Tag Archives: national park

The Beauty of Anacapa Island

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April 4, 2017

When I first learned of Anacapa Island earlier this year, the only thing I knew about it was that it was part of the Channel Islands National Park.  It’s accessible only by boat by reserving your trip through Islandpackers.com.  The 1-hour boat trip departs at 9:30 am from their Oxnard, CA harbor location and arrives at East Anacapa Island.  On a clear day you may experience a whale sighting.  To reach the top of the island, you must climb up over 130 steps up a winding set of stairs from the dock.

I first explored the Visitor Center and saw the original light that was used when the lighthouse was fully functional.  The Visitor Center provides plenty of history about the islands and brochures for those wanting to take information to their friends and family.

Anacapa Island may be remote off the California Coast, however you are truly not alone.  Hundreds of birds live on the island.  So in reality, you are their guest for the day, or night if you decide to camp.  Don’t be surprised if one, two or many more squawk at you a few times.

Use caution along Inspiration Point.  There’s no railing along the cliff and part of the island runs along a fault line that can drop off.  The island volunteer pointed this out to me as I was in an are that was considered not safe.  The views of the other two islands that make up Anacapa Island’s are incredible.  The Lighthouse at the opposite side of the island is a short hike from Inspiration Point.  You are allowed to get within 50 yars of the lighthouse due to the consistent fog horn.  Make sure you bring your camera and comfortable hiking shoes because this island is worth the money!  Lastly, you may have an encounter with a pod of dolphins on your return trip!

Exploring Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico has always been a must-see location ever since I began traveling.

I remember when I was a teenager how I always thought Carlsbad Caverns was located in Carlsbad, CA a little over a 1-hour drive from where I live.  Not 1-hour north of Texas as I came to realize.  I thought it was your typical cave to briefly explore and be wowed.

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After spending the previous day exploring the well-known White Sands National Park 4-hours away, my crew and I began our drive as the sun set over the New Mexico desert.  We had originally planned to camp at White Sands before learning that all of the camping sites had been reserved earlier in the day.  For those who asking if you can camp at Carlsbad Caverns National Park the answer is no.  Most National Parks have the nearby campground where you can set-up your home for the night, however not here so you are better staying at the nearby RV Park if spots are available. Don’t forget to see the nearby staff buildings that were completed around the 1930’s.

The park opens daily at 8:00 AM with varying closing hours depending on the time of the year you visit.  The Visitor Center prepares you for what to see and what to expect on your hike down to the bottom of the cavern.  Did I mention that the bottom of the cavern is 75-stories below the surface?  Be prepared.  Bring water, light snacks and comfortable shoes for the hike. If you’re not able to physically do the 1.25 mile hike there is an elevator in the Visitor Center that takes you to the bottom.  This is your last opportunity to use the restrooms before reaching the bottom of the caverns, so please take note.

Natural Entrance

Entering through the natural entrance is a steep and narrow walkway that passes through the bat cave into the beginning of the caverns.  Depending on the time of the day, you will have the opportunity to witness the bats fly in and out of the cave directly above you.  No need to worry, it’s quite safe!

Exploring the caverns 

Ascending into the caverns, the route is highlighted with the Devil’s Spring, Green Lake Overlook and The Boneyard.  The cavern at anytime can be filled with tourists, so please allow for extra time if you’re like me and looking to capture images.

There is nothing like the Big Room once you reach it!  One of the largest chambers in the world, the Big Room is the must-see while at Carlsbad Caverns. Roughly the size of 6 football fields, the circular-route passes through multiple famous formations including the Bottomless Pit, Rock of Ages and Painted Grotto.  Due to its lengthy size, there is a shortcut midway into the Big Room to take you break to the break room/restrooms/elevators.

Photography Tips

If you’re looking to capture lasting images of the caverns, make sure that you bring with a suitable camera with the proper lens(s).  The caverns are very dark with not a great selection of natural light.  I had to use a high ISO with a 15-20 second exposure in some locations of the caverns to really bring out all the colors.  I recommend bringing with you a wide angle lens, please leave expensive zoom glass in your car it will not be needed.  I use a camera that is nowhere near new anymore but have learned how to set-up to produce the images below.

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Valley of Fire – Nevada’s Oldest State Park

Valley of Fire is Nevada’s largest and oldest state park, dedicated in 1935.  The park is located approximately 58 miles Northeast of the Las Vegas Strip in the Mojave Desert.

Deriving its name from the red Aztec sandstone and limestone mountains formed during the jurassic period over 150 million years ago.  These formations are the centerpieces of the park attractions that often can appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays.

Hiking trails are located throughout the park that allow anyone to visit the Fire Wave, White Domes and the Elephant Rock.  During the Winter and Spring seasons, the hikes are relatively easy and free of excessive heat that is consistent during the summer months.  If you’re into rock climbing and panoramic views, the park provides multiple rock formations that allow visitors to climbing options.

Valley of Fire is a popular filming location for motion pictures and automobile commercials.  Star Trek: Generations scene where Captain Kirk died and was buried.  The scenes of Mars from Total Recall.  A transition scene where the Autobots drove through the desert towards the Hoover Dam all were filmed on location within the park.

Visitor Information

Valley of Fire State Park
29450 Valley of Fire Road
Overton, Nevada 89040
Phone: 702-397-2088

Entrance Fee:  $10.00 per vehicle entering the park

Park Hours: Sunrise to sunset

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