New Years 2023: Facts, Traditions, and Resolutions for Campers

Celebrating the first day of another year on Earth has been a historical tradition for millennia

New Year brings blessings yet to behold.
—Lailah Gifty Akita

Social, cultural, and religious observances that celebrate the beginning of the New Year are among the oldest and the most universally observed.

The earliest known record of a New Year festival dates from about 2000 BC in Mesopotamia where in Babylonia the New Year (Akitu) began with the new moon after the Spring Equinox (mid-March) and in Assyria with the new moon nearest the Autumn Equinox (mid-September). For the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians, the year began with the Autumn Equinox (September 21); for the early Greeks, it began with the Winter Solstice (December 21). On the Roman republican calendar, the year began on March 1 but after 153 BC the official date was January 1 which was continued in the Julian calendar of 46 BC.

Red Rock Scenic Byway Visitor Center, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In early medieval times, most of Christian Europe regarded March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation as the beginning of the New Year although New Year’s Day was observed on December 25 in Anglo-Saxon England. William the Conqueror decreed that the year begins on January 1 but England later joined the rest of Christendom and adopted March 25. The Gregorian calendar, adopted in 1582 by the Roman Catholic Church restored January 1 as New Year’s Day and most European countries gradually followed suit: Scotland, in 1660; Germany and Denmark, in about 1700; England, in 1752; and Russia, in 1918.

What are your New Year’s traditions? The aesthetic of New Year’s has typically been gold, champagne, streamers, and glasses that have the year on them but American traditions aren’t that ritualized or historic.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Year’s is typically celebrated with a large party starting on New Year’s Eve. People count down the time—sometimes using the ball drop in New York City or elsewhere—until the clocks officially begin the New Year. They often toast with champagne, share a New Year’s kiss at the stroke of midnight, sing the Scottish song Auld Lang Syne and make New Year’s resolutions.

Many people also coordinate the perfect New Year’s makeup and nail looks to ring in the New Year in style. Fireworks, cheers, and songs officially start the first day of the New Year.

Canoeing at Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Auld Lang Syne in the English language means old long since or for the sake of old times. In 1788, Robert Burns wrote this poem in the Scots language. However, it was inspired by a Scottish folk song.

Even if you don’t know or understand the lyrics, you’ll still enjoy it with everyone forming a circle, singing, and holding each other’s hands. While Auld Lang Syne is about old friends and memories, it’s also a perfect song to bid farewell to an old year and welcome a new one.

Raccoon State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Symbolic foods are often part of the festivities. Many Europeans, for example, eat cabbage or other greens to ensure prosperity in the coming year while people in the American South favor black-eyed peas for good luck. Throughout Asia, special foods such as dumplings, noodles, and rice cakes are eaten and elaborate dishes feature ingredients whose names or appearances symbolize long life, happiness, wealth, and good fortune.

What if we mixed it up a little and tried out some new—or should I say—old traditions this year? I’ve done some Googling and found some other kinds of traditions from around the world.

Bernheim Forest and Arboretum, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A popular tradition in Spain includes eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve—that’s one grape at each stroke of the clock at midnight. These grapes represent the 12 months and you have to eat all of them to enjoy a lucky year. Otherwise, the upcoming year might be harsh on you. So, you better chew all of them before the clock stops chiming! Just don’t choke!

In the Netherlands, people eat deep-fried dough to honor the Germanic goddess Perchta the Belly Slitter.

St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Chinese started the tradition of using pyrotechnics—they invented fireworks—to celebrate the New Year. So it makes sense that while many places use fireworks, Chinese New Year’s displays are some of the biggest and brightest.

In Ecuador they burn scarecrows.

Taking an icy plunge on the first day of the New Year is one way that Russians symbolize starting over with a clean slate.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yellow is said to symbolize love and happiness so to make sure the New Year is full of both, Colombians don a brand-new pair of yellow underwear before heading out to celebrate. And they’re not the only ones. Bolivians also swear by yellow undies and Argentinians wear pinkly unmentionable to ring in the New Year. And in Italy, they wear red underwear. Mamma mia, here we go again!

I’m gonna try as many of these as I can and see if the combined forces of good luck charms from all around the world bring me the most powerful glow-up of my life.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s get to New Year’s Resolution, shall we?

Lose weight. Quit social media. Blah blah blah snoozefest! These are all good goals, don’t get me wrong. But we set the same New Year’s resolutions every single year and then… never really stick to them. So, for 2023, why not shake things up a bit and try creating resolutions of a different variety—and focus on our RV lifestyle? Whether you choose one New Year resolution or all 10, you’ll be better off for it.

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

1. Focus on a passion

Influencer Mik Zazon who’s on a mission to “normalize normal bodies,” tells Parade, “… I want to inform readers that resolutions are NOT an invitation to start a diet or a workout plan but a beautiful reminder that a new year can bring new life to our passions.”

Hoover Dam, Arizona/Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Go someplace you’ve never been

Step outside of your comfort zone and do something daring. It’s good for the soul and forces you to learn new things.

3. Don’t buy things you don’t need

Bad habit! We love to spend money even if it’s for no good reason. Don’t need it? Don’t buy it. You likely don’t have the space, anyway.

National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Try something NEW, while camping

Relaxing is numero uno but how about spicing up the camping trip with some boating, trail (bike) riding, or go GeoCaching? GeoCaching is fun at any age and can be enjoyed by yourself or with your friends and family. It’s basically treasure hunting—and you can use your phone. Wooo, the kids will love this one!

5. Keep a journal

The University of Rochester Medical Center says that journaling can help battle anxiety, stress, and depression. Even if you write only a few sentences, you can reap the benefits.

6. Start a new hobby

Do new stuff. Let yourself blossom in 2023.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Travel somewhere without posting about it on social media

“No status updates, no photos… just go on vacation and not tell anyone,” says travel writer Reannon Muth. That might seem silly but in a world where it didn’t happen unless you post about it on Instagram, it can be a challenge to resist the temptation to post that sunset beach photo or that perfect RV site.

8. Travel somewhere with no app

Go on a road trip without using Apple or Google maps. No GPS. Just an old fashioned road map and see where it takes you. You’ll never know what sort of fun and exciting adventure you’ll end up on as a result.

Horseback riding at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Experience a new outdoor activity

From hiking and fishing to horseback riding and mountain biking, there is an endless supply of outdoor activities to choose from when RV camping this year. But why stick to the same old trails or bike paths when you can try a completely new adventure like horseback riding or kayaking? Check out the local outdoor activities offered at the campsite you’re staying at or find a site based on the activities available nearby.

10. Whatever your goals are, write them down

People who write down their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve them. Whatever you want in 2023, commit it to paper.

The only question is, how will you pick just one?

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Off to purchase some red underwear, a scarecrow, and some black-eyed peas. Happy New Year!

See you in 2023.

Worth Pondering…

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.

—Brad Paisley

December 2022 RV Manufacturer Recalls: 14 Recalls Involving 9 RV Manufactures

A manufacturer recall can create a safety risk if not repaired

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

What is a recall?

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

Camping at the Lakes at Chowchilla Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NHTSA releases its most recent list of recalls each Monday.

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

NHTSA announced 14 recall notices during December 2022. These recalls involved 9 recreational vehicle manufacturers—Winnebago (3 recalls), Jayco (2 recalls), Airstream (2 recalls), Forest River (1 recall), Entegra (1 recall), Newmar (1 recall), Aluminum Trailer Company (1 recall), Holiday House (1 recall), Chinook (1 recall), and Old School Trailers (1 recall).

Camping at Destiny RV Resort, Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 4,521

Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2021-2023 Revel motorhomes. The retractable awning may extend unintentionally during transit.

Remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 6, 2023. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-641-585-6939 or 1-800-537-1885. Winnebago’s number for this recall is 171.

Camping at Indian Waters RV Resort, Indio, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 6,553

Winnebago Towable (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Hike, Minnie, and 2021 Micro Minnie travel trailers. The cast aluminum pull handles on the cabinet doors and drawers may have sharp edges.

Dealers will replace the old door handles, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 27, 2023. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-574-825-5280 ext. 5220.

Camping at Eagle’s Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 63

Winnebago Towable (Winnebago) is recalling certain 2021-2022 Voyage and Minnie travel trailers. The cargo carrying capacity label (CCC) on the trailer may show an incorrect load carrying capacity, which could lead to an unintentional overloading of the vehicle. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard numbers 110, “Tire Selection and Rims” and 120, “Wheels and Rims-Other Than Passenger Cars.”

Dealers will install new labels, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 13, 2023. Owners may contact Winnebago customer service at 1-574-825-5280 ext. 5220.

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


Potential number of units affected: 90

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Jayco Solstice and Entegra Expanse recreational vehicles. The heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system’s controls, including those for defog and defrost, may become inoperative.

Dealers will update the remote climate control module software, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on January 13, 2023. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267.

Camping at Hollywood Casino RV Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 37

Jayco, Inc. (Jayco) is recalling certain 2023 Jayco Seneca XT and Entegra Accolade XT motorhomes. The windshield wiper arms may break, causing the windshield wipers to fail.

Dealers will inspect and replace both front windshield wiper arms, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 20, 2023. Owners may contact Jayco customer service at 1-800-283-8267.

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


Potential number of units affected: 200

Airstream, Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2022-2023 Interstate 24X motorhomes. The fasteners that hold the overhead galley cabinet may fail, causing the cabinet to detach from the interior wall.

Dealers will install additional fasteners, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed February 13, 2022. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411.

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


Potential number of units affected: 1,992

Airstream Inc. (Airstream) is recalling certain 2017-2022 Basecamp 16, and 2021-2022 Basecamp 20 travel trailers. The adhesive bond between the glass and metal frame of the entry door window can fail, causing the glass to separate from the frame.

Dealers will test the windows and replace, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed February 13, 2023. Owners may contact Airstream customer service at 1-877-596-6505 or 1-937-596-6111 ext. 7401 or 7411. This recall is an expansion of recall number 20V-349.

Camping at Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forest River

Potential number of units affected: 262

Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is recalling certain 2023 Salem, Stealth EVO, and Wildwood travel trailers. The 8-gauge wire connected to the 12-Volt refrigerator may not have over-current protection, which can cause the wire to melt.

Dealers will install a 20-AMP mini-breaker, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 23, 2023. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-503-831-5413. Forest River’s number for this recall is 22-1580.

Camping at Okefenokee RV Park, Folkston, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 392

Entegra Coach (Entegra) is recalling certain 2015-2019 Aspire and Insignia motorhomes. The service and supply reservoirs have an insufficient volume of air for the brake system. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 121, “Air Brake Systems.”

Dealers will replace the air reservoir, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed December 23, 2022. Owners may contact Entegra customer service at 1-800-283-8267.

Camping at Las Vegas RV Park, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Potential number of units affected: 30

Newmar Corporation (Newmar) is recalling certain 2022-2023 Supreme Aire motorhomes. The cap screws under the steering wheel cover could loosen and cause the steering wheel to separate from the steering column.

Dealers will install new steering wheel cap screws, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on January 31, 2023. Owners may contact Newmar’s customer service at 1-800-731-8300

Camping at Irvins RV Park, Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aluminum Trailer Company

Potential number of units affected: 21

Aluminum Trailer Company (ATC) is recalling certain 2022 Toyhauler-20-foot trailers. The electric retractable awning has a welded seam on the fabric that may separate, potentially allowing the awning to drop beyond normal operation.

Dealers will repair or replace the awning fabric, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on January 16, 2023. Owners may contact ATC’s customer service at 1-877-441-2440 ext. 342. ATC’s number for this recall is 22E055.

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

Holiday House

Potential number of units affected: 26

Holiday House, LLC (Holiday House) is recalling certain 2021-2022 27RQ, 24TB, and 18RB travel trailers. The quick disconnect fittings in the LP gas system may be cracked, causing a gas leak.

Dealers will inspect the quick disconnect and perform a leak test, and replace the quick disconnect, if necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed January 9, 2023. Owners may contact Holiday House customer service at 1-574-206-0016.

Camping at Tucson/Lazydays KOA, T


Potential number of units affected: 10

Chinook Motor Coach, LLC (Chinook) is recalling certain 2020-2022 Bayside motorhomes. The service valves on the LPG tanks may be improperly connected, which can cause a propane leak.

The remedy is currently under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in December 2022. Owners may contact Chinook customer service at 1-574-584-3756.

Camping at Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old School Trailers

Potential number of units affected: 16

Old School Trailers, LLC (Old School Trailers) is recalling certain 2022 Old School Trailers. The electric retractable awning has a welded seam on the fabric that may separate, potentially allowing the awning to drop beyond normal operation.

The remedy is still under development. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed in December 2022. Owners may contact Old School Trailers customer service at 1-574-596-4828.

Please Note: This is the 47th 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

First Day Hikes 2023: 10 Fantastic Hikes to Ring in the New Year

What better way to kick off the New Year than by getting a jump start burning off those extra holiday calories in the great outdoors?

On New Year’s Day, America’s State Parks will once again be celebrating with a First Day Hike. These hikes provide a means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature. For many it has become a tradition.

Distance and rigor vary from park to park but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.

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

America’s State Parks have been entrusted to preserve a variety of magnificent places from California to Georgia. Hikers can experience a plethora of outdoor recreation activities including mountain and hill climbing, walks along lakes and beaches, exploration of trails through great forests, wildlife expeditions, birdwatching, and more.

Furthermore, exercise and outdoor activities rejuvenate the mind and body, promoting overall mental and physical health and wellness. Many believe that time spent in nature enhances creativity and lifts our moods.


What better way to kick off the New Year than by getting a jump start burning off those extra holiday calories in the great outdoors?

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Day Hike at the Nature Center

Gulf State Park, Ocean Shores

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Ring in the first day of the New Year on a hike with the naturalists at Alabama’s Gulf State Park. Meet in the parking lot of the Nature Center for this event. The hike begins on Bear Creek to Gopher Tortoise Trail then turn onto Lake Shelby Overlook. These trails weave through freshwater swamp and lake habitats with a chance to see birds, turtles, alligators, and more. The hike will be approximately 3 miles round trip on a paved, flat trail. This is an easy grade hike perfect for all ages and experience levels.

Bring sturdy shoes, water, binoculars and a camera, layered clothes (it may warm up as you start hiking). Leashed pets are welcome to join.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Join the park naturalist on a guided hike through the park to celebrate the New Year. The hike begins at Pavilion 3 (by the bathhouse; parking across the street) then head off on trails and enjoy the wildlife and diversity of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. From there, the hike follows the trail to the back beach while discussing the history of the park, Native American Culture, and the ecological importance of the delta.

Bring weather-appropriate clothing, close-toed shoes (that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty), water, snacks, and a camera and/or binoculars. Leashed pets are welcome.

Get more tips for visiting Meaher State Park


We’re only days away from 2023. Start the New Year right and achieve your goals plus spend time in some of Arizona’s amazing parks. Remember to wear the appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, a camera, and your sense of adventure.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

This 1.6-mile hike takes you from the Discovery Trail to a portion of the Siphon Draw Trail and back to the start on the Mountain Bike Trail, all within the park boundary. It is a low-elevation excursion but with some rocky areas and some parts of the trail are narrow.

Meet at Saguaro Day Use. Make sure you have good shoes and water. Pets are not allowed on these guided hikes.

Get more tips for visiting Lost Dutchman State Park

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Hike the Calloway trail up to an overlook below the face of Picacho Peak. This trail is moderately difficult. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water. Elevation gain will be 300 feet, 1.5 miles round-trip, and roughly 1.5 hours.

Registration is recommended; however, walk-ups will be allowed based on available space. A maximum number of participants is 20. Meet at Harrington Loop. Feel free to contact the ranger station for any questions.

Get more tips for visiting Picacho Peak State Park


Nature has been proven to boost our moods and make us feel healthy. Start 2023 by taking in spectacular views and breathing some fresh air on a First Day Hike.

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

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Starting at the Visitor Center explore desert plants, crypto-biotic crust, and signs of animals as we walk cross-country to the ½-mile Panorama Overlook Trail. Ascend by switch-backs about 200 feet up the moderate-strenuous trail to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point with a chance to see bighorn sheep. At the viewpoint, reflect on your new year with a lighthearted introspection guided by Park Interpretive Specialist Regina Reiter. Walk down the mountain as the sun sets on your first day of 2023.

Wear sturdy shoes, bring at least 1 liter of water, a hat, and a flashlight. Trekking poles are helpful.

Get more tips for visiting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Calvaras Big Trees State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Calvaras Big Trees State Park First Day Hike

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Learn about giant sequoia trees and the winter season and hike a section of the North Grove Trail. This may be a snowshoe hike if it snows. Plan to hike up to 2 miles; however, the length of the hike may vary based on conditions.

Meet at the Warming Hut near the Visitor Center. Dress in layers and bring snow/rain gear if needed. Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Bring water. Bring snowshoes if you have them.


The perfect way to jump-start those New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and explore Georgia is to participate in a First Day Hike. When you go, tag your photos with #FirstDayHikes so folks can see where you’ve been.

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

Swamp Island Loop First Day Hike

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Start your 2023 with a refreshing stroll around this little island park in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. Start with the .75-mile Trembling Earth Boardwalk Loop. Those wishing to see more can continue with the ranger around the island perimeter for another 2.25 miles along the Jones Island and Upland Pine Trails.

This is a relaxed, family friendly hike with time to listen for and admire wildlife along the way.

Get more tips for visiting Stephen C. Foster State Park

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bear Hair Gap Trail First Day Hike

Vogel State Park, Blairsville

Located 11 miles south of Blairsville via Highway 19/129

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon

Bear Hair Gap Trail is a 4.1-mile partial loop over the lower ridge of Blood Mountain with an overlook of the park. The trail travels onto the Chattahoochee National Forest. Hiking time is 2 to 4 hours; medium difficulty with a 12 percent grade in places. To register call the Visitors Center at 706-745-2628.

Meet at the Visitors Center. Pets are allowed (must be on a 6-foot leash and waste must be picked up and disposed of in a waste receptacle when back to Vogel State Park). Small children may have difficulty walking this trail.

Get more tips for visiting Vogel State Park


Celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks in 2023 with a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day.

First Day hikes vary from short, leisurely nature walks on forested trails, boardwalk strolls through wetlands or to the beach, or climbs into the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. They offer both guided and self-guided hikes. Some First Day Hikes aren’t hikes at all: They also lead bike rides, paddling tours, and even horseback rides. After your hike, stop at the visitor center to report on your hike and collect a memento of your visit.

Lockhart State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart State Park First Day Sunrise Hike

Located 4 miles southwest of Lockhart (Barbecue Capital of Texas) on Highway 183 and FM 20

Sunday, January 1, 2023. 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Start your New Year off right with an early morning hike at Lockhart State Park

Hike at dawn and set good intentions for the year to come. All ages and abilities are welcome. The hike is less than 1 mile (~0.8 miles) on moderately challenging terrain. No registration is required. Meet your guide at the Chisholm Trailhead. After leaving Park HQ, continue straight on Park Road 10 for about a ½ mile. The Chisholm Trailhead is past the golf course on your left-hand side.

Palmetto State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palmetto State Park First Day Hike

Located 11 miles northwest of Gonzales on Highway 183

Sunday, January 1, 2023, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Start the year off right, with some peace of mind at your own pace. Join in on this annual tradition of ringing in the New Year by going on a hike. Take this hike at your own pace and breathe in that fresh air to clear your mind. 

Bring sturdy closed-toed shoes, water, and dress for the weather. With this self-guided hike, choose any of the open trails, and once you have completed your journey, head on back to the Headquarters building to pick up your First Day Hike Sticker. This is self-guided, so explore the park. Trails to pick from include but are not limited to:

  • Palmetto Interpretive: 0.30 miles
  • Mesquite Flats Trail: 1.1 miles 
  • San Marcos River Trail: 1.3 miles  

Get more tips for visiting Palmetto State Park

Worth Pondering…

New Year brings blessings yet to behold.

—Lailah Gifty Akita

Most Iconic RVs from the Movies

You’d know these rolling homes anywhere

RVs have featured prominently in many movies and TV shows. Over 70 movies and TV shows feature RVs.

There have been examples from the early days of travel trailers such as the comedy Long Long Trailer in the early 1950s with Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball about a couple who take a trailer on their honeymoon. There’s also the mobile meth-making motorhome that was a large part of the Breaking Bad TV series.

Airstream at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at the company’s headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, the new Airstream Heritage Center showcases the history of perhaps the most famous travel trailers in the world. The word iconic gets thrown around a lot these days but these silver bullet trailers deserve the title. They still evoke the optimism of the space race although now of course are filled with all modern conveniences.

Airstream and NASA have a long tradition of partnership including the construction of the quarantine chamber used by returning Apollo missions and the RV that took astronauts to the launch pad right up to the era of the Space Shuttle. And it is also synonymous with the way Hollywood told these stories. The Airstream used by Tom Hanks when he was shooting the movie Apollo 13 sold at auction several years ago for $235,200.

Airstream at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From families clustered around TV sets in 1969 to silver screen blockbusters, to highways and side roads across the country, Airstream RVs and trailers are instantly recognizable to everyone. And this got me thinking: what other RVs have achieved lasting fame? Or maybe infamy?

Watching Robin Williams roll through Colorado in a RV and young couples embarking on their first cross-country RV road trip is kind of the same as being there, right? Okay, maybe it’s not the same, but it’s definitely the next best option.

Related article: 10 Iconic Road Trip Movies

These RVing movies feature what those of us in the RV community loves most about this lifestyle—beautiful scenery, wide-open spaces, family and above all, a good sense of humor. Check out some of my favorite RV movies below.

Winnebago at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spaceballs — 1986 Winnebago Chieftain 33

One of the few parodies that stand the test of time, Spaceballs perfectly skewers the Millennium Falcon with this slightly decrepit winged Winnebago. No, it will not go to plaid but it will make the jump to hyperspace thanks to secret onboard jets allowing Lone Starr and Barf to outrun the evil Dark Helmet.

The joke here is to double down on the rough around edges feel of the Falcon. The Eagle 5 (complete with vanity plate) is a shabby ol’ bird, fine for a man-dog named Barf but not up to the standards of the prissy Princess Vespa. Still, it’ll jam any radar. Literally!

Spartan Motor Home at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaking Bad — 1986 Fleetwood Bounder

If the Eagle 5 skirted galactic law then the Fleetwood from Breaking Bad was definitely up to no good. A rolling laboratory for cooking up illegal methamphetamines, the “Krystal Ship” became something of a recurring character on the show.

Despite being destroyed in a crusher in season six (another RV was destroyed), the Fleetwood survived filming. There was even a charity contest in 2018 that offered fans a chance to cook in the RV with Aaron Paul—not meth, just breakfast.

Touring Ford at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — 1972 Ford Condor II

RVs don’t seem to get the glamorous roles in movies and television. This particular crusty-looking machine was a reflection of just how rude and crude the Griswolds’ Cousin Eddie was. Case in point: his most famous line isn’t even printable here.

Related article: 11 Must Watch Films Shot on Route 66

Yet even Eddie becomes a lasting part of the Christmas spirit. The motorhome is too. It’s parked at Castle Noel in Ohio, an entire museum dedicated to Christmas movies.

Winnebago at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Independence Day — 1967 Winnebago Brave

It’s time to redeem the RV a little. When aliens invade the earth, a herd of RVs flees into the desert rescuing Will Smith along the way and ending up at Area 51.

A classic Winnebago with a suitably apt name leads the way. It’s a bit of redemption for Cousin Eddie too, in a way. Actor Randy Quaid takes on another RV-driving role here but this time he’s a disgraced fighter pilot who gets his revenge.

GMC Motorhome at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stripes — 1976 GMC Motorhome

Beloved comedian John Candy makes another motorhome-related appearance here (he played Barf) with the EM-50 Urban Assault vehicle. With more gadgets than a Bond car—periscope, missiles, bulletproof armor—the EM-50 easily saves the day.

Stripped of the movie magic, the EM-50 was actually a GMC Motorhome from the 1970s. These were pretty advanced for their day being front-wheel-drive and having a low floor. After filming, Candy reportedly kept one of the motorhomes and used it for touring around.

GMC Motorhome at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Blues Brothers — 1976 Fleetwood Southwind

Direct from Nashville, it’s the Good Ole Boys playing both kinds of the best music there are—Country and Western. They’re touring the country in a Fleetwood RV painted with desert cowboy scenes and fitted with bull horns.

Unfortunately, Jake and Elwood Blues get on the wrong side of the Ole Boys which resulted in a car chase. Most things in this movie result in car chases. In this case, Elwood’s messed with the accelerator pedal—“glue, strong stuff”—and the RV ends up going for a swim.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Lost World: Jurassic Park — 1996 Fleetwood Southwind Storm

The original Jurassic Park was such a huge smash that we all couldn’t wait to travel back. This time, though, we’d need something a little tougher than a painted-up Ford Explorer.

Related article: The Ultimate Road Trip for Clint Eastwood Fans

Enter the Southwind Storm done up as the Challenger trailer. A mobile lab equipped with anti-dinosaur defenses it was theoretically the safest way to study dinosaurs at a distance. Unfortunately, it ended up getting rolled into the ocean by two angry T. Rexes.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Far Green Country — 2005 Bounder

This is a real life story—an overcoming adversity story. This is a story about a great adventure in the wild spaces—whether in national parks, within oneself, or in relationships with others. A young couple struggling to stay afloat set out on the road in a class A motorhome in search of the hope of healing. This real-life documentary tells of the comedy, the hardships, and the passion of living intentionally and adventurously in marriage and with children.

House Trailer at RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About Schmidt — 2001 Winnebago Adventurer

This 2002 Oscar-winning movie features Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt, a bitter and recently retired widower who travels to his estranged daughter’s wedding in a 35-foot 2001 Winnebago Adventurer. Along the way, Nicholson’s character narrates via long letters to Ndugu, a Tanzanian orphan that he’s sponsoring.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re the Millers — 2013 Coachman Encounter

This raunchy 2013 comedy features Jason Sudeikis’ character hiring a fake family to smuggle a massive amount of marijuana across the Mexican border. “Me, crossing the border alone? Huge red flag! But families, don’t get a second look so I need you to be my wife,” he says to Jennifer Aniston’s character, a stripper. The RV in the movie is played by a 2013 Coachmen Encounter.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV — 2005 Forest River Georgetown 395 and 1948 Flexible Clipper

This Robin Williams-helmed film stars the late actor as Bob Munro who takes his family on a road trip that, of course, results in all manner of shenanigans and tomfoolery—including some of the specifically RV variety. The family’s rig is a 2005 35-foot Forest River Georgetown 359 but another RV—the vintage 1948 Flxible Clipper—kind of steals the show. The latter can be toured at the Jack Sisemore RV Museum in Amarillo, Texas.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nomadland — 2001 converted Ford Econoline

As the title suggests, the RV in this film features prominently as Fern, played by Frances McDormand travels the western half of the U.S. in 2001 converted Ford Econoline she names Vanguard. The Chloé Zhao-directed film—nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture—explores themes of economic collapse, community, and survival, and features real-life nomads alongside McDormand’s performance. 

Related article: Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Supernova — 2004 Auto Trail Cheyenne 632

In this 2020 film, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play Sam and Tusker, partners of 20 years who travel the English Lake District visiting friends and family in a camper van as they try to come to terms with Tusker’s early-onset dementia diagnosis. The RV in this critically acclaimed movie is a 16-year-old Auto-Trail Cheyenne 632.

RVMH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meet the Fockers — 2016 Fleetwood Pace Arrow

Since the first movie, Meet the Parents (2000), the main character Ben Focker has been accepted by his fiancé’s parents and it is time for her parents to meet him. Sounds easy enough but the parents are polar opposites. The movie follows Ben and his fiancé, Pam, trying everything they can to try to make the parents get along and come to terms with being one big family. Their attempts lead to some hilarious scenarios like when Ben decides to take a trip with his fiancé’s parents to meet his parents in an RV.

Worth Pondering…

It’s crazy isn’t it? Look at that RV it’s like a camper on steroids.

—Robin Williams (the dad) in the movie, RV

Swim with the Manatees of Florida’s Crystal River

Meet a manatee

Every year, tourists from around the world flock to Crystal River. A brief drive through the charming Citrus County hamlet provides a hint as to why: You’ll find manatee-shaped mailboxes, manatee placards on the streetlights, manatee statues, and murals. The city’s logo, a smiling sea cow, is festooned upon a water tower downtown.

Citrus County is revered as the manatee capital of the world and rightfully so. Only in the waters of Citrus County are you able to legally swim with manatees in their natural habitat. Home to roughly 3,000 people, Crystal River is located 80 miles north of Tampa. For snowbirds looking for a magical getaway, this is the perfect place to get up close with these gentle creatures.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Much like other mammals (humans included), at the first sign of winter, manatees seek out a warm locale to wait out winter’s wrath. For West Indian manatees, their go-to spot is Crystal River, Florida.

For generations, West Indian manatees (also known by their subspecies, Florida manatees) have been following the same migratory pattern from as far north as New England to this stretch of warm water located 85 miles northwest of Orlando and several miles inland from Crystal Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This is where these herbivores will stay from roughly November through March spending much of their time munching on sea grass and other shoreline vegetation (they’ll consume as much as 10 percent of their body weight a day amounting to between 100 and 300 pounds of vegetation) while floating languidly in the warm waters of Crystal River and Kings Bay which average 72 degrees thanks to their shallow nature (manatees can’t tolerate water temperatures when they dip below 68 degrees).

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Crystal River area is considered the largest natural winter refuge in the world for manatees and is comprised of 70 springs including Three Sisters Springs where between 400 and 500 manatees have been sighted during the winter in recent years thanks to its ample vegetation and temperate waters.

Because of their calm demeanor and sheer cuteness—they’re a distant relative to elephants—seeing one of these gentle giants in the wild has become a bucket-list item for people around the world. But because they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers them a threatened species (there are about 6,300 manatees in Florida today a significant increase from 1,267 in 1991). Citrus County is the only place in the United States where people can legally swim with wild manatees in their natural habitat.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are manatees friendly to humans?

The manatee is the world’s most humble creature. They don’t know any form of aggression. They have no natural predators and no prey. They don’t even compete for resources.

Manatees are completely vegan subsisting on a diet of aquatic vegetation. They need to consume 10-20 percent of their body weight in wet vegetation every single day to keep their body temperature regulated. For an animal that weighs 1,000 pounds on average—that is a lot of food!

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They aren’t picky eaters; they will munch and crunch on any kind of grass, leaves, and even sweet potatoes if they can access them. Their most nutritious food sources are in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico where grasses grow in abundance and variety. In Kings Bay, they feast on the native Eelgrass which has been planted by our Grass Restoration Project to the tune of about 17 million dollars. Each acre of planted grass can support about 40,000 fish and 50 million small animals and it provides a necessary food source for our manatees.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Kings Bay, Crystal River, and Three Sisters Springs region

Three Sisters Springs gets all the attention and for good reason. It’s gorgeous: A rare freshwater spring that has never been developed as a swimming hole or park still features natural lush vegetation around its vivid and clear turquoise waters. And it’s popular with manatees as well as people.

But the Three Sisters Springs group represents just three of the 70 springs within the 600-acre bay. The Fish and Wildlife Service has maps that show areas that are off-limits to boats because manatees congregate there and those maps indicate a half dozen other manatee refuge zones in addition to Three Sisters.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two other areas are popular with swim-with-manatee outfitters and kayakers exploring on their own:

  • Adjacent to a mangrove-filled Banana Island in Kings Bay is Kings Spring, the largest and original spring that prompted the creation of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in 1983. In the winter, manatees congregate here and boats—but not swimmers—are barred from Kings Spring.
  • Not far north of Three Sisters Spring, Hunter Spring City Park is the most popular place to put in kayaks and is close to Jurassic, House, and Hunter springs, all of which attract manatees as well as people who want to swim with manatees.
Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River is a year round home for the manatee

But, this isn’t what makes Crystal River so special. Crystal River didn’t earn its designation as Home of the Manatee from the ones that visit in the winter. That’s right! Crystal River is uniquely the only place in Florida that has a consistent year-round population of 50-60 manatees that decided to become permanent residents. No matter the day of the year, you are almost guaranteed to see a manatee in the Crystal River National Wildlife refuge. Visiting before the season is a great way to get close to these creatures while avoiding the crowds.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why do manatees love Crystal River?

The life of a manatee is pretty consistent—they sleep, eat, and repeat! Because of this, Crystal River is just perfect for them. For instance, there are a lot of quiet secluded backcountry for these solitary animals to rest, plenty of fresh water for them to drink, and plenty of food here to feed their humongous appetite.

Manatees are always on the food search. They graze about 8–10 hours a day consuming about 10 percent of their body weight daily. Weighing in at about 1,500 pounds, your average manatee consumes about 150 pounds of grass a day! That’s what I call a HEALTHY appetite!

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meet a manatee

There are plenty of ways for anyone to see manatees from swimming with manatees to kayaking and stand up paddle-boarding and boat tours to visiting the incredible fully accessible boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Refuge in Crystal River and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa.

However you choose to meet a manatee, remember to keep calm, enjoy the moment, and don’t be surprised if meeting a manatee changes your life.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All swimmers on manatee tours learn their manatee manners before ever getting in the water.

Find a tour group that takes a conservation-minded approach. Explorida is a company that starts each swim session with a lesson. These animals are protected by federal law and harassing or harming them can mean hefty fines and jail time. They emphasize the art of passive observation which involves quietly enjoying the animals from a distance. If manatees want to venture closer and touch you that would be fine but initiating contact is a big no-no.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the short boat ride, your in-water guide offers tips such as the following:

Manatees will be able to feel you coming thanks to the tiny hairs that cover their body. They are curious and friendly and generally don’t mind respectful humans. To keep them comfortable, it’s best to avoid loud noises or splashing. In other words, stay still and act like a manatee.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To spot manatees from the boat first look for a mound of bubbles. Then a whiskered nose will emerge from the water—the tip of the manatee iceberg. If the water is clear, you’ll see the round silhouette of the rest of its body under the surface.

The sleeping sea cow will hover in a cloud of bubbles. Every few minutes she/he will float to the surface to inhale before sinking back down. Small catfish may swirl around her. She won’t mind them or a group coming close to watch.

This process will be repeated several times. Find a manatee and get a peek into its morning routine.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other things to do in Crystal River

There is more in Crystal River than manatees. Here are a few other ideas:

Crystal River Archaeological State Park: An ancient Native American ceremonial site located in a beautiful setting overlooking the wide Crystal River. The mounds here are surprisingly impressive but little is known about the people who built them starting 2,500 years ago. A small museum has interesting artifacts and the picnic tables along the water are a great place to relax. Located at 3400 N Museum Point, Crystal River.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal River Preserve State Park: Located adjacent to the archaeological park, it has several trails with forest, marsh, and water views. Located at 3266 N. Sailboat Ave., Crystal River.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park: 15 minutes south of Crystal River, you can see manatees every day via the park’s underwater observatory of its resident manatee population. Visitors start a visit on a pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park where you also see Florida panthers, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators, and a wide variety of birds. In winter, the gates into the first-magnitude spring are opened, and wild manatee flock to the warmer waters. On cold days, you may see dozens of wild manatees. The park has many attractions and charges an adult admission of $13. Children aged 6-13 are $5.

Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to camp near Crystal River

Here are a few RV parks and campgrounds throughout Citrus County to consider for your trip:

  • Rock Crusher Canyon RV Resort: A beautifully landscaped campground with a swimming pool, playground, fenced-in dog run, and a clubhouse for activities. Rock Crusher offers full hookups with 30- or 50- amp electric which can accommodate up to 40 feet RVs with plenty of room for slide-outs. All sites offer back-in and pull-through availability. They also have elite sites which include beautiful brick paver pads and a shed for extra storage.
  • Crystal Isles RV Resort: An Encore RV resort, this park offers numerous amenities including a pool, waterfront sites, and on-site laundry. Rent a boat, catch a fish in local streams, or visit nearby King’s Bay to swim with a manatee.
  • Rousseau RV Resort: Situated on 15 acres shaded by majestic, ancient live oak and cypress trees draped in Spanish moss, many of the sites are generous and big rigs are welcome.  All sites are full hookups with 30-amp and 50-amp service. 
  • Nature’s Resort: Situated on the Homosassa River, this 97-acre resort offers RV sites and also cabin rentals. There’s a swimming pool, game room, and access to the Gulf for fishing and boating.
Manatee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

A full-grown manatee which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp.

—Dave Barry

RVshare: 2023 Travel Trend Report

RVShare just released their 2023 Travel trend report

RVshare has released its 2023 Travel Trend Report, chock full of stats on how people are looking to travel in the next year, what kind of trips they’re taking, and what age demographics seem the keenest to take an RV vacation in the next 12 months. Want a glimpse into the travel scene in the New Year to see how your plans stack up? Read on.

The report predicts another major year for travel. According to new research conducted by Wakefield Research, nearly all Americans (99 percent) are planning leisure travel in 2023. The RV travel boom continues to press on with 61 percent planning to take a road trip or vacation in an RV. Travelers are still seeking relaxation and time with family and friends, and work flexibility continues to evolve and become a more permanent lifestyle for many Americans ultimately affecting their travel decisions.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV travel is mainstream travel

Gone are the days of RVs only being for snowbirds and touring rock bands. More and more people are seeing the appeal of a good old-fashioned road trip and booking an RV is part of many travel plans. RV interest has continued to grow with 62 percent likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future, a 9 percent jump from 2022. What are some reasons travelers prefer an RV road trip over other travel options? Not only are they more affordable with no charges for baggage and an onboard kitchen to prepare food on your terms but they make for a more pleasant travel experience allowing you to stop along the way, sit where you’d like, and avoid travel delays.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other benefits of RV travel that survey respondents found valuable include:

  • Greater ability to change the schedule (59 percent)
  • Lower costs by avoiding fees for extra luggage (52 percent)
  • Allows them to budget around predictable travel costs (47 percent)
  • Helps to avoid loud and unruly passengers (47 percent)
  • No need for secondary transportation at destination (45 percent)
  • Fewer travel delays (44 percent)
  • The ability to have no assigned seating (42 percent)
Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who is actually renting RVs?

So we know RVing is more popular than ever and spans more demographics, but who is really renting and traveling in them?

Related article: The Expanding Camping Community

One big group that spans across generations is parents. Eighty-one percent of parents are likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future. And who could blame them, an RV parked in the driveway alone is pure excitement for kids and it makes for a smooth travel experience. Having a kitchen and bathroom on board, a living space, and cozy beds means your hotel is built right into your vehicle making any stops much more pleasant.

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

RV enthusiasts span age demographics, with Millennials being the most interested age group followed by Gen X and Gen Z.

Among those who plan to take a trip in an RV in the next 12 months:

  • 75 percent are millennials
  • 65 percent are Gen X
  • 58 percent are Gen Z
  • 41 percent are Boomers
Bison at Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2023 travel plans

After the frustrations of travel the past couple of years, people are equally divided in how they want to make up for it with 50 percent planning on keeping things simple and the other half going big and finally hoping to check out some bucket list trips they’ve been putting off. Many travelers are still seeking time in nature and enjoying wildlife (47 percent), prioritizing the importance of enjoying peace and quiet (49 percent), and placing importance on catching up with friends (34 percent).

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hush trips

Another way many are planning to travel is in the New Year? Enter hush trips. Hush trips are enjoyed by remote employees who are leaning heavily into the remote aspect of their jobs by taking vacation time while continuing to work—maybe from a lounge chair by the pool or at a campground with strong Wi-Fi. These employees are still putting in the hours but working from an alternative location where they plan to enjoy leisure activities in their off-hours and don’t feel the need to disclose their location.

Related article: Are New Campers Really Interested in Camping?

Savannah, Georgia, a bucket trip destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other 2023 travel plans include:

  • Annual trips with family and friends (49 percent)
  • Laid-back trips focused on relaxation (48 percent)
  • Local trips (44 percent)
  • Big trips to bucket list destinations (29 percent)
  • Cross-country road trip (28 percent)
Boondocking at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVs go beyond camping

While the classic way to take an RV trip is to park it at a campground, there are other places that lend themselves well to an RV.

Related article: RV Sales Continue to Soar and Here Are the Reasons Why

Wakefield Research reveals that travelers are seeking to experience RVs in new ways—beyond the typical road trip. According to RVshare insights, 20 percent of rentals are booked for event purposes like tailgating, auto and aviation shows, music festivals and more.

  • 63 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for multi-day festivals, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 52 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for tailgating events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 68 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for trips to national parks, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 55 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for hobby events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
Camping on Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delivery is still in demand

First-time RV renters account for one-third of bookings on RVshare. A factor that can deter those inexperienced renters is the thought of having to physically drive the RV. RVshare provides the option for RV delivery, which continues to increase in popularity. Our report found that 79 percent of people think a delivery option would make them more likely to consider an RV trip and 71 percent of parents say they’re much likelier to consider an RV trip if the RV is delivered to their destination.

Related article: Why RV?

Nearly half of RVshare rentals were delivered in 2022 and RV rental deliveries are up increasingly compared to prior years:

  • +48 percent since 2021
  • +150 percent since 2020
Bay St. Lewis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top delivery destinations include:

  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
  • Camperland on the Bay, San Diego, California
  • Ginnie Springs Outdoors, High Springs, Florida
  • Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Georgia National Fairgrounds, Perry, Georgia
  • Lazy L & L Campground, New Braunfels, Texas
Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The economy isn’t stopping travelers

Survey results reveal that the economy won’t be stopping vacationers anytime soon. Inflation is unavoidable but just 2 percent are likely to cancel their vacation because of it. In fact, 88 percent of Americans are planning to travel as much or more in 2023 compared to last year. Instead, travelers are considering cost-cutting options.

  • Would look to cook some of their own meals instead of dining out (57 percent)
  • Would travel during the off-season (49 percent)
  • Would partake in fewer fee-based activities (43 percent)

Worth Pondering…

Road trips have beginnings and ends but it’s what’s in between that counts.

The All-time Coldest Temperatures Ever Recorded in Each State

Record-breaking cold, life-threatening wind chills plunge 150 million Americans into deep freeze

A bitter and potentially deadly blast of arctic air is continuing to charge its way across the U.S., dropping wind chills to as low as between negative 50 and negative 70 degrees across the northern Plains and 30 below zero in the Midwest triggering rare Hard Freeze Warnings along the Gulf Coast and helping to fuel a monster blizzard that will bring those frigid temperature across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast.

The dangerously cold arctic air began its week-long journey by surging to the south out of Canada last weekend dropping low temperatures Monday morning to negative 20 degrees and lower across northern Montana.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the arctic blast brings bitterly cold temperatures to much of the U.S. through Christmas weekend, you might be wondering how low the temperature has ever gone in your state.

All but one of the 50 states has documented a temperature below zero with Hawaii being the sole outlier having only dipped as low as 12 degrees. Nearly a dozen states have plunged to minus 50 degrees or colder.

January and February comprise the coldest time of the year for the majority of the U.S. so it should come as no surprise that’s when most of the records were achieved. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

Five states set their low-temperature records in late December including Nebraska, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s all-time record low wasn’t even achieved during the winter. The Mauna Kea Observatory at an elevation of 13,796 feet on the Big Island of Hawaii dipped to 12 degrees on May 17, 1979.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was minus 80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska, north of Fairbanks, on January 23, 1971.

In the Lower 48, Montana holds the record for the all-time coldest temperature at minus 70 degrees, set at Rogers Pass—on the Continental Divide at 5,610 feet above sea level—on January 20, 1954.

Illinois is the most recent state to reach its lowest temperature on record. Mount Carroll, in the northwestern corner of the state plunged to minus 38 degrees on January 31, 2019.

Mount Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The longest-standing record in the U.S. is held by Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the highest mountain in the Northeast where the temperature bottomed out at minus 50 degrees nearly 140 years ago on January 22, 1885.

In the Northeast, New York can claim the coldest temperature ever recorded in the region with an all-time record low of minus 52 degrees set in Old Forge on February 18, 1979. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all share the same record of minus 50 degrees.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All-time records in the South might be colder than you think. Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina have all dipped into the teens below zero while Alabama has been as cold as minus 27 degrees and Tennessee as low as minus 32 degrees.

The Midwest has a large range of low-temperature records with North Dakota and Minnesota claiming minus 60 degrees as their all-time record lows but states south of the Great Lakes such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio have only dropped into the minus 30s due to winds off the lakes keeping temperatures relatively higher.

Most of the all-time record lows in the Western states were documented in the higher elevations. California’s record of minus 45 degrees was set in the heart of the Sierra Nevada in Boca at an elevation of 5,528 feet above sea level on January 20, 1937. The record low in Arizona was achieved at Hawley Lake where the temperature plunged to minus 40 degrees at 8,200 feet on January 7, 1971.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The chart below shows the all-time record low in each state according to data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

State               Minimum Temperature         Date                            Location

Alabama          -27 degrees F                          January 30, 1966        New Market

Alaska             -80 degrees F                          January 23, 1971        Prospect Creek Camp

Arizona           -50 degrees F                          January 7, 1971          Hawley Lake

Arkansas         -29 degrees F                          February 13, 1905      Gravett

California       -45 degrees F                          January 20, 1937        Boca

Colorado         -61 degrees F                          February 1, 1985        Maybell

Connecitut      -32 degrees F                          February 16, 1943      Falls Village

Delaware         -17 degrees F                          January 17, 1893        Millsboro

Florida                -2 degrees F                   February 13, 1899      Tallahassee

Georgia           -17 degrees F                          January 27, 1940        Beatum

Hawaii            12 degrees F                           May 17, 1979              Mauna Kea

Idaho               -60 degrees F                          January 18, 1943        Island Park Dam

Illinois            -38 degrees F                          January 31, 2019        Mt. Carroll

Indiana           -36 degrees F                          January 19, 1994        New Whiteland

Iowa                -47 degrees F                          January 12, 1912        Washta

Kansas            -40 degrees F                          February 13, 1905      Lebanon

Kentucky        -37 degrees F                          January 19, 1994        Shelbyville

Louisiana        -16 degrees F                          February 13, 1899      Minden

Maine              -50 degrees F                          January 16, 2009        Big Black River

Maryland        -40 degrees F                          January 13, 1912        Oakland

Massachusetts -35 degrees F                      January 5, 1904          Tauton

Michigan        -51 degrees F                          February 19, 1934      Vanderbilt

Minnesota       -60 degrees F                        February 2, 1996        Tower

Mississippi     -19 degrees F                          January 30, 1966        Corrinth

Missouri         -40 degrees F                          February 13, 1905      Warsaw

Montana          -70 degrees F                          January 20, 1954        Rogers Pass

Nebraska         -47 degrees F                          February 12, 1899      Bridgeport

Nevada            -50 degrees F                          January 8, 1937          San Jacinto

New Hampshire -50 degrees F                   January 22, 1985        Mount Washington

New Jersey     -34 degrees F                          January 5, 1902          River Vale

New Mexico   -50 degrees F                          February 1, 1951        Gavilan

New York       -52 degrees F                          February 18, 1879      Old Forge

North Carolina -34 degrees F                      January 21, 1985        Mount Mitchell

North Dakota  -60 degrees F                       February 15, 1936      Parshall

Ohio                -39 degrees F                          February 10, 1899      Milligan

Oklahoma       -31 degrees F                          February 10, 1911      Nowata

Oregon              -54 degrees F                          February 9, 1933        Ukiah

Pennsylvania  -42 degrees F                          January 5, 1904          Smethport

Rhode Island   -28 degrees F                          January 11, 1942        Wood River Junction

South Carolina -19 degrees F                         January 21, 1985        Caesar’s Head

South Dakota  -58 degrees F                          February 17, 1936      McIntosh

Tennessee       -32 degrees F                          December 30, 1917     Mountain City

Texas              -23 degrees F                          February 8, 1933        Seminole

Utah                -50 degrees F                          January 5, 1913          Strawberry Tunnel

Vermont          -50 degrees F                          December 30, 1933     Bloomfield

Virginia          -30 degrees F                          January 21, 1985        Mountain Lake

Washington    -48 degrees F                          December 30, 1968     Mazama and Winthrop

West Virginia -37 degrees F                          December 30, 1917     Lewisburg

Wisconsin       -55 degrees F                          February 2, 1996        Couderay

Wyoming        -66 degrees F                          February 9, 1933        Yellowstone NP

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about the Great White North, you ask?

The following is a list of the all-time low temperatures ever recorded in Canada’s 10 provinces.

Alberta                 -78 degrees F (-61.1 C)    January 11, 1911        Fort Vermillion           

British Columbia -74 degrees F (-58.9 C)     January 31, 1947        Smith River

Manitoba        -63 degrees F (-52.8 C)          January 9, 1899          Norway House

New Brunswick -52 degrees F (-46.7 C)       January 18, 1925        Chipman

Newfoundland -60 degrees F (-55.1 C)         February 17, 1972      Esker

Nova Scotia    -42 degrees F (-41.1 C)          January 31, 1920        Upper Stewlacke

Ontario            -73 degrees F (-58.3 C)          January 23, 1935        Iroquois Falls

Prince Edward Island -35 degrees F (-37.2 C) January 26, 1884      South Kildare

Quebec            -66 degrees F (-54.4 C)          February 5, 1923        Douset

Saskatchewan -70 degrees F (-56.7 C)          February1, 1893         Prince Albert

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A careful study of the above chart reveals that the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States (-80 degrees F in Alaska) is colder than the all-time low in Canada (-61 degrees in Alberta). But, how can that be?

In addition to the above 10 provinces Canada also has two far-north Territories—Northwest Territories and Yukon. The all-time low temperature recorded in Yukon was -81 degrees F (-63.0 C), 1 degree F colder than Alaska’s all-time low of -80 degrees F.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Merry Christmas! May your days be filled with peace, hope, and joy this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child!

Worth Pondering…

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid

Do You Really Know A Christmas Carol?

A story of redemption and self-discovery

Like many Christmas traditions and trappings, a fresh look at them may return luster to a dullness that can build up over time. In fact, from a cultural perspective, such an exercise is part of the whole purpose of Christmas and the approaching New Year.

It’s a time to consider ourselves in a new light and appreciation our blessings. Serving as a means to accomplish this is a story that stands as largely unfamiliar although many claim otherwise: Charles Dickens’s 1843 masterpiece, A Christmas Carol.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a story that everyone knows yet few remember for what it truly is: a tale that sings out like a caroler pounding at the door on the night before Christmas. Its purpose is to awaken us to the reality of our life journey and the need to love one another along our way.

A Christmas Carol is a ghost story in which Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old sinner and tightfisted financier, is haunted on Christmas Eve by his business partner, Jacob Marley, who’s been dead as a doornail for seven years. Scrooge learns from Marley that torments await him in the afterlife for his misspent time.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To sidestep the terrible path that Marley’s ghost treads, Scrooge accepts visitations from three spirits who come to offer him reclamation. They show Scrooge how his misery is self-inflicted and how much happiness he stands to gain by simply making others happy.

From his boyhood memories to his own chilling deathbed, the spirits lead  Scrooge on a difficult, merry, and disturbing journey through time and space to prove to him the profound purpose of every human life—one most clearly seen in the humane light of Christmas.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As it turns out, Ebenezer Scrooge has proven a soothsayer of our times, for by and large, Christmas actually is something of a humbug these days. It preaches peace but breeds pressure. The ritual of Walmart has replaced the ritual of the wassail. Santa Claus is not really St. Nicholas. The holidays are not really holy days. Christmas is a lost and long-forgotten mystery in need of a great awakening which is the thundering message of Charles Dickens’s carol.

For this reason, A Christmas Carol is an important voice at Christmas, and unlike the customary Christmas fare, it is anything but warm and fuzzy.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is nothing warm about the infernal furnaces that stir Jacob Marley’s hair, or the heartbroken young Scrooge abandoned by his father at boarding school over the holidays, or the cold corpse of Tiny Tim surrounded by his family, or the frozen corpse of Ebenezer Scrooge himself alone and unloved with nightshirt and blankets torn away by his cackling charwoman to be sold in a greasy bone shop.

There is nothing fuzzy about neighborly charity or a changed heart—of which this book boasts along with its horrors. And it is at Christmas that people should face these realities for what they are.

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Christmas “is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices,” remind the two gentlemen collecting for the poor in Scrooge’s money-changing hole. And the heartbreaking happiness of Christmas resounds in their words bringing in the dawn of Christmas be they as cold as Scrooge or as warm as his nephew.

His nephew salutes the season “as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time … in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There could hardly be a more beautiful or unique expression of the Christmas spirit and we shouldn’t forget it for that distinction alone.

Scrooge’s self-discovery and desire to retract his selfishness is the fruit of the Christmas season. With Scrooge, all can realize a need to purge before answering The Ghost of Christmas’s booming call, “Come in! and know me better man,” and discover the men and women sharing this earth with us, be they lame or blind. And in the words of Tiny Tim, remember the one “who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

The Christmas Season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The remarkable power of this story is that it is about everyone, awakening memories of who we are and why we are. But to live the lesson of examination and transformation presented by Dickens is a lofty test. We can share the journey with Ebenezer Scrooge by moving away from the “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” into a larger world as we helplessly face eternity.

A Christmas Carol is a song of preparation, passage, and praise. It is indeed a Christmas carol, and the process it initiates is not an easy one. But as the ghostly mentors of Scrooge held up a mirror to him, so too must we face our own pasts, presents, and futures.

Many, hearkening to this call, swear to lead a changed life that will honor the spirit of Christmas and try to keep it all the year by living in the past, the present, and the future.

Let the spirits come. Let them wake us from slumber. A Christmas Carol prepares us not only for Christmas Day but also for every day: for Life, in all its ups and downs. And may it inspire every one of us to cry, “God bless us every one!”

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The Ultimate Guide to Joshua Tree National Park

Two desert ecosystems combine for an otherworldly experience in California’s Joshua Tree National Park

I speak for the trees.

— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Several small motorhomes jockey for parking spots along the cul-de-sac at the Keys View overlook in Joshua Tree National Park. Its 10 minutes to sunset and the vista over the Coachella Valley with the lights of Palm Springs winking in the distance takes my breath away. Where else with two feet planted on solid ground can you get a bird’s-eye view of the daunting San Andreas Fault? That crack sketched into the surface of the Earth is a sobering reminder of the fragility of the landscape. The menacing fault line marks one of the world’s most active tectonic boundaries; geological faults crisscross the entire park.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s difficult to measure all of the positives that can come from just one visit to a National Park. By simply dipping your toe into the waters of the great outdoors your world is touched by greater health, improved mood, increased knowledge, all the while you are offering support to the preservation of one of the world’s finest treasures… and, national parks are a perfect place to go play.

Joshua Tree is one of my favorites in a long list of spectacular national parks in both Canada and the United States. It is arid, untamed, and remote. The super-sized boulders and wild-armed vegetation look like something from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. The night sky is dark and splashed with stars. When the wind blows, it really howls. The boulders are the size of large vehicles and the landscape is ablaze with cacti and hardy desert vegetation.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond the Joshua tree forests lies a world of adventure that appeals to three important factors that compel people to enjoy it: accessibility, the draw of adventure, and inspiration.

The sprawling national park of almost 800,000 acres is the spot in southeastern California where the high Mojave and the low Colorado deserts converge. This transition zone of two distinct desert ecosystems is noteworthy creating a blended area of significant biological diversity. In desert ecosystems, elevation determines everything as desert plants and critters are extremely sensitive to the slightest change.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park is home to bighorn sheep, cactus wrens, roadrunners, and desert iguanas. The threatened desert tortoise occasionally meanders across roadways. As in many desert settings, snakes often curl up below the rocks for shade.

On the adventure front, climbers find here a world-class climbing and repelling playground. Photographers visit to capture silhouettes of wonder-shaped trees against the backdrop of the sun, moon, and stars. Equines go there to ride horseback, birders to bird, mountain bikers to ride, nature walkers to walk, campers to camp. It’s a true wilderness playground.  

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And there is inspiration. Famous artists and musicians have taken from Joshua Tree ideas that have manifested into creative works that we all know and love… anybody out there a fan of Dr. Seuss? How about U2, Selena, John Lennon, Victoria Williams, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, and Jim Morrison?

And then, there are the Joshua trees. Like snowflakes and fingerprints, each is one of a kind. Every slight change of angle in your view produces what seems like an entirely different tree to look at.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving from the park’s northern entrance at Twentynine Palms to the southern entrance just off Interstate 10, you’ll dip from the higher elevation of the Mojave Desert section with some spots topping 5,000 feet to the lower elevation of the Colorado Desert. The higher elevations are home to the park’s namesake, the iconic Joshua trees. The lower, more arid lands are covered with the long, thin branches of the spindly ocotillo, prickly “jumping” cholla cacti, and green-barked palo verde shrubs. In springtime, it’s a blast of colorful wildflowers. Year-round, it’s a landscape with a lot of thorny vegetation encircled by rugged mountain ranges.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you come properly prepared (water, wide-brimmed hat, sturdy footwear, paper map), the trails and rocks of Joshua Tree are a dream for hiking and world-class bouldering. Pets are not allowed on the trails or in the backcountry so plan accordingly for their comfort and safety.

We explored the main roadways and stopped to hike at spots such as the nature trails through the boulders and the luxuriant Cholla Cactus Garden. Staff at the visitors centers can help you pick a suitable trail from among the almost 30 in the park which range from easy to challenging.

The park lends itself to exploring by short road trips or via a walk from one of the trailheads.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Hidden Valley, a popular one-mile loop winds through a rock-enclosed valley that at one time created secluded hideouts for cattle and horse rustlers. It’s was a nice way to get up close to the imposing stones. Farther down the park’s main road to the south, the Cholla Cactus Garden is a quarter-mile, flat pathway meandering through dense “gardens” of the “jumping” teddy bear cholla, a very prickly cacti known for attaching itself to unwary passersby.

The Mojave Desert part of the park is marked by jumbles of massive boulders interspersed with pinyon pines, junipers, prickly pear cacti, and yuccas. Thousands of established routes make the park a favorite destination for rock climbers.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The huge, ball-shaped masses of rock are granite that formed when molten fluid within the Earth’s crust was pushed to the surface about 250 million years ago. Over millennia of erosion, these granite boulders were left on the surface, many looking like piles of enormous marbles stacked and abandoned.

You can camp among these truck-size boulders at Jumbo Rocks, one of the park’s eight campgrounds. Only two campgrounds (Black Rock and Cottonwood) have water, flush toilets, and dump stations. Cottonwood is especially popular with RVers. At the Hidden Valley and White Tank campgrounds, RVs are limited to a maximum combined length of 25 feet (RV and a towed or towing vehicle); in the other campgrounds, the limit is 35 feet, space permitting.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rustic campgrounds offer a true desert experience. Most sites are at higher elevations, so nighttime can be chilly. Joshua Tree is remote wilderness and cell phone coverage is unreliable at best. Many campsites fill during the peak season of October to May—most can be reserved at

Many people come to contemplate and photograph the otherworldly Joshua trees that pepper the rolling desert of the park’s Mojave section. Growing at an unhurried rate of ½-inch to 3 inches per year, it is not a tree at all but a species of agave that can grow more than 40 feet tall. The clusters of waxy, spiny leaves provide homes for owls, woodpeckers, hawks, and many other birds. The “trees” are incredibly photogenic and one of the main reasons that people visit the park.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite the park’s remote setting and its dryer-than-dry ecosystem, I find that Joshua Tree draws me back again and again. It’s one of those indulgent destinations—one of the few spots to find the spiny trees, to feel tiny next to enormous round rocks, and to look upward into some of the darkest night skies in Southern California. It’s a camper’s dream.

Temperatures and weather can vary depending largely on elevation. In the winter months, prepare for chilly camping. When hiking, always carry water and warm clothing to layer. In remote areas, keep your fuel tank topped off. Be prepared for hot weather, too, as Joshua Tree is in the desert and can be sunny with very limited shade available.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware that rocks, plants, animals, and historic objects are protected in all national parks. Best practice is to enjoy but to leave them in their place.

Joshua Tree is operated by the National Park Service. If you have plans to visit several parks over the year investigate the America the Beautiful Pass which is valid for one full year from the month of purchase ($80). The pass covers entry to parks and many other government-operated sites but not camping or tour fees.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fact Box

Size: 792,623 acres; 591,624 of that is designated wilderness

Date established: October 31, 1994 (National Monument in 1936)

Location: Southeast California

Designation: International Dark Sky Park

Park Elevation: 1,000 feet to 5,500 

Park entrance fee: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days

Camping fee: $20-$25

Recreational visits (2021): 3,064,400

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How the park got its name: According to the National Park Service and legend of old, Joshua Tree was given its name by Mormon pioneers traveling west in the 19th century who thought that the branches looked like the biblical figure Joshua, reaching up to the heavens in prayer. 

Iconic site in the park: There are many iconic sites in this park but none more so than spots from where the Joshua Tree grows. No two trees bare the same exact shape or composition. Their silhouette leaning against the desert sky sings songs of the Mojave Desert, the only place this “tree” (actually a yucca plant) naturally grows. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accessible adventure: The Jumbo Rock campground is a doorway to some of the best features of the park and it seems that there is not one bad place to camp. Each has its own unique natural feature and some level of privacy. Drive in and choose your camping spot (first come, first served), pay the fee, and set up camp. Try to arrive early in the morning so you can nab a good spot—this place is popular and therefore busy all year long. 

Big adventure: Rock climbing! Joshua Tree is regarded as one of the best climbing destinations in the world offering enthusiasts from around the world thousands of climbing routes to venture out on. Rock climbing is not for the faint of heart—proper equipment and training is mandatory. If you aren’t a technical climber, bouldering the tacky monzogranite rock faces offer another, really fun way to rise from the desert and catch panoramic views of this beautiful place. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did you know?

Joshua Tree is where the Mojave and the Colorado desert ecosystems come together (the Colorado desert is a subdivision of the Sonoran Desert).

According to the National Park Service website there are 93 miles of paved roads, 106 miles of unpaved roads; nine campgrounds with 523 campsites, two horse camps, 10 picnic areas; and 32 trailheads reaching out to 191 miles of hiking trails throughout the park. That’s a lot of access to Joshua Tree parkland! 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cover art of the first Eagles album (released in 1972) was captured in the Cholla Garden—one of my favorite places in the park. 

The boulders that Joshua Tree National Park is comprised of is a result of billions of years of heating and cooling of the Earth’s crust, and the effects of wind, sun, and erosion. 

Worth Pondering…

I love it there, it’s magical … Joshua Tree is one of those special places where you feel so close to everything.”

—Rita Coolidge

Fort Langley: The Fort, Charming Village, and Movie Set

Being in this fairytale town is like being the main character in a cozy romantic comedy

I’m not, nor have I ever been, a Gilmore Girls fan but the one thing that always stuck with me was the cozy village vibes where the girls lived. Something about it—the cordial neighbors, the movie-set appearance of the store-fronts, the small-town charm. Mmmmm yes, warm me up in that blanket.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, Fort Langley is that blanket. This is the place! Not literally, of course—Gilmore Girls was filmed in Burbank—but it has that same feeling like you’re walking around a movie set. It has antique shops and ice cream and a restaurant in an old cabin and an excellent book store on the corner of an old building that, again, feels like a movie set. Then, walk a few minutes east of there and you have the original settlement of Fort Langley, a national historic site reminiscent of another movie set, The Witch, with (I assume) far less horror. 

Fort Langley National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best of all are the parks bordering the village including Derby Reach which includes an easy hiking trail that takes about an hour to complete ending up at an old farmhouse and barn, if you’re into that kinda thing. 

Tracing its origins to the beginning of settling British Columbia, Fort Langley was a trading and military outpost, one of the Hudson Bay’s fur trading posts. Additionally, it also acted as a gateway to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is one of the oldest settlements in British Columbia—even before Vancouver itself. If you take a stroll in the Fort Langley community, it is very different from the ruggedness of just a few generations prior.

Easily accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway and Glover Road, today Fort Langley is a popular tourism attraction destination that continuously draws visitors from around the world.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley’s historic area is home to the Langley Centennial Museum, Fort Langley Community Hall, CN Station, and many beautifully restored vintage buildings that are rich in heritage and value.

The commercial and retail area of Fort Langley is referred to as the village by area residents. Both residents and visitors alike are attracted to its selection of high-end boutiques and quaint shops. Art galleries, bistros and brew-tasting houses, vintage antique shops, restaurants and cafes are all a part of what draws in daily tourists, shoppers and explorers.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Countless recreational activities are available in and around Fort Langley. From parks and camping to the Fort-to-Fort Trail, from golf courses to rowing on the Fraser River, from the outdoor pool to festivals, Fort Langley is an ideal place for outdoor enthusiasts. Festivals and events are held year-round in Fort Langley including the popular Cranberry Festival, Food Truck Festival, May Day Parade, Canada Day, Jazz & Arts Festival, Fort International Film Festival, and Fort Beer & Food Festival just to name a few.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Langley’s beautiful streets, artfully appointed boutiques and charming, village-like atmosphere seem to have been tailor-made for a feel-good romance tale or festive comedy caper. That’s why many producers of made-for-TV features return to Langley, year after year.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas line-up, Five More Minutes: Moments Like These is a romantic movie set against the backdrop of the holiday season. Directed by Kevin Fair, the film revolves around a young widow whose Christmas wish unexpectedly comes true. Kaitlyn relocates to Los Angeles with her young son Adam in hopes of a new beginning after losing her husband unexpectedly one Christmas Eve. As a single mother, Kaitlyn worries about her son, Adam, who is becoming more reclusive and wishes he could have just five more minutes with his dad.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kaitlyn meets Matthew, a contractor and their feelings for one another begin to grow. The film ticks all the boxes of being the perfect heartwarming Christmas film with kids, families, and the holiday spirit. Additionally, the settings and backdrop elevate the festive spirit of Christmas, a colorful time that heals your heart and brings people closer.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Five More Minutes: Moments Like These was filmed in and around Fort Langley. The region is well known for its dynamic culture and active way of life which add to the holiday and festive feel of the holiday movie. The film’s story is set during winter while filming took place in October 2022. The crew had to create artificial snow in different ways like snow blankets, fire retardant foams, and other techniques. To film interior and outdoor sequences against suitable backdrops, it appears that the cast and crew traveled around the village.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several other Christmas movies including A Kindhearted Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Nine Lives of Christmas, Christmas Getaway, When Christmas Was Young, Christmas Bridesmaid, and others, have also been shot in Fort Langley because of its beautiful neighborhood.

It may be cheesy and it may have totally tanked at the box office but there’s just something about I’ll Be Home for Christmas that brings that ’90s magic during the holidays. In case you missed it, I’ll Be Home for Christmas follows a California college student named Jake who winds up stranded in the desert a few days before Christmas. When everything seems to go wrong, Jake embarks on a cross-country road trip trying to make it home in time for Christmas. Especially since winning his father’s 1957 Porsche is on the line.

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Production took place all over Metro Vancouver including Fort Langley, Port Coquitlam, and North Vancouver which stood in for the towns Jake travels through. Filming for the Santa Claus marathon scene was shot in Fort Langley. Fort Langley truly captures the Christmas spirit making the township one of the best places to shoot a holiday film.

Fraser River at Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Talking about it, Erinn Kredba, Executive Director at Tourism Langley, said, “Made-for-TV holiday movies herald the start of the festive season for many people. For me personally, it’s always exciting to spot Township-based businesses in these films. With our beautiful backdrops and charming businesses, including farms, restaurants and wineries, it feels like Langley was made for the movies!”

Fort Langley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kredba added, “We wanted to create a fun way for people to feel like they’re in a holiday movie by visiting these spots during this festive time of year.”  She added, “Our hope is that by visiting some of the locations where these feel-good holiday movies have been featured, it will ignite the holiday spirit.”

Worth Pondering…

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.

—Henry Miller