History Comes Alive At Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site

History comes alive at Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site where Creek Indians, French Marines, and American Soldiers all left their marks

Good morning on the last day of May. Or is it June? Are we in 2022 yet? What is time? Honestly, the only thing we know is that it’s Saturday. Have a great weekend everyone—thanks as always for reading. 

Located just south of Wetumpka on a forested bluff where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers meet to form the headwaters of the Alabama River, we enjoyed 165 acres of living history and natural beauty. The park showcases recreated Creek Indian houses, a 1751 French fort, the partially restored 1814 American Fort Jackson, a nature trail, and a campground. This historic site is operated by the Alabama Historical Commission.

Graves House Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After paying our $2/person admission fee, our first stop was the early 19th-century Graves House Visitor Center. Restored to its original appearance, the building now houses a small gift shop and museum.

Creek Indian houses represent two primary types of domestic structures used in the historic period. The fully enclosed buildings are winter houses and the open structure is for summer use. Until 1763, the lands within the park boundaries were home to the Alabama. This tribe was a member of the Creek Confederacy and eventually left with the French at the end of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War). The state of Alabama was named after this tribe.

Creek Indian homes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1717, when this region was part of French Louisiana, the French built a fort near the strategically vital junction where the Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers form the Alabama River. The fort was primarily a trading post where Indians exchanged fur pelts for guns and household items. There were no battles at the post as French diplomacy forged allies with the natives. The surrounding Indians wanted peace so they could trade with both the French and British.

Creek Indian homes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We wandered Fort Toulouse, a re-creation of the last or 3rd French fort built between 1749 and 1751. A National Historic Landmark, the outside walls are constructed of split timbers that were not strong enough to stop a cannon shot but were ample protection against musket fire. Fences enclose the sides and rear of the building. On the inside, posts sunk into the ground were joined with mortise and tenon joints. There were two barracks in the fort each had four rooms for use by the troops. Along the southern wall is an igloo-shaped bread oven.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The French lost the French and Indian War and the fort in 1763. The site was abandoned by the French and the lands reverted to native occupation. Few vestiges of the French post were visible when a new large earthen fort was erected in 1814 and named by General Thomas Pinckney for his subordinate General Andrew Jackson.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following the French abandonment of Fort Toulouse in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War, the river valley was peaceful as first the British and then the American nations claimed the region but few white men came to the area. Relations between the white settlers and Native peoples deteriorated in the first decade of the Nineteenth Century. The U. S. and Great Britain were at odds and by late 1813 the Creek War and the War of 1812 were underway. 

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Jackson had a moat that was seven feet deep and dirt walls ranging in height from 7 ½ feet to 9 feet high. When finished the fort contained barracks space to house 200 soldiers. A garrison was kept here as the focus of these armies changed to the war with the British and activities occurring on the Gulf Coast. During this time thousands of troops passed through the site on their way south.

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In August of 1814, the Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed officially ending the Creek War. The Creeks agreed to give the U. S. more than twenty million acres as reparations for the war. This land was the majority of what became the State of Alabama.

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The one-mile-long William Bartram Nature Trail winds along the ridgeline and river bottoms at the southern end of the park. Of particular note along its path is a marker dedicated to Sergeant Jean Louis Fontenot who served at Fort Toulouse from 1735 to 1754. Next, we saw a cemetery just off the trail. Only one marker remains. There is also a marker dedicated to William Bartram, the famous naturalist who passed through this area in 1775, further down the trail. The nature trail offers wonderful bird-watching opportunities. During the spring and fall, migrants are present thought out the site. 

Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 39 site RV campground overlooks the Coosa River. Each site includes an electric and water hook-up, a grill, and a concrete picnic table. There is a centrally located shower and bathhouse, plus a refuse facility at the campground entrance. Current RV Rates are $20.00/night; $18.00/night for seniors age 65+ and active or retired military with ID.

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

July 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.

Texas Lakeside RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

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 10 recall notices during July 2021. These recalls involved 10 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Forest River (1 recall), Winnebago (1 recall), Thor Motor Coach (1 recall), Jayco (1 recall), Roadtrek (1 recall), VanLeigh RV (1 recall), Heartland (1 recall), Newmar (1 recall), Braxton Creek (1 recall), and Tiffin (1 recall).

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

Forest River

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2015-2017 Coachmen Cross Country, 2015 Coachmen Encore, 2016-2020 Coachmen Mirada, 2018-2021 Coachmen Sportscoach, 2019-2021 Forest River Berkshire, 2011-2016 Forest River Blue Ridge, 2014-2019 Forest River Cardinal, 2014-2020 Forest River Cedar Creek, 2014-2021 Forest River Georgetown, 2019 Forest River Legacy, and 2017-2018 Forest River Riverstone recreational vehicles equipped with Hehr 6400 Series windows. The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

Dealers will inspect the windows, and replace the vent if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed August 18, 2021. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-825-8600. Forest River’s number for this recall is 51-1380.

Sun Outdoors Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Solis, Travato, and Ekko vehicles, equipped with GE-ES Double Flipseats. The seat belt retractors may lock up when the vehicle is on a slight incline. As such, these seats fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards numbers 208, “Occupant Crash Protection” and 209, “Seat Belt Assemblies.”

Winnebago will work with Freedman to notify owners, and dealers will inspect the seat and repair, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-614-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885 or Freedman customer service at 1-800-443-4540.

Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Aria, Challenger, Miramar, Outlaw, Palazzo, Tuscany, and Venetian recreational vehicles equipped with Hehr 6400 series windows. The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

Dealers will inspect the windows, and replace the vent if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed September 8, 2021. Owners may contact TMC customer service at 1-877-855-2867. TMC’s number for this recall is RC000232.

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


Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2019-2021 Anthem, Aspire, Cornerstone, Insignia, Reatta, and Embark recreational vehicles equipped with Hehr 6400 series windows. The adhesive that bonds the vented portion of the window may fail.

Dealers will inspect the windows, and replace the vent if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed August 16, 2021. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267. Jayco’s number for this recall is 9903569.

Frog City RV Park, Duson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Roadtrek Inc. (Roadtrek) is recalling certain 2020-2021 Zion, Zion SRT, Play, and Slumber vehicles. An incorrect gas detector that is missing the carbon monoxide alarm may have been installed.

Roadtrek will ship owners a carbon monoxide detector to mount to their vehicle, free of charge. Owner notification letters were mailed on June 29, 2021. Owners may contact Roadtrek customer service at 1-519-745-1160. Roadtrek’s number for this recall is 2021-02.

Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

VanLeigh RV

VanLeigh RV (VanLeigh) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Vanleigh Beacon recreational vehicles. Interference from the rear ladder can prevent the rear egress window from fully opening.

Dealers will replace the egress window, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a schedule for recall notification. Owners may contact VanLeigh customer service at 1-662-612-4040.

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Heartland Recreational Vehicles, LLC (Heartland) is recalling certain 2021 Heartland Pioneer SS171 travel trailers. The Federal Certification label has the incorrect Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and axle rating. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 120, “Wheels and Rims – Other Than Passenger Cars” and 49 CFR Part 567, “Certification.”

Heartland will mail replacement labels to owners, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed August 27, 2021. Owners may contact Heartland customer service at 1-877-262-8032.

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


Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2019 Mountain Aire, 2020-2021 New Aire, 2020-2022 Super Star, 2018-2021 Ventana, and Dutch Star vehicles equipped with certain Cummins diesel engines. The sealing washer may not seat correctly in the pilot boreholes, allowing the high-pressure fuel rail assembly to leak.

Cummins service centers will inspect the rail threads and fuel lines, and replace the rail as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed August 31, 2021. Owners may contact Newmar customer service at 1-800-731-8300. Newmar’s number for this recall is Cummins 21E-32.

Cochise Terrace RV Resort, Benson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Braxton Creek

Braxton Creek RV (Braxton) is recalling certain 2020-2021 LX and BX travel trailers, equipped with Dometic R1731, R2131, and S31 3-burner cooking stoves. The saddle valve securing bolt may be overtightened, possibly damaging the o-ring seal and causing a continuous gas leak.

Braxton Creek will install a remedy kit of gaskets, washers, thread locker bolts, and two round orange labels, free of charge.. Owner notification letters were mailed July 2, 2021. Owners may contact Braxton customer service at 1-260-768-7932. Braxton’s number for this recall is 20E071.

Grand Canyon Railroad RV Resort, Williams, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc. (Tiffin) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Allegro Bus and Phaeton motorhomes, equipped with certain Cummins L9 diesel engines. A fuel leak may occur from the fuel hose between the fuel pump and remote filter head.

Dealers will replace the fuel hoses, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed September 6, 2021. Owners may contact Tiffin customer service at 1-256-356-8661. Tiffin’s number for this recall is TIF-117.

Please Note: This is the 30th 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

Camping Travel Tips for Pet Owners

Whether you’ll be camping with your pet for the first time or just need a reminder, this article may provide some helpful hints for you

Planning to take your pet camping with you this summer?

Then you are in good company.

Traveling with your pet © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More and more campers and RVers are traveling with their pets and finding it makes camping even more enjoyable. Camping and pets are, in most cases, a good mix.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), more than 50 percent of RV travelers bring pets on their travels. Among these pet owners, 78 percent bring dogs, 15 percent travel with cats, and the remaining pet owners travel with birds or other small pets.

Pet parade in an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And in the travel industry at large, more and more families are traveling with their pets and experts say pet travel is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar industry due to the popular trend.

Traveling with your pet can be rewarding for you and your family’s pet but the key to a successful camping trip or any mode of vacation travel is advanced planning and preparation, common sense, and sometimes a dose of creativity. Only friendly, non-aggressive dogs should be brought to campgrounds.

A cat on a mission in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most important thing to remember before making plans is to make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel. A pre-vacation check-up with your veterinarian is just what the doctor ordered to make sure Fido or Fluffy is up to snuff and ready to hit the road. Make sure your pet is up to date on all shots and bring copies of vaccination records with you, as you never know when you might need them.

Some RV parks offer dog-washing stations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When packing for pets, it’s important to remember food and water dishes, an extra collar and leash, licenses, medicines or supplements, brushes, tie-outs, shampoo, and something familiar from home like a toy or blanket. If a dog is comfortable sleeping in a crate at home, that should be brought along too. Consider giving your pet bottled water for continued consistency.

Ensure your pet is properly identified. Also, obtain identification with the address of your destination. Carry a photo of your pet. You’ll be glad you did if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of making, photocopying, and posting “lost pet” notices.

Pet parade in an RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring along your pet’s bed and favorite toys so it will feel comfortable and at home on the road. If traveling with a feline friend, think through the cat-box arrangement. Having extra litter, a covered litter box, plastic bags for disposal, a scoop, and baking soda to cover the bottom of the box will keep mess and odor to a minimum.

Your dog feels as cramped as you do after hours of traveling. You must walk your canine pet when you take rest stops. If your pet is a cat, walks aren’t an issue, but plenty of stretching room is.

Pet-washing station at Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To make camping with your pet an exciting experience for the both of you, be sure to research the campsite ahead of time, take note of any restrictions or regulations, and bring the essentials along with you.

When registering at a campground or RV park check the location of the nearest veterinary doctor or clinic and how to get there. After settling into a camp or RV site with pets, it is important to be a responsible camper and pet owner. This includes cleaning up after pets, keeping them leashed, and making sure they stay out of prohibited areas.

Looking for your pet cat? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most important thing to remember is they are your pets and you must make some changes to your RVing lifestyle to ensure their comfort. They may have an accident in the RV and you need to accept that. They may require medical attention that could extend a stay when you are traveling. You need to be flexible in your plans to accommodate pets when you decide to bring them along on your travels and camping trips.

If you plan and are prepared, camping can be a rewarding, memorable experience for both owners and pets.

Worth Pondering…

A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.

―Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Meet Me in Historic Midway

Midway, Kentucky is the place that time forgot—but in a good way

Some of our most pleasant moments always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. So it was when we unexpectedly came upon the historic town of Midway. Located midway between Frankfort and Lexington, Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the town’s history began long before that when the area was inhabited by Indian Mound Builders. Two large Indian mounds have been identified on farms nearby Midway, as well as several smaller such structures in the outlying areas where they still exist today.

Settlers visited the area as early as 1771 when Kentucky was still part of Virginia. Many of them were surveyors and liked the land so well that they stayed. By 1788, residents successfully fought to break off from Fayette County to form Woodford County.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Nearly 45 years passed before the town of Midway came into existence. Then, when the Lexington and Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1830, the town became a hub of activity with the accompanying construction. Lodging was needed for the railroad workmen as well as food, supplies, and other dry goods.

By 1832, the railroad carried its first passengers from Lexington with horse-drawn cars. The line was completed to Frankfort in 1834 and by January 1835 the first steam locomotive passed through Midway (also known as Middleway) from Lexington, bound for Frankfort.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Both cities celebrated the successful journey of the “Iron Horse” with a grand ball. Many accounts of those early years of the railroad-related tales of the engineers not only stopping for water and wood but also to open and shut farm gates since the train traveled through private pastures.

It was around this time that the town of Midway was surveyed and laid out by the railroad company. In honor of their work, many of the streets in Midway were named after the railroad company directors. These streets continue to exist today.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Midway continued to prosper along with the railroad. Electricity was introduced in 1911. In 1915, a fire destroyed a large part of the south side of Railroad Street. During the railroad’s heyday, the 1930s, and 40s, up to 30 trains, a day rumbled through the middle of town.

The passenger trains dwindled until the old depot (located where the caboose now stands) was closed in 1963. The last passenger train traveled through in May 1971.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Midway’s downtown followed the railroad’s fortunes and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, the few remaining businesses primarily served the local agricultural community.

Revitalization and rebirth began in the mid-1970s when several antique shops and galleries were established and the Midway I Village Guild was formed. In 1978, 176 buildings in Midway were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its present reputation as one of Kentucky’s favorite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing. Several freight trains still make use of the active tracks running through Railroad Street, preserving Midway’s unique history and atmosphere.

Today, Midway continues to be a uniquely friendly and quaint town with a noticeable spirit. Among the cheery storefronts that line Main Street, you’ll find an array of antique shops, specialty boutiques, and restaurants with a little something for everyone.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

The town is a hangout for local and visiting horse enthusiasts who fill the tables at the Grey Goose bar and restaurant, come happy hour. So it’s no surprise that you’ll find lots of equine gifts and gear in the stores especially at Freedman’s leather shop. If bridles and bits aren’t your things, Freedman’s leather accessories—belts, wallets, and handbags, for example—are a notch above Ralph Lauren’s in both materials and workmanship.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Embellished with local shops, cozy tea rooms, restaurants, and beautiful local architecture, the streets of Midway offer visitors an exceptional, relaxing experience. Because of its special charm and small-town appeal visitors always leave Midway in high spirits and vow to return.

So it was with us.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights

Worth Pondering…

Surely it is the right wish that draws us to the right place.
Nothing of importance happens accidentally in our life.

—Lama Anagarika Govinda, The Way of the White Clouds

Why the World Needs More Campers

Summer is in full swing: hot temperatures, afternoon and evening thunderstorms, beautiful sunrises and sunsets—and camping

While it has been a record year for campgrounds and RV parks, I am convinced the world needs more campers. 

Stay with me, as this comment is not about occupancy rates or empty sites, it’s about campers.  The campers you see in a state, provincial, or national park campground or privately owned RV park with a fifth wheel, pop-up trailer, truck camper, motorhome, or even a tent. The people who pack for the week or weekend, leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind, and enjoy their parks and being with other campers.

Boondocking in Quartzite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s these dog days of summer or the fact the nightly news seems to be filled with controversy, hostility, and real problems but I’m thinking the world needs to go camping. 

And here is why: Camping brings out the best in people.

Camping in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When walking through a campground or RV park, no one knows who you are—you’re just another camper on a morning or evening stroll. You’ll be greeted with a “good morning”, a “good evening”, or a “howdy” many times on your walk.

This greeting is much different than in the hectic hustle and bustle of city life as people go through their daily activities as if on an ever-moving treadmill. A polite exchange of greetings and nothing further.

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

When camping, it’s followed by more. “Where are you from,” and discussions about the weather and the beauty of the area. This is the norm in a campground or RV park—casual introductions turn into conversations and even lasting friendships. If you are a camper you know what I am talking about. 

A camper need not worry if they forgot to pack something, as another camper will always step up with whatever was left back home. Need a hand? You don’t even have to ask, as campers are, by their very nature, always willing to lend a hand. If you’ve camped you’ve experienced this and if you haven’t camped, you don’t know what you’re missing.

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

The type of camper doesn’t matter, whether it’s a fifth-wheel trailer with four slide-outs or a camping van, a diesel pusher with a car in tow, or a two-person tent, campers are not defined by the units they camp in—campers are people. People who care and who enjoy the outdoors, fellowship, and other people. 

Campers have an uncanny ability to see the good in people, to want to help those in need. It may be that campgrounds are seen as places of sanctuary from a world filled with controversy, misunderstanding, and real problems. Or, maybe it’s the parks, those places we can escape from the pressures and reality of a fast-paced world. Parks protect us with their tall trees, mountains, creeks, rivers, and lakes.

Camping at Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maybe it’s a campfire and the darkness that seem to soothe the soul with time for reflection and conversation. A conversation around a campfire leads to laughter and smiles and often ends with a satisfying “good night, see you in the morning.”

Tip: avoid conversations about politics!

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

Maybe we all need these special places to escape to every now and then just to get away, recharge our batteries, and reconnect with nature and each other. Parks really do become a sanctuary and allow us to escape from the day-to-day rat race, allow us to put our guard down, relax, and enjoy life. 

It doesn’t hurt when you fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves or the chorus of crickets and tree frogs and wake to the rising sun peeking through the tall pines or silhouetting stately saguaros or Joshua trees.

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Could it be distinctive smells of a campground, lingering smoke that can only come from a campfire, the smell of coffee brewing, and bacon sizzling? Could it be these things influence our behavior and enable us to relax and revive those characteristics of kindness, friendliness, and a sense of community? 

Or maybe, just maybe it’s the people who camp.

Yes indeed, the world needs more campers, let’s go camping! 

Camping at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

See you in the parks!

Worth Pondering…

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

—Miriam Beard

Doorway to Forever: Badlands National Park

Striped in yellow, amber, and purple, the colorful eroded formations of Badlands National Park dip and rise amid the prairie grasslands

Badlands National Park doesn’t sound like the best place to go. After all, it’s called Badlands! For centuries humans have viewed South Dakota’s celebrated Badlands with a mix of dread and fascination. But these 244,000 acres of the otherworldly landscape are gorgeous with deep canyons, towering pinnacles and spires, buttes, and banded red-and-gray rock formations.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the National Park Service, Badlands National Park was named by the Lakota people who called it “mako sica,” meaning “land bad” for its extreme weather, lack of water, and rugged exposed landscape. French-Canadian fur trappers seconded that notion dubbing it les mauvais terres pour traverse, or “bad lands to travel through.” The term “Badlands” also has a geologic definition referring to sedimentary rock that is extensively eroded over time by wind and lack of water. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rock layers that stacked up over about 75 million years began eroding a half-million years ago, sculpted into channels and canyons by the Cheyenne and White rivers. Sod-covered buttes represent the Ice Age-era prairie where ancient hunters left behind bison bones and arrowheads up to 12,000 years old.

Paleontologists continue to sift through the striated rocks for ancient seashells, ancestors to the modern horse, and 50-foot-long marine mammals known as mosasaurs.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Human history in the Badlands goes back roughly 12,000 years beginning with ancient hunter-gatherers. Later, the Native American Lakota people followed migrating buffalo to the area for seasonal hunting.

Just shy of a million visitors come to Badlands National Park annually, most of those in June, July, and August when the weather is quite hot (highs average above 90 degrees) and prone to thunderstorms. But visitor numbers dip by half in September when the weather moderates and even more in cooler May.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Migrating birds are another reason to visit in spring or fall. In spring, you’re also more likely to see prairie animals such as bison with their young and in fall the golden color of turning leaves fill the canyons and ravines. During the cold and biting winter months, wind whips across the largely treeless landscape.

While breathtaking at a distance, the Badlands are geologically fascinating up close, best explored by hiking. They introduce the rock formations, canyons, ledges, cliffs, and passes interspersed with prairie grasslands. Its eight official hiking trails all in the North Unit are not extensive— the longest, the moderate Castle Trail in the park’s northeast is 10 miles round trip. A few trails are strenuous but most are moderate and some are short including the quarter-mile Fossil Exhibit Trail. The park’s Open Hike Policy means visitors may go off-trail.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come prepared with ample supplies of water. This is especially important if you go hiking; the Park Service recommends two quarts per person for every two hours of hiking. Also bring your own snacks, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat (we recommend a Tilley), and sunglasses.

Even if you go hiking, you’ll also want to take a drive or two in the park to take in its full scope. The 40-mile Badlands Loop Road connects the Northeast Entrance with the Pinnacles Entrance near Wall. This scenic route winds up and down the contours of the Badlands with about a dozen opportunities to stop at overlooks and trailheads as well as less formal pullouts for photo ops.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is nothing more iconic in this park than the badland formations that inspired its protection, and there is no better place to take in its supernatural views than on Badlands Loop Road. Also known as South Dakota Highway 240, this 31-mile loop scenic byway travels through the eastern side of the park between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall, through prairie grasslands and ancient geologic formations with stops along the way at nearly 30 lookout points. One not-to-miss feature—you probably couldn’t miss it if you tried—is what is called “The Wall,” 60-mile long, many miles-wide escarpments of pinnacles, buttes, fins, and mounds that separate the upper and lower prairies.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the closest experience to nature, try camping. In addition to backcountry camping, Badlands offers two campgrounds. The primitive, first-come-first-served Sage Creek Campground in the park’s northwest has 22 sites (free), vault toilets, picnic benches, and bison trails. For running water and electricity opt for the Cedar Pass Campground adjacent to Cedar Pass Lodge where you’ll find RV and tent camping sites with shaded picnic tables. The lodge also rents 26 pine-paneled cabins with deck chairs perfect for gazing at the night sky.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Pass Lodge operates the park’s only restaurant specializing in Sioux Indian Tacos featuring fry bread topped with refried beans, buffalo meat, and cheese. For other dining options, you’ll need to either bring picnic food or leave the park and head to Wall Drug where ice water is still free.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fact Box

Size: 244,300 acres

Date Established: November 10, 1978 (established as a National Monument: January 29, 1939)

Location: Southwest South Dakota, 63 miles from Rapid City

Park Elevation: 2,460 feet-3,282 feet

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the park got its name: Badlands National Park was named by the Lakota people who called it “mako sica,” meaning “land bad,” for its extreme weather, lack of water, and rugged exposed landscape. French-Canadian fur trappers seconded that notion dubbing it les mauvais terres pour traverse, or “bad lands to travel through.” The term “Badlands” also has a geologic definition, referring to sedimentary rock that is extensively eroded over time by wind and lack of water. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Iconic site in the park: There is nothing more iconic in this park than the badland formations that inspired its protection, and there is no better place to take in its supernatural views than on Badlands Loop Road. Also known as South Dakota Highway 240, this 31-mile loop scenic byway travels through the eastern side of the park between the towns of Cactus Flat and Wall, through prairie grasslands and ancient geologic formations with stops along the way at nearly 30 lookout points.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2020 Recreation Visits: 916,932

Worth Pondering…

The Bad Lands grade all the way from those that are almost rolling in character to those that are so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly properly to belong to this earth.

—Teddy Roosevelt

Hopewell Furnace: Early American Iron Plantation

History is everywhere at Hopewell Furnace. It’s one of the “iron plantations” that began America’s transformation into an industrial giant.

In the woods of southeastern Pennsylvania, a community of men, women, and children worked to supply iron for the growing nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. They created a village called Hopewell that was built around an iron-making furnace.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is the best-preserved iron plantation in North America. Hopewell Furnace consists of a mansion (the big house), spring and smokehouses, a blacksmith shop, an office store, a charcoal house, and a schoolhouse.

From 1771 to 1883, Hopewell Furnace manufactured iron goods to fill the demands of growing eastern cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. While the most profitable items were stoves, the furnace cast many other objects such as kettles, machinery, grates, and cannon shot, and shells for patriot forces during the Revolutionary War.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As technology progressed, the furnace eventually became outdated. In 1883, it closed, and the furnace workers and their families left to make their living elsewhere. They left behind their homes, work buildings, tools, and other evidence of the iron-making community that once thrived.

Today the remains of Hopewell Furnace represent an important time in America’s maturation as a nation. The production of iron in hundreds of small furnaces like Hopewell provided the key ingredient in America’s industrial revolution, enabling the United States to become an economic and technological leader worldwide.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation that used slave and free labor. The 15-minute introductory film focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour. The furnace produced 115 big guns for the Continental Navy. Other items once produced at the site included plowshares, pots, stoves, and scale weights.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the National Register of Historic Places, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The impressive blast furnace and 30-foot water wheel, ironmaster’s mansion, workers’ quarters, a living farm, charcoal maker’s hut (otherwise known as a collier’s hut), and other structures illustrate the historic infrastructure typical of the charcoal-iron making process. What today’s visitors will not find is the noise, heat, and pollution that were ever-present in the community during the heyday of iron production.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, there are plenty of apple trees ready to pick when in season and guests can also partake in apple butter making and cider pressing demonstrations. During the annual Sheep Shearing Day—held on Mother’s Day—visitors can learn about 19th-century shearing techniques and meet newly born lambs.

Hopewell Furnace lies at the center of 848-acre French Creek State Park and consists of 14 restored structures as well as the paths, fields, and meadows of the one-time working village. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster’s mansion, and auxiliary structures.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the site is an interesting visit for the hikers, backpackers, and campers who are spending time at French Creek State Park. Bird-watchers and nature photographers as well as history buffs enjoy the tours and picnics are encouraged.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are no entrance fees for persons or vehicles the entering park. The park is open year-round Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During summer, the park is open 7 days per week 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On days the park is closed, its historic buildings, parking lots, and visitor center (including restrooms) are unavailable for use but its hiking trails (which interconnect with those of neighboring French Creek State Park) remain open.

Except for the park’s visitor center and historic buildings, visiting Hopewell Furnace is largely an outdoor experience. Touring the site includes walking historic roadways and footpaths while exposed to outdoor conditions. Comfortable seasonal clothing and walking shoes are recommended.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did You Know?

Cold blast charcoal-fired iron furnaces like Hopewell Furnace were in operation in Pennsylvania as early as 1720. Between 1832 and 1840, 32 such furnaces were built in the state. The U.S. census of 1840 recorded 212 charcoal-fired furnaces operating in Pennsylvania that year.

Worth Pondering…

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of every day, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark

Make Bryce Canyon National Park Your Next RV Trip

Bryce Canyon is a must-see national park and I’ve highlighted the best viewpoints, hikes, and places to camp

Like many of America’s national parks, Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park has many cool pockets to explore. Nothing compares, though, to the feeling you get when standing before the hoodoos that make up the Bryce Amphitheater.

Bryce Canyon is home to the largest collection of hoodoos on Earth. It is not a canyon at all, actually, but a 6-square-mile field of intricately carved statues that were crafted over the course of millions of years by the forces of erosion. Facing east and south, vast mazes of high promontories, deep canyons, jagged spires of balancing rocks, and other mysterious formations are adorned by bold colors of red, coral, pink, and white.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The landscape at Bryce Canyon is totally unique—entirely different than nearby Zion as well as other Utah national parks—partly attributed to its high elevation location ranging from 8,000-9,000 feet. The air is thinner, the environment colder, and the wind much stronger. These elements come together to create an otherworld on the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Stepping onto any lookout you will almost certainly feel as though you are stepping foot onto the edge of another world. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park is a world-famous park with hundreds of sights to see. Hiking trails, swimming holes, hidden caves, rocky crags, and a plethora of natural wonders dot the landscape and invite visitors to explore and discover the natural beauty of Utah. The park encompasses thousands of acres meaning every time you visit there’s a chance to see new things and find new vistas to lay your eyes on.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Tour

Hitting the scenic auto trails in the national parks is often the best place to start to gain an understanding of the lay of the land. Many of the park roads were developed and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early days of the park service in an effort to provide access to the most interesting features. A scenic tour along the 38-mile (round trip) Bryce Canyon National Park Rim Road provides access to 13 viewpoints that peer over the amphitheaters. It is a perfect first outing to get acquainted with the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking Trails

A 1-mile walk between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point offers panoramic views of the amphitheater and is suitable for anyone. Each overlook is situated at a trailhead where you can descend into the hoodoos to explore deeper.

Sunset Point is usually the first stop on everyone’s list and is a top spot to capture shots of a golden forest of stone. There is no shortage of onlookers capturing selfies and panoramic shots of the amphitheater but you’ll likely find yourself distracted only by the geologic wonder. This area is called the Claron Formation and is made up of deposits from the Claron lakebed comprised of 50-million-year-old limestone that shows rich and vibrant color created by its iron oxide mineral compounds. Whether you are intrigued by geologic processes or just want to marvel at the area’s undeniable beauty, all visitors stop in their tracks at this famed overlook particularly when the sun falls onto the canyon spires.

The Rim Trail

There are multiple trails to try for your first time visiting this iconic national park with the most well-known and well-traveled being the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail allows visitors to gaze into the park’s natural amphitheater and shouldn’t prove too difficult for the less-exercised members of your hiking party. It’s rated easy and while long, there aren’t too many elevation changes. The most famous piece of imagery in the park, Thor’s Hammer” is viewable in its most iconic state from this trail.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This trail is about 10.7 miles long and features opportunities to view wildlife in its natural state. Utah wildlife you might encounter includes rocky mountain elk, pronghorns, migratory hummingbirds, and even nesting peregrine falcon (the world’s fastest bird).

The Rim Trail is located closest to the Sunset Campground in Bryce Canyon National Park which has hundreds of sites suitable for an RV. The Sunset Campground doesn’t have as many amenities as the North Campground but it is much more conveniently located to all of the most popular hiking trails.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navajo Loop Trail

Standing inside of the amphitheater allows you to become a part of the landscape. The Navajo Loop trail is the park’s most popular hiking trail because of its accessibility and amazing beauty. Descending first into the Wall Street section you are thrust upon an iconic scene in the park, a 700-year-old Douglas fir tree that arises in the midst of a slot canyon searching for sunlight in the sky (see photo below). Hiking farther, you will find a vast network of trails leading into the hoodoos where you can chart your own course. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peekaboo Loop Trail

Despite its child-friendly name, this trail may not be as fun for younger members of your party. With a medium rating, this 5.2-mile trail has elevation changes and rough terrain alike and might not be the best option for a fun family hike. However, that doesn’t mean there still isn’t plenty going for it. Utah’s natural rock formations and wildlife are able to be seen in all their glory easily.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Horseback riding is an option on this trail for party members who might have some experience riding on rocky and uneven terrain. Trotting over the red rock and gravelly paths makes for a unique experience. With a river running aside this trail which can flood in the spring and fall wildlife naturally gathers along this trail and virtually pose for photo ops.

This trail is located close to the Sunset Campground which has multiple campsites which can house RVs. That means the walk from your campsite to the beginning of the trail won’t make you tired before you even start out exploring.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairyland Loop

Fairyland Loop is a trail that sees fewer hikers due to its sheer difficulty. With 8.2 miles of trail running over steep and difficult terrain, the Fairyland Loop is no joke. Be prepared for limestone hoodoos in all their glory as well as nesting falcons and other sites of natural beauty to absorb. This trail is definitely difficult but that means more open air for you. Plus, it is pet-friendly so suit up Fido and bring him along.

The Fairyland Loop connects with other trails in the park meaning you can branch out and explore instead of taking the same route that others have done before at one point or another. The Fairyland leads to a lesser-known overlook of the park’s canyon and “Thor’s Hammer” in all their majestic beauty.

Since the Fairyland Loop is located closer to Sunset campground I recommend camping there if you’re planning on doing the entire Fairyland Loop in one day—it’s a tough trail and you’re going to need all the energy you can muster.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Camp in Your RV

Bryce Canyon has two campgrounds: North Campground and Sunset Campground. Both campgrounds contain hundreds of sites with different amenities and rules and permissions. The fee varies from site to site but typically it doesn’t go higher than $25-$35.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amenities that are included at the campsites include laundry, power hookups, swimming pools, showering facilities, electricity, Wi-Fi, animal care, freshwater, and even food! If you’re looking for a comprehensive hiking experience but still want to get everything you like at a moment’s notice, both campgrounds should do it for you.

While the North Campground is further away from hiking trails, it’s also the campground with more modern amenities. If this is of note to you, then you’ll do well to remember it. The Sunset Campground is more stripped-down but it offers prime access to hiking trails around the park as it’s much closer to trailheads. It’s basically up to you: do you want more amenities or do you prefer to be closer to the trailheads?

Fact Box

Size: 35,835 acres

Date Established: September 15, 1928 (dedicated a National Monument in 1923)

Location: Southwestern Utah

Recreational visits in 2020: 1,464,655

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the park got its name: The national park was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Scottish immigrant who homesteaded there in 1874. He was sent by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) who first scouted the area during the 1850s to determine its viability for settlement and development. Ebenezer Bryce considered to be the first true pioneer of the region lived at the foot of a canyon and herded cows; after a herding mishap he once famously declared that the area is “a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

Did you know?

The Bryce Amphitheater is 12 miles long, 3 miles in width, and 800 feet deep.

As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

Worth Pondering…

It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.

—Ebenezer Bryce, early homesteader at Bryce Canyon

10 Essential Photography Tips Every Photographer Needs to Remember

From just-starting-out to novice to experienced, there’s something we can all learn to improve our photos

Photography is a beautiful journey, filled with adventure, and an occasional killer photo. Regardless of where you are on that journey—just starting or embarking on a professional career—these 20 quick little tips will help you and your images stay in focus.

Highland Hammock State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. No matter how pro you get, it’s still a passion play

Don’t lose the spark that got you into photography. Your passion for creating beautiful images of things that interest you is the underlying motivating force behind every shot you take. When that spark goes out, it also leaves your images. So, treat your inspiration and creativity as the most vital skill you have. Honor it, cultivate it, and nurture it.

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

2. Lighting is everything

You can always get to know light better. Whether it’s landscape photography or birds, lighting is the most important part of photography. Try different ways of capturing light.

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

3. Establish your own composition rules

Whether it’s an adherence to the rule of thirds, a love of circles, filling the frame, dramatic lines, or repeating patterns, your choices in how you frame a shot defines your photography.

St. Mary’s, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Shoot like a pro, think like a student

As good as your photos get, there’s always room to learn and improve. When you keep a student mentality, it keeps you curious and focused.

Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Zen and the art of Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO

Here’s what you need to know about the big three: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Each is designed to give more light with a payoff. Understand what each element takes away as it increases light:

  • A larger aperture gives more light but takes away the length of your depth of field (blurrier backgrounds)
  • Slower shutter speeds give more light but make your images blurry with camera motion or subject movement
  • Higher ISO offer more light but adds noise to your image

When shooting in manual, know what the controls take away as well as what they give you.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Leading your viewer

As lines recede in space, they converge. We know it as perspective. Photographers use leading lines to engage the viewer by drawing their attention into and through an image and to create a dynamic feel. Experiment with the height of your camera, how you position it to look down a road or meandering stream, and where the lines all lead. Kneeling down can dramatically change the way a photo will feel. Likewise, looking down from a high point will alter the perspective. And don’t forget to turn around. A stellar shot may be behind you.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Move closer

As the legendary photographer, Robert Capa used to say, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” To get the composition you need, sometimes you need to get close—really close. Moving in close to foreground subjects adds incredible depth to a photo. In most cases, you’ll want to shoot at a small aperture to maximize the depth of field in the resulting image.

Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Always have your camera with you

Put your camera in an unassuming backpack or another option, and keep it near at hand—just in case. You can’t take a photo if you don’t have your camera handy.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. There won’t be a next time

I’m sure I’m not the only one who says “That’s a great scene, but I’m just too tired, or I’m in a hurry. I’ll return later when there’s improved quality of light or come back another day.” There’s rarely a next time—and if there is, conditions have changed.

Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Learn by adjusting

In the beginning, you go out and shoot, and some images look good and some don’t. Then you adjust and get a higher percentage of good images. As you move on from there, never stop those little adjustments. That one step closer to the subject, a slightly steadier hand, experimenting with leading lines—these little things will improve your photography one small adjustment at a time.

Want more on photography? Right this way!

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.

—Alfred Eisenstaedt

Beaches and Lake Towns to Cool Off this Summer

Welcome to your next waterfront escape

There are few things more relaxing than a lake town vacation. The US and Canada are chock-full of picturesque lakes from the northeastern shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and Lake George in New York to Lake Powell and Lake Mead in the Southwest and Okanagan Lake and Lake Osoyoos in southern Canada. And I specifically want to hone in on the best lake towns as a way to help travelers pinpoint where to aim their RV for their next vacation. 

These towns are not only right on the waterfront of the clearest and most sought-after lakes—they have bustling town centers and lively culture within. And isn’t that what makes the best lake towns shine? They’re not just waterfront havens where you can rent a boat for the day or go stand-up paddleboarding, they’re also destinations with quality restaurants, campgrounds, shopping, and plenty of non-water-based activities. 

Whether you’re camping this summer or looking for a lakeside long weekend to book in the fall, these are eight of the best lake towns in North America.

Wolfeboro © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

On Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro is fast becoming the best lake town in the Northeast. The drive to Wolfeboro is about two hours from Boston and five from New York City. The town center of Wolfeboro is actually positioned directly on Lake Winnipesaukee which is dotted with 285 islands and offers an expansive 72 square miles of water. Your life in Wolfeboro will be filled with sunset swims at Brewster Beach, ice cream cones at Wolfeboro Dockside Grille & Dairy Bar, and ales and snacks at Lone Wolfe Brewing Company. Treat your family to a boat tour aboard the M/S Mount Washington which has offered scenic cruises on the lake since 1872.

Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake George, New York

The so-called “Queen of American Lakes” was a playground for Gilded Age robber barons, many of whose original waterfront stone mansions still line a 10-mile stretch known as Millionaire’s Row. Visit Lake George’s Sagamore Resort which dates back to the 1880s and still welcomes guests today. Dinner cruises on majestic Lake George. A dawn-to-dark day at an epic amusement park topped off with the best ice cream around. Festivals that hono Elvis. There’s a lot to do in the Lake George Area.

Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton, British Columbia

Penticton is located in the Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia. It is one, of only two cities in the world, situated between two lakes—Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. Shimmering blue water, long stretches of sandy beach, vineyards, orchards, gentle mountains, and a wide variety of outdoor activities await you here. From the Interior Salish word snpintktn, the name Penticton is commonly translated as “a place to stay forever,” or more accurately, “a place where people live year-round.”

Syracuse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Syracuse, Indiana

Syracuse is a town of approximately 3,000 full time residents and 35,000 seasonal residents in northeastern Indiana. There are seven lakes in and around the town making it a water lover’s paradise. Lake Wawasee, the largest of these lakes, is the largest natural lake in Indiana. With access to Syracuse Lake, there are more than 3,500 acres of water. Lake Wawasee hosts the state-owned Wawasee Family Fishing Site. Located on the southeast shores, opportunities to fish, picnic, and relax in the outdoors await you. Several local marinas are also available; you can rent a fishing boat, pontoon boat, or jet skis at several locations on the lake.

Lake Powell Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Page, Arizona

For those looking to spend a few days on a road trip, I recommend taking the drive to Northern Arizona to visit Page and Lake Powell. It’s a great summer trip since the temperature rarely breaks 100 degrees and the 186-mile lake features nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, 96 major side canyons, sapphire blue water, towering red sandstone cliffs, and sandy beaches. 

Page should have packed up decades ago. See, the town was established in 1957 as a temporary work camp for builders of the Glen Canyon Dam but the people stayed. And it’s jaw-droppingly easy to see why they set down roots: the spectacular red buttes and mesas set against cobalt skies, capped by miles of blue shoreline on Lake Powell.

For views, it’s hard to beat houseboat digs at Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas or Antelope Point Marina, both with 5-star full-service RV resorts.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Dora, Florida

The City of Mount Dora truly is “Someplace Special”, a charming, one-hundred-plus-year-old historic village in the heart of Central Florida on the shores of beautiful Lake Dora in the Harris Chain of Lakes. The Harris Chain of Lakes is a waterway system that leads north to the Atlantic Ocean through the Ocklawaha River and the St. John’s River. Mount Dora offers a unique downtown where you can take a leisurely stroll among boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries or take a seaplane/boat/walking tour. At the Port of Mount Dora in Grantham Point Park next to the Mount Dora Marina and the public boat ramps, you will discover the Mount Dora Lighthouse, a short walk from beautiful downtown Mount Dora. Built of bricks covered with stucco, the 35-foot lighthouse stands sentry over the Port of Mount Dora.

Weirs Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weirs Beach, New Hampshire

Weirs Beach is famous for its Boardwalk and the attractions along the boardwalk at Weirs Beach. The Weirs Beach boardwalk begins on Lakeside Avenue and runs the entire length of the beach and docks. There are many benches along the boardwalk so people can sit and enjoy the view of Lake Winnipesaukee. There are a few ways to get from the Weirs Beach boardwalk down to the water. At the beginning of the boardwalk, there are stairs that lead to the picnic areas and bathhouse. In the middle of the boardwalk are stairs that lead to the public boat docks. Many people like to sit on the docks and watch to boats come in and go out. The MS Mount Washington Cruise Ship ticket office is where you can purchase tickets to cruise Lake Winnipesaukee on the M/S Mount Washington. There is also a ticket booth to ride the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. Another way to get to the beach leads to the Winnipesaukee Pier. The pier has several shops and an arcade.

Osoyoos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos, British Columbia

Osoyoos is located at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley beside the international border with Oroville, Washington. The region is considered Canada’s only true desert. Framed by desert hills, lakes, vineyards, and orchards, Osoyoos is the ultimate year-round desert destination with a climate that allows you to recreate in its unique surroundings. Taste the area’s delicious fresh fruit and drink award-winning wines directly at their source. The area is one of the largest grape-growing regions of British Columbia with more than 15 estate wineries within a 15-minute drive of the town center. There’s more to Osoyoos than bright blue skies and wineries set against gently sloping hills. While the community embraces and proudly showcases their vintner industry, Osoyoos also has sophisticated resorts, numerous full-service RV parks, championship golf courses, the nation’s warmest lake, and a wide range of cultural, intellectual, and artistic experiences.

Where will your summer adventures take you?

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)