Never Too Old for a Tea Party

One of the advantages that I really enjoy about an extended stay in any given area is the ability to explore and discover hidden gems without a rushed schedule. Since both of our children now live in Phoenix, Arizona, Al and I find ourselves spending more and more time in this diverse city. Not only is Phoenix RV friendly, the weather is wonderful most of the time …. well, at least from October into April which makes Phoenix a great vacation destination for those wanting to escape the cold winter months.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree Arizona

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree, Arizona

Keeping busy …

We pulled into our RV Resort in northern Phoenix in early October and haven’t slowed down since. There has been a fair amount of socializing with our children, especially between my daughter and myself … love my mother/daughter time, but Al has also managed to sneak in some father/daughter time … much to his delight.

October is always a special time around our home considering it’s our daughters birth month. Since her actual birthday fell on a weekday, she took the day off from work and enjoyed the morning skeet shooting with her dad followed by the three of us going to dim sum for lunch. I don’t share Al and Ashton’s taste for dim sum, but I sure enjoyed the tasty tea that the Great Wall Restaurant served.

And speaking of tea …

birthday celebration at the English Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona

A birthday celebration at the English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona

Due to our RVing travels over the past five years, Al and I haven’t always been in the same location as our daughter during the month of October. So, this year, I wanted to do something special for her birthday and throw her a little party.

After a little collaboration, we decided on a tea party at the English Rose Tea Room located in the northeast part of the Phoenix valley. Ashton and I love this place and it’s the perfect spot for a gals get together.

(to enlarge photos in the photo galleries, simply click on any photo. Click the x in the top corner to return to the post)

After our little group of ladies leisurely enjoyed tea and crumpets, our party moved across the street to the Carefree Desert Garden. We found a covered pavilion for our group to sing happy birthday to Ashton and enjoy some homemade cake.

Yeah, I had fun making this chocolate wine cake for her. Not only was it funny but also yummy! ūüėč

pumpkins in Carefree Arizona

Amazing pumpkin display …

Our fun continued as we began strolling around the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. This is the most unique and entertaining pumpkin display I’ve ever seen. Each year, the town of Carefree, Arizona, hosts this pumpkin event and it never ceases to amaze me. The carvings are intricate and the subject matter comedic.

This year, I managed to visit the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden on three separate occasions. I noticed slight changes and more details during each visit. If you ever find yourself visiting Phoenix, Arizona, during the last two weeks in October, you’ll definitely want to put this place on your must see list. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

(affiliate links)

Porcelain Tea Pot
Empress Tea Strainers with Drip Bowls


Fall into Autumn Loose Leaf Tea Sampler
 Set of 3-Tier Party Serving Platter

Advertisements

A Weekend in Sedona, Arizona

A geological marvel … one of America’s most beautiful places … multi-hued red rock formations jutting upwards from the high desert floor creating a mesmerizing setting … ah,yes … I’m talking about stunningly beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona Arizona

Sun faded prayer flags contrast against the red rocks

Red Rock Country is unique and exudes a sense of spirituality along with a mood that changes hourly with the light. It’s no wonder this majestic place attracts 2 to 4 million tourists a year. Surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest land, visitors to Sedona have easy access to plenty of outdoor recreation, but Sedona is equal parts rugged, equal parts resort.

With such an abundance of public land access, the availability of experiencing this amazing landscape is endless. There are trails for hiking and biking, along with plenty of 4×4 gravel/dirt roads perfect for scenic Jeep tours or ATV excursions. Meandering in the back country among red rock pinnacles, spires, buttes and domes is an absolute must for any visitor, and yet, you‚Äôre never far from the conveniences of town.

back country near Sedona Arizona

Exploring the back country near Sedona, Arizona

A birthday weekend …

It was the third weekend in September, and although a few weeks past my actual birth date, it was a great time of year to visit Sedona and celebrate my birthday together with family. This trip was actually all planned by my children as part of a gift … awe!

Since our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law all had to work that Friday in Phoenix, we didn’t check into our double-suite condo like lodging until 7:00 p.m., but that still left us a few hours for some socializing over cocktails and snacks before it was time to head off to bed.¬†Sedona is less than a two hours drive and about 116 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. We stayed at a lovely resort called¬†Sedona Summit.

Saturday morning, my daughter and I were out the door by 8:00 a.m. with cameras in hand. As many times as we’ve visited Sedona, there’s always something new on our list that we look forward to exploring.

Sedona Arizona Spiritual journey

Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, Sedona, Arizona

First stop, spiritual enlightenment

Located near the base of Thunder Mountain is a place for meditation and spiritual renewal.  Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park offers its visitors spiritual transformation and healing through the fascinating architecture and geometry of the stupa. Stupas are one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture and Buddhist practitioners have built them to promote spiritual deepening, healing, prosperity, and peace.

Filled with hundreds of prayers for peace, sacred relics and ritual offerings, the Amitabha Stupa is a vortex of enlightened presence and blessings.

Stupa Sedona Arizona Buddism

Ashton and I were fascinated with this Buddist park, but then again, anything associated with Nepal or the Himalayas seems to captivate our attention and that includes all the Prayer Flags. During her college days, Ashton and her roommate had prayer flags hung around their tiny dorm room. The prayer flags belonged to her roommate and were actually bought in Nepal during a family trip.

My daughter and I share a secret interest in someday traveling to Nepal – a land far away. In reality, I think this Sedona peace park or the time we went to Disney World and experienced Expedition Everest is the closest we’ll ever get to Kathmandu, and in reality, I’m okay with that … but shhh, don’t tell my daughter ūüėČ

(To enlarge photos, click on any image in the photo gallery)

Discovering ancient history

Next on our agenda was heading into the back country in search of ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. We originally wanted to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, but hikes are done via a tour, and since Ashton and I were already running a little late, we opted to visit the less popular Honanki ruins where you’re able to stroll without a guide.

After the split in the road (one way to Palatki and another way to Honanki), the road to the Honanki Ruins gets a bit rough in spots, and I was glad to be driving a vehicle that handles these rough roads perfectly. We did see the occasional car, but we mostly saw¬†Jeep Tours or ATV’s. Here’s a quote from the National Park website about the road condition: “Those with high-clearance vehicles and/or a sense of adventure can turn ….. the compensation for abusing your motor vehicle are wonderful views of the red rock formations that Sedona is so famous for“. Alrighty then!

A final note on the road conditions. Older publications will tell you the route to the Palatki Site from Dry Creek Road is rough. Road conditions have improved substantially within the past year. The Enchantment Resort has brought new development to this end of Sedona and the road is now paved beyond Fay Canyon and Doe Mountain Trailheads. Once the pavement ends, the gravel road is still easily accessed by most vehicles all the way to the Palatki Heritage Site. However, you might want to check with the National Park Service for the latest up to date road conditions.

Once at the Honanki site, we enjoyed a short hike to the cliff dwellings and slowly toured the area taking in the ruins and interesting rock art. Could the ancient cliff dwellers be telling us that Yeti, the abominable snowman, did exist? Another connection to Nepal?

The Honanki cultural site is relatively small and my daughter and I spent less than an hour exploring the area, but we were glad we made the long, bumpy trek out to the site. The drive was all part of the adventure and taking in the beautiful landscape.

Retail Therapy and Dining

Once Ashton and I returned to our lodging, we grabbed a bite to eat with the rest of the family and then the five of us headed to the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village for a little retail therapy.

I love the architecture of this place and always find interesting shops and galleries to stroll through. During a previous visit, my daughter and I enjoyed a little wine tasting, but this time, we stumbled upon Spirits & Spice. This unique shop had the entire family engaged in tasting, and it did not disappoint. I assure you, none of us left the store empty-handed.

Dining … since we had a full kitchen at our accommodations, during this particular visit, we ate in most of the time, but we did enjoy a yummy Sunday breakfast with a great view at the Wildflower Bread Company. Another fun stop for us was at The Art of Wine for a little wine tasting. My daughter ended up buying some Arizona wine.

Restaurants we’ve eaten at in the past: The Coffee Pot Restaurant is ideal for a hearty breakfast and serves up some of the best coffee. I enjoyed the coffee so much that I even bought a bag of their beans to brew back at the RV. Javelina’s Cantina is one of Al’s favorite lunch spots. Oaxaca Restaurant is another tasty Mexican restaurant if you happen to be strolling Main Street. And for those looking for specialty foods, Chocola Tree is worth checking out. Their outdoor patio is very zen with a hippie vibe.

Final thoughts on Sedona

Sedona is most definitely a tourist town and on weekends traffic can be congested and challenging, but if you can get beyond the hoards of people, you’ll discover a sense of history, beauty, and well-being like non-other.

The history of this land goes way back to various Indian civilizations as evidenced by the Honanki ruins; AD 1150-1350. The first Europeans (Spanish) explored the Verde Valley in the mid 1500’s and the first Anglo settled in the area in 1876.

And we can’t ignore the energizing vortexes which attract believers from around the world to experience these mystical forces.¬†What is a vortex? They are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.

Whether you believe in the power of a vortex or not, I think we can all agree, Sedona is unique, and worth at least one visit. As for my family and I, we aren’t done exploring Sedona, Arizona, and are already planning our next visit. Yes Sedona, we’ll be back!

vortex energy Sedona Arizona

Top 7 things to do in Sedona

  1. Hike or bike the 300 plus miles of trails. You’ll find a trail for every level of ability, but do note, the trailhead parking lots fill up quickly.¬†Sedona’s secret 7 hiking trails.
  2. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross and marvel at this unique structure built into the rock. For more spiritual enlightenment, visit the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Parkand enjoy the peaceful grounds of this 14-acre Buddhist park (open to all faiths)
  3. Dine at one of many restaurants. Finding quality food is not an issue around here, and most recently, Sedona has emerged as a destination for wine enthusiasts.
  4. Shop historical uptown Sedona (also known as Main Street) or at the architecturally pleasing Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. (pronounced: Tuh-locka-pa-key, I think)
  5. Take in the incredible red rock landscape by enjoying a Jeep or helicopter tour.
  6. Visit a vortex. Regarded by Native Americans as sacred, Sedona continues to be recognized as a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Many come to experience the vortex centers of Sedona to tap into spiritual energy.
  7. Or simply relax around a luxury resort. Sparkling pools and rejuvenating spas abound.

Sedona Arizona

Click here for a map of Sedona.

(affiliate links)

 

 

 

Prayer Flags ‚Äď Traditional Five Elements Arizona: The Grand Canyon State (Exploring the States)

Best Souvenirs

You all know by now, I love photography and I take bunches of photographs at the places we visit. But every now and then, I like collecting something special that serves as a memento.

Canyonlands

When a photograph isn’t enough

Souvenirs are a great reminder of a memorable trip or even a special day. Since we live in our RV full-time, space is always an issue. With that in mind, I’m a sucker for jewelry and t-shirts and neither takes up a great deal of space in the RV.

I’ve purchased necklaces and bracelets from around the country. Wearing the jewelry brings me right back to the place where it was bought, and always elicits fond memories.

best souvenirs

Jewelry and t-shirts are my favorite souvenirs

I love pearls. They remind of sparkling sand and ocean breezes. My pearl earrings were purchased in Hawaii while the pearl necklace was bought in St. Thomas. Our children were teenagers during both those trips and I have wonderful memories of those family excursions. If you asked our children about those trips, that’d both start laughing as stories would quickly be shared. Fun times with plenty of mommy faux pas moments!

bracelet souvenirs

I love my inexpensive bracelets

Purchasing a piece of jewelry needn’t be expensive, and quite often you can find unique pieces that are specific to the destination.

We live a relatively active and outdoorsy lifestyle, which is not always conducive to wearing fine jewelry. I learned that lesson the hard way several years ago when I lost a rather nice bracelet while out boating. Some fish in Lake Powell is adorned with a lovely ruby bracelet ūüė£

These days you’ll find me wearing multiple bracelets purchased from varying locations. Each one has special meaning to me. My pearl bracelet reminds me of our winter sojourns to the Texas Gulf Coast while the multi colored crystal bracelet reminds me of stunning Sedona, Arizona, and Sedona’s¬†energizing, spiritual¬†vortex,¬†new age thing. Not that I know what that’s suppose to mean, but it’s Sedona, and I’ll roll with it. So far, the crystals that make up the bracelet haven’t energized me nor given me prosperity, but I’ll keep wearing the bracelet since I wasn’t given a time frame as to when those crystals will work their magic¬†ūüėŹ

Turquoise stones are easily associated with the desert southwest. Last year, I found this turquoise bracelet in Old Town Scottsdale. Since we spend a far amount of time in Phoenix, Arizona, visits to the Scottsdale farmers market followed by a little souvenir shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. Although I don’t have room or use for the usual souvenir¬†tchotchke, I do enjoy browsing the local shops and buying the occasional trinket.

bracelets souvenirsMy petrified wood bracelet is probably one of my favorite souvenirs. Not because I really like the look of the bracelet, but because it’s petrified wood. Seriously, how fascinating is petrified wood … real petrified wood worn around my wrist … pretty cool in my opinion!

Ah, the memories! My morning exploring the Petrified National Forest was one of my more eventful solo excursions.

RVing has given me the opportunity to experience a multitude of meaningful experiences.  Al and I shared a very special day in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago.

It moose necklacewas one of those days, we couldn’t repeat even if we wanted to, and probably ranks in our top ten most memorable days as full-time RVers.

If you’re interested in a must do scenic drive¬†through Rocky Mountain National Park or interested in seeing stunning landscapes and amazing wildlife or perhaps curious about why this moose necklace is so incredibly special to me, you can read those posts here and here.

While the words, “I don’t need any more jewelry” will never pass my lips, I do realize I can wear only so much. With that said, what shall we shop for if jewelry isn’t an option?

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

National Park t-shirts

National Park T-shirts anyone? Posing with our friends – Dave, Faye, me, and Al

Never worry about the extra space to pack a souvenir if you can wear it! Who doesn’t need a new t-shirt or ball cap? I’ll admit, I’m a t-shirt junkie. If I’m not buying a t-shirt for myself, I’m buying one for Al or the kids. Yeah, I’m one of those mom’s who occasionally brings back souvenirs to her grown children …. sure, thanks mom!

But in all seriousness, our lifestyle necessitates casual and comfortable clothing. So even if we weren’t wearing a shirt with the name of a national park plastered across the front, we’d probably be wearing one that says Nike. Therefore, why not wear a t-shirt with meaning, one that represents a beloved travel destination!

Death Valley National Park

Yep – both of us our wearing “Death Valley” t-shirts while visiting Death Valley National Park

Other souvenir ideas that don’t take up a lot of space

When the photos I take don’t seem like enough memorabilia, I enjoy buying something I can hold, admire or put on display.  My favorite souvenir used to be Christmas ornaments, but with limited space in the RV, my adult daughter has taken over that habit and is now in possession of my collection, a collection that started when she was a little girl. Thus, those ornaments elicit memories for her and our family adventures.

Other popular souvenirs are coffee mugs, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets. When space is limited, there’s nothing wrong with buying them if you‚Äôre actually going to use the mug for your morning coffee or use that shot glass for your favorite whatever or you have a refrigerator that’ll hold those magnets, then why not?

National Park Pins

National Park pins

We have friends that collect logo “pins” from the national parks they visit, and/or have a national park¬†passport book stamped.¬†¬†If you have small children, signing them up for a Junior Ranger program at a National Park is an educational opportunity, and the workbooks they fill-in or color will serve as a special memento for you, but especially for them.

Items that are locally made are always special; items like blankets or rugs. Think about it, every time you wrap yourself in that blanket, you’ll be reminded of that trip, that day, those remarkable memories.

If you travel to another country, a place where there’s a different currency, save those coins or banknotes. I have a scrapbook from my trip to Germany (many years ago) and added the foreign currency to that scrapbook along with plenty of photographs as well as my plane ticket.

I’ve also been known to collect small stones or rocks (when permitted), but I do keep weight in mind. No ¬†Long, Long Trailer¬†story around this RV ūüėܬ† So while I might collect a rock here and there, I have a friend who collects seashells from her favorite beaches.

I treasure my photographs from all the places we visit, but also love having a little sliver of our travels in the form of a souvenir.

Do you collect souvenirs? If so, what?

‚ÄúHappiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Denis Waitley

hot air balloon(affiliate links)

I used to have a decorative pillow addiction. Hubby is grateful the pillow collection in the RV is minimal ….. for now ūüėČ

Hey, pillows can also be souvenirs, can’t they?

What I don’t like about …

What could I possibly not like about northern Arizona near Page and Lake Powell? After all, I’ve been gushing¬†about it lately. Just look at these photographs showcasing this amazing landscape.

It’s pretty darn special around here, but it’s not a panacea. As a photographer¬†and blogger, I like to showcase the best about an area and sometimes fail to disclose the downside. Yeah, there’s a few downsides … downsides I don’t like.

So let’s get real

Tourism is big business around northern Arizona (Spring, summer and fall). The town of Page is on the schedule as a stopping point for many international tours. You’ll see large tour buses (holding around 50 passengers each, give or take) all around town. You’ll see them parked at McDonald’s, Walmart, the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Horseshoe Bend overlook, the marina’s at Lake Powell, and of course, the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon.

What an unpleasant treat it is to get in line at Walmart after the bus load of tourists hit the registers or how about pulling up to a scenic area only to see buses unloading hundreds of tourists at a popular site like Horseshoe Bend ūüėē

Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… ūü§£

Tourists taking a selfie … guilty!

Speaking of Antelope Canyon …. Hiking a slot canyon is an amazing experience. The sight is magical and surreal, but sharing it with hundreds of other tourists and being rushed through the canyon is the reality for many. Most of these unique slot canyons lie on Navajo Indian land, and therefore, tourists must pay for a guided tour if they’d like to experience a slot canyon.

slot canyon

The two most popular slot canyons are Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. There are a few other lesser known slot canyons where group sizes are kept smaller and some specialize in photographic tours. So depending on what your interests are in hiking a slot canyon (fun or photography), you’ll want to shop around.

Weather

I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I called northern Arizona / southern Utah a land of extremes. The land is stunning, perplexing, and wild and so is the weather.

hoodoos

Mother Nature carves interesting sculptures with wind and time

During our four-week stay (April 2018), we experienced temperatures as high as 84 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to overnight temps as low as 36 degrees F and everything in between. On a nice day, winds were as low as 4 miles per hour, while on a bad day, we experienced sustained winds as high as 25-30 mph with gusts over 50 mph.

Those high winds made camping on a beach lively! The RVers that paid attention to the weather forecast usually packed up and left before the impending high winds started while others were caught off guard. Campers with a pitched E-Z UP didn’t fare¬†so well with those excessive winds as evidenced the next day at the dumpsters.

EZ up

EZ-up frames filled the garbage dumpsters after high wind storms. People can be stupid. There are a total of 5 dumpsters. While the one on the end was overflowing with trash, the other 4 were barely half full….duh!

On those extremely windy days, it was impossible to enjoy any outdoor activities without being sandblasted. I’m sure with all the wind and sandstorms Al and I endured, we ingested our bodily quota of minerals. The grit in our teeth confirmed no additional supplements were needed …. nor did I need to use any of my wonderful exfoliating potions as Mother Nature’s sandblasting quickly rid me of any dead skin cells ūü§£

The upside to all that nasty wind was it cleared out the beach leaving only the crazy¬†hardy to ride out the storm …. a reprieve from the crowds, I’ll take it.

But let’s face it, without all the annoying wind, we wouldn’t have this boggling landscape to ogle. And just so you know, March and April are the two windiest months out of the year. Guess we timed it right ūüėě

Guess I’ll endure the winds so I can admire this bazaar landscape

Camping

In my opinion, the camping options are sparse around the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area especially for the amount of tourism this area receives. Tourists driving RV rentals are everywhere and all vying for a place to overnight.¬† The nicest and most sought after option is camping at the Wahweap Campground.¬†It’s a beautiful campground if you can find an available site or have a reservation.

Then there’s the private Page-Lake Powell Campground. We stayed here several years ago and it was okay. But with the increase of international tourism and the renting of RV’s, this place fills up fast also.

Camping around sand is pretty on a calm day and not so great on a windy day

During our stay, we camped most of the time at the Lone Rock Beach area located along the Arizona – Utah border. Although it’s dispersed dry camping, there is a fee and a stay limit. The cost to overnight is $14 a day with the use of an American the Beautiful National Park Pass or $21 without the pass – ($7 a night for holders of a senior national park pass) 2018 rates!

Although my photographs may make the Lone Rock Beach area look quiet and enticing, the reality is this can be the wild wild west. People come here to have a good time and in the process bring all their toys.

regular roar of engines heard all day long

There’s a bunch of off-road trails at Lone Rock for folks to play on with their UTV’s.¬† I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of fun tooling around on the hills and sand. With the water right there, the sound of boat engines can be heard all day long, and of course, a steady hum of generators keeping all the RV’s charged up rumble at all times of the day (Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.). The sounds of engines, music, and laughter fills the air. This is not a place for quiet solitude, but it can be a very entertaining and fun place to hang out for a short time.

Our friends Faye and Dave being entertained. Who needs TV when you can watch people being dumb sh*ts !

At the end of March, we even had some ‘Spring Breakers‘ show up for a couple of nights. Ah, to be young and silly again!

The guys showed up first with the motorhome and later the gals drove up with a popup camper – Party time!

Yeah, it was party central and the music carried all the way to the other end of the beach. I was more amused than bothered. These college kids were there to have a good time and I’d say they succeeded, BUT temps were only in the low 60’s and seeing them lightly clad had chills running up my spine. I’m sure the liquid heat was flowing freely in the form of spirits so they probably weren’t as cold as I was.

Watercraft

Al and I no longer own any form of a watercraft … sigh! Although there are a bunch of things to do around Page, Arizona, the real draw is the lake – Lake Powell. Camping near the water became more and more of a challenge for me once the weather starting warming. I began to miss my boat and wave runners. Visiting Lake Powell and not getting out on the water with our own boat was probably the thing I disliked most about our stay.

We looked into a bunch of different ideas to get out onto the water, but since it still wasn’t as warm as I prefer for boating, we forewent renting a boat and opted for a one-hour boat tour through Antelope Canyon. That was just enough to satisfy my¬† boat craving …. for now!

Another beautiful sunrise out my RV window

Most disliked

So aside from not having my own boat, the traffic was my least favorite thing. The way some folks drive around here was down right dangerous. I can’t count how many near head on collisions there are every day. People getting impatient seem to take chances passing slower moving vehicles like RV’s on the two lane highways. Plus, there are so many tourists (foreign and domestic) that slow down and make turns on a whim. Yeah, it’s important to be a vigilant driver on these two lane roads.

Did I already mention there are a lot of tourists around northern Arizona? Not only are they forever taking selfies, they drive like they are the only ones on the road, and have a tenancy to gawk at wildlife.¬†Check out the wildlife and the crazy tourists ūüėĀ

I’ll be back

Ah, it was still a very fun and awesome time spent amongst some of the most amazing scenery. Waking up every morning to a gorgeous view and beautiful sunrise made any of my minor dislikes about the area seem insignificant. Yeah, I’m already missing those killer views and stunning sunrises … sunrises that I could literally watch while still laying in bed. How awesome is that!!!

sometimes the sky seemed to mimic the land with its layers

(affiliate links)

E-Z UP Canopy
Beach Bag
Collapsible Portable Corn Hole Boards

Upstairs, both ways

As the sun was slowly rising, Al steps out of the RV to start the generator for the¬†drip coffee maker.¬† The two other RV’s that were camped across from¬†us in the Cabela’s parking lot have already moved on.¬† And we thought we were early risers.

Cabela'sWith coffee mugs filled and a couple of scones pulled from the freezer, we hop in the truck and start rolling east on Interstate 80.  Five minutes later, we cross into Iowa from Nebraska.

It’s a Sunday morning with slightly overcast skies and almost no¬† traffic.¬† A perfect travel day.¬† By early afternoon, we cross the Mississippi River and enter the state of Illinois.

RVing in Illinois

Looks like Illinois to me! Filling up with gas.

Al and I both grew up in Illinois and when we moved away in the early nineties, we never looked back.¬† If it weren’t for family, we¬†probably would not¬†return.¬† During our long drive yesterday, we both decided to embrace this trip to Illinois with an¬†open mind …. as newbies to the state, you might say.¬† Let’s play tourist!¬† Having said that, we still chuckle each time we see a little blue sign saying “tourist info”.¬† Although Illinois does have some unique and interesting sights, I still wouldn’t put it on a tourist destination list.

Illinois River

Crossing the Illinois River

Last night while we were¬†camped in the Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, Al and I each got out our laptops and started doing a little Googling.¬† Family wasn’t expecting our arrival for a few days¬†which allowed¬†us a chance to slow down and explore a little.

Hmm!¬† We came across these words;¬† Voted # 1 attraction in the State of Illinois …. a world apart from anything else in Illinois ….. towering trees, amazing waterfalls.¬† Al says, “I went there once on an elementary¬†school field trip”.¬† We quickly decide to veer 50 miles out of our way to¬†visit Starved Rock State Park.

We arrived late on a Sunday afternoon and drove around the campground a couple of times looking for a suitable campsite.¬† It’s obvious the area experienced a good dowsing of rain the day before.¬† With the exception of the handicap sites which are concrete, all the other sites are grassy.¬† The grassy ground appeared soft and many sites featured tire ruts.¬† We had concerns of sinking in the soft ground and possibly getting stuck.

camping in Illinois

Typical campsite at Starved Rock State Park

After serious consideration, we pulled into one of the six available concrete handicap sites and paid for one night.¬† When the host/ranger came around checking sites, Al was quick to tell him we can be moved within 15 minutes if the site was needed.¬† We were assured since we weren’t staying on a busy Friday or Saturday night,¬†that it wasn’t a problem considering there were plenty of other handicap sites available.

Illinois State Parks

Starved Rock State Park

We ended up booking another night so we could spend a day hiking and exploring the area.  First up;  we hit the trails in search of waterfalls.

LaSalle Canyon Waterfall

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park

We visited Starved Rock State Park¬†at the end of July¬†and even though the area had experienced plenty of rain, so much rain that the road to the visit center was blocked off, it was still¬†mid summer¬†meaning the waterfalls would be few and far between…. snow melt had long been melted.

hiking in Illinois

Hiking at Starved Rock State Park amongst lush vegetation. We haven’t been around this much dense greenery in years.

The most popular trail and waterfall is French Canyon.  There was no waterfall and only a trickling stream.  We ventured on taking in the lush, green vegetation.

poison ivyThere’s definitely a beauty to this landscape.¬† It was a rather warm and humid morning and while other hikers were sporting shorts and tank tops, Al and I stayed in our western hiking attire of being covered up.¬† We actually managed to avoid using bug spray and didn’t think the mosquitos were terribly bad.¬† We were also concerned about poison ivy¬†and were vigilant about staying in the center of the trail, that is when we weren’t going up or down stairs.hiking in Illinois

What’s so unique about the trail system at Starved Rock is the series of planked trail and stairs.¬† You’ll find stairs AND more stairs.¬† So many stairs, we climbed up stairs both ways.

state parks in Illinois

Note the little plaque on the right post saying “RETURN”. That means the trail leads toward the Visitor Center

Al and I counted 227 steps on one stairway alone.¬† During our two-hour hike, we have no idea how many stairs we climbed¬†or descended overall.hiking in IllinoisEven with all the stairs, we found the hiking to be¬†very easy.¬† It was also extremely easy to navigate.¬† I love maps and rarely hit the trails without one, but here a map is not necessary.¬† They’ve dumbie proofed the trail system by using little color coded plagues.hikingYellow “AWAY” means you are hiking away from the Visitor Center.Illinois State ParksWhite “RETURN” means you are returning to the Visitor Center.¬† Pretty easy peezie.¬† Now if only we could dumbie proof some of the visitors to this lovely Illinois State Park.¬† We hiked on an early Monday morning after a very busy and crowded weekend.¬† Al and I were disappointed and disgusted with the amount of trash left behind on the trails.¬† We’re talking piles of plastic water bottles and¬†empty¬†snack and condiment packaging.¬† Gross!

We’ve never seen anything like it and I can only assume these are the same ignorant people who approach wild animals¬†for photo ops.¬† Who do they think is going pick up THEIR trash?¬† Fortunately, there are volunteers willing to step up¬†and tackle the task.¬† On July 30th¬†just 3 days after our hike, the Walkers Club and Lodge Staff picked up over 5 huge bags of garbage.

Starved Rock State Park

Volunteers gather trash. On the day we hiked, we had the trail and waterfall to ourselves…. with the exception of that pile of plastic water bottles that greeted us.

The above photo is from the Starved Rock State Park Facebook page.  I did my best not to show any trash in my photos, wanting to share only the beauty of this park.

Illinois State Parks

LaSalle Falls – Starved Rock State Park. If you look real close, you’ll find trash.

Rant over!¬† No wait.¬† Did you know the Illinois State Parks are¬†FREE to use?¬† Yep, that’s right, no day use fee….¬† nada, no dinero.¬†¬† So the Bozo’s that left their trash behind, got to hike here totally free of charge.¬† And by the way, the trails may have been littered with trash, but the campground was spotless and well maintained.

waterfalls in Illinois

a ten second timer was not long enough for me to scurry behind the falls to join Al, without falling on my a*s!

How did the park get its name?  You can click here by learning more about the local Indians and the history surrounding Starved Rock State Park.  We enjoyed our 2 night, 3 day stay very much and would return in a heartbeat to tackle more stairs.Illinois State Parks

Dual Hydration Waist Pack Moss By Everest
Manfrotto MKCOMPACTLT-BK Compact Tripod (Black)

 

Health Hazards of Travel

hummingbirdsOne of the concerns for folks that travel regularly, is health.¬† I know it is for me. ¬†I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of¬†getting sick or injured.¬† Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.¬† For instance, its common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.¬† Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda,¬†or alcohol when visiting Mexico.¬† I’m sure the same can be said for¬†Mexicans visiting America.¬† It’s all about what our bodies are used to.birds of preyIf I were to visit¬†certain foreign¬†countries, I’d probably¬†undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect myself from hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, or any other serious medical conditions which¬†might be considered¬†rare in the United States.

mountain wildflowersI remember during my airline days when I would frequent¬†tropical paradises¬†like Hawaii¬†and St. Thomas.¬† The first five days were always sheer joy and tons of fun.¬† As the week progressed, I’d be overcome with an unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.¬† Toward¬†the end of¬†my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland.¬† Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called “rock fever”.¬† Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me.¬†You won’t find me moving to a tropical¬†island anytime soon.¬† I’ll opt¬†for¬†miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Since I enjoyed plenty of international travels when I was younger, I have no plans to travel outside of North America.¬† As a full-time RV’er traversing my homeland, what health concerns could I possibly have?¬† Surprisingly, more than one might think.

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and then down ….¬†in and out of their mounded burrow.¬† And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them on film (film sounds so much better than¬†media card ).¬† These delightful little rodents¬†can be quick and captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members.¬† I’ve seen many a blogger post about¬†doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog¬†hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.¬† It’s all I can do not scream at the computer, “NO”!hummingbird

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.¬† Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.¬† These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.¬† Recently near Fort Collins, Colorado, a teenage boy passed away from contracting a rare case of Septicemic plague contracted from prairie dog fleas.

So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog¬†village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.Falcon

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was¬†an exclusive¬†worry to those living in¬†America’s northeast part of the country.¬† Although it’s still a huge problem in New England, the disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

BroncoLyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.¬† Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with immediate medical attention.¬† You can read about singer – songwriter¬†Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease journey and struggles here.

Valley Fever?¬† I don’t know about you, but I never heard¬†the term¬†Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.¬† Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs.Canadian GeeseThe spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled Рingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

RobinYou can read more about it here, but there’s one huge fact to understand about Valley Fever especially for travelers.¬†¬†After returning home, weeks later¬†a person¬†might develop a nagging cough.¬† The fungal spores on a lung X-ray¬†can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. Doctors outside of an arid climate might not be familiar with Valley Fever.

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor might need to be informed by the patient that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.¬† Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

ButterfliesAnd last but not least, there’s West Nile.¬†¬†No one¬†likes being bit by¬†an irritating¬†mosquito.¬† The itchy welts are bad enough,¬†but¬†now, after¬†being bit, I have to be¬†concerned¬†about contracting¬†the West Nile virus!

So there you have some of “my” health concerns while traveling around the country in our RV; plague, Lyme disease,¬†Valley Fever, and West Nile.¬† I’m sure my friend Mona Liza would add chiggers to this list.¬† You can read about her chigger attack here and make sure you don’t meet a similar fate.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?¬† Have you ever traveled¬†someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?¬† Feel free to enlighten us in the comments ūüôā

Blue Jay

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

1001 Natural Remedies (DK Natural Health)
Straw Packable Sun Hat with Black Sash- Wide Front Brim and Smaller Back

Top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns.

ColumbineHave you ever looked at a map and been so curious about a road or town that you just had to hop in the car and explore?  Well that seems to happen to me a lot.

First off, I love maps and have had an interest in geography as long as I can remember.¬† I’m always wondering what’s around the bend.

This summer we find ourselves once again hanging in Colorado.¬† We’ve done¬†a¬†bunch of serious exploring in this state over the past¬†two summers, but¬†I have a feeling we’ve¬†barely touched the surface of this beautiful slice of America.¬†¬†¬†Thus, yesterday I pulled out the Colorado atlas again to see what back road might pique my interest.

While scouring the map, I was met with a flood of fond memories.  After all, we did call Colorado home for over twenty years.  Could I pick a favorite mountain town?  BreckenridgeCould I pick a favorite scenic drive?  That would be a resounding, NO!  I do however have some favorites.

When we lived in Colorado Springs, we would bring the kids up to either Summit County or Grand County for winter fun. While the kids were enjoying the slopes, Al and I would stroll shops and go out to lunch in a quaint mountain town.  Charm and character abound.

Summit County includes the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, Keystone, and the¬†village of Copper Mountain, and is located¬†about a two-hours drive from Denver’s International Airport.¬†¬†So it’s¬†super easy to get to and offers plenty to see and do.

Summit County is a great place to visit any time of year, but March and April are my least favorite due to slushy conditions as the snow melts, but that never stopped our kids from enjoying spring skiing.

Now a days, hubby and I save our visits to the high country for summer.  As a matter of fact, some of these mountain communities have become even more popular during the summer months than they are in the winter.

Keystone

Off Swan Mtn Road, between Breckenridge and Keystone, is a scenic overlook high above Dillon Reservoir. The chipmunks are used to folks bringing sunflower seeds and this little guy crawled on Al’s hand checking to see if he brought any such treats.

At the end of May, Al and I¬†found ourselves once again¬†camped at the shores¬†of Dillon Reservoir which of course included a little shop strolling in Breckenridge.¬†¬†¬†We always look forward to a¬†treat stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory plus¬†I believe someone purchased a T-shirt (or two) but I’m not telling considering there’s no more room in the RV closet.¬† I wonder if Al has noticed that I’m encroaching on his half of the closet…. ssshhh!

Colorado museumsAs much as I enjoy Breckenridge and think that it’s a must see, I personally prefer the quaint mountain town of Frisco.¬† Frisco is much more low-key and less touristy than Breckenridge.¬† Thus, Frisco is our first stop on my “top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns”.

Frisco has a population of less than 3,000, sits at¬†over¬†9,000 feet in elevation,¬†and was incorporated in 1880 during the mining boom.¬† Today it’s a gateway to four major ski resorts.¬† Main Street offers plenty of quaint shops, restaurants, and a historic park¬†with museum.Frisco museum Al and I grabbed a couple of Lattes at a local coffee shop and strolled over to the Frisco Historic Park & Museum.¬† This is a free, self guided museum preserving Frisco’s heritage.¬† Toward the rear of the park was a delightful sculpture that brought a smile to our faces.

After exploring the grounds, it was time for us to tour some of the buildings at the museum.  Each building offered a little something different and from various decades.red lipstick

Frisco musuemI was particularly entertained by the fashions on display as well as learning the importance of red lipstick during World War II.¬† Hubby and I aren’t huge museum goers, but we found this¬†historic park¬†to be quite entertaining and worth the stop.

Frisco also offers an Adventure Park as well as a marina on Dillon Reservoir. As many times as we’ve stopped in Frisco, each visit we discover some new shop, restaurant, or hiking trail.¬†¬†And the scenery ain’t too bad either.

Next up we’ll visit another favorite mountain town……maxine

FYI…. if I’m a little quiet these days, it’s because I’m still under the weather as well as¬†we’ve had some problems with our internet and excessive data usage which we’re trying to figure out where the problem lies.¬† Grrr….. this isn’t the adventure I signed up for LOL.¬†

Teva Women’s Kayenta Strappy Sandal, Vega Black, 9 M US
Life is good Men’s Crusher Happy Camper Tee, Teal Blue, X-Large