Monday, April 13, 2015

Kershaw-Ryan State Park - Spring Break 2015

 We were headed home from Las Vegas, a five-hour prospect, and the sun was setting quickly. We had to make a decision: drive all the way home or spend one more night out? The plan had been to camp one more night (night five), but being so close to home, we could also feel the pull. When I thought about driving so far in the dark, though, with lots of animals along the road, I decided we would stay one more night. That way we would have time to explore a little more. And I'm all about exploration.

I started with the beautiful Joshua tree forest along Highway 93 west of Caliente. This isn't a forest like you see in the Eastern United States or in the Pacific Northwest or the Rocky Mountains. A Joshua tree forest is spectacular in its own way.

The setting sun really lit up these trees. Then I noticed two hawks talking to each other from the tops of two trees. I went a little closer to get a better look and found they were Swainson's hawks. These hawks winter in Argentina and are now back! Hello!

The flowers on the Joshua tree come in big terminal clumps.

The individual flowers themselves might not be so showy, but altogether they make for an impressive display.

We had to decide where to camp. We had several options: trailheads for the Silver State OHV trail, Kershaw-Ryan State Park, or Cathedral Gorge State Park. We ended up choosing Kershaw-Ryan, as I had never been there and it was only two miles from Caliente. We pulled into the 15-site campground and selected a site. The kids put up the tent all by themselves while I made their meal of choice: top ramen. Yep, we were living it up!

The very nice ranger stopped by and gave us a brochure and told us about the pay showers (8 minutes for 50 cents) and the firewood. We availed ourselves of both, then went to bed.

The next morning was chilly, so I started a fire and roused the kids to eat some hashbrowns. Yum!

I got just a little bit of attitude.

We wanted to get home by lunch so we could see my husband and have the afternoon to unpack, so we packed up and headed further into the park. We were amazed at what we found. A small wading pool was near the end of the road. Since it was March, it didn't have water in it, but we could imagine how much fun it would be in summer.

We also found a playground, which the kids loved.

We decided to take the Canyon overlook trail, about 1.4 miles long. But since we didn't have much time, I told the kids we were going on a trail run. They were good sports and started running.

The trail was great, with nice views.

And benches for resting and goofing around.

We kept climbing higher, getting a view of more of the park.

I wondered what was up the side canyons. Although the principal vegetation was sagebrush and everything seemed quite dry, these canyons are subject to flash floods. In fact, nearly all the park facilities were wiped out by two back-to-back flash floods in 1984, and it took a long time for the state to appropriate money to rebuild.

The canyon was originally developed in 1873 by Samuel and Hannah Kershaw, who called their ranch Meadow Valley Wash Ranch. In 1904 they sold it to rancher James Ryan, who then donated it to the state in 1926 as a park. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed facilities in 1934, and it became a state park in 1935. Although in some ways you feel like you're going back in time in the park, the frequent trains (we heard about ten during the night) remind you that progress is chugging along.

Leaves were just appearing on some of the trees.

When we finished the trail run (which the kids rocked!), they checked out the fish pond.

The ranger let them feed the fish, which they loved.

I'm looking forward to visiting again in the summer to check out all the rose bushes and for the kids to take a dip in the wading pool. This is truly an oasis, and the bird life is terrific. Kershaw-Ryan isn't far off the beaten path and definitely worth a stop. It was a wonderful way to end our fun spring break.

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