The Complete Guide to Saguaro National Park

Iconic giant cacti are the stars in this photo-ready Southwestern desert preserve

A 40-foot saguaro strikes an invincible pose: bristling with defenses, assertively towering over every other living thing in the landscape, seemingly confident in its life span of 200 years or longer.

—Larry Cheek, Born Survivor

A sea of towering columnar saguaro cacti stretches out before you like a brigade of soldiers guarding the desert landscape. Formidable with their spiny armor, it’s hard to imagine America’s largest cactus is the species that needs safeguarding.

Found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert, this enduring symbol of the Southwest which requires just the right amount of heat and moisture to survive faces threats such as invasive species. The 91,327 acres that comprise Saguaro National Park in southeast Arizona provide the perfect climate as well as protection for vast forests of saguaro (pronounced Sa-WAH-ro) cacti to thrive.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These desert monarchs can grow upwards of 60 feet tall, weigh more than two tons, and live for two centuries. But while they’re certainly the park’s stars they’re far from the only reason it attracts more than a million visitors annually. For one thing, there are 24 other cactus species ranging from the fuzzy-looking teddy bear cholla to the pancake-shaped Engelmann’s prickly pear.

Despite the harsh desert environment an abundance of flora and fauna flourish here including such native species as the roadrunner, horned lizard, kangaroo rat, and the prehistoric-looking Gila monster. At the park’s higher elevations topping out at 8,666 feet, you’ll find oak woodland and pine forests that are home to black bears and the elusive coati which resembles a raccoon.

Saguaro National Park’s two distinct districts—the western Tucson Mountain District and the eastern Rincon Mountain District—are separated by the city of Tucson. The western district is lower in elevation, has denser patches of saguaro, and is known for its iconic Southwest landscape. The eastern section larger and more mountainous contains six biotic zones and 6,000 plant species and it’s second in biodiversity to the Amazon rainforest.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

President Herbert Hoover established the area as a national monument in 1933 and during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) laid the groundwork for tourism by building walking paths and installing picnic benches and visitor shelters. It wasn’t until 1994 that the area earned national park status.

Today the park’s proximity to Tucson combined with recently installed handicap-friendly amenities ranging from paved walking paths to picnic tables with overhanging ends for wheelchair access makes it one of the nation’s most accessible national parks.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip ​

Approximately 30 miles apart, Saguaro National Park’s eastern and western districts hug Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city with a population of 541,482. From downtown, you can drive to either park entrance in 20 minutes. The western district gets twice as many visitors as the eastern district thanks in large part to its proximity to the bucket-list Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (see below).

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each district has its own visitor’s center open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Both offer accessibility features including designated parking spaces, accessible restrooms and drinking fountains, paved paths, and captioned orientation programs. Both also have bookstores, information centers, and water-filling stations.

The National Park Service recommends drinking at least one gallon of water per day and during hot summer months at least one quart per hour when hiking. Be sure to have a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a pack with clothing layers since it can get cold at higher elevations. Neither visitor center has Wi-Fi and cellphone service is spotty throughout the park.

The Red Hills Visitor Center (also called the West District Visitor Center) hosts a daily educational program on the Native American perspective on the saguaro that’s well worth the time.

The Rincon Mountain Visitor Center (the East District Visitor Center) serves as the starting point for the scenic Cactus Forest Loop Drive, an 8-mile, cacti-lined road that you can drive or bike. To reach the hiking trails from the visitor center you must drive into the park on the Loop Drive. The first trailhead with parking is about 2 miles along the drive and begins at the Mica View Picnic Area.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bajada Loop Drive is the best way to explore the western district’s foothills providing plenty of photo ops at pullouts and picnic areas plus access to trailheads. Although the 6-mile loop is unpaved you certainly don’t need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. It begins at Hohokam Road, a mile and a half west of the visitor center.

Since the park has no concessions pack a picnic lunch. Six picnic areas are accessible by vehicle—two in Saguaro East and four in Saguaro West—and each has a charcoal grill, a wheelchair-accessible pit toilet, and paved ground surfaces.

Saguaro is open daily except for Christmas Day. Annual visitation would almost certainly be higher if the summer months weren’t unbearably hot with triple-digit daytime temperatures. If you do visit in the summer, plan activities for early morning or the end of the day. This may be the desert but June 15 through September 30 is monsoon season so expect severe afternoon thunderstorms and even flash floods.

Cool temperatures ranging from the high 50s to the mid-70s make November to March prime time to visit.

And in spring—specifically the last two weeks of April through the first week of June—the park is a photographer’s paradise with cacti sprouting vivid blooms in hues of white, fuchsia, and canary yellow. June is a favorite time in the park. The flowers are usually at their peak. It’s an amazing sight to see but this isn’t the time of month to hike. Take in the blooms on a scenic drive.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to stay and eat ​

You won’t find any lodging options in Saguaro National Park or even camping options in the park’s western section. To experience the desert, reserve one of the eastern district’s six designated backcountry campsites ($8 a night) which can be accessed only on foot and require a base level of fitness to reach. Limited facilities include vault toilets. Water is unreliable, so you should pack your entire water supply for your trip, carry a filter, and check current water reports at the visitor center (520-733-5153).

Manning Camp, the home of former Tucson mayor Levin Manning that sits atop the Rincon Mountains is a tough uphill day hike but worth the effort. To do this hike in a day takes a solid eight hours but you go from seeing saguaro forest and Gila monster lizards to aspen groves and owls in one day. It’s a unique ecosystem up there.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can take the Douglas Spring Trail or the Arizona Trail both of which have campgrounds along the way if you prefer to break the trek up into two days. The original Manning cabin built in 1905 now hosts trail crews and researchers, and from April through September a ranger is stationed here. The six tent sites are nestled in a conifer forest at nearly 8,000 feet and temperatures rarely exceed 85 degrees—a welcome relief from the valley floor’s sweltering heat. A waterfall fed from a large pond makes this one of the rare sites with a reliable water source.

The amenity-rich Gilbert Ray Campground sits just outside the west entrance to the park close to the Brown Mountain Loop trail. It features 130 RV sites ($20 per night) and five designated tent sites ($10 per night) plus picnic tables and modern restrooms with handicap accessibility.

RV parks ranging from luxury resorts to the basic are less than a 30-minute drive away in Tucson.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Things to do ​

Hike

With 192 miles of marked hiking trails, Saguaro National Park offers treks for visitors of all abilities. No matter your fitness level, be sure to plan your hikes to avoid the midday desert heat and pack plenty of water. And remember, those photogenic cacti are covered in spines so keep to the trail to avoid getting pricked.

For an easy stroll that doubles as an intro to the desert ecosystem walk the quarter-mile Desert Ecology Trail along the Cactus Forest Drive in the East District or the half-mile Desert Discovery Trail off of Kinney Road in the West. Both paved trails include resting benches and interpretive exhibits on the park’s plants and animals.

The 0.7-mile Mica View Trail in the east which begins at the Mica Picnic Area parking lot was recently flattened and hardened to meet ADA standards and support wheelchairs. On this hike, you’ll likely glimpse Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers in their saguaro nest holes and you’ll take in views of Tanque Verde Peak and Mica Mountain.

If you want to challenge yourself, try the eastern district’s Tanque Verde Ridge Trail by the Javelina Picnic Area off of the Cactus Loop Drive. The strenuous 18-mile hike gains 4,750 feet of elevation and passes through all six of the area’s biotic zones.

On the west side, access the King Canyon trailhead outside of the park off of Kinney Road and zigzag up to the summit of 4,687-foot Wasson Peak, the highest point in the Tucson Mountain Range. Approximately 7 miles round trip with 1,939 feet of elevation gain, this moderate hike passes rock walls carved with ancient petroglyphs and an old stone miner’s hut.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bike

In this, one of the country’s most bike-friendly national parks, take your pick of four excellent scenic loops for road cyclists and mountain bikers. The popular and aptly named Cactus Forest Loop next to the East District Visitor Center runs for eight miles on a paved, rolling road that you’ll share with vehicles. On the park’s west side, the six-mile Bajada Loop Drive off of Kinney Road, a gravel path passes a giant forest of saguaros.

Watch the sunset

The desert sunset may rival the saguaros as the park’s most Instagrammed natural wonder. As dusk falls, the setting sun turns a brilliant red that paints the sky in pinks and oranges worthy of a Monet painting. On the easy-to-access Desert Discovery Trail off of Kinney Road in the West District, catch sunset views through a forest of saguaros. On the east side, the Cactus Forest Loop Drive remains open until 8 p.m. giving you plenty of time to pull off and savor sunset at the Javelina Rocks Overlook near the loop’s end.

Learn

Rangers typically lead four to six different daily talks and interpretive tours that explore topics including desert survival, the lifespan of a saguaro, and misunderstood predators such as the mountain lion. Both park visitor centers have cactus gardens with interpretive signs you can explore on your own or with a ranger. Also, both districts co-host monthly stargazing nights with a local astronomy group. Participants must sign up in advance.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

View petroglyphs

Most of Saguaro National Park’s rock art dates back to the prehistoric Hohokam culture. Abstract designs including spirals and squiggly lines as well as drawings of animals, humans, and astrological objects have been etched onto the surface of sandstone and other rocks throughout the park.

The best place to view the petroglyphs is along the Signal Hill Trail which starts at the Signal Hill picnic area off of Hohokam Road in the West District. Starting at the Signal Hill Picnic area, the 0.3-mile trail gently climbs to a hill with more than 200 petroglyphs believed to have been created between 550 and 1,550 years ago.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gateway towns​

Tucson is flanked on either side by Saguaro’s western Tucson Mountain District and the eastern Rincon Mountain District making it an ideal base for day trips. A dream destination for fit foodies, Tucson owns bragging rights to being one of America’s most bike-friendly cities as well as having America’s first and only UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation.

On the Loop, a network of 131 miles of paved bicycle paths you can access Saguaro National Park as well as a plethora of other parks, shops, and restaurants on two wheels. Transit Cycles and Bicycle Ranch are the city’s go-to bike shops.

For a hearty breakfast before hitting the park, head to Prep & Pastry’s east side location on Grant Avenue and order the oven-roasted sweet potato hash and breakfast sandwich with avocado. After working up an appetite biking or hiking in the park reward yourself with a prickly pear mojito and a braised lamb tostada at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails run by James Beard Award-winning chef Janos Wilder.

Head to Penca, an upscale Mexican eatery in the heart of downtown for the best happy hour in town: two tacos for $5 and $5 sangria.

Two not-to-miss open-air shopping centers anchor downtown’s hip Mercado District on the west end of the city’s modern streetcar line: Mercado San Agustín and the MSA Annex. At the latter, a collection of 10 indie businesses housed in repurposed shipping containers pick up nostalgic Saguaro National Park-inspired gear at Why I Love Where I Live and home goods crafted by local artisans at Mesa.

The burgeoning town of Marana, an alternate gateway to the West District is located about 15 miles north of the visitor center. Don’t miss the pork carnitas at La Olla Mexican Café and stop by Catalina Brewing Co. to try craft ales brewed with local ingredients such as prickly pear fruit and mesquite flour.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

En route ​

Located down the road from the West District Visitor Center, the Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum ranks as the state’s second-most-visited attraction behind the world-famous Grand Canyon. Part natural history museum, part desert botanical garden, and part zoo, this 98-acre, indoor-outdoor attraction showcases more than 55,000 plants from 1,200 native species along 2 miles of gravel and paved trails.

View native animals such as coyotes, raptors, hummingbirds, ocelots, and piglike javelinas in re-created habitats. Learn about the area’s geology in the Earth Sciences Center and view nature-inspired exhibits throughout the year at two on-site art galleries.

Geology fans detour to 2,400-acre Colossal Cave Mountain Park, a 15-minute drive southeast of Tucson in the community of Vail to explore its extensive underground cave network. One of North America’s largest dry caves it took more than two years to map the 2 miles of passageways open to visitors.

Guided tours, which range from 40 minutes to 3.5 hours, require a decent fitness level, as you’ll be descending 350-plus stairs, scrambling down ladders, and crossing rock bridges to view stalactites and stalagmites sculpted throughout millions of years.

Back above ground, you can mount a horse at the park’s La Posta Quemada Ranch for a guided trail ride.

If you’re a fan of art and history, visit the village of Tubac, 40 miles south of Tucson. Established in 1752 as a Spanish presidio, Tubac has emerged as a destination for artists with top-notch galleries and studios. For tasteful souvenirs, this is your one-stop shop for turquoise and silver jewelry, Navajo blankets, and mesquite furnishings. 

Tumacacori National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tumacácori National Historical Park, less than a 10-minute drive from the village explores the region’s Spanish colonial past. The expansive grounds include a museum, the ruins of three Spanish mission communities, and the state’s second-oldest church.

Saguaro National Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience. I hope this guide helps you plan your adventure and that you’ll soon discover the magic of this park.

Here are a few more articles to help you do just that:

Fact box

Location: Southeast Arizona

Size: 91,327 acres

Trails: 192 miles

Elevation: 2,180 to 8,666 feet 

Main attraction: The iconic saguaro cactus

Entry fee: $25 for a 7-day vehicle pass including all passengers; $20 for an annual Senior Pass (62+)

Best way to see the park: On foot or by bike along the Bajada Loop Drive or the Cactus Forest Loop

When to go: Winter and spring

Worth Pondering…

Stand tall.
Reach for the sky.
Be patient through dry spells.
Conserve your resources.
Think long term.
Wait for your time to bloom.
Stay sharp!

—Advice from a Saguaro

An Ode to Spring: 20 Quotes to Welcome the Season

Nothing says new beginnings and second chances quite like spring

Ode on the Spring

Lo! where the rosy-bosom’d Hours,

Fair Venus’ train appear,

Disclose the long-expecting flowers,

And wake the purple year!

The Attic warbler pours her throat,

Responsive to the cuckoo’s note,

The untaught harmony of spring:

While whisp’ring pleasure as they fly,

Cool zephyrs thro’ the clear blue sky

Their gather’d fragrance fling.

—Thomas Gray (1716–1771)

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring, that season of warmer weather, flowers blooming, birds returning, and longer days (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). The new season brings a revival of the body and spirit and proof that Mother Nature has this four-season routine on lock.

Writers have long waxed poetic about the bountiful nature of spring and how its arrival signals everything from new life (think: baby chicks and bunnies for Easter) to the dutiful purging of our personal belongings (see: spring cleaning). Shakespeare has paid homage to the season, as have Virginia Woolf, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and others.

Our positive associations with the season might seem obvious—more daylight, a reprieve from the long winter months, an embarrassment of holidays—but humans’ long love affair with spring has roots in several different cultures and belief systems. The English name itself is believed to have replaced the word Lent, an Old English way to describe the season before the 14th century. Lent is derived from lencten or lengthen; the season’s original name referred to how days begin to lengthen with the arrival of spring.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Iranian and Chinese cultures, spring marks the real beginning of the New Year according to their respective calendars and is commemorated with a thorough home cleansing to get rid of negativity and lingering spirits. Hence, some believe in the advent of spring cleaning. (Other historians believe spring cleaning is tied to the soot left in 19th-century houses at the end of a winter of kerosene lamps and coal fireplaces.)

In the Jewish tradition, spring marks the annual celebration of Passover, the occasion when persecuted Jews were liberated from slavery in Egypt. It is therefore a time of rebirth and a chance at new ways of being. In the Bible, spring symbolizes a time for growth and renewal; there is an undercurrent of awakening and revival that is tied to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There’s also the philosophical take on spring as a metaphor for life on a grander scale—spring is when new life emerges from the cold of winter, when new ideas and projects begin to take root when we’re allowed to stretch our limbs and turn our faces toward the sun.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The seasons have been used to describe the stage of growing older: Summer is a time of youth and movement and languishing in sensual delights; autumn turns folks inward as a symbol of maturity and transition; and winter is of course a time for reflection and dormancy, of preparing for deep sleep.

As a result, then, quotes about spring—as opposed to the other three seasons—are largely upbeat, hopeful, and bursting with the language of possibility and vivacity. Philosophers have heralded the return of spring as proof that there is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel and that there is much to learn from nature’s unwavering adherence to the four seasons.

Here, I’ve rounded up some particularly resonant quotes about spring gathered from a wide range of cultural and generational sources proving that our obsession with clean slates and new beginnings, while universal and deeply felt, is nothing new.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Earth laughs in flowers.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hamatreya

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Nobody can keep spring out of Harlem. I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face. Sunshine patted me all over the head.

—Langston Hughes, The Early Simple Stories

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.

—Anne Bradstreet

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.

—Jim Carrey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright.

—George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.

—Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.

—Author Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

—Poet Pablo Neruda

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

—Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
—Lao Tzu

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor: Winter is dead.

—A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where flowers bloom so does hope.

—Lady Lady Bird Johnson

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

What a strange thing! / to be alive / beneath cherry blossoms.

—Kobayashi Issa

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; fresh violets open every day; to some new bird each hour we listen.

―Lucy Larcom

I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.

—Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

8 Rituals and Traditions to Welcome Spring and Say Goodbye to Winter

Goodbye winter, welcome spring!

The first day of spring (March 19 in 2024) for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere is an eagerly anticipated event around the world. Although the Northern and Southern hemispheres celebrate the start of the season at different times of the year, both share in observing the equinox—which comes from the Latin words aequus and nox meaning equal and night—with unique customs.

Spring represents rebirth and rejuvenation and many of the celebrations reflect this: Homes are cleaned, blossoms are admired, and, in some cases, the dark winter months are sent off in dramatic, flaming fashion. Here are some of the most interesting winter-into-spring rituals and traditions.

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sugaring season

The tail end of winter isn’t exactly renowned for bountiful harvests—unless, perhaps, the crop is maple syrup. In the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, the weeks before and during early spring are known as sugaring season when syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. The season typically starts around mid-February and lasts through early April; during this time, syrup is made, served, and sold at buildings in the woods known as sugar shacks.

Locals and visitors alike flock to these cozy shacks, eager to pour warm maple syrup on fresh, powdery snow to make a deliciously sweet treat. In New England, the taffy-like candy is known as sugar on snow while French-speaking Canada calls it tire sur la neige (pull on the snow).

Making or eating sugar on snow is a simple and satisfying way to mark the changing of the seasons but making the amber liquid is a much longer labor of love. It begins in the fall when maple trees store starches in their trunks. As early spring temperatures begin to rise, the starches convert to sugars and the above-freezing days and below-freezing nights create the pressure needed for the sweet liquid known as sap to flow from holes drilled in the tree’s trunk. The extracted sap is then boiled to reduce it to its familiar concentrated, syrupy texture. Not every tree is sugaring season material, though—it needs to be about 40 years old to be big enough to tap.

Spring at Hee Hee Illahee RV Park in Salem, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherry blossoms

One of the best things about spring is all the new flowers it brings. Without a doubt, some of the most breathtaking blooms can be seen on cherry trees. Before the trees produce fruit, their elegant limbs erupt in pillows of white and pastel-pink flowers. Japan’s cherry blossoms—known as sakura—are especially notable producing a spring spectacle known around the world. The blooming season is dependent on weather but generally happens for about two weeks in April when it is celebrated with festivals that draw millions of spectators every year.

The springtime cherry blossoms hold special significance in Japan where people host picnic parties under the trees as part of a centuries-old tradition called hanami—meaning, literally, flower viewing. The custom originated during the Nara period and was popularized as an aristocratic gathering under Emperor Saga in the ninth century complete with sake, poetry, and other refined activities. Today’s hanami celebrations are decidedly less formal but no less festive: They’re enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and often go well into the night with food, drinking, and dancing. Similar cherry blossom festivals take place in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Prep the RV for spring travel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring cleaning

If spring’s longer days and warmer breezes have you wanting to throw open the windows and wipe every corner of your house (or RV) clean, you’re not alone. The age-old tradition of spring cleaning isn’t just a feel-good practice—it has roots in some cultural customs and was even once a necessity because of how homes were kept warm in the colder months.

During the 1800s, people primarily heated their homes with wood- or coal-burning fireplaces and used kerosene lamps for light in the long winter months. This often led to traces of soot and grime on just about every surface in the house requiring a deep cleaning come spring when people would take everything outside to literally shake off the dust. Modern conveniences have made these original reasons irrelevant but the tradition of spring cleaning persists anyway.

In some places, the ritual also has cultural or religious significance. In Iran, for example, the practice has its name: It’s called khane tekani (or shaking the house) and it’s tied to the Iranian New Year, Nowruz which coincides with the spring equinox.

Groundhog? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a full month and a half before the official first day of spring but it has become a familiar marker in the slow transition of the seasons for people in the US and Canada. Each year on February 2, a groundhog is coaxed out of its underground burrow to provide a weather forecast for the coming weeks. If it sees its shadow, the rodent is scared back into its hole for six more weeks of winter. No shadow means warmer spring weather will arrive earlier than expected.

The decidedly unscientific ritual has been taking place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania since 1887 but its origins date back to the fourth-century Christian holiday Candlemas. During Candlemas, clergy members would distribute candles representing how long and cold the winter would be. German Protestants later put their spin on this by introducing a hedgehog as their seasonal prognosticator and when German settlers arrived in America they continued the tradition using a groundhog. Now, the event is not only a major local affair but also a global news story every February.

Eggs, a symbol of new life © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Egg painting, cooking, and eating

Eggs are everywhere in spring, thanks in large part to their association with Easter and resurrection in the Christian faith. But their significance isn’t limited to just one religion or culture: Eggs have symbolized new life and reproduction throughout most of history dating back to Pagan sun-worshipping rituals and are important parts of many spring traditions to this day.

In Bosnia, residents of Zenica celebrate with Cimburijada (the Festival of Scrambled Eggs), a tradition that honors the renewal of life that comes with the season. At dawn on the first day of spring, locals gather to make and share giant dishes of scrambled eggs typically prepared in the open air using hundreds of eggs, butter, and other secret ingredients.

In Iran, during Nowruz, decorated eggs represent fertility for one’s family and are considered among the most important items on the ceremonial haftseen table. And no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere one of the most well-known spring equinox traditions involves standing an egg on its end. A long-running legend purports that this feat can only be achieved on the first day of spring since the Sun and Moon are equidistant from the Earth, the pull of gravity is equalized and therefore an egg is less likely to fall over.

This is simply not true. There is no gravitational change during the equinox that would help an egg balance.

Fields of spring wildflowers in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burning effigies

Fire is used as a comforting (and sometimes necessary) heat and light source throughout the winter. So what better way is there to send off the cold months than with raging hot flames? Many cultures around the world incorporate effigies and bonfires into their spring celebrations upholding old rituals that are as lively and fun as they are dramatic.

In Poland and some other Slavic countries, many people commemorate the arrival of spring with a Slavic tradition known as the Drowning of Marzanna (the Slavic goddess of winter). On the first day of spring, Marzanna’s likeness made of straw and dressed in traditional local clothing is set on fire and tossed into the water in an attempt to defeat winter’s icy last gasp and ensure a good harvest in the season to come. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the sacrificial effigy is a life-sized, cotton-stuffed snowman, the Böögg who is filled with fireworks and lit on fire. The faster the Böögg burns the warmer the upcoming spring and summer will be.

Spring wildflowers in Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holi

Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire takes place on the eve of Holi. The day is also popularly called Chhoti Holi or the Small Holi. The bigger event—play with the color takes place on the next big day. Holika Dahan is an extremely popular tradition and is symbolic of triumph of good over evil. This ancient Hindu celebration also known as the festival of spring or the festival of colors has become one of the most popular and well-known equinox experiences in India and beyond. What started as a religious holiday has turned into a larger cultural celebration of the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

There are numerous legends associated with this ancient tradition and it is difficult to pin-point as to when actually the tradition started.

Holi is typically held every March and is most widely known for its joyous explosions of colorful powder which revelers use to douse each other in vibrant hues. Holi celebrations also include lively public gatherings and a ceremonial bonfire on the night known as Holika Dahan which takes place the day before the main event.

King cake symbolizes Mardi Gras season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday falls annually on the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The word Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in the French language. Celebrations include festivals, parades, dancing, and feasting before the fasting starts on Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Worth Pondering…

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does no matter what not being singular or particular but one of the forever gifts and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver

Spring into the History of the Names of the Four Seasons

Why do we call the seasons spring, summer, fall, and winter?

In 2024, the first day of spring lands on March 19. It marks the vernal equinox—the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere as it tilts closer to the sun. With warmer temperatures and more daylight, the conditions are perfect for April showers and May flowers. The origin of the word spring is deeply rooted in this idea of new growth bursting from the earth.

As is the case for all four seasons, the history of springtime began thousands of years ago as ancient cultures sought to name different periods of the year based on weather patterns. The word season itself came into English as the Old French word saison derived from the Latin sationem meaning “time of sewing” relating to the natural connection between farming and the seasons. Let’s take a closer look at the etymology of the names of the seasons, beginning with spring.

Spring in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring

The season after winter and before summer is when vegetation appears in the Northern Hemisphere from March to May and in the Southern Hemisphere from September to November.

Astronomy: The period from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice.

The earliest use of spring dates back at least 1,000 years to the Old English verb springan which had a few meanings including “to leap, burst forth, fly up, or to spread, grow”. Other Proto-Germanic languages adopted similar words such as the Old Norse springa and the Old High German springan both of which came from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root sprengh meaning “to move or hasten.”

Spring’s journey to becoming the name of the vernal season began in the 14th century in Middle English with the phrase “springing time” referring to a period of the year when plants began to sprout. Spring wasn’t used exclusively for the season, though. The noun also described the moonrise (spring of mone) and the sunrise (spring of dai).

By the 1520s, the phrases “spring of the leaf” and “spring of the year” were common ways to describe the season of lencten, the Old English word relating to Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter in the Christian calendar. By the mid-16th century, the name for the time period called “spring of the year” was shortened to “spring.” It had officially become the most common word for the season of budding flowers and new beginnings.

Summer in Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer

The season between spring and before fall comprises the warmest season of the year in the Northern Hemisphere from June to August and in the Southern Hemisphere from December to February.

Astronomy: The period from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox.

Summer has been in English for over a millennium though it’s spelled a little differently now. The word somor described “the hot season of the year” in Old English. Other Proto-Germanic languages had similar words for this season such as sumar used in Old Saxon, Old Norse, and Old High German. These words came from the PIE root sm- which led to the first words for the summer season in other ancient languages (even older than Old English’s somor) including the Armenian amarn, Old Irish sam, and Old Welsh ham.

The word somor eventually transformed into summer (a noun for the season) sometime before the 12th century. Middle English words were often spelled differently than their Old English counterparts because of foreign language influences. Summer also has been used as an adjective (as in “summer vacation”) since the beginning of the 14th century and as a verb (as in, “They summered at the country house”) since the 15th century.

Fall in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Autumn/Fall

The season after summer and before winter is the third season of the year when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall in the Northern Hemisphere from September to November and in the Southern Hemisphere from March to May.

Astronomy: The period from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice.

Autumn and fall are used interchangeably to describe the season between summer and winter though fall tends to be more popular in American English and autumn is favored in British English. Marked by colorful foliage, harvest festivals, and pumpkin-spice-flavored everything, this season was first called autumnus a few millennia ago but the origins of this Latin word are not very clear.

Fall in Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What can be traced is the adoption of autumnus into other languages such as the Old French autumpne in the 13th century. Autumpne was pulled into Middle English in the late 15th century and the spelling changed to autumn in the 16th century. Before this adoption of autumn, the season was called harvest in English from the Old English hærfest from Proto-Germanic harbitas (source also of Old Saxon hervist).

Fall has been used interchangeably with autumn since the mid-17th century in British English (though it’s not that popular across the pond anymore). It came from a shortening of the mid-16th-century phrase “fall of the leaf” which used the Old English noun/verb fall to describe “a drop from a height” from the Proto-Germanic word fallanan.

“To put it more pretentiously, there was always something transient, unstable, mysterious, emotionally undefined about autumn and fall, unlike the other seasons which are so well defined,” said Tony Thorne, a lexicographer at King’s College London. “Maybe that’s why people could not easily decide on one permanent name throughout our history.”

Winter in British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter

The fourth and coldest season of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is from December to February and in the Southern Hemisphere from June to August.

Astronomy: The period from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox.

The Old English word winter came from the Proto-Germanic word for the season, wintruz. Other languages also borrowed their words from this source including the Danish and Swedish words of the same spelling, vinter. Wintruz likely comes from the PIE wend, nasalized of the root wed- meaning “the wet season,” a fitting name for a season characterized by dreary rain showers or blustering snow.

This is also the root that gave us the Old English word for ​​wæter. Both the noun and the adjective “winter” (as in “winter vegetables”) have been around since at least the 12th century while the verb (as in, “They wintered at the beach”) appeared in the 14th century.

As an adjective in Old English, the Anglo-Saxons counted years in “winters” as in Old English ænetre “one-year-old” and wintercearig which might mean either “winter-sad” or “sad with years.” Old Norse Vetrardag, first day of winter, was the Saturday that fell between October 10 and 16.

Worth Pondering…

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

―Yoko Ono

Utah’s Most Visited Park in 2023 Wasn’t One of the Mighty 5

Visitation to Utah’s Mighty 5 appears to be stabilizing after a rapid decline in 2020 and an uptick in 2021 tied to the pandemic. But one other park in the state bucked all the trends last year.

A little more than 10.6 million people visited Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks in 2023 representing an increase of nearly 1 percent from the previous year per recently updated National Park Service (NPS) visitation data. Last year’s total also finished slightly below the 10.7 million visitors recorded in 2019.

Three of the five national parks did experience year-over-year growth though none of the parks broke any visitation records like what happened at four of the five parks in 2021. A record 11.3 million visited the park during a revenge travel surge as pandemic-era restrictions were lifted, a 45 percent increase from figures posted in 2020.

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

Ultimately, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area located along the Utah-Arizona border led in visitation among all NPS entities in Utah last year bringing in a record 5.2 million visitors. Its visitation surged by a whopping 83 percent over 2022 visitation figures and it bested Zion National Park’s total by close to 600,000 visitors.

Some people say that Lake Powell offers some of the finest water recreation opportunities available. Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in the United States and visitors can bring their watercraft or choose to rent houseboats, personal watercraft, powerboats, kayaks, and other water toys.

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

Behind the 2023 trends

Glen Canyon which includes Lake Powell previously hit a record high of 4.5 million in 2017 but it failed to reach 4 million after 2019 between a mix of the COVID-19 pandemic and Lake Powell’s record-low water levels amid an ongoing drought.

Its popularity surge is likely a byproduct of record snowpack levels that helped the reservoir gain dozens of feet in elevation over the spring and summer last year. Its rise allowed more boat ramps to reopen.

Encompassing over 1.25 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based and backcountry recreation. The recreation area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah encompassing scenic vistas, geologic wonders, and a vast panorama of human history.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was established on October 27, 1972, to provide opportunities to explore and enjoy Lake Powell and surrounding lands stretching from Northern Arizona through Southern Utah.

Tucked among the red rocks canyon and mesas on the Colorado Plateau, Glen Canyon’s unique desert region is characterized by expansive areas of exposed and uplifted rocks. Their beauty is carved out by the Colorado River, its several tributaries, powerful wind, and time.

The park preserves a record of more than 10,000 years of human presence, adaptation, and exploration—a story that highlights the connections of people with the landscape.

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

Best camping sites at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is an ideal place for camping adventures of all kinds. There are tons of nearby hikes, adventurous activities, and sights to see. You’re sure to find the perfect spot for your RV camping adventure.

Campgrounds Operated by NPS

These campgrounds do not take reservations and do not have phone numbers.

Lees Ferry Campground

Camping fee: $20 per site/per night

Designated sites: 54

Details: No hookups, RV dump station, grills provided, modern bathroom/comfort station, potable water available, launch ramp 2 miles, gas and supply store at Marble Canyon about 5 miles away

Lone Rock Beach Primitive Camping Area

Camping fee: $14 per vehicle/per night

Details: Primitive camping is on a sandy beach or in dunes, no designated campsites, open fires permitted (must be within four foot squared area), 4 micro flush toilets, 6 vault toilets, 1 comfort station/wheelchair accessible, outdoor cold shower, Off Road Vehicle area, dump station, potable water (seasonal), and day use area

Stanton Creek Primitive Camping Area

Details: Designated primitive camping areas that are accessible by vehicle and sometimes by vessel as well, no designated sites, no potable water, when pit toilets are unavailable campers must bring portable toilets for use and proper disposal into the sewer system

Beehives Campground

Camping fee: $14 per night

Designated sites: 6

Location: Across the highway from Wahweap South Entrance

Details: Picnic table at each site, no hookups, no dump station, no restrooms, portable toilets required, no campfires or glass containers, 3 night camping limit

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

Campgrounds Operated by Park Concessioners

Book your campsite through the consessioner.

Wahweap Campground & RV Park

Location: Wahweap developed area

Operated by: Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas

Camping fee: Fees vary

Designated sites: 112 dry campsites (no hook-ups), 90 full hook-ups, and 6 group camping sites Reservations: Visit www.lakepowell.com or call 800-528-6154.

Details: Facilities include restrooms, laundry, showers, store, phones, dump station, and potable water; amphitheater, picnic area, and swim beach nearby

Bullfrog RV & Campground

Location: Bullfrog developed area

Operated by: Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas

Camping fee: Fees vary

Designated sites: 78

Details: Facitities include restroom, phones, dump station, and potable water station; ½ mile to laundry, store, post office, and launch ramp.

Reservations: No reservations

Note: The concessioner also operates a separate RV park with 24 sites, full hook-ups, restrooms, showers, ½ mile to laundry, store, post office, launch ramp; for reservations visit www.lakepowell.com or call 800-528-6154

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

Halls Crossing RV & Campground

Location: Ride the ferry located at Bullfrog Marina and Halls Crossing, stop at the Village Store to check-in – and don’t forget to pick up food and beverages while you are there

Details: With Halls Crossing RV Park & Campground, you’re just steps from food, fun, and the Village Store.

Antelope Point RV Park

Designated sites: 104 full hook-up spaces, 15 pull-through spaces

Note: While the Antelope Point RV Park is not physically within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, it is adjacent to the Antelope Point Marina, restaurant, and gift shop

Details: This site is for RVs only, maximum length is 70 feet, 2 RV dump stations

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

Most recent Utah travel stories

Worth Pondering…

So we have a curious ensemble of wonderful features—carved walls, royal arches, glens, alcove gulches, mounds, and monuments. From which of these features shall we select a name? We decide to call it Glen Canyon.

—John Wesley Powell, 1869 Colorado River Exploration.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Ajo Mountain Drive

Arguably the best way to get a representative view of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21-mile scenic drive into, you guessed it, the Ajo Mountains, located within the park’s boundaries. Sometimes called the Ajo Mountain Loop Road, this drive takes visitors on a journey through rugged mountains while offering breathtaking views of the surrounding desert. And, yes, on this drive you’ll see plenty of Organ Pipe cacti!

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument covers 516 square miles of Southern Arizona, so you could spend a month there and not see all of this isolated, biodiverse jewel of the National Park System (NPS). But most people spend significantly less than a month there—and Ajo Mountain Drive is for them.

Careful drivers can navigate this 21-mile loop in most vehicles and it traverses much of what makes Organ Pipe great including unique desert flora, steep mountains, and dramatic views.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s no surprise that the Ajo Mountain Drive is the most popular scenic drive in the monument. It takes you through an excellent overview of the monument’s landscape bringing visitors through desert washes and up into the Ajo Mountains. For those wanting some good views and photographs of cacti, the drive provides ample opportunities to see large stands of its namesake cacti, the organ pipe cacti, as well as saguaros, cholla, and barrel cacti.

The Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21-mile graded, one-way dirt road. The drive takes approximately 2 hours and has been designed so that a passenger car driven with caution may be taken over it safely. Trailers, buses, and motorhomes over 25 feet are prohibited on the drive. After the first mile, the drive becomes a one-way road, so be prepared to finish the entire 21-mile loop.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you embark, stop at the monument’s visitor’s center to pay your entrance fee and pick up a guide to the route; numbered stakes along the road correspond to entries in the guide.

You can also follow along with the audio tour/written guide on the NPS App or download a PDF version of the guide.

There are four picnic sites provided on the drive. Stops #6 has a shaded picnic area and Estes Canyon after stop #11 has a ramada and backcountry restrooms. The Ajo Mountain Drive also provides access to the trailheads for the Arch Canyon, Old Pima County Road, and Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture trails. 

By the way, I have a series of posts on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument:

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaving the visitor’s center, head east on Ajo Mountain Drive which is across State Route 85 from the visitors center.

In the early going, you’ll see plenty of Sonoran Desert staples such as saguaros, chollas, and ocotillos along this wide, washboarded dirt road. Straight ahead, to the east, are the craggy peaks of the Ajo Range which is topped by 4,819-foot Mount Ajo. You’ll get a closer look at the mountains later but for now enjoy the view along the road—which splits and becomes a narrower, one-way route at Mile 2.

Two miles past the split, you’ll spot your first organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), and a mile later these aptly named, many-limbed columnar cactuses line both sides of the road. The monument harbors most of the U.S. population of this species—which, like the saguaro, tends to grow on south-facing slopes. While there are 30 other cactus species at the monument, the organ pipes are among the most visible and dramatic and you can enjoy them over lunch at the shaded Diablo Canyon Picnic Area, just ahead.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Past the picnic area, a paved section of road, one of several on this drive, winds into the foothills of the Ajo Range offering lovely panoramas around every corner. Healthy organ pipes proliferate on seemingly every hillside—on average, these cactuses’ stems grow about 2.5 inches per year.

Also, watch for a natural arch high above the road; from the Arch Canyon Trailhead, at Mile 9, you can hike a short, easy trail that offers good views of the rock formation. (An unmaintained and much steeper extension of that trail will take you up to the arch, but it isn’t for the faint of heart.)

The road then curves to the south and around the mountains providing nice views of the cliffs on the left. Past the Estes Canyon-Bull Pasture Trailhead which leads to another lovely hike, you’ll pass through a forest of healthy organ pipes and tall saguaros.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around Mile 13, the organ pipes fade away as the road rolls into a flatter area that isn’t as ideal for those cactuses and numerous chollas, ocotillos, and prickly pears take their place. But the monument’s crown jewels return a few miles later offering one more look at a plant you aren’t likely to see elsewhere.

Eighteen miles in, you’ll return to the two-way road you took at the start of the drive. Turn left and retrace your route for 2 miles back to SR 85 where you can think about which of Organ Pipe’s 516 square miles you’ll explore the next time you visit.

Some reminders

Water is not available anywhere along the drive so carry plenty with you. Fires and camping are not allowed on the drive. Pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry. They must be leashed at all times. Please do leave pets unattended.

Do not cross washes when flooded. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Report any suspicious activity to park staff immediately. Do not contact any suspicious persons. If you see them in distress, contact a ranger for help. Remember that you’re only a few miles from Mexico.

Ajo Mountain Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour guide

  • Length: 21-mile loop
  • Directions: From Ajo, go south on State Route 85 for 33 miles to Ajo Mountain Drive. Turn left (east) onto Ajo Mountain Drive and continue 21 miles around the loop and back to SR 85.
  • Vehicle requirements: A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle such as an SUV or truck is recommended, but the route is passable in a standard sedan in good weather.
  • Special consideration: NPS fees apply. Additionally, while the monument is safe to visit, crossings and other illegal activities do occur along the U.S.-Mexico border. Stay on maintained park roads, do not pick up hitchhikers, and report any suspicious behavior or distressed people you encounter to the monument’s staff or the Border Patrol.
  • Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don’t travel alone and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Worth Pondering…

Alone in the open desert, I have made up songs of wild, poignant rejoicing and transcendent melancholy. The world has seemed more beautiful to me than ever before.

I have loved the red rocks, the twisted trees, and sand blowing in the wind, the slow, sunny clouds crossing the sky, the shafts of moonlight on my bed at night. I have seemed to be at one with the world.

—Everett Ruess

10 Intriguing Facts about the Ides of March

As the word ides refers to the middle of the month, the Ides of March is on March 15. But, is it? Contrary to popular belief surrounding its origins, ides simply marks the first day of the full moon in every month.

From 44 BC onward the Ides of March would be remembered as the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated. Here are a few facts you may not be aware of on this infamous day.

The Ides of March, (mid-March in the earliest Roman calendar) was forever set in history as the day Julius Caesar was murdered. In 44 BC, Brutus, Cassius, and over 60 members of the Senate led a mutiny against Caesar who they feared was gaining too much power on his quest for a permanent dictatorship.

As mid-March approaches, you’ll no doubt hear the oft-repeated saying “Beware the ides of March.” It’s a strangely archaic phrase that doesn’t make much sense to modern ears without knowing some important historical context and the ins and outs of ancient moon-based calendars —what are ides, anyway? Here are six interesting facts about this famous phrase and its relation to arguably one of the most important moments in ancient history.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The phrase comes from William Shakespeare

In Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Roman politician (and future assassin) Marcus Junius Brutus and the play’s eponymous character are approached through a crowd by a soothsayer who has a warning—“Beware the ides of March.” The two Romans dismiss the fortuneteller as a dreamer and go about their business as usual. Of course, the warning proved deadly accurate; for the Romans, the ides was the middle of the month and Julius Caesar was famously assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.

Roman historians say that in reality (not just Shakespeare’s fictionalized version), the soothsayer’s name was Spurinna. He was Etruscan, an ancient people often associated with divination and served as a haruspex—someone who inspects the entrails of sacrificed animals for clues about the future.

However, there’s no record of Spurinna pinpointing the ides of March specifically; instead, he warned Caesar to be wary of the next month generally, a period that would end on March 15. Scholars believe this was likely just a calculated guess as Roman politicians were already turning against Caesar who had been named dictator for life and the famed military leader was leaving the capital for another military campaign on March 18. If Caesar was going to be assassinated, it would likely be in the month of March.

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

2. The ides were part of Rome’s archaic Lunar Calendar

Although the phrase “the ides of March” carries with it a sinister connotation because of the bloody business done on that day two millennia ago, the ides—along with the nones and calends—are simply ancient markers of the moon’s phases that were part of Rome’s lunar calendar. Kalends referred to the new moon (or first of the month), ides meant the middle of the month (the 13th in some months and the 15th in others), and nones referred to the quarter moon. For a time, the ides of March was actually the beginning of the New Year in Rome.

3. March was time of rebirth and renewal

While the Ides of March are remembered as a tumultuous time during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire, it is also time of the year for rebirth and renewal. In early Roman times, March was actually the first month of the year and ides fell on a full moon and was the official New Year’s day of ancient Rome. It was a time to celebrate the coming of the new season and the official end of winter.

This was also likely an important time for planting. In fact, the deity who was honored during the ides celebrations was called Anna Perenna. The two names make linguistic reference to the year: anna means “to live through a year” while perenna means “to last many years.” This corresponds with the English words annual and perennial which are now associated with planting and gardening.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Caesar himself got rid of ides entirely

Although the ides of March is closely related to Julius Caesar, the famous Roman leader was directly responsible for tossing out the old, lunar-based calendar entirely. In 45 BC, Caesar—after consulting top mathematicians and astronomers—instituted the solar-based Julian calendar, a timekeeping system remarkably similar to the calendar we use today.

To implement the new system, Caesar created what has since become known as the year of confusion in which the year 46 BC lasted for 445 days so the new Julian calendar could begin on January 1. One scholar even argues that this drastic change could’ve been seen by conspiratorial senators as an attack on Roman tradition and the assassins might’ve purposefully selected the ides of March as a symbolic gesture against Caesar and his reforms.

5. Every year Romans reenact Caesar’s assassination on March 15

Every year (barring worldwide pandemics) Romans reenact the murderous drama that unfolded near the Curia of Pompey two millennia ago. (A curia is a structure where Roman senate members would meet.) However, it wasn’t until 2015 when members of the Roman Historical Group got the chance to recreate Caesar’s final moments on the exact spot where it happened after finally getting access to the ruins of the curia itself.

The reenactment generally unfolds in three parts—first with the senators’ accusations, followed by Caesar’s actual assassination, and then concluding with speeches from both Brutus and Mark Antony justifying their actions. In an interview with NBC News, the Caesar impersonator said this annual bit of theater is about honoring the ancient leader because “Rome wouldn’t have been as great without him.”

Skagit Valley, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Caesar was deified as a Roman god

Although the Roman pantheon was largely borrowed from ancient Greece, Rome added a few deified originals of its own. One of the most important was the two-headed Janus, the god of doorways and transitions and the namesake of the month of January.

But Rome also deified many of its most important leaders and named months after some of them. After Caesar’s death on the ides of March, a Roman cult known as divus Julius pushed for Caesar’s official divinity. Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian (known to history as Augustus), later became Rome’s first emperor and similarly received the divinity treatment. The effects of this Roman imperial cult can be seen in today’s calendar as July and August are named for the two ancient rulers.

7. The location of Caesar’s murder is now a cat sanctuary

The ancient Largo di Torre Argentina square used to be home to the hustle and bustle of toga-wearing senators going about the business of empire but it’s now the domain of cats. Largo di Torre Argentina was excavated during Mussolini’s rebuilding attempts in 1929 and consisted of four Republican victory temples located 20 feet below street level. Moreover, there is also part of the portico of Pompey upon whose steps Julius Caesar was killed in 44 BC.

In 1993, Silvia Viviani and Lia Dequel founded the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary (in Italian, Colonia Felinia Torre Argentina or Torre Argentina Feline Colony). Today, volunteers at Largo di Torre Atgentina care for about 100 cats at the cat sanctuary.

After the site’s excavation, cats started moving to these ruins and locals fed them. Despite the city being full of cats, Torre Argentina is a trendy place for them.

Port Aransas, Texas

8. Ancient traditions of the day

Historically, this day was originally the date on which Romans settled their debts. Other ancient traditions on this day included the slaughter of a sheep, the ides sheep by Jupiter’s high priest; the feats of Anna Perenna, the goddess of the year to celebrate the first full moon of the year with drinking, picnics, and lively festivities; and in the holy week of festivals during the Imperial Period which celebrated the goddess Cybele and the god Attis.

9. How to observe Ides of March

Repay a debt: In honor of the ancient Roman tradition of paying debts on the Ides of March or of any month, repay a debt. You’ll get some feel-good mo-jo in return from the friend who loaned you money that you somehow have managed to not yet repay.

Plan a Roman holiday: Turn the Ides of March into a living history lesson. Plan a trip to Italy to explore ancient Roman ruins of the city where Julius Caesar once ruled as the Emperor of the Roman Empire and perished at the hands of his trusted advisors.

Toga Party: When it comes down to it, the Ides of March was basically a huge argument about politics. Is there any political issue that you feel extremely passionate about? Contact your local government official. In honor of Julius Caesar exercise your right to participate in politics.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. By the numbers

  • 15: Date on which the Ides fall in the months of March, May, July, and October
  • 2003: Year that actress Thora Hird died on the Ides of March
  • 1970: Year the song Vehicle was released by rock band The Ides of March
  • 2001: Year the movie The Ides of March was released
  • 60: Number of senators present at the time of Caesar’s assassination
  • 1913: Year that Woodrow Wilson held the first presidential press conference in the Ides of March
  • 1493: Year that Christopher Columbus arrived back in Spain after his first New World voyage on the Ides of March
  • 23: Number of stab wounds on Julius Caesar
  • 1917: Year that Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar abdicated on the Ides of March
  • 1971: Year that the Ed Sullivan Show was canceled on Ides of March

Worth Pondering…

“The Ides of March are come.” The prophet said, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1

15 Best Free Things to do in Savannah

From exploring picturesque squares to attending iconic festivals, you’ll find that some of the best things to do in Savannah don’t cost a dime

Savannah, Georgia has been named one of the best destinations in the United States by countless publications and I certainly agree! It’s a great place to explore historic sites, to see locations from your favorite films like Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and much more.

You can indulge in a luxurious vacation in Savannah but there also are plenty of activities around town that won’t cost a thing. Here are 15 of the best free things to do in Savannah.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Spend time in the squares and parks

What sets Savannah apart from so many other Southern cities is its layout. The streets are in a grid format usually surrounding small parks called squares that are usually centered around a statue of a notable Georgian. Chippewa Square is known as the site of the Forrest Gump bus scene even though the bench no longer sits there. Johnson Square was the first to be established in the city while Oglethorpe Square honors the city’s founder. While not a square, Forsyth Park is Savannah’s most beautiful public park with its iconic white fountain.

The waving girl statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Visit the statues

While you’re in the squares, don’t miss the statues in nearly everyone. Wave to Johnny Mercer in Ellis Square, James Oglethorpe in Chippewa Square, Columbia in Columbia Square, Nathanael Greene in Johnson Square, Sergeant William Jasper in Madison Square, and John Wesley in Reynolds Square. And don’t forget about the Waving Girl on River Street.

3. Go on a free walking tour

Take a free walking tour of the city and get a dose of history while visiting Savannah’s most famous landmarks including the famous squares and the Mercer Williams House. This tour, led by local historians is based on tips so you pay what you think it’s worth. While it’s technically free these guides are supported by visitors. The 90-minute tours can be booked online and meet at Johnson Square.

The Old Sorrel-Weed House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Explore Savannah’s final resting places

Featuring Spanish moss-draped oaks and historic graves, Bonaventure Cemetery is Savannah’s most famous burial ground. Established in 1907 in nearby Thunderbolt, this Victorian-style cemetery is where Johnny Mercer and Conrad Aiken are buried.

But Bonaventure isn’t the only historic cemetery in town. Colonial Park Cemetery downtown was established in 1789 and includes the graves of plague victims. Laurel Grove Cemetery has a large section of plots for slaves and free people of color as well as the grave of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts.

5. Re-enact your favorite moments from Forrest Gump

Did you know that the Academy Award-winning film used several Savannah locations? I’ve already mentioned Chippewa Square which is free to visit. The Independent Presbyterian Church (at the corner of Bull and Oglethorpe) was seen in the opening scenes where a feather floats past the steeple. Debi’s Restaurant and Love’s Seafood also were used. It’s not free to eat at the restaurants but it’s worth the cost for film fans.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tour the historic churches

It’s impossible to walk around Savannah without noticing the church steeples. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most well-known with its stained glass windows and white exterior. They have free self-guided tours most days of the week but they also accept donations. Independent Presbyterian which we just mentioned was rebuilt in 1891 after a devastating fire. Christ Church on Bull Street was built in 1733 making it the first house of worship in the state. The Historic First African Baptist Church opened in 1774 and features pews built by slaves and a subfloor used on the Underground Railroad.

7. Spend a day on Tybee Island

If you’ve had enough fun downtown, head over to Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach town. You will pay to park (around $2) and to dine at the many cafes and seafood restaurants but the beach itself can be accessed free of charge. Check out the famous pier and admire the lighthouse, one of the few left on the Georgia coast.

8. Ride the ferry

The Savannah Belles Ferry connects River Street with Hutchinson Island, home to the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center and the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. It also stops in front of the Waving Girl statue at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront. You don’t have to be a guest of the hotels to ride the free ferry which operates daily from 7 a.m. to midnight. There are four boats each named for an important woman in Savannah history: Juliette Gordon Low, Susie King Taylor, Florence Martus, and Mary Musgrove.

City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Window shop on Broughton Street

If you’re short on cash, visit Savannah’s shopping district to admire what they’re carrying. Make a mental list of all the items you want to buy at The Paris Market and Brocante inhale the delicious chocolate aroma at Chocolat by Adam Turoni and browse for funky vintage goods at Civvie’s.

10. Wander the Savannah Botanical Gardens

The stunning natural Savannah Botanical Gardens boast a rose garden, herb garden, camellia and azalea garden, beehive, nature trails, and a pond. The historic Reinhard House, an 1840s farmhouse was built near present-day Savannah and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

First Baptist Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Join the fun at Savannah’s events and festivals

There’s always something going on in Savannah and many events are free to attend. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a local favorite held every March 17 in the historic district. The SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival is held in late April and features artwork on the sidewalks of Forsyth Park.

12. Hit the nature trails

Savannah is also home to several nature preserves where visitors can disconnect. The McQueen’s Island Trail is a six-mile trail home to native plants like palms as well as animals like turtles, bobcats, and pelicans. It starts at Fort Pulaski National Monument, the site of Revolutionary and Civil War battles. Skidaway Island State Park is a retreat from the city offering camping, boardwalks, an interpretive center, and the opportunity to spot countless species.

13. Admire the historic homes (from the outside)

The most beautiful historic homes in Savannah typically charge a fee for tours but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the architecture. The Mercer Williams House is known as the setting for The BookMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Flannery O’Connor House is where the writer lived during her childhood. The Juliette Gordon Low House was the home of the woman who is credited with starting the Girl Scouts of America. Jones Street is one of the best for admiring homes.

Historic River Street © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Explore Plant Riverside District

Marvel at the enormous geodes from around the world and life-sized chrome dinosaur in the lobby of the JW Marriott. Ooh and aah at the high-end shops, carefully curated retailers, and original galleries. And people-watch in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on the river in the high-energy Plant Riverside District.

Art gallery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Peruse the art galleries

Savannah has a thriving arts scene which can be seen at the Telfair and SCAD museums. But, to see the up-and-coming artists visit the galleries especially those around City Market. Sue Gouse Inspirations, Gutstein Gallery, and Oksana Fine Art are just a few of the many worth checking out.

With so much to see and do in and around Savannah, one visit simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, that same Southern hospitality is ready to welcome visitors back again and again.

Check this out to learn more:

Worth Pondering…

Savannah is a lovely pastel dream of tight cobbled streets. There are legendary scenes to rival any dreamed up by Tennessee Williams.

—Rosemary Daniell

Who Needs an RV Supplemental Braking System?

I brake it down here!

Bringing a towed car along with your motorhome is a great way to increase your mobility and see local attractions near your campsite. But if you’re bringing a toad you’re going to want an RV supplemental braking system.

RV supplemental braking systems go between your motorhome and your towed car to help with braking making you safer on the road. Let’s take a closer look at what an RV supplemental braking system is, why you may need one, and different options for buying one. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is an RV supplemental braking system?

An RV supplemental braking system is a device that applies the brakes on your towed vehicle whenever you apply the brakes in your motorhome. There are four main types of supplemental braking systems:

  • Pre-set
  • Proportional
  • Direct
  • Vacuum-assist

Pre-set systems

Pre-set systems are the most basic type of RV supplemental braking system. These are portable electric systems that connect to your RV and respond when your RV’s brake lights engage. When the brake signal reaches the device in the car, it responds by depressing an extended arm onto the brake pedal. 

These systems are portable and easy to install but they don’t offer the accuracy or control of other types.

Proportional systems

Proportional supplemental braking systems are the most popular type. They’re designed to sense when your RV slows down. The system then applies the brakes in your towed vehicle with proportional force to how you apply them in your motorhome—hence the name. 

Proportional systems are more accurate and provide finer control than pre-set systems. This braking system can provide emergency braking. 

Direct systems

Direct systems connect directly to your RV’s brake lines to directly detect your brake timing and pressure and replicate those factors in your towed vehicle. These features make the system more difficult to install but the benefit is that direct systems are highly accurate and responsive. Plus, direct braking systems never require manual adjustment. 

The downside of a direct system is you’ll need professional help or a mechanical background to install it. 

Vacuum-assist systems

Many vehicles, particularly hybrids, won’t work with most RV supplemental braking systems because they utilize power-assist braking. Using a typical braking system with these vehicles can damage them. 

This is where vacuum-assist systems come in. The actual mechanics are a bit complicated, but basically, vacuum-assist systems tap into a vacuum source to safely and effectively apply braking force to cars with power-assist braking.

Vacuum-assist supplemental braking systems don’t offer full emergency braking and the installation is fairly involved. However, if you have a vehicle with power-assist brakes, this braking system may be your only option. Alternatively, you could opt to tow your toad via a trailer or another means.

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who needs an RV supplemental braking system and why?

If you’re towing a vehicle behind your motorhome, you need a supplemental braking system. Nearly anywhere you drive in the U.S. and Canada an RV supplemental braking system is a legal requirement if you’re towing any vehicle or trailer over a certain weight. Your RV’s warranty also likely requires you to use supplemental brakes when towing over a certain weight. 

RV supplemental braking systems have benefits besides helping you follow the law and keep your warranty. They also make you much safer on the road, especially if you have a system with full emergency braking. 

A supplemental braking system also reduces the stress on both your RV and your towed vehicle. Your motorhome’s brakes aren’t designed to handle the extra weight of your towed vehicle leading to lots of extra wear and tear if a supplemental system isn’t used. The same goes for your towed vehicle which will experience excessive force from your RV if it doesn’t engage its brakes. 

The supplemental brakes also improve the function and lifespan of your tow bar. Having a braking system reduces stress on the tow bar. As a bonus, supplemental brakes also reduce the chances of jackknifing when braking suddenly. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3 great options for RV supplemental braking system

Now that we know all about RV supplemental braking systems, let’s look at three of the best options you can buy right now. 

1. Blue Ox Patriot braking system

The Blue Ox Patriot 3 Braking System is one of the most popular RV supplemental braking systems around. This is an all-electric proportional system that’s able to work on hybrid vehicles without the use of a vacuum source.

For even more control, the system includes a wireless remote control so you can manually apply the brakes if needed. The Blue Ox Patriot system also includes a built-in battery to ensure it always has the power needed to brake. 

2. Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System

The Demco Stay-in-Play Duo Braking System is a vacuum system that can work with any car. This RV supplemental braking system only activates when both your RV’s brakes are applied, and sufficient force is detected. This creates a safer, more reliable system. 

Even better, the Demco Braking System doesn’t need to be removed when you’re not towing a vehicle. Once installed, the Stay-in-Play Duo is always ready to tow. 

3. Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Supplemental Braking System

The Roadmaster 9160 BrakeMaster Supplemental Braking System is one of the most popular direct braking systems available. This system provides truly proportional and synchronized braking between your motorhome and your towed car. It also provides a full breakaway emergency braking system. 

Once the Roadmaster system is installed, it can be connected and disconnected from your towed vehicle in under a minute without the use of tools. Plus, because it weighs less than 5 pounds, it’s easy to store when it’s not in use. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV supplemental braking system is a must if you have a towed car

An RV supplemental braking system isn’t just a good idea; it’s usually a legal requirement. These systems help keep you, your motorhome, and your towed car safe by detecting when you brake your motorhome and applying the brakes in your towed car. This allows you to slow down more easily and safely and avoid losing control of your vehicle or causing an accident. 

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie (1867-1934), physicist and chemist

The Best Scenic Drives in the South (2024)

The South is full of natural beauty and road trips are one of the best ways to experience it. Any of these scenic drives will take you past stunning landscapes and breathtaking views. So, grab your road trip essentials, fill up with fuel, and hit the road!

The South’s best scenic drives invite travelers to experience the landscape up close as they wind through small cities and tiny towns, beaches and mountains, rolling countryside, and deep forests.

Some of these drives are short, others are much longer, but no matter the length of your getaway, don’t forget to allow some time for side trips. Small towns, state parks, hiking trails, and historic markers await travelers willing to make a stop and set out on a rambling route to somewhere new.

Keep the camera handy because panoramic vistas, fields of wildflowers, and sandy beach scenes are just some of the sights to look for and marvel at as you navigate these scenic drives across the South. Once you’ve begun the drive, you’ll know that on these memorable Southern routes, the journey truly is the destination.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, Virginia

It’s no surprise that the Blue Ridge Parkway topped this year’s list of the South’s best scenic drives. A meandering road snaking for 469 miles along the crest of Blue Ridge Mountains from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides access to more than 100 trailheads and over 300 miles of trails. It passes through a range of habitats that support more plant species than any other park in the country: over 4,000 species of plants, 2,000 kinds of fungi, 500 types of mosses and lichens, and the most varieties of salamanders anywhere in the world.

If you need ideas, check out:

Newfound Gap Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newfound Gap Road, North Carolina and Tennessee

When you get to Newfound Gap, you won’t believe the wealth of overlooks, picnic areas, and trails to explore. Take this spectacular road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park to experience the pristine wilderness that drives millions of Americans to this wildly popular park year after year. The views get increasingly breathtaking, putting a lifetime’s worth of astonishing natural eye candy into a couple of gallons of driving.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayou Teche National Scenic Byway, Louisiana

This Louisiana byway reaches through three of the state’s southern parishes—St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Mary—as it winds through Bayou Teche and the Atchafalaya Basin from Morgan City to Arnaudville. Travelers can make stops along the byway’s 183 miles to explore inviting small towns, go kayaking in Breaux Bridge, and enjoy authentic local Cajun food in the destinations along the route.

Here is an article to help:  ‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive, Virginia

For a dreamy drive, look no further than this Virginia road. Skyline Drive extends for 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park following the crests of Blue Ridge peaks as it goes. That means vistas galore with views over the rolling Virginia landscape. It’s also a lovely place to watch the seasons change; visit in autumn to see the leaves turn.

That’s why I wrote Ride the Sky along Skyline Drive.

Lookout Mountain Parkway. Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee

Easily accessible from several states and a great day trip, the route along Lookout Mountain Parkway runs from Gadsden, Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and passes through Georgia in the process. It’s 93 miles long and travelers are invited to stop for the nearby attractions—including waterfalls, canyons, and national parks—along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for scenic vistas as you make your way along the route.

Plan a day, plan a week. There is so much to see and do along the Lookout Mountain Parkway and you won’t want to miss a thing.

Come see…just for the fun of it!

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, Louisiana

One place in Southwest Louisiana that never ceases to amaze is the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-miles-long scenic byway where natural wonderlands abound. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s last great wildernesses.

The Creole Nature Trail features four wildlife refuges (three national and one state): Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, and Rockefeller Refuge. While there are five entrances to the Creole Nature Trail, the most popular entrances are off I-10 in Sulphur (Exit 20) and just east of Lake Charles at Louisiana Highway 397 (Exit 36).

Here are some helpful resources:

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Coastal Connection, Alabama

This 130-mile scenic byway connects the people and places in coastal Mobile and Baldwin counties and showcases the rich culture and flavor of Alabama’s Gulf Coast region. You’ll discover beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites, and the freshest seafood in the state.

Check this out to learn more: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians.

From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf Coast Scenic Byway, Mississippi

The Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is the 36-mile stretch of roadway that runs through the cities of Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs. Long Beach, Pass Christian, and Gulfport are all home to historic downtown districts through which the byway either runs or borders to the south.

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ashley River Road National Scenic Byway, South Carolina

This short 13-mile byway is a historic journey along the Ashley River. Plantations and expansive gardens dot the route along with significant Revolutionary and Civil War sites. This pastoral scenic drive makes an illuminating route to Charleston or a must-experience daytrip if you’re already there.

Step back in time and immerse yourself in history at Middleton Place Plantation. The National Historic Landmark preserves the stories of the Middleton family, the enslaved, and the freedmen. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens was founded by the Drayton family in 1676 as a rice plantation. Built in 1738, Drayton Hall Plantation is a prime example of Palladian architecture and has never been restored.

Road trip planning

Road trips take a little planning. Here are a few tips that will help make your scenic road trip a success:

There is so much to see and do in the South

The South is home to many fascinating, attractive, and unusual destinations. Because the Southern states occupy a significant portion of the United States, anybody planning extensive travel in the country will inevitably find themselves in the region sometime. Once you arrive, you will be in for a real treat.

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot