the hamlet of Jacob Lake and the North Rim remains open but isn’t plowed, and the self-service gas station in the park closes December 1.

    In mid-October we shivered in overnight temps that dipped into the 20’s. Nevertheless, we snuck out onto the trail in front of the lodge in the pitch dark, lighting the way with our new and very cool Lumintop flashlight (we reviewed it here) and got set up to take some shots.

    Overlook night stars North Rim Grand Canyon

    Night photography at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    Above us, the lodge was well lit and looked very cozy and inviting. Occasionally we heard the excited conversation of revelers out on the deck and saw flashes from their cameras.

    Stars over Lodge at North Rim of the Grand Canyon starry night and fifth wheel trailer RV

    The Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

    Slowly the stars began to shimmer above us, forming a dome full of glitter over the Grand Canyon.

    Stars at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

    Stars began to fill the sky

    Both rims of the Grand Canyon are decorated with the skeletons of dead trees whose gnarly branches reach out in all directions. The Milky Way formed a majestic backdrop in the sky.

    Tree and Milky Way North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    The moon was setting and slowly sank into the horizon. It was nearly full and glowed orange.

    Milky Way at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona

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    Seeing the moon at the horizon below the Milky Way reminded us of our many nights at sea on the Pacific Ocean. Sailors doing their first overnight passages are often shocked as they fly along in the pitch dark at full speed, squinting hard to distinguish the sky from the ocean, and then suddenly see a very bright light on the horizon right in front of them.

    More than a few hearts have skipped a beat, and more than a few frightened sailors have dashed to their radar display in a total panic as they tried to figure out what kind of mammoth ship was about to crash into them.

    Then they’ve suddenly collapsed in embarrassed laughter when they realized the enormous ship approaching them was actually the rising moon.

    We’d read these stories before our cruise, and of course we knew we were far too smart ever to fall for Nature’s little nighttime tease. So, it was particularly funny when it happened to us too!

    Milky Way at the Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona

    Good night, Grand Canyon!

    If the Grand Canyon is on your horizon for your RV travels, you can camp right on the rim in the campground at the North Rim. How totally cool is that?!

    However, you need to have a small to mid-size RV to fit into the campsites and drive the camground loop, and it is best to reserve a spot in advance. There are other RV camping options for slightly bigger RVs in Jacob Lake.

    For folks without an RV, the Grand Canyon Lodge has a collection of charming small cabins that surround the main lodge building, and they are just steps from the rim as well.

    The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is quite vast, and many of the overlooks require a drive of 50 miles or so round trip to reach them. We breezed through the North Rim on this RV trip because it was late in the season and we couldn’t drive through Jacob Lake on our route from east to west across northern Arizona without dipping down to say “hi” to the Grand Canyon, if only for a moment.

    However, like all the National Parks, the Grand Canyon deserves a week or more to enjoy its many nooks and crannies in depth. During our second year of full-time RV adventures, we stayed for a month at the North Rim.

    More info and links below.

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    Some details about Arizona’s North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

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    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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