My daughter was promised a camping trip before she returned for her school’s fall semester. As the Dog Days of summer began to sap everyone’s energy, I was reminded that “back to school” was but two weeks away. I quickly began planning a short, overnight camping trip.
Since it was to be her first camping trip I wanted to keep it simple, but interesting. A short-as-possible drive would be best, especially if she awoke in the middle of the night frightened and crying to go home immediately. You never know for sure about a child’s first time, and in the back on my mind I was recalling the “Skunk Camp” event with my two middle sons back in 2000 (you’ll find those details in the 2003 post about Cave Lake).
The weather forecast was reflective of the southwest “monsoon season” when the hot land masses create upward thermal air flow which then produce low-pressure areas that in turn suck in moisture from the south. This mostly results in southwest humidity triple the normal levels, but in the higher mountains of the southwest it brings thunderstorms.
My preferred destination was Pine Valley, UT, but camp sites were already reserved. Other nearby destinations in southern Utah and Nevada also forecast thundershowers, but Cave Lake State Park was going to have scattered thundershowers in the early evening with 35-40 percent probability. Thus, although the drive would be at least one hour longer, Cave Lake was selected.
Upon arrival at campsite #25 we set up the tent and unloaded the truck. My daughter wanted to see the lake and watch if I could catch a fish. She remembered that there were two types of trout in the lake: rainbows and browns. Before heading to the lake I asked her again, “Do you prefer sleeping in the tent or the truck shell?” She said she wanted to sleep in the shell so that’s where I left the sleeping bags.
Down at the inlet we flushed a hawk from the aspen grove but its flight was short and it alighted on a rabbitbrush near the trail we were walking on. At first I thought it was a Red Tailed hawk, but have since decided it was a Harris’ hawk. We were able to get remarkably close which enabled me to take a few photos.
When we arrived at the shoreline I had targeted, after two casts the winds came, skies darkened, and it began to sprinkle with a smattering of large droplets. We hustled back to the Fish Taco and drove up to our campsite. Since the sleeping bags were in the shell, that’s where we took shelter. That’s when the volume increased, trapping us in the shell. That was about 6:00 PM. It didn’t stop until 9:05 PM which was a blessing since she had to use the restroom since 8:30 PM.
The dilemma then became whether to walk through the mud to the tent wherein the porta-potty awaited (what to do about the muddy boots entering the tent, do we leave sleeping bags in the shell or just wholesale move into the tent, etc.???), or do I drive her down to the full service toilets and park right outside the bathroom door? One of the creature comforts of this Nevada state park is that it has a bathroom facility with four separate flushing toilets with hot/cold sinks plus two full service showers. Because of her urgency I opted to drive the truck down to the bathrooms with her nestled in the shell. Once relieved we drove back up to the camp to sleep. But she still had a hard time sleeping. I know that because I had a hard time sleeping. A shortcoming of the Fish Taco is the 41 x 60 inch bed dimension. I’m short, but even I had to sleep with my knees bent all night which created all types of new pressure points and joint pains. That was a lesson that wont be repeated.
We awoke to a clear sky and a rising sun. After a light breakfast we broke camp, packed up the truck, and headed to Comins Reservoir down in Steptoe Valley to try a few minutes of fishing. Fortunately we arrived as a car filled with children was leaving the very beach I had in mind. I brought my 9-foot 5-weight fly rod, some rubber boots, and one small box of flies that were tied by my good friend Bill Bergan. I wanted my daughter to experience fishing first hand. Although I have actually started her practicing fly casting in our backyard, she wasn’t ready for fly fishing. But I reasoned that if I hooked something from shore I could get the fish on the reel and hand the rod to her to reel it in herself (you fisherman know of the electrifying experience of a decent fish head shaking underwater or the leaping of a rainbow trout). Anyway, I just couldn’t resist a few casts (could you have resisted?).
On about my fifth cast I hooked an eleven-inch rainbow. My daughter expressed her excitement with an “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, he’s got a fish!” The cast after that I caught a small black bass. A few minutes later I hooked what I suspect was a decent sized rainbow, but as I started collecting the slack line on the reel so I could hand her the rod with the trout “on the reel” the hook came out (I use barbless hooks because I release all fish I catch, so this is a common result). I hooked and landed two more trout and two more bass. The thirteen-inch trout fought nicely, and once more I tried to hand the rod to my daughter after I got the fish on the reel, but she didn’t want it. She said she was too busy filming a video of my fishing exploits with the iPad as she has aspirations of being a vlogger… like her mom and dad will let that happen anytime soon. Although she didn’t experience the thrill of reeling in a fish, she very much enjoyed it vicariously through me. Of course I was pleased to have hooked seven fish over the 40 minutes, achieving hook-up about every six minutes or so. The seed is planted.
As mentioned, one beneficial aspect of Cave Lake is its proximity to one of Nevada’s larger rural cities and the amenities it offers. In the case of Ely, there are two museums that will peak the interest of children and adults.
The White Pine Public Museum, started in August 1959, is much larger than the small storefront on Ely’s main road would imply. My daughter particularly enjoyed the doll artifacts, the Cherry Creek train depot, and the one-room school house from Baker, NV. A family could easily spend most of the day exploring this wonderful museum.
Back in August of 2006 I had fished Cave Lake and Comins Reservoir with my son Brian. We visited the Nevada Northern Railway Museum gift shop on that trip, but we failed to explore the rail yard to appreciate what it offered. If you or someone you love has an itch for trains, you need to check out the link embedded above. This is a significant opportunity to immerse yourself into the world of trains, both steam and diesel. Here’s a quote from that website:
We have heard the question many times. People come to the ticket desk and ask “Where’s the museum?” The truth is, this is a very large museum. It’s the original Nevada Northern Railway, complete with its original depot, engine house, freight house, and administrative building, all built in the 1910’s. It’s the original Nevada Northern mainline track. We still own all 147 miles of it. It’s several of the original Nevada Northern Railway locomotives, still in operation today. Come, explore history with us!Nevada Northern Railway Museum
So, my daughter was reluctant to leave Ely, trying all sorts of ploys to stall our departure. One that I succumbed to was a playground visit. I knew where a public playground was in the residential area on the way out to Highway 6, so there we went. When we got out of the truck I noticed a preponderance of slow flying yellow-black bugs. At first I thought they were small bees, but in fact they turned out to be beetles, and they were all over the playground equipment, picnic tables, and awnings. They didn’t bite, but they were a nuisance, especially the three that hitched a ride in the truck cab all the way to Alamo.
But of course, more than the camping, fishing or museum visits, spending time alone with my daughter was the best part of all. I endured the KidsBop music channel on SiriusXM and the l-o-n-g game of “Name your three Favorites” because it made her happy. But there were also meaningful talks about God, the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross, and why a little nine-year-old girl doesn’t have to worry that she’ll not get to heaven because she “can’t be good” all the time. I was most pleased to see the relief on her face as she realized we all try to be good because it’s pleasing to Him and good for us and our friends, but when we fail there is always His grace to forgive us. We don’t need to be good to get to heaven, but because of Jesus we want to be good. With that I leave you to meditate on these verses, because even adults wonder at times how they can get to heaven with so much sin on their hands:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4-5
Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.Romans 3:22-24
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.2 Corinthians 5:18-19
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.John 3:16