September 2019 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?

Camping at White Tank Mountains Regional Park, El Mirage, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

The number of RV recalls has increased significantly in recent years: 169 recalls were issued during 2016, 203 recalls during 2017, and 230 for 2018.

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 11 recall notices during September 2019. These recalls involved 8 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (2 recalls), Keystone RV Company (2 recalls), Newmar (1 recall), Braxton Creek RV (1 recall), Lance Camper (1 recall), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Jayco (2 recalls), Entegra Coach (1 recall)

Camping at Portland Fairview RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2019 Rockport box vans and service bodies, equipped with Uline Bulk Storage racks. Due to improper welding, the bulk storage beams may fail when loaded.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will install replacement beams that were correctly welded, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin August 29, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-522-7599 or Uline customer service at 1-800-295-5510 or email at customerservice@uline.com. Forest River’s number for this recall is 29-1074.

Camping at Spartanburg-Gaffney KOA, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2020 Catalina Travel Trailers. The fasteners securing the upper sleeping bunks may be too short, which can allow the bunk to fall.

Forest River will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fasteners to secure the bunk, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 9, 2019. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8657. Forest River’s number for this recall is 205-1079.

Camping at Hidden Lake RV Park, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone RV Company

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2020 Crossroads Cruiser 29SI, 27MK, 28RD, 24RL, and 29RK fifth-wheel trailers equipped with Morryde Rotating Pin Boxes. These pin boxes may be attached with bolts that are too short.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the bolts, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 5, 2019. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 19-358.

Camping at Bellingham RV Park, Bellingham, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keystone RV Company

Keystone RV Company (Keystone) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Hideout 25TH toy haulers. The trailers may be missing the Special Transportation Provision warning label in the garage area.

Keystone will notify owners, and dealers will provide the Special Transportation Provision warning labels, free of charge. The recall began on September 3, 2019. Owners may contact Keystone customer service at 1-866-425-4369. Keystone’s number for this recall is 19-359.

Camping at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newmar

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2018-2020 Mountain Aire, Essex, and King Aire motorhomes. The bedroom fascia header may fall unexpectedly onto the bed.

Newmar will notify owners, and dealers will add screws and brackets to properly secure the fascia header, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 19, 2019. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300.

Camping at Peach Arch RV Park, Surrey, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Braxton Creek RV

Braxton Creek RV (Braxton Creek) is recalling certain 2020 Bushwhacker trailers. The trailers may be missing the liquid propane (LP)/carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.

Braxton Creek will notify owners, and dealers will provide a plug-in 120 volt LP/CO detector, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in September 2019. Owners may contact Braxton Creek customer service at 1-260-768-7932.

Camping at Golden Village Palms RV Park, Hemet, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lance Camper

Lance Camper Manufacturing Corp. (Lance Camper) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Lance Camper 855S trailers. The 12 volt battery power and/or ground wire may contact the hot burner box of the refrigerator.

Lance Camper will notify owners, and dealers will install a clamp to secure the wire, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 14, 2019. Owners may contact Lance Camper customer service at 1-661-949-3322.

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

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2020 Chateau, Daybreak, Four Winds, Freedom Elite, Majestic, Outlaw and Quantum motorhomes. The battery cables may loosen on the battery isolation manager (BIM) or battery isolation relay (BIR), causing premature BIN/BIR failure or electrical arcing.

TMC will notify owners, and dealers will install lock washers to properly secure the battery cable to the BIM/BIR. If the cable was loose, dealers will also replace the BIM/BIR, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 20, 2019. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000172.

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

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2019 Embark motorhomes. The upper and lower steering shaft bolts may have been insufficiently tightened, allowing the steering column shaft to come loose.

Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and tighten the upper and lower steering shaft bolts, if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in September 2019. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901434.

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

Jayco

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Eagle HT fifth wheel trailers equipped with MORyde Orbital or You Turn Rubber Pin Box Wedge Kits. The pin boxes may have been equipped with bolts 1-3/4″ in length when they should be equipped with 2″ long bolts.

Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the bolts and replace them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin September 20, 2019. Owners may contact MORyde customer service at 1-574-293-1581 or Jayco at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9901435.

Camping at Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entegra Coach

Entegra Coach (Entegra) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Insignia, Anthem, Aspire, Cornerstone, Reatta, and Reatta XL motorhomes. The upper and lower steering shaft bolts may have been insufficiently tightened, allowing the steering column shaft to come loose.

Entegra will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and tighten the upper and lower steering shaft bolts, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in September 2019. Owners may contact Entegra customer service at 1-800-517-9137. Entegra’s number for this recall is 9901434.

Note: Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Please Note: This is the eighth 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

Farewell My Summer Love

The RV lifestyle allows those of us who travel in our coach or towable to visit wineries in many different locations

As summer comes to a close, it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming change in seasons. What better way to end an amazing summer than to dive into a wine country extravaganza? We’ve handpicked 4 unique wine country regions that we think will make the perfect final getaway to end your summer with a bang! So, grab a glass of vino and cheers to another amazing summer getaway.

Michael David, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lodi, California

Lying at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta, the Lodi Wine Region enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool evenings, ideal for growing wine grapes.

With a grape-growing history that dates back to the 1850s, the Lodi Appellation boasts over 750 growers and is home to more than 85 wineries (65 of which boast boutique tasting rooms) specializing in small-lot, handmade wines.

Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With more than 100 varieties currently being cultivated, Lodi offers a diverse portfolio of wines. While long renowned for its high-quality Zinfandel production, including an estimated 2,000 acres of pre-Prohibition vines, the area also produces award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Chardonnay.

Van Ruiten Vineyards, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine enthusiasts will enjoy a warm welcome and a friendly face as they travel Lodi Wine Country and enjoy a diverse range of wines, delicious foods, and great hospitality. 

Helwig Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amador County, California

The beautiful Shenandoah Valley is the heart of Amador Wine Country. The valley offers country roads with breathtaking views, charming postcard-perfect farms, unique tasting rooms, and relaxing environments. This undiscovered California gem features rolling, golden hills studded with majestic oaks and rolling vineyards producing exceptional full-bodied wines.

Cooper Vineyards, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah Valley produces some of the most interesting wines due to its terroir, a unique combination of rocky soil and warm temperatures that gives the wines their distinctive flavor.

Amador may have developed its reputation around Zinfandel, but Amador winemakers have branched out over the past 20 years and now produce wines from grape varietals originating in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Moon Crusher Vineyards, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape growing region and boasts 131 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Hester Creek Winery, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions. 

Tinhorn Vineyards, Okanagan © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, and Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate, and Tinhorn Creek. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.

Murphys, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Calaveras County, California

At the heart of Calaveras County’s wine country is an old-school Main Street with a new-world vibe. Unique to any other wine region, Murphys is a wine-lover’s dream with numerous tasting rooms and many excellent restaurants in an historic downtown.

Ironside Vineyards, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murphys was one of the Gold Country’s richest diggins. The picturesque village is known today for its many natural attractions including caverns, a charming Main Street, unique shops including art galleries, and spectacular wineries. You can literally do wine country on foot in Murphys. There are over 25 wineries here and 20 of them have tasting rooms within walking distance from one another along Murphy’s Historic Main Street.

Four Winds Cellar, Calaveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picturesque vineyards and destination wineries are nestled in the rolling hills throughout the county.

Worth Pondering…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m finding enjoyment in things that stop time. Just the simple act of tasting a glass of wine is its own event.

―David Hyde Pierce

Keeneland: A Special Place

Located in the Horse Capital of the World, Keeneland is an internationally renowned racecourse and the Thoroughbred industry’s leading auction house

Kentucky is the undisputed mecca of the Thoroughbred industry in the U.S., both for breeding and racing.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each year since 1875 this truth has been reaffirmed on the first Saturday in May, when sport’s brightest spotlight turns toward Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Its reputation as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” is well-deserved. The same goes for the race’s record attendance numbers which eclipse both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But those who follow the sport beyond the Julep-fueled weekend know that much of the prestigious race’s success is owed to another place a mere 80 miles east.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region, Keeneland plays an important role in both Thoroughbred racing and breeding. A fundamentally different kind of race track, Keeneland was purposefully conceived to serve as a lasting monument to the sport’s heritage and tradition.

From its inception in 1936, Keeneland’s founders, led by respected horsemen Hal Price Headley and Major Louis Beard, intended it to be a special place—one that symbolizes the best in Thoroughbred racing.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the story goes, after the closing of the Kentucky Association Track in 1933 during the thick of the Great Depression, Lexington was suddenly trackless for the first time in a century. While much of the country wandered adrift in search of food, shelter, and work, a committee of 10 local industry veterans hatched a plan to create America’s first not-for-profit track, one that would serve the community and reinvest proceeds into improving the grounds and fattening race purses.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The decision to act during such a period of economic chaos proved fruitful for the group. Jack Keene, a colorful character and world-renowned Thoroughbred breeder and trainer who had kicked off his goal to build a private racing and training facility during the high of the roaring 20s before things went sour, was willing to part with his dream for a bargain. He had already constructed a foundation with potential in the form of a mile-and-a-furlong track and a stone castle and barn built from limestone mined in Kentucky, but work was still required to get the track up and running in 1936.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeneland’s role as a beacon for the sport soon expanded in 1939, thanks to the donation of over 2,300 volumes on the sport of horse racing by Lexington businessman William Arnold Hangar, who sowed the seed for the Keeneland library, which today contains nearly 200,000 books and approximately 250,000 photographs and stands as one of the world’s largest research and reference repositories on Thoroughbreds.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though the track has received its fair share of updates and improvements over the decades, little has changed aesthetically. Keeneland was officially designated a national historic landmark in 1986, and if you’ve ever seen the 2003 movie, Seabiscuit, you’ve seen the pristine setting firsthand, as most of the racing scenes were filmed there.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2009 the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system of all of the country’s 65 Thoroughbred tracks, and ranked Keeneland at the very top.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Keeneland continues to be guided by that original mission, taking a leadership role in the industry and preserve racing’s storied history.

Each April and October (October 4-26, in 2019), the nation’s best Thoroughbred owners, trainers, and jockeys converge at Keeneland to compete for some of North America’s richest purse money. 

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world’s leading Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland has sold more champions and stakes winners than any other sales company, including 95 horses that won 103 races during the Breeders’ Cup World Championship winners and 21 Kentucky Derby winners.

Keeneland’s beautiful, park-like grounds are open to the public every day. Fans also are welcome to visit the famed Keeneland Library.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fans and horsemen alike are welcome to enjoy its spectacular racing, attend one of its annual horse sales, or simply visit the grounds and celebrate Keeneland’s timeless beauty.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For guests interested in learning about the history of Keeneland and wanting an insider view of operations, guided walking tours are available. This outside walking tour takes guests through the Keeneland Paddock and Grandstand, grounds, and when available, to the Sales Pavilion. 

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tour lasts for one hour and largely takes place outside—rain or shine. During the race meets in April and October, tours are available Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Worth Pondering…

To be born in Kentucky is a heritage; to brag about it is a habit; to appreciate it is a virtue.

―Irvin Cobb

The Most (and least) Popular Arizona State Parks

Arizona is home to some amazing state parks

A certain large national park may come to mind when most people think of outdoor spaces in the Grand Canyon State. But Arizona boasts 29 state parks, too, and new data show a slight uptick in visits to those lands over the past year.

Alamo Lake State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birders, campers, boaters, hikers, and others made 3.2 million visits to Arizona state parks during the Fiscal Year (FY) that ended in June, an increase of about 1 percent over the previous 12 months, according to data published by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. That’s up from nearly 2.7 million visits about three years ago. But 1 percent suggests the growth in visitors is leveling off after years of 8 and 9 percent increases.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wet, cool, and windy winter weather likely affected the crowds at Lake Havasu, the state’s most popular state park where the number of visits declined about 10 percent to around 500,000 over the previous year.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park saw visitation drop, also, by around 19 percent following the closure of a pedestrian walkway. The state plans to rebuild it next year. The number of visitors also decreased at historic sites including Tubac Presidio, Fort Verde, McFarland Historic Park (original Pinal County Courthouse in Florence.

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

The desert wildflowers that followed the damp and cool winter resulted in a boost for parks in the Sonoran Desert. Picacho Peak between Tucson and Casa Grande saw a 46 percent increase in visitors during the last fiscal year, tallying 121,000 visits. And yes, we were there. Oracle and Catalina state parks in Southern Arizona also saw increases in visitors. The increase in visitation at these parks raises concerns about how best to balance the park’s popularity with the rustic feel of the site.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park with the biggest increase in visitors in proportion to the previous year was Lyman Lake State Park, where attendance nearly doubled reaching 31,100. That’s still not many people compared to other locations. Situated on the Little Colorado River east of Show Low, the park is secluded. The water is higher than it has been in years and has no size restrictions on boats.

Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1) Lake Havasu

Visitors during FY 2019: 504,000 (down 10.6%)

It should be no surprise that the most popular state parks in Arizona are situated on water. This park is an oasis on the Colorado River near Lake Havasu City, boasting beaches, boat ramps and campsites.

Sonaota Creek State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2) Slide Rock State Park

Visitors during FY 2019: 434,400 (down 5.5%)

This 43-acre historic homestead near Sedona used to be an apple farm. But visitors don’t just come for the agricultural history, as they flock to the park in Oak Creek Canyon for its namesake slide.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3) Catalina State Park

Visitors during FY 2019: 251,100 (up 18.2%)

Catalina includes 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams outside Tucson. Oh, and it has nearly 5,000 saguaros and awesome sunsets.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s least-visited state parks

1) McFarland State Historic Park

Visitors during FY2019: 6,800 (down 13.9%)

The original Pinal County courthouse in downtown Florence offers a glimpse into the past. Built in 1878, it’s an architectural showcase, demonstrating the incorporation of Spanish design into the style of Anglo settlers.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2) Tubac Presidio

Visitors during FY2019: 7,900 (down 11.2%)

This park preserves the ruins of the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona, San Ignacio de Tubac, built in 1752. The presidio was outpost of the Spanish empire, a base for troops and a station for further exploration of what would become the American Southwest.

Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3) Fort Verde

Visitors during FY2019: 10,700 (down 17.1%)

When troops left this Apache Wars-era fort, the premises was divided up and sold at auction. This small state park attempts to preserve some of the structures and give the public a look at life at mid-19th century Arizona.

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers

Explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks create a recreational wonderland covered by ancient forests, soaring domes, stone canyons, and rivers that roar or ripple, depending on the season

The giant trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will fill you with awe—and give you a crick in your neck from staring up at them. But who cares about a little pain when the payoff is so grand? And the high season is over for these two incredible parks meaning the time is right for a leisurely visit minus the crowds. And the campgrounds that are always full during the summer now have vacancies.

Shoulder-season visitors (September-November) avoid the hustle and bustle of peak times. Traffic lessens, autumn leaves appear, and it becomes easy to find a parking spot.

Forest Center in Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The weather also cools off, a big plus. Many days here top 100 degrees during the summer. Weather like that is brutal if you’re hiking—or even just taking a quarter-mile nature walk. Skip the sizzling July and August weather and visit in October when average highs are in the 60s.

November is a little chancier: We was here in mid-November and encountered some snow in the High Country. But, to be honest, not enough to alter our plans!

A couple of other problems also arise if you visit too late in the year. The road to Kings Canyon’s Cedar Grove area closes November 11. And you don’t want to miss that spectacular area of the park. Many campgrounds also close. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Let’s start when naturalist John Muir wrote about the area that eventually became Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. “In the vast Sierra wilderness south of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is a yet grander valley of the same kind,” Muir wrote in 1891.

Forest Center in Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grander than Yosemite? Those are strong words. But many park fans agree. Sequoia has the largest trees on the planet and Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48. Kings Canyon is by some measures considered the deepest canyon in the country.

It’s a place that can make visitors feel very small. It also can bring a sense of tranquility.

The adjacent parks, which are administered together, offer beautiful rivers and waterfalls, lush valleys, vast caverns, snow-capped peaks, and terrain ranging from 1,300 to 14,500 feet. And it’s all in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Nowhere else in the national park system can you experience the diversity of landscapes within a day’s hike, from blue oak woodlands to red fir forests to alpine tundra. Plus, the stunning ancient giant sequoia groves!

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The colossal trees can grow as tall as a 26-story building and live more than 3,000 years, thanks to a chemical in their bark that protects against rot, boring insects, and even fire.

It’s hard to comprehend the size of a sequoia until you stare up at one, especially the General Sherman Tree, a giant among giants—275 feet tall and more than 36 feet in diameter. It’s the largest tree in the world by volume and is a favorite stop for visitors. Yes, you’ll have to walk half a mile to see it, but it’s a pilgrimage you’ll remember the rest of your life.

Even better: Take the 2-mile Congress Trail, which begins at the General Sherman Tree and loops through the heart of the green and beautiful Giant Forest, home to more than 2,000 sequoias with trunk diameters greater than 10 feet. It’s an easy trail and like the Sherman Trail is both wheelchair- and kid-friendly. Like no other place on Earth, the Giant Forest is alive with mystery and wonder.

Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another highlight of Sequoia National Park is Moro Rock, which isn’t an easy trail. If the walk to General Sherman fazes, Moro Rock will stop you in your tracks. The bald granite dome looms thousands of feet above the park highway, protruding from a forested ridge 6,725 feet above sea level.

Kings Canyon is a rugged landscape of granite, water, and sky. Like Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Park is more than 95 percent wilderness and few roads disturb the peace. But, that’s the topic of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Between Kings River and the Kaweah, we enter the colossal forests of the main continuous portion of the sequoia belt.

—John Muir, 1876

Top 6 Insta-Worthy Fall Destinations

Don’t mourn the end of summer. Make a date with Mother Nature to ponder the stunning colors of fall foliage.

Fall is officially upon us, and if the copious amounts of pumpkin spice didn’t give you a hint, the cooler temperatures and shorter days just might.

But what most everyone looks forward to about fall is the beautiful window of color as the trees transition for winter. Warm hues of red, orange, and yellow become commonplace for a few weeks, creating a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, with a country as massive as the United States, it can be hard to pinpoint the best spots to visit, especially when the color clock is ticking fast. So here is a list of the top six Insta-worthy fall destinations in the US, going from west to east.

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But before you scroll down and view the list, here is a quick tip to game plan and see these beautiful fall destinations at the best times. Locations that are more northern and/or are in higher elevations tend to transition into color first and fastest.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway, beginning south of the Great Smoky Mountains and located in the beautiful state of North Carolina, offers one of the most beautiful drives in the country. The road is not only beautiful in fall, but is a true engineering marvel. Stretches like the Blue Ridge “Aqueduct” were built to wind and tower above the trees, and offer a bird’s eye view to some of the most magical fall colors in the country.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sourwoods, poplars, and maples offer every kind of red and crimson hue and are striking beautiful, especially in the morning, when the fog routinely covers the mountains, and swirls around these colorful trees. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a perfect southern Appalachian getaway and a world class fall destination for photographers and nature lovers alike.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall in Utah and the Southwest is one of the most unique you will ever experience. Most do not think about southern Utah as a fall foliage destination due to its desert landscape, but Zion is unique in that it has a thriving desert environment, fed by the powerful Virgin River, which creates a thriving oasis on its massive canyon floor.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the fall, the thousands of cottonwoods that call the canyon floor home turn bright yellow and offer an incredible contrast to the massive orange, pink, and red sandstone walls and cliffs of Zion Canyon. It almost doesn’t seem real, but that colorful contrast at photo destinations like The Narrows and The Watchman are a marvel to photograph and will be at the top of your fall portfolio.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They don’t call New Mexico the “Land of Enchantment” for nothing. Bosque del Apache stands out as one of the country’s most accessible and popular national wildlife preserves—for wildlife and human visitors alike—providing a seasonal home, November through March, for up to 12,000 sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese, and nearly 40,000 ducks.

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many thousands of bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the US and beyond follow them here. And there’s no better time or way to appreciate all that the 57,000-acre refuge has to offer than attending the annual Festival of the Cranes, always held the week before Thanksgiving.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a reason why this region is home to one of the busiest national parks in the US. In fall, the Smoky Mountains truly shine, with some of the most vibrant fall colors you will see. A southern subsection of the Appalachian Range, the Smokies are home to some of the largest mountains in the eastern United States.

Great Smoky Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summit destinations like Clingmans Dome, one of the park’s highest spots, is a perfect spot for sunrise and a purely fall experience you have to see to believe.

The Adirondacks, New York

Adirondack Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Adirondacks offer a fall escape with an outdoor playground that is the largest natural wilderness region in the eastern United States. In the fall, this area explodes with color, with bright reds, oranges, and yellows from the oak, maple, birch, and beech trees that grow in this region.

The Green Mountains, Vermont

Near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vermont is known for its tasty maple syrup and beautiful Green Mountains that attract winter sport enthusiasts from around the world. But that combination of beautiful mountains and maple trees creates a mecca for fall color.

Morris Farms Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The deep reds and oranges in this area are truly remarkable, and if you take the Green Mountain Byway, from Waterbury to Stowe, you have the perfect opportunity to experience this state in its fall splendor, surrounded by charming farms and towns.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Tips for Photographing National Parks

National parks, along with being natural treasures, are a gift to photographers of all levels

Home to inspiring sights, like the rugged hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, the big trees of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and the natural stone arches and other landforms of Arches National Park, national parks offer some of the most captivating locations around the world for photographers.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before heading to a national park, consider the following tips to ensure your photos are as striking as America’s breathtaking backdrops.

Few places across the U.S. and Canada can rival the picturesque combination of majestic wildlife and dramatic landscapes found in national parks.

Ask a Park Ranger for Ideal Vantage Points

Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When it comes to finding the perfect angles inside the national parks, a park ranger can be your greatest friend. Not only do rangers know where to find scenic spots, they know where and when the animals are most active and the location of the best vantage points for sunrise and sunset photos. This information is particularly beneficial when visiting the mountain parks of the West.

Park rangers can also offer insider tips on the park’s lesser known hidden treasures, which will provide you with unique perspectives.

Start Early: Get Out Before Sunrise

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is when most people are still sleeping, and the animals are up and out. The morning mist still lingers, and, if lucky, some ground fog may add to the atmosphere. In addition, the wind is usually calm at this time, making for easy great reflections macro shooting.

Plus, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful natural light and gorgeous colors.

Stay Out Late

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The same applies for shooting at sunset. The best light for photography can be found as the sun is low along the horizon (golden hour) when the light is like butter and everything looks great.

At this time, abundant wildlife can often be found roaming and grazing.

Stay Until Dark for Low-Light Scenes

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the new digital cameras, we can just about shoot in the dark. Animals come out as darkness approaches, and we can get these shots of them by turning our ISO up, making the cameras more sensitive to light.

Enjoy Your Surroundings

Canyon de Chelly Nationa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved l Monument

Take time to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the park. During the middle part of the day, when the quality of light is poor, put your camera away, and get out and hike. Keep in mind future compositions, but mostly enjoy your majestic surroundings.

Stray off the Beaten Path

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Instead of staying in your toad or tow vehicle or on a ranger guided tour, hit the trails on your own. The countries’ national parks offer thousands of miles of maintained hiking trails that take you into the mountains, forests, valleys, and canyons that make each one unique. You’ll not only get away from hordes of visitors, but will also have a better travel experience— and in turn, will take better photos.

Try a Polarizing Filter

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A polarizing filter increases contrast, takes haze out of the atmosphere, and takes reflections off water surfaces. The filter needs to be turned while you look through the camera to see the effects. It takes away almost two stops of light, but you can always turn up the ISO to compensate.

Be Creative

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National parks contain some of the most photographed landmarks in the U.S. and Canada which can be both a blessing and a curse. With a myriad of impressive photos capturing iconic landscapes, it’s easy to find inspiration. However, it also becomes difficult to find distinctive angles when shooting the same scenes as millions of other photographers.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

When photographing, turn around, your best picture might be behind you.

—David Huffines

Enjoy Arizona’s Beauty Year-Round!

It’s always postcard perfect somewhere in Arizona, no matter what time of year it is

In the high plains and elevation of Arizona, the changing of the seasons is always a wonder to experience. It’s often hard for visitors to imagine how different things can be one season to the next.

Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon Railway at the Grand Canyon depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This round trip departs from Williams around 65 miles south of the Grand Canyon. At first, it’s hard to marry the dense pine forests that surround the train with the desert colors of the landscape that waits. Eyes peeled for elk, coyotes, condors, and bald eagles, you’ll reach the popular South Rim a little over two hours later. If you choose to return the same day, you’ll have about four hours to marvel at its beauty; it’s understandably tempting to spend at least a night to more fully appreciate this wondrous natural phenomenon.

Canyon de Chelly National Park

Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor. The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800-foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls.

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive is a 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. Oak Creek Canyon is a breathtaking stretch of beauty on a winding road that climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona to the top of the Mogollon Rim. The scenic drive can ascend the canyon from Sedona or descend from Flagstaff. Either route is equally breathtaking as you slowly descend or ascend through picturesque forests.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and seasonal faces of Arizona. Encompassing 323 acres, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Featured are plants from the world’s deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panorama vistas, natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, and specialty gardens.

Catalina Highway

Along Catalina Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Catalina Highway, also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway, climbs Mount Lemmon, the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains. You won’t get all the way to the 9,100-foot summit on this drive, but don’t be surprised if the temperature at the end is 30 degrees lower than when you started your drive. And enjoy the cooler weather. Even in September, you might need a sweater.

Prescott

Courthouse Plaza, Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level amongst ponderosa pine, Prescott’s perfect weather provides an average temperature of 70 degrees with four beautiful and distinct seasons. Once the territorial capital, Prescott is rich with history embodied in its famous Whiskey Row and abundant historical landmarks. Enjoy breathtaking landscapes complete with mountains, lakes, streams, and meadows filled with wildlife.

Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve with stunning scenery. The creek meanders through the park, creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. Trails wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock.

Apache Trail

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the best scenery in central Arizona can be seen along the Apache Trail. A route for the adventurous traveler, the trail is partly paved with a section of the route graded dirt. Along a loop drive of 80 miles, you will find spectacular scenery to rival any in the state. The unpaved section of the trail provides magnificent views of the mountains with forests of saguaro and several deep blue lakes along the way.

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

Planning a Wine Country Road Trip

Explore three beautiful wine regions on this fall road trip

All roads lead to wine. Isn’t that how the saying goes? No? Well, maybe it should.

With summer winding down and autumn approaching, now is a great time to plan a road trip through wine country.

Black Hills Winery, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re like me, you don’t miss the opportunity to visit a winery. In the same way I seek out farmers markets while on the road, wineries present the chance to mingle with locals who know and till the land and who have made it their occupation to bring us its wares. 

Borjon Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a wine country road trip, pick a single region. That is, unless you have limitless time and finances. Research the region—you’ll be doing more than just touring wineries and tasting.

Lucas Winery, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you don’t have a region in mind to visit, consider planning a road trip around a favorite wine. Or plan a trip around a regional wine festival or event. This will open all sorts of doors.

Choose no more than two to four wineries to visit per day.

We begin our grape-centered quest with region-by-region recommendations along with suggested campgrounds. All RV parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

California

Bella Piazza Winery, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California is home to a legendary lifestyle embracing sunshine, beaches, the ocean, mountains, valleys, and vineyards that stretch in every direction. For wine lovers, there’s a treasure trove of wine regions and wine tasting experiences to explore.

Cooper Vineyard, Amador County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unless you’ve been living in a fallout shelter since the 1950s, you know that Napa Valley and Sonoma is California’s viticulture star. With close to 400 wineries, the twin valleys are second only to Disneyland on a list of the state’s most visited landmarks.

Grace Patriot Wines, El Dorado County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The legendary Napa Valley welcomes an estimated five million visitors each year. They come for wonderful wines, top-notch cuisine, and picturesque scenery. Beautiful and remarkably diverse, the Sonoma has some of everything from coastal breezes to inland mountains, to pancake-flat valleys, to rolling hills.

Ironside Vineyards, Calveras County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Commonly known as California’s Gold Country, the Sierra Foothills offers a fascinating landscape with an amazing variety of soils and elevations. Tour the counties of El Dorado, Amador, and Calaveras and discover the region’s new gold in the tasting rooms you visit.

Van Ruiten Vineyards, Lodi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lodi Wine Region is home to more than 50 varieties including  amazing Zinfandel and remarkable Portuguese, Spanish, French Rhône, and Italian varietals.

Recommended RV Parks: Jackson Rancheria RV Resort in Jackson (Amador County) and Flag City RV Resort in Lodi

Washington

Yakima Valley Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the second largest premium wine produces in the United States, Washington State has a booming wine culture. Currently, there are 13 distinct AVAs, from Lake Chelan in the northwest, to the mighty Columbia River in the southeast, home to Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills, Horse Heaven Hills, and Naches Heights. In the northeast, just outside of Seattle, Woodinville Wine Country has wines and tasting rooms representing the grapes of nearly every appellation.

In the southeast, make the Tri-Cities your home base as you explore Washington Wine Country. Prosser is a nearby wine town to check out.

Columbia Sun RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recommended RV Park: Columbia Sun RV Resort in Kennewick (Tri-Cities)

British Columbia

Tinhorn Creek, Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Okanagan Valley is the heart of British Columbia’s grape growing region and boasts 131 licensed wineries. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a range of varietals. 

Okanagan Crush Pad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the world’s best at International competitions. 

Nk’Mip Cellars © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the most notable wineries are Mission Hill, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek, and Nk’Mip Cellars, Quails Gate Estate. Our favorite is Tinhorn Creek, near Oliver, and their Miradoro Restaurant is worth the sit down. If you’re pressed for time the Penticton Wine Shop pours just about every wine made in the Okanagan.

Hester Creek Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recommended RV Parks: Desert Gem RV Resort in Oliver and Nk’Mip RV Park in Osoyoos

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

4 Summertime Spots to Visit… In the Fall

There is magic in the air as August turns into September and the splendor of autumn colors

There is a ripening of the season as fruit trees grow heavy with red apples; leaves turn golden to reveal a harvest of pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and peppers in the field―and grape vines hang heavy with clusters of newly turned black and golden grapes.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer may be ending, but these four destinations are still basking in sunny bliss.

Although the ways fall color happens are scientific, describing fall color is not, and predicting it accurately—even for an arborist—is out of the question.

Fall foliage won’t wait and neither should you.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

A National Scenic Byway, Skyline Drive traverses Shenandoah National Park and affords outstanding vistas from 75 overlooks. Discover the fall colors by hiking trail, guided horseback ride, or at nearby attractions.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Shenandoah is a 105-mile-long park, with elevations ranging from less than 1,000 feet to just over 4,050 feet, there is no single “peak” of color; rather there are lots of little peaks, bursts of color happening at different times in different places. The best park rangers can do, year after year, toward fall color prognostication for visitors trying to plan their autumn jaunts to Shenandoah, is to say this: the time most likely to be most colorful in this park is the middle of October. This is also Shenandoah’s busiest time, so plan accordingly.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishlake Scenic Byway and Fishlake National Forest, Utah

Fishlake National Forest boasts some beautiful scenic drives as well as mountain biking, hiking opportunities, and snowmobiling during the winter months. Its three mountain ranges and desert canyons are primarily located to the east of Interstate 15 and to the north and south of Interstate 70.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake and the surrounding acres of recreational bliss are known for their beautiful aspen forests and rainbow trout. The high-alpine lake sits at about 8,800 feet above sea level and is surrounded by quaking aspens, which are brilliantly yellow and amber during the fall.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It makes for a picturesque drive along Fishlake Scenic Byway (Highway 25) as you head from Highway 24 to the north edge of the lake. The route in total is 30 miles and can be driven in approximately two hours.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blue Ridge Parkway is so long and goes through so many elevation changes that it doesn’t have just one foliage season—it has many. Almost any week in the fall might see somewhere along the Blue Ridge in peak color.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The high elevation of the region supports some of the same species that grow up north, but look also for brilliantly yellow hickory and tulip poplar, especially in the southern end of the 469-mile-long route. For those who want to get off the paved road, there is plenty of camping and hiking.

Georgia State Parks

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall color in North Georgia peaks in late October and early November. For the best vistas of the Chattahoochee National Forest arrayed in seasonal finery, hit the hiking or biking trails at Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, Black Rock Mountain, Fort Mountain, Moccasin Creek, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi, or Vogel.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the state’s highest park, Black Rock Mountain, you can spy into Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia on a clear day. Visit Tallulah Gorge during the first three weekends of November, when Georgia Power performs its bi-annual dam release, and watch from the canyon’s rim as kayakers tackle a swollen river surrounded by fiery color.

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

If Thanksgiving approaches and you’ve procrastinated on leaf-ogling, ignore the Christmas commercials and bring the family for one last autumnal gasp. In state parks to the east, west, and south of Atlanta, especially F.D. Roosevelt, Sweetwater Creek, and Hard Labor Creek, fall arrives with equal splendor–just a few weeks later.

Worth Pondering…

Summer ends, and autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.

—Hal Borland