Top Reasons to Visit Las Cruces

Outdoor adventure. Unique culinary experiences. Vibrant culture. Rich history.

Maybe it’s the friendly people and the endless sunshine. Or maybe it’s the chile-laced food (and drink.) There are plenty of reasons to visit Las Cruces, New Mexico. Here are just eleven:

Chiles in the Mesilla Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Do the Walk of Flame

That is… if you can handle the heat! The Walk of Flame Green Chile Trail is a newly established culinary route that leads hungry (and thirsty) visitors to hot spots where they can sample Las Cruces’ famous green chiles in all their glorious guises. In Las Cruces, green chile crops up in and on everything from ice cream to pot stickers to hot dogs to wine, not just Mexican fare.

La Posta de Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors can feast on The Game’s corked bats (pecan-encrusted Hatch green chile strips), sip Chile ‘Rita’s at La Posta de Mesilla, or surprise their senses with a Green Chile Sundae from Caliche’s Frozen Custard. Green chile chasers also have the option to get their hands dirty on a tour of the Chile Pepper Institute Garden.

Musical entertainment in downtown Las Cruces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Kick up some dust at the Country Music Festival

Country superstars ride into Las Cruces in October for the Las Cruces Country Music Festival, a three day celebration of country music in downtown Las Cruces. Past performers include Travis Tritt, Tayna Tucker, Kacey Musgraves, Eli Young Band, Kenny Rogers, the Charlie Daniels Band, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Lee Ann Womack, Aaron Watson, Cam, Dustin Lynch, Cassadee Pope, Little Texas, Darryl Worley, Craig Campbell, Greg Bates, Chase Bryant and others.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Or wander across what seems like an endless desert beach

An hour’s drive northwest of Las Cruces, White Sands National Park comprises 275 square miles of wave-like gypsum sand dunes. During the stroll, visitors will hear the story of the monument and see the critters and vegetation that are able to survive in this arid expanse. By the end of the tour, the sun is setting, lighting the sky with hues of purples and pinks for a picture-perfect moment.

Farmers and Crafts Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Encounter local and exotic creations at the award-winning Farmers & Crafts Market

More than 300 vendors gather to sell locally-made wares and fares of all sorts at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market, voted one of the top farmers markets in the country. Open every Saturday and Wednesday morning downtown, the market brims with handmade jewelry, pottery and other crafts, local produce, and even prepared food to devour on the spot.

Parrots at La Posta de Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Talk with parrots at La Posta

Diners will find unexpectedly talkative “greeters” at the much-loved restaurant La Posta de Mesilla. Colorful parrots welcome guests in the lobby of the colorful 200-year old adobe. This and numerous other restaurants and shops can be found in the historic village of Mesilla just outside of Las Cruces.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Monumental moments

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument surrounds Las Cruces with 496,000 acres of opportunity for hiking, biking, and exploring petroglyph and archeological sites.

Rio Grande Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Raise a glass in the oldest wine-producing region in North America

Las Cruces has lots to boast about, being in the fertile Mesilla Valley where grape growing dates back to the late 1500s. At Rio Grande Vineyard and Winery, Sunday afternoons on the patio is particularly alluring. Enjoy live music and taste the wines or house made sangrias as you gaze at the nearby mountains. Lovers of wine can also enjoy New Mexican wines at St. Clair Winery & Bistro, Amaro Winery, and La Viña Winery.

8. Become the Salsa Judge

Downtown Las Cruces heats up for Salsa Fest, a three-day celebration of everything salsa in the fall. In addition to salsa sampling and a salsa making competition, the event gets people moving with salsa dancing lessons, live performances, and local wine and beer.

Dining at La Posta de Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Dine among “ghosts”

Legend has it that quite a few buildings in Mesilla are haunted. Begin your search for the paranormal with La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant where many have claimed to see chairs moving, heard glasses smashed to the floor, and experienced strange smells.

Double Eagle Restaurant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then head to the Double Eagle restaurant in Mesilla, with resident spirits in the building (which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places!) If paranormal activity doesn’t call to you, the World’s Largest Green Chile Cheeseburger just might.

Along Scenic Highway 28 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Exploring Scenic Highway 28

The Don Juan de Onate Trail invites today’s travelers to follow in the hoof prints of the Spanish conquistador and his band of 400 colonizers in 1598 as they journeyed from New Spain (Mexico) north to find the fabled Cities of Gold in what is now northern New Mexico. The drive along the trail (Highway 28) is one of the Las Cruces area’s most scenic routes, crossing and flanking the Rio Grande from El Paso to historic Old Mesilla.

Stahmann Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rural two-lane road then passes fields of corn, chile, and cotton on its way through several small villages, including San Miguel. Further south, slip beneath a canopy of pecan trees that mark the world’s largest, family-owned pecan orchard, Stahmann Farms. 

Further down the trail sits the community of La Mesa, home to a National Register of Historic Places property, Chope’s Café and Bar. 

World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. An encounter with the World’s Largest Roadrunner

The roadrunner is the official state bird of New Mexico. A giant recycled roadrunner—20 feet tall and 40 feet long—has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. It was made exclusively of items salvaged from the land fill. In early 2001, Olin stripped off the old junk, replaced it with new junk, and moved the roadrunner to a rest stop along Interstate 10, just west of the city. Signs around the sculpture warned of rattlesnakes, but when we stopped by to visit people were blissfully trudging out to the big bird anyway, to pose for snapshots or examine the junk (We did, too).

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

November 2021 RV Manufacturer Recalls

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

Your recreational vehicle may be involved in a safety recall and may create a safety risk for you or your passengers. Safety defects must be repaired by a certified dealer at no cost to you. However, if left unrepaired, a potential safety defect in your vehicle could lead to injury or even death.

What is a recall?

When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a recreational vehicle or item of RV equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle or equipment at no cost to the consumer.

Pleasant Harbor RV Park, Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

It should be noted that RV recalls are related to vehicle safety and not product quality. NHTSA has no interest in an air conditioner failing to cool or slide out failing to extend or retract—unless they can be directly attributed to product safety.

NHTSA announced 13 recall notices during November 2020. These recalls involved 9 recreational vehicle manufacturers— Forest River (4 recalls), Lance Camper (2 recalls), REV (1 recall), Heartland (1 recall), Winnebago (1 recall), Jayco (1 recall), Keystone (1 recall), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), and Triple E (1 recall).

Creekfire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2021 Cardinal fifth wheel trailers. The fresh air intake sleeve for the furnace is too short and does not have proper connection of the furnace to the exterior, allowing furnace exhaust to enter the trailer.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install the correct intake sleeve to allow for proper connection on the furnace, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-296-7700. Forest River’s number for this recall is 15-1245.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Palomino trailers. The antenna wing may not be properly secured to the roof, allowing it to detach from the roof while moving.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will inspect, repair or replace the antenna, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-269-432-3271. Forest River’s number for this recall is 400-1243.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Cherokee recreational trailers. The shore cord inlet wiring insulation may not have been sufficiently stripped back, causing a poor connection with the set screw.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will remove the inlet, and rewire or replace the inlet completely if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-260-499-2100. Forest River’s number for this recall is 17D-1201.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Rockport work trucks. The battery box installed on these vehicles may be inadequately welded, and could detach.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will ensure the battery boxes are properly welded, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 16, 2020. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-522-7599. Forest River’s number for this recall is 29-1252.

Hacienda RV Resort, La Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lance Camper

Lance Camper Manufacturing. Corp. (Lance Camper) is recalling certain 2018-2021 Lance Camper trailers (models 855S, 850, 960, 975, 995, 1062, and 1172) equipped with a Dometic propane gas stove, model R1731 or R2131 manufactured November 2018 or later or model S31 manufactured November 2018 or later. In certain stove serial number ranges, a gas leak may occur in the cooking stove.

Lance Camper will notify owners, and Dometic dealers will repair the affected stoves. The recall is expected to begin December 7, 2020. Owners may contact Lance Camper customer service at 1-661-949-3322.

7 Feathers Casino RV Resort, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lance Camper

Lance Camper Manufacturing. Corp. (Lance Camper) is recalling certain 2018-2021 Lance trailers (models 1995, 2185, 2285, 1475, 1575, 1685, 1985, 2295, 2375, 2445, and 2465) equipped with a Dometic propane gas stove, model R1731 or R2131 manufactured November 2018 or later or model S31 manufactured November 2018 or later. In certain stove serial number ranges, a gas leak may occur in the cooking stove.

Lance Camper will notify owners, and Dometic will repair the stoves, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 7, 2020. Owners may contact Lance Camper customer service at 1-661-949-3322.

New Green Acres RV Park, Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

REV

REV Recreation Group (REV) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Fleetwood Flair, Bounder, Southwind and Fortis and Holiday Rambler Vacationer, Invicta, and Admiral motorhomes equipped with a Dometic propane gas stove, model R1731 or R2131 manufactured November 2018 or later or model S31 manufactured November 2018 or later. In certain stove serial number ranges, a gas leak may occur in the cooking stove.

REV will notify owners, and Dometic dealers will repair the affected stoves, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 4, 2020. Owners may contact REV customer service at 1-800-509-3417.

Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heartland

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Milestone fifth-wheel trailers. The outriggers may bend due to loading within the rear storage area.

Heartland will notify owners, and dealers will reinforce the frame, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 18, 2020. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032.

Arizona Oasis RV Resort, Ehrenburg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winnebago

Winnebago Industries, Inc (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2012-2021 Era 170X vehicles. The weld nut was installed on the wrong side of the bracket where the shoulder belt attaches, reducing the retention strength of the seat belt.

Winnebago will notify owners, and dealers will coordinate the inspection of affected units and the installation of a serrated flange nut in the intended weld nut location, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 21, 2020. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-800-798-2002.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2021 Vision, Emblem, Vision XL, Alante, Precept, and Precept Prestige recreational vehicles, equipped with a Power Bedlift System. The bedlift motor may fail due to internal gear failure, causing the overhead bunk bed to release from the stowed position.

Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will replace the bed motor, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 30, 2020. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-617-776-0344. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903525.

Sunshine Valley RV Resort, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Cougar trailers equipped with the Off the Grid (OTG) Solar package. The inverter may have been incorrectly wired, causing power to energize the shore power connection, when in use.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will test the function of the inverter and rewire it as needed, free of charge. Ther recall is expected to begin December 18, 2020. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 20-389.

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2010-2011 Four Winds Montecito 38D, 38E, 40J, 42B, 42C motorhomes, equipped with an Iota ITS-50R transfer switch. The transfer switch may experience a heat related failure due to being exposed to high electrical loads when used in higher ambient temperatures.

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will replace the Iota ITS-50R transfer switch with a different brand of switch, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin January 3, 2021. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000205.

Fort McDowell Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Triple E

Triple E Recreational Vehicles (Triple E) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Wonder W24FTB, W24RTB, and W24MB motorhomes. The Multiplex G9 electronic control center can fail if excessive voltage is applied.

Triple E will notify owners, and dealers will install a protection module on the G9 system, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in November 2020. Owners may contact Triple E customer service at 1-800-447-0343. Triple E’s number for this recall is CA#9830-1.

Please Note: This is the 22nd in a series of posts relating to RV Manufacturers Recalls

Worth Pondering…

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.

—Martin Van Buren

Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

With all there is to see and do, you’ll want to make sure that Georgia is on your mind

There isn’t a single amazing thing about Georgia. There are about ten zillion. So start poking around and figure out what to put at the top of your list.

Gorgeous Georgia is mostly known for being home to charming historic cities filled with leafy squares and oak-lined streets, sprawling farmlands, towering mountains, and Southern charm. That’s not forgetting the amazing beaches and coastline, sleepy rural settlements, roaring rivers, jaw-dropping parks, and clear sparkling lakes—to say this southeastern state is diverse would be an understatement. It sure is a tough task, but we’ve managed to narrow done to eight of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Georgia…

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Isles

Along the incredible 100 miles of Georgia’s coastline lies the magical seaside retreat of the Golden Isles. Nestled along stretches of sand dunes and salt marshes, the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beloved barrier islands—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Islands—offer breathtaking landscapes, a variety of recreational pursuits, and inherent tranquility.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah

Constantly ranked amongst one of the “friendliest cities in the world”, Savannah’s colorful history attracts millions of visitors every year. Situated along the bubbling Savannah River, this strategic port city is Georgia’s fifth-largest city. With a history of almost 300 years, the cobbled and oak-lined streets, beautiful parks, and archaic buildings, the historic city retains its essence.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the 22 park-like squares in downtown Savannah or get intrigued with the Telfair’s Academy of Arts and Sciences, the South’s first public museum. A pretty and sophisticated city with delicious food, this place exudes natural beauty and beautiful locales.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park near Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lookout Mountain

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Georgia, Lookout Mountain is a wonderful and striking mountain ridge located at the northwest corner of the state. As well as offering truly stunning views and beautiful surroundings it’s also the place where you can view the most states at once. Located 25 miles from three different states, when the skies are clear (and with a good set of binoculars handy) you can see up to seven different states if you try hard enough—visit and see for yourself! 

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Macon

Located about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta, Macon is the perfect destination for Southern adventure. A pretty city with a rich history, incredible architecture, and music heritage, Macon is “Where Soul Lives”. Hike to the area’s 17,000 years of heritage at Ocmulgee National Monument which includes a reconstructed earthen lodge or stroll the streets and discover the state’s largest collection of African-American art in Tubman Museum. At every landmark, you’ll discover the untold stories of the Civil War. Pay tribute to Macon’s native son, Otis Redding, at his life-size statue.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeast Georgia Mountains

Northeast Georgia Mountains’ picturesque beauty, countryside, tumbling waterfalls, and gentle-mountains provide a much-needed escape from the bustling city. One of the oldest mountain chains that end in Georgia is the Blue Ridge. Tucked in Chattahoochee National Forest, Blue Ridge offers excellent hiking, scenic drives, and farm-fresh produce. Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains is known to display the season’s first fall colors. Hike to the top for a panoramic 360-degree view and witness the four states from the visitor center. With sublime views and lush forests, the Brasstown Bald offers a secluded retreat.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest at the base of the Blood Mountain. Four hiking trails of varying difficulty offer opportunities to observe spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains scenery year-round, most popular during the autumn months as leaf-watching routes. A 22-acre lake is also open for boaters, along with a seasonal swimming beach available.

Appalachian Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Also referred to as Appalachian Trail or A.T., this marked hiking trail extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Extending about 2,200 miles, the trail traverses scenic woods, pastoral, and wild lands of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Established in 1937, today the trail is managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and numerous state agencies. Passing through 14 states and 8 national forests, hiking the entire trail takes five to seven months.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island

A ferry ride of about 45 minutes from St. Mary’s and you’ll head to Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. The Cumberland Island covers approximately 36,000 acres of land with unspoiled beaches, wide marshes and white sands with a variety of wildlife is a national seashore. With a deep history of the inhabitants and settlements you can have a glimpse of the Ruins of Dungeness and Greyfield Inn. It’s also a great place to visit in Georgia if you’re an animal lover—the island is home to a band of beautiful feral horses living and wandering free. 

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee

The Okefenokee is an area of swampland in southern Georgia, covering more than 770 square miles. It is a maze of watercourses, cypress swamps, and swamp grassland. Interesting features are the “floating islands” which quake under foot but nevertheless support whole forests and in the past provided protection for Indian settlements. The swamp is home to many endangered species as well as an estimated 10,000 alligators. From the little town of Waycross there are boat trips into the swamp.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Laura S. Walker State Park offers a large campground, golf course, and Sportsman’s Cabins as well as kayak rentals, playgrounds, and trails. The park is designed to allow visitors to get the most out of the time they spend in nature. It surrounds Laura S. Walker Lake and sits just to the north of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park spans 80 acres anchored around the gorgeous Okefenokee Swamp. Park visitors can canoe, kayak, and boat on the Spanish moss-lined swamp’s waters or embark on guided fishing and boating tours.

Keep Georgia on your mind as you plan your next RV trip.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

A Bakers Dozen Campgrounds for an Unforgettable Arizona Wilderness Experience

Sometimes, “great outdoors” is an understatement

As the world grapples with the current reality, the great outdoors have become a welcome respite. Biking is on the rise. RVs became mobile motels for a new generation of traveler. And camping is a now go-to weekend activity for backcountry buffs and newbies alike. With fall in full swing, Arizona is an ideal camping destination. 

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its wildly diverse wilderness, the state is a massive playground for campers of all walks, whether you’re seeking a trip to one of the country’s most celebrated national parks or one of its most underrated. Here, jaw-dropping vistas can be discovered during a hike or by simply pulling off the main road. You’ll find red-rock deserts and dense forests, and dry basins—and much of it is all-seasons. Whether you’re looking to flee Phoenix or stop off for a while in the middle of a cross-country voyage, these are the Arizona campgrounds you need to hit. 

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamo Lake State Park

If you love the desert and want some year-round lake views, check out the Alamo Lake State Park campground. With six loops, this large campground has both full hookups and dry camping sites. The park also has cabins for rent with views of the water. Lake Alamo is nicely remote. It’s located less than two hours from the RV-centric town of Quartzsite.  

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

You can learn a lot about yourself after spending some time in the Verde River Valley. Are you the type of person that enjoys solitude under a canopy of towering cottonwood trees? Do you relish the sight of wildlife and soft sounds of a gentle river as you explore nature? Maybe you’re just looking for a gorgeous spot to take your family. A spot that will help simplify life for a while before heading back into the daily grind. Relax, recharge, and return to your “normal” life with less stress. Spending time at a place like Dead Horse Ranch will facilitate this magical transformation and, who knows? Your family might request a return trip. There are more than 100 large RV sites available. Most of the pull-through sites can accommodate 40-foot motorhomes and truck and trailer rigs up to 65 feet and include potable water and 30/50-amp service.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The View Campground, Monument Valley

Monument Valley is basically the image that comes to mind when someone who’s not from Arizona thinks of Arizona. It’s undeniably the picture of the American Southwest. And not only can you visit the iconic sandstone buttes, you can camp on the edge of the park. The View Campground certainly lives up to its name: Equipped with both RV sites and wilderness campsites, it’s positioned on the cliff side of the park which undoubtedly makes for some iconic sunrise and sunset views. 

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park

Jutting out of the Sonoran Desert some 1,500 feet, you can’t help but see Picacho Peak for miles as you drive along Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Travelers have used the peak for centuries as a landmark and continue to enjoy the state park’s 3,747 acres for hiking, rock climbing, spring wildflowers, and camping. Picacho Peak State Park’s campground has a total of 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping.

La Paz County Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Paz County Park Campground

Nestled along the Colorado River La Paz County Park Campground is located 8 miles north of Parker off Highway 95. The campground offers 114 RV camping sites with water, electric service, and cable TV; riverfront armadas with cabana; and dry camping under large shade trees. Amenities include restroom buildings with showers, boat launches, beachfront walkway, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Neighboring the Goldfield Mountains and Tonto National Forest, Usery Mountain Regional Park spans 3,648 acres of metro Phoenix’s east Valley and offers 73 individual camping sites. All are developed sites with water and electrical hook-ups, plus a dump station, picnic table, and barbecue fire ring and can accommodate up to 45-foot RVs. Restrooms offer flush toilets and showers and group camping is also available.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park

Named after the fabled lost gold mine, Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Sonoran Desert, at the base of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Several trails lead from the park into the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest. Take a stroll along the Native Plant Trail or hike the challenging Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. The campground has 138 sites: 68 sites with electric (50/30/20 amp service) and water and the remainder non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table, and a fire pit with adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs.

Wahweep RV Park and Marina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the winter solitude of Lake Powell. The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50 amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet.

White Tank Mountains Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Tank Mountains Regional Park

Maricopa County’s largest regional park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park covers almost 30,000 acres in the West Valley and features 40 individual sites for tent or RV camping. All are developed sites with water and electrical hook-ups, plus a dump station, picnic table, and barbecue fire ring and can accommodate up to a 45-foot RV. Amenities also include restrooms with flush toilets and showers.

Patagonia Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia Lake State Park

Tucked away in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona, Patagonia Lake State Park is a hidden treasure. The park offers a campground, beach, picnic area with ramadas, tables and grills, a creek trail, boat ramps, and a marina. The campground overlooks the lake where anglers catch crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout. The park is popular for water skiing, fishing, camping, picnicking, and hiking. 105 developed campsites with a picnic table and fire ring/grill. Select sites also have a ramada. Sites offer 20/30 amp and 50 amp electric service. Campsite lengths vary but most can accommodate any size RV.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails which wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. The camping area offers 120 electric and water sites with a picnic table and BBQ grill. Amenities include modern flush restrooms with hot showers and RV dump stations. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park

Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake. Twin Peaks Campground offers 208 sites that are generally level, widely spaced, and landscaped by natural desert growth. The campsites will easily accommodate big rigs and are available on a first-come first-served basis. As well, Alamo Campground has four well-spaced, primitive spots.

Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon is nestled in the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains 30 miles southeast of Tucson. A renowned location for bird watching, Madera Canyon is a major resting place for migrating species while the extensive trail system of the Santa Rita Mountains is easily accessed from the Canyon’s campground and picnic areas. A three mile paved road winds up the lower reaches of the canyon beside Madera Creek ending at a fork in the stream just before the land rises much more steeply. Along the way are three picnic areas, a side road to a campground, and five trailheads. Nearly 100 miles of paths climb the valley sides to springs, viewpoints, old mines, and summits including Mount Wrightson.

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before. I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, the sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

There are numerous attractions along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. Whether you are a lover of history, nature, or adrenaline rushes, we’ve got you covered.

The Coastal Connection Scenic Byway runs along the Alabama Gulf Coast and is a unique way to explore the Gulf Shores area. As you drive, you’ll find yourself immersed in history and nature. 

Here are six favorite experiences along this scenic byway.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is home to two miles of pristine white-sand beaches along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. Sink your toes into the fine, sugary sand, fish, bike, kayak, or canoe. Birding, hiking, and biking are other popular activities. The park also offers a Segway tour. Even if you’ve never ridden one, the tour guides will keep you upright and make sure that you enjoy your experience. RV campsites, cottages, cabins, and lodges are available in the park if you decide to stay the night or longer.

Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Shores Museum

Gulf Shores Museum features several permanent exhibits including “Portrait of a Fishing Village”, “Drawing a Line in the Sand”, and “Hurricanes: What You Need to Know”. Rotating special exhibits are also on display. Butterfly enthusiasts will love the museum’s butterfly garden. Benches and tables are nearby so visitors can rest their feet while they observe the colorful butterflies.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Geocaching

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure-hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called caches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. There are caches all along the byway. This is a great activity for travel parties of all sizes and a great way to connect with fellow treasure hunters across the globe.

Bon Secor National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

The Jeff Friend Loop Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in the area for bird-watching and observing other critters. Park in the refuge’s parking lot and be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring bottled water, binoculars, and camera. The trail, a mix of crushed limestone and a boardwalk, is a relatively flat 0.9 miles. Allow 2 hours to explore this sliver of paradise. You’ll love the colorful birds that frequent the area!

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile Bay Ferry

The Mobile Bay Ferry boards near Fort Morgan. This is one of the easiest ways to travel to Dauphin Island which is a continuation of the scenic byway. If you have never driven your car onto a ferry, this is an experience you will want to make time for. If you want to ride the ferry and leave your car in the parking lot, you can do that as well. The hours vary by season, so it’s important to check the website before your trip.

Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island provides a getaway atmosphere with attractions aimed at the family.Dauphin Island Park and Campground offers an abundance of recreation offerings and natural beauty. The campground is uniquely positioned so that guests have access to a secluded beach, public boat launches, Fort Gaines, and Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab allows visitors the opportunity to explore the four ecosystems of coastal Alabama—the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the barrier islands, and Gulf of Mexico.

Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Making the Most of your Byway Experience

Alabama’s Coastal Connection offers something for everyone from the birders to hikers to photographers. There are a few measures you can take to make the most of your experience. Be flexible, since volatile weather can force you to change your plans. When traveling along Alabama’s Coastal Connection, have your rain gear and jackets handy in case you need them. Memories can just as easily be made in rain boots and under an umbrella!

Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to miles of beauty that you can only find along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. Don’t be afraid to slow down when you see something that piques your curiosity. After all, this is why you’re taking a scenic byway instead of flying down the interstate at 75 miles per hour.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

Give yourself some space #OptOutside

Especially now, we need outdoor spaces free from the distractions of modern technology and the negativity of our never-ending social media feeds

Approaching Thanksgiving we search for ways to be thankful and pave the way with a positive and an introspective look into our lives. Many people have taken the opportunity to spend more time outside and others have enjoyed outdoor recreation for the first time. As we prepare to leave 2020 in our rearview mirror, take the opportunity to spend it out of doors with a road trip into America’s beautiful places. A camping trip is a great place to start!

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The renowned naturalist John Muir wrote that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

Golfing in Southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed immensely since Muir wrote this in 1901. People, now more than ever, seek the benefits of nature. It’s amazing what a couple of hours outside can do for your well-being. Fresh air is a state of mind. One we could all use a little more of these days.

Opt outside with Americas’ national and state parks on Black Friday. Forego the hustle and stress of this traditional shopping holiday and choose to break the mold by enjoying a worry free, socially distanced trip to an outdoor recreation area. On Black Friday and any day of the year, get outside and enjoy a hike in the parks!

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get out and explore some of the great parks located across the country! Try something new; if you’ve never seen the beauty of southern Arizona, it’s the perfect time of year to visit Saguaro National Park or Catalina State Park in Tucson. Saguaro has two sections, approximately 30 minutes apart. Both sections of the park offer great opportunities to experience the desert and enjoy hiking trails.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching.

Picacho State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park offers trails for all difficulty levels. Hiking at Lost Dutchman State Park can be a great way to test your endurance as many of the trails are quite steep.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert. Or you can explore two deserts in one at Joshua Tree National Park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Moab. Mountain bike, hike, and climb your way around the stunning red rocks. Test your hiking limits at the Zion National Park. Zion is filled with impressive canyons, sheer cliffs, and wide expanses of slick rock. This is the type of place where you can take your hiking ability to the limit and beyond.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour the Louisiana Outback. Life is everywhere along the Creole Nature Trail. Birds, mammals, fish, crabs, and alligators make their home in the four wildlife refuges that can be found along the 180 mile-long byways that make up the Trail.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucked away in southern New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Park protects a portion of the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The best way to explore is by hiking, horseback, or biking—and don’t miss out on the thrill of sledding down the soft white sand. The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais National Monument offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. There’s something for everyone here. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admission will be free at state parks in South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 27, as the Park Service joins the national #OptOutside initiative. The promotion, sponsored by REI, encourages people to spend some time in the great outdoors the day after Thanksgiving. State parks are some of the most beautiful outdoor settings in South Carolina and are ideal places for family outings.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or, stop at Guadalupe River State Park just outside of San Antonio in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Here you can camp by the river and spend your days enjoying various water activities like kayaking, tubing, swimming, and fishing.

Northeast Georgia mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeast Georgia Mountains’ picturesque beauty, countryside, tumbling waterfalls, and gentle mountains provide a much-needed escape from the bustling city. Hike to the top of Brasstown Bald for a panoramic 360-degree view. Cumberland Island is the largest uninhabited barrier island in Georgia. The adventure starts on the ferry from St. Mary’s, the only way to get to the island which offers a wonderful view of the diverse habitats. Rent a bike, book a tour with park rangers, or bring a pair of good hiking shoes, as the island is a wonderful place to explore. You can spot wild horses roaming freely, raccoons, wild boars, alligators, whit-tailed deer, and many birds.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings built from the 6th to the 12th century can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in southwestern Colorado.

The #OptOutside movement was started by the outdoor retail company REI in 2015. The basic meaning of #OptOutside is: Go outdoors on Black Friday instead of shopping.

Everything is easier said than done. So don’t just read or say it; do it!

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

—John Muir

The Ultimate #OptOutside Guide

It’s amazing what a couple of hours outside can do for your well-being. Fresh air is a state of mind. One we could all use a little more of these days.

For a lot of people, the pandemic has turned life upside down. It’s decimated savings, derailed dreams, and thrown the future into dark uncertainty. I’ve been fortunate to have remained relatively unscathed especially compared with those who have fallen sick, lost jobs, or faced other challenges. Fifty-three percent of adults report that pervasive concerns about the virus have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a poll conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

#OptOutside at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Especially now, we need outdoor spaces free from the distractions of modern technology and the negativity of our never-ending social media feeds. There are numerous mental health benefits to be found in spending time outdoors, be it a neighborhood walk or bike ride. But there’s something special about the deep woods, the wide-open desert, mountain landscape, even the forested corners of an urban park. Those places help to remove us from the anxieties and stresses of everyday life.

#OptOutside at Lynx Lake near Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On Black Friday, we’re going outside. Because we need to! Because that’s where we feel good, and awesome, and human again! Join us!

Ways to Spend More Time Outside

Here is a list of ways to spend more time outdoors. Some big! Some small! Some you can do right outside your door wherever you are. I hope this list serves as inspiration and motivation, or at least a little nudge in the right direction (hopefully, that’s outside).

#OptOutside on Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch the sunrise

Explore a local park

Walk a mile

Check out a new neighborhood

Camp someplace new

#OptOutside in Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp someplace old

Dance in the rain

Find the end of a rainbow

Walk in the snow

Park your car and walk and then walk some more

#OptOutside at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just walk out of your door

Take a hike

Take your dog for an extra-long walk

Walk around a lake

Read a book under a tree

#OptOutside at Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go RVing

Climb the biggest hill you can see

Reflect on your time outside through journaling

Explore a new trail

Spend a day in the woods

#OptOutside at Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have a picnic

Climb a mountain

Hug a tree

Feel sand in your toes

Splash in a stream

#OptOutside at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kayak or canoe in a lake or creek

Walk in a meadow

Feel the wind on your face

Surround yourself with trees

Walk a dry creek bed

#OptOutside at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll around a park

Stop and smell the roses (literally)

Go camping in a tent

Look for a four-leaf clover

Listen to the birds

#OptOutside at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sit on a pier

Visit a national park

Visit a state park

Visit a regional or county park

Enjoy a new path

#OptOutside at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Optoutside and cast a line

Go bird watching

Observe nature with a camera

Float a river

Stand on a summit (any size will do)

#OptOutside at Natural Bridges National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Listen to the ocean

Pick up trash while on the trail

Watch the sunset

Watch the moon rise

Count the stars in the night sky

#OptOutside at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The #OptOutside movement was started by the outdoor retail company REI in 2015. The basic meaning of #OptOutside is: Go outdoors on Black Friday instead of shopping.

Everything is easier said than done. So don’t just read or say it; do it!

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

Before You Forget: 14 Absolutely Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Road Trip

There are certain essential products that are must-haves for RVers

Packing the right items is key to the perfect road trip. In addition to necessities like your wallet, phone, clothes, and keys, you’ll be glad you brought these 14 items along for the journey.

Full hookup camping showing power cord, water and sewer hoses, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basic toolkit

It’s always a good idea to buy and stock a basic toolkit, just in case. The toolbox in your RV should include screw drivers, sockets, claw hammer, pliers, utility knife, tape measure, cordless drill, and adjustable and combination wrenches. Also, consider extension cords and spare fuses.

Water hose connection showing pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Emergency Kit

An emergency roadside assistance kit won’t break the bank but it just might save the day in the event of a breakdown or accident. Pick one up from any big-box store and bring it along for long road trips. Reflective road triangles are so effective, they are used by the Amish as electricity-free tail lights.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Aid Kit

Like a roadside emergency kit, a first aid kit is a must for road trippers. This way you’ll have essential first-aid supplies to help treat most common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, and strains. Your first aid kit should include antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, antiseptic cleansing wipes, gauze dressing pads in varied sizes, tape roll, tweezers, adhesive bandages in varied sizes, scissors, disposable vinyl gloves, and Red Cross Emergency First Aid Guide.

Use extra care with snow and ice © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bug Spray

All kinds of annoying bugs come out in the summer so make sure you’re prepared to keep them at bay and avoid itchy bites by grabbing some bug spray with DEET. 

GPS Device

Having a portable one of these helps for adventures taken outside your car, too. There have to be at least 24 satellites in a “GPS constellation” of synchronized orbits in order for your GPS device to work. That’s a lot of rocket science and delicate mathematics, so take advantage of it.

Drive with care © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paper Atlas

An atlas you can hold in your hand is the ultimate back-up plan. If the technology seems old, that’s because it is—road maps go back as far as 5th century Rome.

USB Charger

Don’t let your gadgets die on you. Modern USB connections aren’t just faster than their predecessors—they consume less power, too.

Ambassador RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vacuum

You’re enjoying the great outdoors—which means you’re bringing the great outdoors back into your RV with you. Staying at campsites means mud, grass, and insects—all of which can dirty up your home-on-wheels quickly. A small, cordless powerful vacuum is a must-have.

Fort Camping at Brae Island, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding steps

Folding steps are one of those useful tools you might not think about, but they’re handy to have around. As extra seating, an added step to get into your RV, and standing on to reach things when making repairs or finding the back of a high cupboard, it’s a useful tool.

Heavy duty sewer hose and secure connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on, and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

Smokiam RV Resort, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding tables

You can find a basic folding table in most stores—but you won’t find them in most campsites. They’re a great addition to your packing plans for meals, games, and hobbies. The benefit of a folding table is they take up a small amount of space and are generally water-resistant.

Cooler on sliding tray © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooler

The cooler, or portable ice chest, was invented in 1951, but things have gotten a little fancier in the 67 years since. Some modern coolers can plug into your RV’s electrical outlet and use a powered fan to draw away heat and keep things even cooler.

Cash for tolls

Keep some quarters and spare paper cash so you never have to go digging.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

This one is obvious, but don’t leave home without it. How else are you going to document your visit to the world’s only corn palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota?

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

A White Oasis: White Sands National Park

Like a mirage, dazzling white sand dunes shift and settle over the Chihuahuan Desert, covering 275 square miles—the largest gypsum dunefield in the world

Remember how fun it was to play in the sand as a kid? It’s still pretty fun, as it turns out. And the sandbox is a lot bigger at White Sands National Park, a system of rare white gypsum sand dunes intertwined with raised boardwalk trails and a single loop road. Sunset and sunrise are obviously the golden hours for photographers but any time is a good time for some sand-dune sledding, kite flying, and back-country camping.

Dune Life Nature Trail, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest gypsum dune field in the world is located at White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico. This region of glistening white dunes is in the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert within an “internally drained valley” called the Tularosa Basin.

Dunes Drive, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park ranges in elevation from 3,890 feet to 4,116 feet above sea level. There are approximately 275 total square miles of dune fields here with 115 square miles (about 40 percent) located within White Sands National Park. The remainder is on military land that is not open to the public.

It was the midst of the Great Depression when President Herbert Hoover declared this swath of pale dunes a national monument. Now 87 years later, White Sands has been declared the United States’ 62nd national park. 

Interdune Boardwalk, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The history of the newly-minted White Sands National Park goes back far beyond these presidential decrees, however. A unique series of fossilized footprints known as the White Sands Trackway show that almost 12,000 years ago ancient humans were stalking giant sloths here, hunting varieties of megafauna that died out by the end of the Pleistocene. 

Playa Trail, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was 2,000 years later that the enormous gypsum dunes for which the new national park was named began to form, the result of steady evaporation of what was once a vast inland sea and, later, a lake between the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains. Prevailing winds eventually swirled those white gypsum sands into dunes that cover about 275 square miles of the Land of Enchantment.

Dunes Drive, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the time European settlers arrived in the 1800s, the area was well known to bands of Apache who lived in the Tularosa Basin and surrounding mountain ranges. Their descendants now live on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation between Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area and Lincoln National Forest. 

Dunes Life Nature Trail, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Given its arid climate, the temperatures at White Sands vary greatly both throughout the seasons and within a single day. The most comfortable time to visit weather-wise is autumn (late September through October) when daytime temperatures reach the 80s with light winds and cooler evening temperatures in the 50s. Spring (March through May) can also be comfortable when the temperature varies from the 70s to the 40s. However, strong windstorms are somewhat common during these months.  

Interdune Boardwalk, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In summer and winter, you’ll be dealing with hot and cold extremes, so you just need to be extra prepared for both. Summer days average about 95 degrees, but can spike as high as 110. Evenings are comfortable in the 60s. 

The last place to fill up any water containers is the visitor center, so make sure you have enough with you when you enter White Sands. Bring one gallon of water per person per day. If it’s hot, you’ll probably drink it all, but don’t forget to hydrate even if it’s cool and you don’t feel as thirsty. 

Dunes Drive, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bright sun is intensified by the reflection off the snow-white sand. Make sure you have a hat (I recommend a Tilley with UV protection) and sunglasses, even for the little ones. 

And of course, never forget the sunscreen! Avoid the chemicals and use mineral-based sunscreens.

Dunes Drive, White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be prepared for the wind.  Strong windstorms are common February through May, but it can be windy any day of the year. When we visited in late February, it was mostly calm throughout the day, but the winds started picking up by mid-afternoon. 

Worth Pondering…

Life is not obvious here. It is implied, or twice removed, and must be read in signs or code. Ripple marks tell of the wind’s way with individual sand grains. Footprints, mounds, and burrows bespeak the presence of mice, pocket gophers, and foxes.

—Rose Houk and Michael Collier

Thanksgiving Road Trip: See the Best of Arizona in these 8 Places

There’s a lot more to Arizona than the Grand Canyon which is why these eight places are the perfect excuse to take a Thanksgiving road trip

This Thanksgiving, be grateful not just for the four-day weekend, but how it allows plenty of time to see Arizona at its best—winter to the north, t-shirt weather to the south.

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state’s scenic variety shines through as fall edges toward winter. Even as snow blankets the high country, the desert sun continues to warm snowbirds who bask in it on desert hikes.

The long Thanksgiving weekend provides the perfect opportunity to spend a day or two on the road, seeing areas that have perhaps escaped your view. Here are some suggestions to get you on your way.

Sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willcox

This up-and-coming town in southeastern Arizona is attracting visitors who come for its wineries and tasting rooms, but you’re here to hike in Chiricahua National Monument and see the sandhill cranes. The majestic birds winter in the Sulphur Springs area, and Willcox is the perfect hub. Thousands of cranes roost in Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a shallow lake that is a flurry activity at sunup and sundown, when birds depart and return in a swirling cloud of feathers.

Tumacacori National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac and Tumacacori

Head south on Interstate 19 to Tumacacori National Historical Park, where a stately though incomplete mission stands as a reminder of the Spanish Franciscans who settled in the area two centuries ago. After soaking in the history, head 3½ miles back north for lunch in Tubac, a charming arts colony. Stroll among dozens of galleries and studios where you’ll find pottery, jewelry, paintings, and works in all sorts of media.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

See just how lush the desert can be at this oasis of more than 3,000 types of Sonoran Desert vegetation. At 392 acres, Boyce Thompson is Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden founded in the 1920s. There are 3 miles of trails and the most popular is the 1.5-mile main loop that offers a perfect overview. 

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montezuma Castle National Monument

You’ve lost count how many times you’ve whipped past the off ramp for Montezuma Castle as you head north on Interstate 17. But go ahead, angle right at Exit 289 and be rewarded with a look at a work of ingenuity and architectural design, circa 1200. The ancient dwellers carved a 40- to 50-room pueblo into the cliff and lived there for 400 years. Visitors in the early 20th century scaled ladders and explored the rooms, but ruins are off limits today. No matter, because the view from below is stunning.

Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Crossing, Sedona

Among the dozens of Instagram-worthy sites around Sedona, this is one of the best. Its official name is Crescent Moon Picnic Site but it’s commonly called Red Rock Crossing. Cathedral Rock soars in the distance, its two towers book-ending a slender spire offering the perfect backdrop to Oak Creek, which flows along rocks worn smooth by water and wind. It’s also said to be home to a powerful spiritual vortex. For something more palpable, pack a lunch and dine in one of Arizona’s prettiest places.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee

For a few years, Bisbee was the “it” destination, named Arizona’s prettiest small town by a number of travel sites. That level of attention may have dwindled, but the former mining town is as beautiful as ever. A stroll down Main Street reveals buildings that look much as they did a hundred years ago, now occupied by restaurants and boutiques rather than miners and speculators. If you head 3 miles south to Lowell, you’ll find a strip of former service stations and garages repurposed as stores and restaurants.

Courthouse Plaza, Pewscott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whiskey Row, Prescott

Park the car and enjoy the kind of afternoon once experienced by cowboys, miners, and ranchers looking to blow off some steam around the turn of the 20th century. While the bars aren’t nearly as numerous as they once were, you can still duck inside one of Whiskey Row’s three saloons (Bird Cage, the Palace Saloon, or Matt’s) and revel in the history. Special treat: Just across the street, Courthouse Plaza will be decked out for the holidays one of the reasons Prescott is the Arizona’s Christmas City.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

To experience the magic of the giant saguaro cacti up-close, look no further than Catalina State Park near Tucson. There are easy nature trails here and also longer and more challenging trails for experienced hikers. The park spans 5,500 acres of foothills, streams, and canyons and is home to over 150 species of birds. RV camping is available.

Western scrub jay at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaros standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.

—Dorothy B. Hughes