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How Accessible Is Accessible: Ward Charcoal Ovens

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

Have you ever connected with a place, felt inspired & visualized yourself being there? That’s what happened when I first saw images taken at Ward Charcoal Ovens.

I remember seeing these six beehive looking things and wondering what they were. After doing research I discovered that these historic ovens were a wonderful connection to the past, and thought to myself, how amazing would it be to connect the past to the present moment by doing Milky Way photography there.

The problem was, I had no idea how Accessible the location would be. My only solution was to go and find out for myself, because as many of you who have been following my journey for over 3 years know, things aren’t always as Accessible as they seem!

Ward Charcoal Ovens is a beautiful Historic State Park located in the middle of nowhere, in the Egan Mountain Range about 18 miles Southeast of Ely Nevada. I stayed in Ely, and it was about a 30 minute drive with a few stops taking photos on the way!

If you like history, you’re going to love the vibe at this location! While traveling along a dirt road, as we drove deeper into the middle of nowhere, it felt like I was being transported back in time into a real life Western Movie!

The Park is open year round and has a lot of history from being a stopover for settlers, to being a big mining district for silver. During the silver boom years, the Ward Charcoal Ovens operated from 1876 to 1879. After the boom was over, they served as a shelter for stockmen and their foul, and the Charcoal Ovens also have a reputation for being used as a hideout for stagecoach bandits! These charcoal ovens are bigger than they look in photographs! The ovens are 30 feet high and 27 feet in diameter at the base! I went inside them, and I have to say, they are bigger than some of the studio apartments I’ve rented in New York City, and bigger than many of the hostels I’ve stayed at during my living & travels abroad in my younger years in places like Scotland, London, Amsterdam, Spain…

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

The area was privately owned and managed by ranchers until 1956 and the State Park designation was added in 1994 with park facilities continually being added.

I was so happy to see an accessible restroom, which was so nice, especially after the long drive. There was also an accessible trail from the parking area to the Charcoal Ovens with an Interpretive Exhibit. Watch my video on TikTok here

There was a bench in the meadow in front of the Charcoal Ovens. There was no path or walkway leading to the bench but the ground was pretty level for the most part. There were grassy patches of plants, sandy rocky muddy areas, with large sized animal poop droppings, so I carefully made my way to the bench where I sat for a few moments upon arrival to take in the beautiful sunset, landscape, and mountains all around me! It was so quiet & peaceful! The only other people I saw before the sun went down were two lovely ladies from Lake Tahoe, CA who asked me to take photos of them.

Photography by Randy Martinez ©2023

After quickly scouting the area, I found a few compositions that I liked, I like to have a few options in case one spot is not working for me. I chose one location to start with, and set up my Canon cameras and Promaster tripod. It’s always good to scout and set up before it gets dark, so you can see what you’re doing, put your settings in the cameras, see where you are, plan your shots, and sit back, relax and enjoy the views!

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2023

The same way I used to recommend to scuba divers to always have a buddy system & stay with their partner when I was a Dive Master in St John, USVI…I highly recommend having a buddy when going out to do Milky Way photography for many reasons. Like many of the locations I venture to, this spot is very remote. You’re in the dark, it is pitch black and you are in the wild, so keep in mind that there is a diversity of wildlife within the park: Mountain Lions, snakes, Bob Cats, Coyote, Elk, Deer and more! Also if you get a flat tire or have an emergency, WIFI is very spotty and non existent in some areas!

Yes, there is something exciting & magical about doing milky way photos, and being out in the wild under a blanket of stars, just be aware of your surroundings!

I was photographing the Milky Way core rising above the Charcoal Ovens, as the sun was setting upon the day. The sky showered sprinkles of meteors, from time to time, when the strangest line of lights came over the mountain range. It was the most bizarre and exciting thing I’ve ever witnessed! I thought the Mother Ship was coming for me. "Hello friends" I yelled waving as they silently crossed the night sky. Ely is known to be a hotspot for UFO sightings, so I was so ready to experience something magical! The lights appeared to be green when they first came over the mountain, then blue, then white. They were not blinking and all seemed to be in a perfect formation with perfect spacing between each of the lights. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop as they marched across the entire sky in unison and then disappeared one after the other as if they docked into something I couldn’t see. I experienced the same thing the next evening & was told it was the Space X Starlink Train launch. Pretty cool to see! This is a long exposure shot of what I experienced...

I noticed there were people on the hill shining a bright white flashlight. Always remember to use a red light, headlamp or red lantern when out at night, to give your eyes time to adjust to the night sky! The park does have camping, picnicking and two day use areas with covered tables, restrooms, grills and more beautiful views! Contact the park for reservations!

This photo experience is part of my Disabled Photographer Project & “How Accessible Is Accessible” ongoing series that began over 3 years ago.

If would like to support my project, by making a contribution, Pay what you can! Donations are accepted in any amount because any contribution is never too small! Donations help support my time, research, planning, travels, gas, accommodations, scouting, photography, memory cards, hard drives, content created & info shared in Captioned YouTube videos, blogs, instagram posts, tiktoks & so much more. Click on the button or link to Donate Now

Follow Me on Social Media to keep up with my journey & endeavors:

Disabled Photographer Project Instagram @DisabledPhotographerProject

Disabled Photographer Project & How Accessible Is Accessible Youtube channel

Denise Vasquez Official Instagram @DeniseVasquezOfficial

Travel & Landscape Photography Instagram @DeniseVasquezPhotographs

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