Sunday, May 20, 2012

Echo Canyon State Park, Nevada

Jill and I headed to Echo Canyon State Park, east of Pioche NV, hoping that it would be a good base for watching the annular solar eclipse on Sunday May 20. We pulled into the campground on Saturday afternoon and had our choice of several good sites; the campground was about 2/3 full. The camp sites (about 30) had shaded picnic tables and running water, and were well maintained.

The main attraction here is Echo Canyon reservoir, a small dammed reservoir that appeared to be full of hatchery trout. The trout received steady pressure from fishermen on the bank, in float tubes, and in small boats.

After two days of driving, we were ready to get some fresh air and exercise. The Ash Canyon trail is a short (1 mile or so) trail that runs from the campground at Echo Canyon State Park, through Ash Canyon, to the Meadow Valley Road. It can be done as an out-and-back, or as a loop by walking back along the road. We added a little bit of distance and elevation gain by hiking up to the top of a nearby ridge, looking for potential eclipse viewing sites. Ash Canyon has some very rugged volcanic rock formations that are a striking contrast to the surrounding juniper ridges.

After the hike, we went for a drive to Spring Valley State Park, about 15 miles by road but less as the crow flies. Spring Valley SP also has a (larger) reservoir full of hatchery trout. The campground here was full, so we congratulated ourselves on having picked Echo Canyon instead. Spring Valley State Park was quite the busy place, full of weekend campers and day users. I have to admit, it is a more scenic location than Echo Valley.
On Sunday we took the mountain bikes for a road ride from Echo Canyon SP up to Spring Valley SP, but we took a shorter route on paved roads through Meadow Valley. This valley was lovely, and we saw very few cars on this back road. North of the reservoir at Spring Valley SP (which is actually known as the Eagle Valley Reservoir, hmm) we did a short hike through some interesting sandstone formations.

On the way back to camp, we stopped at Eagle Valley Resort for an ice cream bar. The resort is a small RV park with a bar, restaurant, and general store; nothing special in my book. Other camping alternatives in the area include lots of BLM land, and the Meadow Valley BLM campground between Eagle Valley Resort and the Spring Valley SP. The BLM campground is small, maybe 8 sites, and only a couple of those would be suitable for a small trailer.
Back at Echo Valley SP, we showered off the day's sweat and then drove up in the hills south of the Echo Valley reservoir. The evening before, we'd found a great spot for eclipse viewing; we set up lawn chairs atop a small ridge just 50 yards from the road, opened a couple of beers, and settled in to enjoy the show.
We had that viewing site all to ourselves. I didn't think to bring a camera tripod on this trip, so my eclipse video is all handheld; it turned out well enough, though.
We enjoyed the Echo Valley - Meadow Valley - Eagle Valley - Spring Valley area, and thought that it would merit a longer visit for more exploring. Mountain bikes would be a must, and the area is much less crowded mid-week compared to the weekends.

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