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.
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 …
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)
A tea party for the birthday girl!
Ashton Elizabeth next to Queen Elizabeth!
The English Rose Tea Room in Carefree, Arizona – perfect place for a tea party!
Our group of ladies make some tea purchases.
Hmm, which tea should we get?
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.
A drunk Barbie cake topper had everyone laughing.
The birthday girl steals Barbie’s bottle of whipped cream vodka!!!
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.
Enchanted Pumpkin Garden in Carefree, Arizona
Each display is entertaining and filled with detail.
A game of darts!
Each display tells a story. A septic truck pumping up pumpkin seed waste.
The barn is on fire!!!
Looks like a boxing match!
Ashton and Kylee pose with their new friend!
Time for a siesta!
Trying to build a trail cairn?
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!
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.
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’re never far from the conveniences of town.
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.
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.
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 😉
(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.
easy stroll to the cliff dwellings
Rock art at Honanki Cultural Site
Yeti … the abominable snowman? Another connection to Nepal?
Honanki cliff dwellings
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.
Spirits & Spice – just a sample of their amazing products
Interesting stuff, but no room in an RV
Always unique shops to stroll
Spirits & Spice – son and daughter-in-law enjoy the samples
Love the Architecture
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.
Awesome outdoor seating at the Wildflower Bread Company in Sedona
Great breakfast at the Wildflower Bread Company
Art of Wine, Sedona
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!
Top 7 things to do in Sedona
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.
Take in the incredible red rock landscape by enjoying a Jeep or helicopter tour.
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.
Or simply relax around a luxury resort. Sparkling pools and rejuvenating spas abound.
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.
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.
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!
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 😣
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 😏
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.
My 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!
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 was 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
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!
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’re 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?
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 😆 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?
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” ― Denis Waitley
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.
I love starting the day with a beautiful sunrise
magical slot canyons abound
gorgeous Lake Powell
love my campsite
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 😕
enjoying a beautiful sunset at Horseshoe Bend Overlook
hundreds of other people also enjoy the view
Don’t even get me started with the tourists and their selfie taking …… 🤣
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.
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.
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.
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.
a sand storm
a sand storm quickly had campers packing up and moving on – only the hardy stayed
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.
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 🤣
Another storm approaches
only the hardy ride out the storms
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 😞
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
me enjoying time on the water
taking a tour boat through Antelope Canyon
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!
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 😁
Beep – Beep!
wildlife on the beach
“Look …. wildlife!” Crazy tourists!
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!!!
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.
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’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.
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.
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.Even 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.Yellow “AWAY” means you are hiking away from the Visitor Center.White “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.
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.
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.
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.
One 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.If 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.
I 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.
Let’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”!
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.
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.
Lyme 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.The 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 – ingested 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.
You 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.
And 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 🙂
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.
Have 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? Could 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.
Main St. Breckenridge; old homes have been turned into quaint shops
Al steps into the Breckenridge Cannabis Shop asking for directions.
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.
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!
As 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.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.
“Repentance” by Walter Horton 1998
Artist; Walter Horton
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.
I 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……
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.