Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by.  It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking.  Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.  I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots.  For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera.  With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me.  How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers,  a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.  It’ll be our secret  😃  After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds.  Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican

Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds.  But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites.  My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own.  And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map.  I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.  I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10.  The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio.  Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds.  Poor Al 😫

Texas Hill Country

Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough.  Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two.  But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west.  Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park

Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas

Bandera Texas

Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.

Bandera RV Park

Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.

Skyline RV Park

At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend.  Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo

This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River – community park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.

axis deer

Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks

Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron

great blue heron roosting site

pelican

Now that’s a mouth full!

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

Charlies Pasture

Interesting trails!

cormorants

Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills

Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

the Next EXIT 2017

 

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Our Good Fortune Continued

It was mid August when Al and I were in dire need of a little down time.  With obligations behind us, we were able to meander as our hearts desired.  Just the way we like to roll.

Elks LodgeAfter a four hour drive, we pulled into the Elks Lodge parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We found a nice grassy spot to set up camp for three nights.  It’s easy to fall in love with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is such an eclectic mix of new and old offering a little something for everyone, not to mention a great farmer’s market.  Ah, yes… worthy of its own post!

And although we loved our boondocking spot at the Elk’s Lodge, the real camping gem we discovered was forty miles down the road.  At Cochiti Lake Campground we snagged a lovely pull-thru site with electric and water.

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground – photo taken just before sites filled up and rain started

Each afternoon, a summer storm would roll through gracing me with an artistic show that only mother nature could create.  During these storms, I would try to leave the RV door open or at least a window. Cochit Lake Campground

The smell of fresh rain in this arid high desert landscape was intoxicating and the vegetation and bunnies seemed to relish in the moisture.  And once the storms passed, a rainbow would remind me to smile.  Each afternoon as I sat in the comfort of the RV watching the show unfold, I was flooded with a mix of emotions; comfort, relaxed, awed, alive, lucky, life is good …..  and this is why we RV.

Cochiti Lake Campground

Cochiti Lake Campground

The ten days we spent here were just what we needed to relax and rejuvenate.  Although the majority of the time was spent around camp, I did manage to venture into Santa Fe  a few times and hiked at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument at every opportunity.

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM had me feeling relaxed and renewed

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM left me feeling relaxed and renewed …. aaahhh!  There’s something very special and spiritual about this place or maybe it was my timing.

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument. We must return - fascinating!

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument.  Fascinating place that we must return to! Unfortunately, weather forced us off the trail.

This area in New Mexico is definitely a place I look forward to returning to and as much as I was reluctant to leave, hitch itch set in and it was time to put the RV wheels in motion.

Our next stop was in Arizona at the Petrified Forest National Park.  On the far south side of the National Park, just outside the park entrance, are a couple of gift shops.  They allow free overnight camping.  We stayed here last year for a quick overnight when we helped our daughter move from Denver to Phoenix.

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park – Crystal Forest Gift Shop

During this visit, I was able to linger and explore the park …. well kind of.

Retracing the historic route 66 - those are the original telephone poles. A quick photo before the bad storm rolls in.

Retracing historic Route 66 – original telephone poles still stand. Quick photo before the bad storm hits.

The weather wasn’t necessarily all that agreeable and after I took a fair share of commemorative photos, the lightening and down pouring rain had me hightailing it back to the RV.

In between weather fronts, Al and I decided to hit the road bound for Williams, Arizona.  Fortunately, the winds were short lived and the three hour drive was pretty uneventful.

While we were trying to back in to a site at Lake Kaibab National Forest, the camp host rolled up in his golf cart letting us know he just received a cancellation for a nice pull-thru site ….. sweet!  My how those travel Gods continued to smile upon us.

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

my front yard - aaahhh, relaxing!

my front yard – aaahhh, relaxing!

Williams, Arizona, is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, but the town has also done an amazing job of rebranding itself and playing up its Route 66 history.  This is a fun little town worth spending an afternoon exploring.  It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a hotel room for a visit to the Grand Canyon since the national park is only an hour drive up the road.

Williams, Arizona - historic Route 66 is the theme around here - fun!

Williams, Arizona – historic Route 66 is the theme around here – fun!

I had every intention of driving up to the Grand Canyon for a day of photography, but I managed to come down with a head cold and with the cool temps that are common in this part of Arizona at the end of August, I longed for some heat.

So down in elevation we went …. to the town of Cottonwood.  Just east of town is a popular boondocking spot (free camping, no services).  It’s amazing how drastic the change in weather can be a mere hour apart.  In Flagstaff the weather temps barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit while in Cottonwood temperatures were well into the 90’s.  The heat felt wonderful, although when it reached 104 inside the RV, even sick lil’ol me thought it was a tad too hot.  However, between the RV sauna, chicken noodle soup, and a spicy Mexican meal at Javalina’s in Sedona, I started feeling better in short order.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Three days of boondocking in the desert heat had us moving on down to Prescott Valley in search of electric and air conditioning.  We booked a month long stay at the Fairgrounds RV Park.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

On October 1st we returned to Phoenix, Arizona, our starting point back in April. We’ve been comfortably parked on the north side of the valley and visiting  with friends and family regularly.

So now you’re all caught up on our summer journey.  I’ll eventually write some posts and share a bunch more photos on the highlights of our summer stops.  We truly had a fantastic six month adventure filled with lots of firsts and a few repeats

Al and me with our daughter and son. We're able to spend the holidays together this year - happy dance!

Al, our daughter, our son and me. We’re able to spend the holidays together this year – happy dance!

For now, I’m off to finish up my Christmas shopping…..

Should I get this pressure cooker or would this  drone be more fun? I like the idea of both, don’t you 😉 I ordered this T-shirt for my daughter!and several gift cards as stocking stuffers.  Yep, I’m getting close to the end of my shopping and starting to wrap’m up.  I’m a shopper and love this time of year 🙂  This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

When Travel Gods Smile – Part 2

Let’s continue our easterly trek …… Our stay in Montrose, Colorado, was way too short, but luckily the summer rain held off long enough for me to get in a few hours exploring Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  This would be my third visit exploring this small National Park and I never tire of the view.  It’s like a mini Grand Canyon but instead of the various shades of red sand stone rock that’s common in the southwest, there’s an unusual blend of gray and black granite rock.Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Moving on toward Gunnison, Colorado…..   Just off Highway 50 about an hours drive east of Montrose, the highway starts to meander along the Blue Mesa Reservoir.  This is the largest reservoir in the state of Colorado stretching approximately 20 miles long with about 96 miles of shoreline.

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

Elk Creek Campground, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado

It was near the end of July and temperatures were expected to be in the 80 degree Fahrenheit range, and with no large trees to provide shade, we wanted the ability to run our air conditioner.  Thus, we decided to scope out a campground with electric hook-up (our generator will not power the A/C).

We pulled into the Elk Creek Campground, the only national forest campground along the Blue Mesa Reservoir with electric hook-ups, and started searching the campsite posts for an available site.  By the way, there are several private RV parks on the north side of the highway that offer full hook-ups.  We wanted to be near the lake.

Elk Creek Campground - Blue Mesa Reservoir

Elk Creek Campground – Blue Mesa Reservoir – west of Gunnison, Colorado

The task of trying to read each campsite pole with the dates quickly became daunting so we drove up to the visitor center to ask if any sites were available.  The ranger didn’t squirrelthink so, but informed us the camp hosts pretty much handle the campgrounds and we should check with them.

Just as we were turning to leave the building, she told us about a couple who pulled out that morning for a family emergency.  It was highly unlikely they’d be back, and we should verify with the camp hosts to see if we could have their site.

Bingo!  We lucked out and scored another great campsite which allowed us to visit Crested Butte, one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns.

Oh, how I wanted to linger around this part of Colorado longer, but responsibilities beckoned along with a campground reservation that I had made just a few days earlier.  I figured our good luck in snagging great available campsites couldn’t possibly continue, and since we needed a place to park for two weeks, I managed to reserve the only electric site still available at Lake Pueblo State Park for our time frame.  Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief when I clicked ‘reserve now’, but I did wonder what might be wrong with the campsite.

Site 313 - Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

Site 313 – Lake Pueblo State Park, Colorado

Upon our arrival, we were pleasantly surprised with our view from site #313.  Although it was sloped up and down to the left, it wasn’t a problem for us seasoned RVer’s (I still snicker being referred to as “seasoned” – kind of like a good steak, hehe!). I must admit,  Al and I have become quite proficient at leveling up the 5th wheel.  I knew exactly where and how to stack our Camco 44505 Leveling Blocks – 10 pack and signal Al to back up and stop.  I guess after four years of full-time RVing, we should have this figured out, huh.

A familiar view - For ten years, this was the view from my rear deck. Our sticks and bricks home was located four miles from this campsite.

A familiar view – For ten years, this was the view from our rear deck. Our old sticks and bricks home is located four miles from this campsite.

This would be a working stay!  We had a bunch of things to attend to during our time in Pueblo West.  This was our old stomping grounds and it’s still where we have a bunch of things in storage including our construction/utility trailer.  But first on the agenda was my flight from Denver to Chicago.

Al’s sister had recently moved to Denver from Rockford, Illinois, and we were looking forward to seeing her new place.  So the day before my flight, we took the two-hour drive up to Denver and spent the night at her place.

flyingThe following morning, Al dropped me off at the airport and while I visited with family in Illinois, he enjoyed some time with his sister.

Once again, the travel Gods smiled upon me and my flights, weather and visit were perfect.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Back in August, Delta Airlines had a serious computer melt down which caused massive delays across the country.  I was booked back to Denver the day after the melt down.  I was a tad nervous!  Between possible security lines at O’Hare Airport and issues with Delta, I arrived at the airport three hours early.  It took me a total of ten minutes to get through security.  That’s got to be some sort of record for fast airport security.  I literally walked right up, no line, set my purse and bag down on the conveyer, shoes too of course, and through and out I went.  I remember thinking, “Wow, did that just happen?”

MFlighty flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul (yeah, I needed to connect through MSP) left on time and arrived early and the same with my flight from Minneapolis to Denver.  I felt so badly for all the folks around me who had spent the night at the airport and were still scrambling to get a flight home not to mention the gate agents having to deal with distraught passengers.  It was an unfortunate mess for a lot of people.

Ok, ok… if you’re anything like me, you might be wondering why I didn’t book a direct flight from Denver to Chicago and back?  Well,  I could’ve if I had flown another carrier.  My original airline reservation was from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Chicago, Illinois and Delta was my best choice connecting through Salt Lake City.  Thus, I booked on Delta, and apparently Delta Airlines does not fly direct from Denver to Chicago.   I had to connect in either Minneapolis/St. Paul or Detroit, thus MSP it was.

Let me just say, it was a crazy six months for us with lots of twists and turns. I’ll eventually get around to sharing all the highs and lows of our adventures, but do note, overall it was mostly fun and filled with a lot of unexpected delights.

One of my favorite adventures occurred in mid August when we bid farewell to Colorado and said hello to New Mexico.  In most situations, timing plays a key role in how we feel about a place.  And after a very hectic month, we needed to find a spot to relax and regroup.

Aaahhh! Just what I needed to regroup and rejuvenate the soul - a fabulous hike!

Aaahhh! Just what I needed to regroup and rejuvenate the soul – a fabulous hike!

Our two week stay at Lake Pueblo State Park was anything but relaxing.  I was out of town for six of those days.  Al played handyman for his sister during my absence.  When I returned we cleaned and prepared the utility trailer to be moved, rearranged/sorted through things in storage, worked on our RV air conditioner and all the while Al was dealing with an injured back (he had been dealing with the back issue all summer long since the work camping gig 😦 )  Yep, we needed to find a place to chill and relax.

Camping in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Camping in Santa Fe, New Mexico

And we found it in Santa Fe…….  The travel Gods continued to smile upon us…..

Hmm, what’s on your Christmas wish list?  Al likes this GPS while I’ve been eyeing this pressure cooker!

When Travel Gods Smile – Part 1

I had lunch with a friend last week, and she asked me, “How was your summer?”  Without hesitation, I enthusiastically responded, “I had the best summer”.  Initially I was surprised by my exuberant response, but as I continued to share our summer adventures, it became clear what made the summer so ideal for me.Grand Tetons

First off, I visited some places that have been on my must see list for a super long time, and second the travel Gods smiled upon us each stop along the way.  Quite frankly, our travels couldn’t have gone much better.  Sure, we were faced with some unexpected situations, but with cooler heads, solutions were easily achieved.

Bumble BeeI usually don’t like winging our travels during the most popular travel months of the year (July and August), but circumstances had us doing just that.

The upside – without the commitment of reservations, we were able to change direction and plans on a whim, which we did a lot.  We lucked out in so many ways. This post is about our travel route and the places we camped.  We snagged some fabulous campsites that helped make this summer one of our best since going full-time in the RV four years ago.  I’ll write up the things we did at each location in separate posts.

Jackson, Wyoming – From Ririe, Idaho, our easterly trek took us back to the stunning Grand TetonGrand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Our first visit to this beautiful National Park was in the early part of the summer, and one visit was not enough… I hungered for more!

During our previous visit, we camped at the Gros Ventre Campground, and although it was very workable, I had concerns that we wouldn’t find an available site large enough for us during peak tourist season. I also wanted something with a view.

This was my home for 5 glorious days

This was our home for five glorious days. Photo taken the day we arrived. Two days later, the place was packed with fellow campers. One night we even had a tent pitched right behind our RV.

And oh my gosh, did we have a view.  After doing a little bit of research on Campendium.com, we decided to scope out the boondocking (free camping) sites in the area.  Normally, we like to explore back country gravel roads without the 5th Grand Tetonswheel in tow, but Al and I were in serious winging it mode and threw caution to the wind.

We arrived at the Teton National Forest on a Tuesday morning with no other campers in sight with the exception of one small domed tent.  Someone was doing a happy dance!

The gravel road was well maintained until we reached the designated camping area. We navigated slowly through some very deep rutted road before deciding on a little slice of land to call home.  Later that evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset as more campers arrived.Grand Teton

There continued to be a steady stream of new campers arriving well into the night. Most were tent camping or sleeping in their cars. We didn’t realize how lucky we were snagging that site or having the ample room to maneuver until we woke the next morning amongst a dozen new neighbors.

Many campers would move on the next morning while others stayed a few days, and by the time Friday night rolled around every square inch of available designated camping land was taken up either by tents or small RV’s. We even had a young man knock on our door and ask if he could pitch his tent right behind our RV. We didn’t mind and even enjoyed visiting with the him.  We were all there to savor the majestic landscape.

Each morning, I sat in bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.

Each morning, I sat in a warm bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.  Free camping at its finest. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside in mid July!

Yep, we got lucky snagging that site when we did and were able to call it home for five glorious days (five day max stay is posted and enforced).  Had we shown up a day later, we would’ve had difficulty maneuvering and wouldn’t have found a spot big enough for us.  Our good fortune snagging great campsites continued throughout the rest of our travels.

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

Interesting historical site - note the animal bones bottom left.

Interesting historical site – note the animal bones bottom left. Life in the west can be rough.

Since we did have a time obligation requiring us to be in Denver in early August, we ended up two stepping across Wyoming and Colorado….  quick, quick, slow, slow or other times it was more like quick, slow, slow, quick 😉

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

Craig, Colorado – Reluctantly we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons, and embarked on a long seven hour travel day.  As much as we wanted to linger in Wyoming, that time commitment loomed.  We arrived at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado on a Sunday evening and had plenty of nice sites to choose from.

We originally wanted to Elkovernight at the Walmart in Craig, but there are signs all over posted ‘No overnight parking’.  Al even confirmed with a store manager.

This northwest part of Colorado is known for excellent Elk hunting.  We even passed a herd of Elk grazing near the side of the road.   Could be too many hunters were trying to set up camp at Walmart and thus they ended any RV overnighting. Fortunately, the Yampa River State Park had plenty of room for us.

Rifle, Colorado – The next day was a quick travel day to a Colorado State Park I’d been curious about for years.  As many times as we’ve traveled Interstate 70 through Colorado and stopped at the excellent rest area near the town of Rifle, we never took the time to visit Rifle Falls State Park.  Now was the perfect opportunity to check out this lovely state park.

Rifle State Park - Rifle Gap Campground

Rifle State Park – Rifle Gap Campground. We’re by the water on the left.

Of course, I wanted to camp as close to the falls as possible, but wasn’t sure if that was possible.  There are two campgrounds at the Rifle State Park.  We stopped Rifle Fallsat the main park office for the Rifle Gap Campground where I was able to ask all my questions.

Turns out the Rifle Falls Campground, located further up the road, was full. Had we gone there first, we might have found it somewhat challenging to turn around.  Although the sites do seem large enough to accommodate most RV’s, they do not have a convenient turn around road set up.

Also, the paved road to the campground is a little narrow in spots.  Therefore, it turned out to be more ideal for me to drive just the truck to see the waterfalls.Rifle Gap Campground

We were given a very nice pull-thru campsite near the water at the Rifle Gap Campground. The camp host gave us the option of driving against the one-way so our door could face the picnic table, but due to winds we opted to park with the door to the south.  The next day I drove to the waterfalls for a little hiking and photography.  Stay tuned for photos on that hike!

Our next stop would be Grand Junction, Colorado.  The James Robb State Park Fruita Section is a regular stopping point for us.  It’s the perfect location for me to visit with my brother as well as get in some fabulous hiking.  Without a reservation, we knew snagging a campsite at this popular state park over a weekend would be highly unlikely, but we figured a couple of weeknights shouldn’t be a problem….. wrong!

Our good fortune led to us spending five nights here.

Our good fortune – we were able to spend five nights here.

We were able to get a site for only one night.  Apparently there was a fundraising concert being held the following evening in the day use area, and thus the campground was all booked up, but the ranger did recommend stopping by the next morning to see if there were James Robb State Parkany cancellations.

That morning, we hooked up and were ready to roll, but before doing so I stopped in at the office, just in case.

While the gal was checking the reservation book, I made polite small talk.  And then I heard the preverbal, “Sorry, no cancellations”.   Just as I turned slowly to exit with my head hung in a dejected feel sorry for me stance, the gal said, “Wait one second”.  She then radioed one of the rangers, and I overheard her ask, “Did we decide to open the group campground to the general public because of the concert?”

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

As my ears perked up, I was told, “If you don’t mind not having a sewer connection, you can stay in the group campground through the weekend”.  YES!  We even got to pick out which site we wanted.  Sweet!  Turns out this was indeed a rare situation proving once again, lady luck was certainly on our side.  We not only had a great campsite at the James Robb State Park, we enjoyed a nice concert.

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

After a wonderful six night stay in Grand Junction, it was time for us to move on down the road to Montrose, Colorado.  This would be a quick two-night stay so we decided to give the Elks Lodge a try.  We snagged the last electric site available.  Maybe we should’ve bought a lottery ticket (we didn’t).  But our luck didn’t end here……

LEGO Creator 31052 Vacation Getaways Building Kit (792 Piece)

Final thoughts on Idaho

From our campsite at the Beaver Dick Park near Rexburg, we enjoyed a few out and back day trips exploring eastern Idaho.  After spending two months in this state, I’ve come to expect the unexpected.  The land around here is some of the most diverse I’ve ever seen.Idaho

July 2016 – home base was situated among rolling agricultural land.   One of our day drive excursions took us past green and golden fields that were occasionally interrupted by quaint towns, small subdivisions, farms and ranches.  Fifty miles northwest of Idaho Falls, hills of fine white sand loomed in the distance.

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Talk about a playground fit for any age with a diverse landscape that is extremely intriguing ….. huge sand dunes that are bordered by freshly harvested fields to the south, brush-covered lava plain border the north, and a body of water that sits at its base (Elgin Lake).  Fun recreation abounds!

Boys and there toys!

Boys and their toys!

Ah, but lots of girls get in on the action. Isn't she the cutest? Safety first - helmet and gloves!

Ah, but girls get in on the action too. Isn’t she the cutest? Safety first – helmet and gloves!

These out-of-place sand dunes spill across the Snake River Plain in a wide arc and provide endless OHV adventure (off highway vehicle).  St. Anthony Sand Dunes consists of 10,000 acres of dunes rising 400 feet up and look to be quite the thrill…. check out this video….

I did try talking Al into renting a razor for the day, but alas, one of us needed to be the voice of reason.  So that means, I did not get to experience those amazing sand dunes up close and personal…. sigh.  However, hubby did promise – if we ever find ourselves in this part of Idaho again, we would definitely camp at St. Anthony and rent an OHV.

This Sheriff enjoys his job!

This law enforcement officer enjoys his job!

After getting that promise in writing (LOL), it was time for us to head north to the little town of Ashton.  You see, our daughter’s name is Ashton and I just had to get a photo of Ashtonthe town sign, AND she is definitely my adventurous child. Thus, this sign seemed fitting.

But the town of Ashton wasn’t the only reason for us to head in this direction …… The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  This thirty mile scenic road meanders through the Targhee National Forest.

The combination of rolling meadows, pine woodland, and views of  rushing water was a visual delight.

The major tourist stop along this route is Upper Mesa Falls.  The Big Falls interpretive center is a great place to learn about the geology and history of the area.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

scenic overlooks

scenic overlooks

From the interpretive center there are several developed trails, allowing visitors to view the falls and rushing water below.

The interpretive center building was charming

The interpretive center building was charming

Upper Mesa Falls is 200 feet wide and drops about 110 feet, and although I found the area to be difficult to photograph, the setting was perfect for a picnic lunch.  While munching away, we Mesa Fallsbreathed in the fresh scent of pine as the sound of rushing water below and singing song birds above serenaded us.

Our picnic table was pleasantly located under the shade of pines near a meadow filled with wildflowers.  Yep, great place to relax and enjoy our lunch .

We did stop at lower Mesa Falls, but the view is from a roadside overlook and the falls are pretty far away.  The view was a bit of a disappointment and almost not worth the stop, but there were some large informative signs that enlightened us on the flora, fauna, wildlife, and geology in the area making it Mesa Fallsworthwhile after all.

Personal opinion ….. Upper Mesa Falls definitely has better views than lower Mesa Falls.  We thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

Other Idaho note worthy sights……

Henry’s Lake just north of Island Park and not far from West Yellowstone offers a state park with camping, but if you don’t mind driving to the other side of the lake, the Bill Frome County Park offers free dry camping.  Donations are appreciatedcampingAl and I had every intention of moving up to this location so we could explore West Yellowstone, but we had some commitments that required us to head east, thus the timing didn’t fit.  Plus, I was starting to miss my beloved Colorado.  We’ll save a stay at Henry’s Lake for another time.

Henry's Lake looked like a great place to park for a while.

Henry’s Lake looked like a beautiful place to camp

If you own an OHV or are into four-wheeling, then you’d fit right in in eastern Idaho.  Island Park was loaded with off-roaders having a great time tooling around the back country, but anglers seemed to enjoy the area equally as well with no shortage of places to test their hook and line.

Ririe Reservoir

Ririe Reservoir

Our last camping spot in Idaho was near the tiny town of Ririe – The Juniper Campground.  We ended up staying here for a couple of nights so we could get caught up on household chores and stock up on supplies in nearby Idaho Falls.  Tidbit – you can call the camp host to make a reservation at the Juniper Campground. If you do, please ask for his recommendation on sites.  The map that’s on their website is out of date and labeled incorrectly.

Juniper Campground - Ririe Reservoir

Juniper Campground – Ririe Reservoir

From what we gathered, the majority of the time a reservation isn’t necessary but does give you the opportunity to secure one of the nicer sites.  Many of the sites are unlevel or sloped which would make setting up a little more challenging for some RV’s.  Therefore, checking with the camp host is a huge advantage.  We thought the Juniper Campground was a gem of a park to stay while exploring this side of Idaho.

The Oregon Trail and Goodale's cutoff

The Oregon Trail and Goodale’s cutoff

On a final note …… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fascinating history found in Idaho.  Idaho has done a fantastic job with signage; educating us on her past ….. reminders of those far more adventurous than today’s full-timing RVer’s.  While I sit on a leather seat in the comfort of a climate controlled truck, pulling my equally comfy home behind me, complete with refrigerator and toilet (my two most important items), I envision the strength and fortitude it must have taken those pioneers to embark on that western migration via horse and covered wagon navigating the Oregon Trail.Oregon trail

Oregon Trail

Many lost their lives.  Many decided to not travel any further and homestead here instead.  Others came to Idaho seeking riches in mining.  Whatever reason they had to leave behind all that was familiar, I can’t help but admire those that paved the path west.

Mackay Idaho

After spending two months in Idaho, it was time for me to bid farewell to this agriculturediverse and fascinating state.

I hiked a Lava Tube for the first time, laid eyes on one of the most picturesque lakes I’ve ever seen, photographed a carpet of unusual wildflowers growing in the harshest of conditions, experienced the roar of powerful waterfalls, witnessed an extreme sport, and followed the trail blazed by Pioneers.

It was an interesting and fascinating visit filled with fond memories.  Auf Wiedersehen Idaho …. until we meet again!

My blogging friend, Char, wrote “Between Hope & the Highway” while living in Boise, Idaho.  Unfortunately, timing didn’t work for us to meet in person, but I do have a copy of her new book on the way!

                

Visit Idaho

What’s in a Name?

The other day I was asked by a non RV’er how we decide on our travel destinations and how we choose where to camp?  It actually took me a few minutes to think about this and I couldn’t come up with just one simple answer.  Sometimes our decision-making is easy and other times it can be down right challenging.

Stylish Chicks!

Which way should we go?

I tried to simplify my answer ….. Our interest in an area is usually from a good old-fashioned road atlas/map, or someone’s blog post, or brochures we pick up at a Visitor Center.  Once we have a basic idea of where we think we’d like to go and what sights there are to see, we peruse several websites to find camping options in that areas’ general vicinity.  Our two favorite websites are RV Park Reviews and Campendium.

When we first arrived in Idaho last May, I managed to visit a very nice Visitor Center in the town of Idaho Falls.  It was there that I picked up a ton of information covering some highlights and must see attractions in this beautiful and diverse State.

After glancing through a few brochures, I was reminded that I had read a blog Beaver Dickpost about Yellowstone Bear World, and quickly added it to my list of Idaho places I wanted to see.  Since we prefer camping as close to an attraction as possible, I started doing my research……

and that’s when I stumbled across the Beaver Dick County Park.  Come on, with a name like that, we had to overnight there.

Say it with me…. “Beaver Dick”.  Doesn’t that just want to make you giggle like a silly school child?  I know every time I say Beaver Dick, I chuckle.   This was an easy camping decision and a decision based purely on the name….  😄

Camping at Beaver Dick Park

Camping at Beaver Dick Park

The Beaver Dick Park is a small nine acre county park popular with the locals.  It’s located about 5 miles west of the town of Rexburg, Idaho off Highway 33, and situated on the west bank of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

Plenty of hiking trails

Plenty of hiking trails

It also backs up to 400 acres of BLM Land available for hiking and hunting (during hunting season that is).

The park was named after Richard Leigh, a widely known and liked outfitter, guide, and trapper of beaver – thus, the nickname, Beaver Dick.

He married a Shoshone Indian named Jenny.  Did you know, Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons were named after these two?  I love stumbling upon this kind of whimsical history.

Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park

Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park

The park offers picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, fifteen dry campsites, and a boat ramp.  We stayed for five nights for a total cost of $15.  Whoohoo!  With that kind of price, the wine fun budget for the month was increased 😉

July 2016 – Beaver Dick Park turned into a great place not only for us to relax but also to explore eastern Idaho. First order of business …. a visit to Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-thru wildlife park.

Yellowstone Bear World

Yellowstone Bear World

After paying admission, I was given firm directions (verbal and written) to leave my windows on the truck UP, drive slowly, and not to let a bear climb into the bed of the truck 🤔 Huh?  The road first meanders past free roaming bison, elk, and deer.  Eventually, I approached another gate where I was stopped by an attendant who once again reminded me to keep my windows up, then I entered the Bear area….

Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World

Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World

Yellowstone Bear WorldI encountered Bear walking in front of me, to the side of me, and behind me.  Although, I did keep the windows in the truck rolled up, the bears quite frankly could’ve cared less about the vehicles driving past and not one wanted to hitch a ride. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Just another day of crazy tourists taking photos”.

cute bear cubs at play

cute bear cubs at play

Yellowstone Bear WorldAfter the drive, I parked at the visitor center and browsed the gift shop before venturing into the petting zoo.  Upon exiting the building, I was greeted by the cub habitat …. a great little fenced island that was home to three very active bear cubs. Watching these little cubs wrestling with one another was worth the price of admission.  For an additional fee, you can sign up to actually bottle feed a bear cub.

For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub

For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub

Teething?

Teething?

The little cubs were so darn cute, but the cuteness didn’t end with them …..

This little fawn was adorable

This little fawn was adorable

The petting zoo was fun - watch out for t-shirt nibbling deer!

Watch out for T-shirt nibbling deer!

Goats are such characters!

Goats are such characters!

This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.

This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.

Petting zoo

Although the petting zoo itself is extremely entertaining, I found a special treat just beyond ….. in an enclosed area.  This little lady (moose are anything but little) was lounging on the other side of the fence at the far end of the petting zoo. I was but a mere twenty feet away from her.MooseWhat a treat to see this magnificent animal up close.  A very tall chain link fence separated me and Ms. Moose, but I was able to shoot this photo between the links.

Yellowstone Bear World is a relatively small attraction and can easily be explored in 2-3 hours.  I thoroughly enjoyed my morning visit in early July, and would definitely return should I find myself near Rexburg, Idaho again.

Let’s see, communing with animals while camped at a relaxing county park – so far, so good.  Next up, we wrap up our Idaho visit with a few more interesting places worth mentioning.

Adventure Comes in Many Ways

Once I realized how much I like to use the word adventure, I began to wonder if I was using the word correctly, which lead to a little Googling.  Here’s a definition I came across that resonated with me.Lilacs

  1.  an undertaking usually involving unknown risks
  2.  an exciting or remarkable experience
  3.  engaging in an exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.

After absorbing this information, I feel I am indeed using the word adventure correctly.  With that said, allow me to share part of this summers adventure – my exploration of unknown territory.Idaho

First we’ll need to backtrack…..  When Al and I sold the house and moved into the RV full-time three years ago, it wasn’t a dream or something we’d given much thought to.  There was no plan, no budget, and no bucket list of destinations.   From what I’ve gathered, most folks embark on this lifestyle via a well prepared plan including goals, budget, and destinations in mind.

Arco, IdahoWe on the other hand moved into the RV full-time on a whim.  You see, life had not only thrown us one curve ball, it had thrown us a bunch of curve balls.

We were faced with several losses and challenges which drained us emotionally.  Instead of sitting on the front porch feeling sorry for ourselves, we decided to throw caution to the wind, jump in the RV, and wing it.

It’s been an interesting ride and definitely an adventure, but every now and then, I have felt lost….. certainly not physically (well, except for last week when I got ‘turned around’ so badly, I actually admitted to being lost.  Ah, but that’s a tale for another post).  I’m not sure if that lost feeling is part of the grieving process or just part of normal life.

wildflowersWith that said, I started talking to Al about temporary work otherwise known as Workamping in the RVing community.  There are all kinds of positions out there geared toward the RVer and temporary seasonal jobs.

The term “Workamping” is actually a blending of the words work and camping and is a registered trademark of Workamper News ;  a great website matching up RVer’s with work assignments.  Another popular website is CoolWorks, and then there’s word of mouth and forums.

Last winter when Al and I realized we had no summer travel plans in mind, we decided to look into Workamping opportunities.  Although we did get called for a few locations, we chose the Idaho job.  One – we’ve never been to south central Idaho and two – we were introduced to the RV Park owners at a social gathering in Phoenix.  After a three-hour luncheon with the owners, it was determined this could be a win-win situation for both couples.

our home for the summer

our home for the summer

We now have a month under our belts working at the Mountain View RV Park in Arco, Idaho, and I can honestly say that up to this point, this has been the perfect scenario easing us into the Workamping experience.  It has been a win-win for both couples.

Since Al and I ran our own business for fifteen years, we’re self-starters, and we’ve stayed at enough RV Parks to understand what needs to be taken care of.  We asked the owners for a quick list of priorities, then jumped right in and started taking care of things.

What things, you ask……….

There's always lawn mowing. Al was having fun riding a tractor again. Not sure how long he'll consider it 'fun'.

There’s always lawn mowing. Al was having fun riding a tractor again. Not sure how long he’ll consider it ‘fun’.

Getting out the tools, had Al doing a little Tim Allen male grunting

Getting out the tools had Al doing a little Tim Allen male grunting

With music playing in my ears, there was a little dancing while painting going on

With music playing in my ears, there was a little dancing while painting going on

We all know by now that I enjoy baking. This day, I made pies for the restaurant.

We all know by now that I enjoy baking. This day, I made pies for the restaurant.

On a daily basis, Al and I will ride around the park in the golf cart making sure garbage is picked up, the bathrooms are clean, and campers are enjoying their stay.  I’ve even waitressed in the restaurant a couple of times when they got short-handed.  Do you know it has been over thirty years since I last waited on tables?  I jumped right in and acted like I knew what I was doing and had so much fun that I volunteered to waitress regularly.  I know, is that crazy?  I enjoyed meeting and talking to the locals coming into the restaurant for a meal.  They are all eager to share the beauty their home state has to offer, giving Al and me plenty of ideas to explore on our down time.

Exploring the backcountry near Mackay Idaho.

Exploring the backcountry near Mackay Idaho.

And there has been plenty of down time allowing us to explore the area….  Craters of the Moon National Monument, drive the old mining roads near Mackay, take a trip to Twin Falls to watch Base jumpers at the Perrine bridge and see the stunning sight of Shoshone Falls.  With so much going on, where will I ever find the time to blog 😉

I’m not sure why Al and I are so enjoying the Workcamping gig, but we think it has something to do in knowing the position is temporary.  We also realize we have the freedom to pack up and move on anytime we’re unhappy.  That sense of freedom is liberating.  After all, it’s not as if we’re trying to build our resumes 😆

For a few days next week, we’ll pack up the RV and take a vacation from our Workamping duties.  Oh yes, this summer is definitely turning into a summer filled with exciting and new explorations….. adventure all around and in many different ways!Craters of the Moon

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences – Eleanor Roosevelt

 


Sisters on the Fly: Caravans, Campfires, and Tales from the Road

In Love with Bryce

With the weather being fickle, we decided to pay for two nights at a RV Park giving us the flexibility to rearrange our plans on a whim.  When the weather improved, our two-night stop to visit Bryce Canyon Country quickly turned into six nights.  And oh my gosh…. amazing!Bryce Canyon

I assure you, six nights was not enough to savor this breathtaking scenery.  If it hadn’t been for our workamp obligation in Idaho, we would’ve stayed another week.  For some reason, I just couldn’t get enough of those perplexing hoodoos or the layers of texture and colors.  Simply mesmerizing!

Where to camp?
With snow and freezing overnight temps in the forecast, we knew we wanted a site with hook-ups and chose the Red Canyon Village RV Park. It was an ok place to stay and even offers cabins as well as campsites. (restroom shown in the photo below)

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

Red Canyon RV Park, Panguitch, Utah

The park is located along highway 12 just east of highway 89 and road noise can be expected.  We paid $31 a night for a full hook-up site which included cable TV. The property is owned and managed by the same company that runs the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Forever Resorts.  The location worked fine for us.  It took a Bryce Canyon national parklittle less than thirty minutes to drive to the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center and about 10 minutes to get to the town of Panguitch, Utah.  Just a couple of minutes away was Red Canyon with some lovely hiking trails that shouldn’t be missed.

Red Canyon is also home to a national forest campground: Red Canyon Campground.  It’s basic dry camping in a wooded setting.  Although some of the sites would accommodate our size RV, we’re not fans of trees and low-lying branches, and thus this campground is not an option we personally would consider.

As we continue along highway 12 toward Bryce Canyon NP, you’ll find the Bryce Canyon Pines RV Park.  We didn’t stop in, but drove by several times.  From a distance the park looked ok nestled in the pines with dirt/gravel roads and sites.  We noticed RV’s of all sizes parked there.

Bryce CanyonRuby’s RV Park seems to be the most popular spot with its close proximity to the hoodoos, but definitely the most expensive.  This RV park is located just outside the national park boundaries which means it offers location, full amenities, and is big rig friendly.

Want to camp even closer to the hoodoos?  Bryce Canyon National Park offers two campgrounds, both with no hook-ups, dry camping only.  The majority of the sites look sloped and mounded.  There were one or two sites at the Northern Campground we liked that we would consider if available.  Sunset and Northern Campgrounds appear to be best for tents, small Class C motorhomes, pop-ups, and small travel trailers.Bryce Canyon

Boondocking – There are a bunch of places off highway 12 east of highway 63 to boondock (boondocking means dry camping on public lands – no campground or facilities).  The land is located within the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and a free permit is required for any overnight stay.  Along highway 12 from Red Canyon to the town of Torrey, there are six visitor centers to assist you, provide permits, maps, and answer any questions.

There is also a fair amount of national forest land in the area with boondocking options and no permit needed.  Here’s a helpful post on dispersed camping.Bryce Canyon National ParkDuring those times when Al and I do boondock, after about a week we like to refresh and find a RV park with full hook-ups.  From a budgetary point of view the Paradise RV Park might be the perfect place to refresh. This somewhat basic and rustic park offers full hook-ups for $15 a night.  It’s located a few miles north of the town of Panguitch and about 30 miles from the Bryce Canyon Visitor center,  We actually did our laundry there since the Red Canyon RV Park offered one staked washer/dryer on the outside of a building.  Not ideal, especially in 32 degree weather.

Joe's MarketGroceries?
Since we were staying in the Red Canyon area, the town of Panguitch was an easy ten minute drive away.  Joe’s Market in Panguitch, Utah, is a great place to resupply.  We were impressed with the quality of fresh meats, veggies, and eggs that were reasonably priced.  Other items were a tad pricy though.

sour dough breadAcross the street from Joe’s Market is a Chevron Gas Station with a fast food place inside.  We don’t eat deep-fried fast food so I can’t help you there, but with the oven availability, the owners of the gas station bake fresh bread and rolls daily.

Our first stop at the Chevron was late one afternoon.  We filled up with gas and when we stepped inside, we noticed the hand written sign on the window noting fresh-baked sour dough bread.  When we asked about the bread, we were informed they were all sold out, but the gal behind the counter was quick to suggest placing our name on a loaf of sour dough bread for the next morning.   Yes!  It was still warm when we picked it up and perfect for our picnic lunch.  I wouldn’t normally recommend buying bread at a gas station, but this is small town America and it’s similar to enjoying a loaf of bread your mom made.

bakeryAnother place we tried was a bakery on highway 12 just east of highway 63.  The groceries and baked goods seemed a little pricy in my opinion, but we still ended up buying some fresh-baked baguettes for our sandwiches which were delicious.  And of course, hubby had to sample a blueberry turnover which received a two thumbs up as well.

One of our favorite little stops after hiking amongst the hoodoos, was stopping in at the General Store located within the national park just around the corner from the Bryce Canyon Lodge (btw – the restaurant in the lodge had a menu that was tempting, but our sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread won out).  This General Store along with a lovely picnic area is within walking distance to the Sunrise overlook and trailhead to the Queens Stewart'sGarden Trail.  After a somewhat steep hike back out of the canyon, we managed to work up a thirst.

We try to keep our soft drink intact to a minimum, but when we discovered the General Store stocks Stewart’s….. well…. there was no resisting the cream soda and orange cream.

We enjoyed this little splurge so much that when we received an impromptu email from some fellow full-time RVer’s letting us know they were in the area, I knew exactly where to meet up.  We hadn’t seen this couple in nearly two years and certainly had plenty to talk about.

Enjoying a picnic with friends at the general store was perfect.  It was awesome reconnecting, catching up, and sharing some of our favorite Bryce Canyon sites with this delightful couple.

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera ;-)

me and Al enjoying our sodas while our friends prefer to stay behind the camera 😉

Cheers to friendships, breath-taking scenery, amazing hikes, and cold beverages.  It’s official, I’m in love with Bryce Canyon National Park and am already scheming my next visit.

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

Bryce loves me back. Can you see the rock heart in the center of the photo?

 

It’s a rock thing

When we hit the road in the RV full-time almost three years ago, we weren’t sure what to expect or if we’d have any regrets.  Considering we sold the house and moved into the RV on a whim and all within ninety days of deciding to do so, one can’t help but wonder, “Whatever were we thinking?

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

But it’s those hidden gems, those unexpected discoveries that have Al and me wanting to keep those wheels on the RV rolling.  The first time we pulled into City of Rocks State Park, I was giddy with delight.  This time was no different.  There’s something surreal and unworldly about this place.  It’s all about the rocks… it’s a rock thing.

interesting shapes abound !!!

interesting shapes abound !!!

City of Rocks While hiking around City of Rocks State Park, voices swirled in my head, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”  I know, I’m dating myself, but I couldn’t help thinking what a fabulous location this would make for a Lost in Space episode.

It really did feel like I had stepped onto another planet.  Around every corner was another fascinating rock formation, another cluster of interesting shapes accompanied by a multitude of color and light.

I’m afraid I could wear out the use of the word unique around here.  How about dazzling, splendid, delightful, superb, appealing, awe-inspiring …… ?

campsites nestled amongst the rocks

campsites nestled amongst the rocks

We are in site #1, first RV on the right. It's the shortest electric site.

We are in site #1, first RV on the right. It’s the shortest electric site.

Since we didn’t have a reservation….. as a matter of fact, we made the decision to overnight at City of Rocks State Park while driving through Las Cruces, New Mexico, only an hour away.  Remember in my last post when I talked about flexibility?  When Al and I are transitioning between locations or reservations, we have a tendency to wing it and find ourselves changing our minds numerous times.  The original plan was to do a quick overnight at a RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, but how boring is that?

Visitor center at City of Rocks State Park

Visitor center at City of Rocks State Park

City of Rocks So at the last minute, we decided to go someplace fun and maybe stay a couple of days, considering we were running ahead of our loosely planned schedule anyway.

But we needed to ask ourselves, what if all the electric sites were taken?  After all, we were driving thirty miles out of our way – 60 miles round trip back to interstate 10 and the town of Deming, NM.  We always have a backup plan and sometimes a backup to the backup.  One of the backup plans was to pick out an awesome dry camping site  – and they are one-of-a-kind, unique, and awesome – but with freezing overnight temperatures predicted, dry camping was our last choice regardless of how distinct and amazing the dry campsites are.  I wanted to run that RV furnace to my heart’s content without worrying about the RV batteries or running the generator like crazy.

The electric loop is in a meadow setting while dry camping sites are dispersed amongst the rocks

The electric loop is in a meadow setting while dry camping sites are dispersed amongst the rocks

One of the dry camping sites. Works well for either tents or RV's

One of the dry camping sites. Works well for either tents or RV’s

We pulled into the loop that offers electric and water hook-ups around 1:00 in the afternoon and snagged the last electric site available.  Site #1 is rather short and required us to unhook the truck from the 5th wheel.  We didn’t mind and were thrilled we procured an electric site.  Although the intention was to stay a couple of nights, I paid for one just in case we changed our minds, a gals prerogative ya know!  And remember, state parks don’t give refunds.

a sweet spot to call home... for a bit, anyway.

a sweet spot to call home… for a bit, anyway.

I absolutely love City of Rocks State Park, and it’s these kinds of discoveries that have me living in the RV full-time with NO regrets.  However, this was February, aka winter, and with daytime temperatures barely reaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit and in the 20’s overnight, we decided to hook up and move on the next morning in search of warmer weather.  Hmm, have we turned into winter wimps?

love this place - my RV is front, left

love this place – my RV is front, left

unique dry camping site

unique dry camping site

a pull-thru dry site on the left.

a pull-thru dry site on the left.

The state of New Mexico never ceases to amaze me with all its splendid landscapes.  There’s so much untapped raw beauty to explore around here, but let’s keep that a secret between us.  After all, we don’t want to share this amazing solitude and gorgeous scenery with hoards of tourists.  So mums, the word 😉

Brought to you by the letter 'd'

Brought to you by the letter ‘d’

By the way…. White Sand Dunes National Park is another unique New Mexico site not to be missed.  However, for those looking for an experience a little less remote, Santa Fe and Taos are definitely worthy of a little exploration.City of Rocks

amazonClarks Women’s Mission Parker Chelsea Boot,Brown,9.5 M US

A Fresh Start

I love watching the sunrise, and just like the beginning of a new day there’s something refreshing about flipping the calendar to a new year.  It’s like being given a fresh start.  As one year comes to an end a new year begins.  I’ve been known to make a New Year’s resolution or two in the past, and although I haven’t made any official resolutions this go around, I do have high hopes and plans for the New Year … I’m sure there’s something in there about diet and exercise as well – me along with millions of other American’s, huh 😉 sunrise

We hit the road three days after Christmas…. two days later than we originally planned.  Bad weather in southern New Mexico and western Texas necessitated an adjustment to our schedule, considering parts of Interstate 10 were temporarily closed due to ice and snow.  While hubby and I kept an eye on news reports pertaining to the Whooping craneslatest happenings including airport closures and flight cancellations, we agreed we sure don’t miss those years of air travel.  The flexibility associated with RV travel has really spoiled us and we can’t imagine traveling any other way.  Well, yes we can imagine it, we just don’t ever want to do it again.

That said, our drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Rockport, Texas went well with the exception of having to deal with unwelcome cold weather.  We spent the first night in Deming, New Mexico, at the Dream Catcher RV Park (an Escapees park), and although we had a full hook-up site, we kept the water hose and sewer pipe stowed choosing to hook up to electric only due to the below freezing temps.

Snow in Deming, NM

Snow in Deming, NM

Night two was spent at a regular stopping point for us; the Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton, Texas.  We thought about overnighting at the Walmart but once again with the extreme cold, we opted for hook-ups.  I will say it was interesting as we passed the Walmart the next morning, the parking lot looked like an RV Park.  I don’t ever recall seeing so many RV’s overnighting at a Walmart.  Turns out, not only was the Hilltop RV Park full that night, but so was the Walmart.  I think the inclement weather affected a lot of people and their travels causing Fort Stockton to be overflowing with RV’s.

Moving on – We planned on spending night three in San Antonio at the Elks Lodge.  I was looking forward to revisiting the Shops at La Cantera , located within walking distance from the lodge.   From an architectural and aesthetic point of view, this outdoor mall is absolutely beautiful and it was my hope to see it decorated for the holidays with lots of Christmas glow.  However, as we approached the Elks Lodge we encountered a sea of RV’s.   I’m not sure how they all managed to squeeze into such a small parcel of land, but every nook and cranny seemed to be wedged with various RV’s.  An RV chili cook off festival at the lodge had us moving on down the road in search of plan B.  A holiday visit to the Shops at La Cantera will need to be saved for another time.

About an hour south of San Antonio off Interstate 37 is the Choke Canyon State Park. We scored a great site – #133.  We enjoyed the campground and would definitely stay here again.

On day four with twelve hundred miles behind us, we arrived at our destination just before noon.  While I helped hubby position the RV into our new spot for the month of January, I’m greeted by a familiar sound in the distance; the sound of whooping cranes.  As Al steps out of the truck to assess his handy work, I assault him with a child like exuberance that has him rolling his eyes.whooping cranes

He quickly remarks with a chuckle, “Can we please finish setting up and have lunch before you run off to see your birds?”  With a hesitant nod, I slowly respond, “But of course!  After all, I have the next thirty days to commune with my feathered friends.”

So folks as you might have guessed, we’re back in Rockport, Texas, in the very same park and site we were in 365 days ago.  Seems as though we’ve come full circle and returned to a familiar starting point to kick off the New Year.  We’re once again rendezvousing with the birds along with friends from our old sticks and bricks neighborhood in southern Colorado.   What started out three years ago as a sojourn whooping cranesstrictly for hubby to get together with a buddy to engage in sporting activities has since turned into my opportunity to commune with birds.  I don’t consider myself a birder, but merely someone who has a passion for cranes …. and maybe spoonbills, egrets and herons, but who’s counting 😉

This has obviously turned into an unexpected passion for me, and I can see myself returning to this area time and again.  You can click here to read more about how my passion for cranes developed.

endangered whooping cranes

Last winter, it was quite exhilarating to have these two whooping cranes fly right over me. I could literally hear the rush of wind as they flapped their wings. A rare treat considering there’s less than 500 of these magnificent birds left in the world. Photo taken at 160mm zoom.

Although the weather this first week in January is expected to have less than stellar conditions for gallivanting about with the camera, I’m still excited to be back along the Texas Gulf Coast.  Cranes are considered to be a symbol of luck. I’m hoping by starting off the New Year hanging around these intriguing creatures of luck, that 2016 is a great year.

One of my most memorable places in 2015 was camped amongst 20,000 plus sandhill cranes.  You can read about that visit here.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year filled with lots of good wishes AND good luck!

Good luck y'all and Happy New Year!

“No lady, you can’t rub my head for good luck!”

 

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