Okefenokee Swamp is like No Other Place in the World

Alligators, otters, and bears abound in this sprawling mass of wetlands

Regarding rich biodiversity and pristine natural beauty, the United States is home to many incredible destinations scattered across all 50 states. While iconic national parks like the Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, Joshua Tree, and the Grand Canyon have earned worldwide acclaim, one particularly fascinating natural feature has flown largely under the radar. Measuring in at over 400,000 acres of pristine wetlands sprawled across southern Georgia Okefenokee Swamp is one of the last great bastions of wilderness left in the southern U.S.

The name Okefenokee comes from a Creek Indian word meaning trembling earth. During the Seminole Wars, Native Americans hid in the Okefenokee Swamp to escape capture. The leader of these refugees was a chieftain known as Billy Bowlegs. Billy’s Island was one of his refuges and legend says the island was named for him.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the years, Billy’s Island was home to a tenacious family of squatters, the Lees, who refused to abandon their claimed land until forced by court order. In 1909, Hebard Lumber Company came and began cutting centuries-old cypress trees. 

The Hebard family sold the property to the government in 1937; the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was created that same year.

Despite its massive size, few access points offer visitors a glimpse into the untamed wilderness of North America’s largest blackwater swamp. However, for those wishing to spend a weekend searching for native Southern flora and fauna, Stephen C. Foster State Park offers unrivaled opportunity in the remote reaches of southern Georgia. While this certified Dark Sky Park and Natural Wonder of Georgia is a top destination, the entire region was a much different place in the distant past.

Millions of years ago, the area was under the ocean. It’s possible that, during this time, the saucer-shaped depression the Okefenokee Swamp would later occupy was formed. After the ocean receded, freshwater replaced saltwater and plant life and peat deposits began to fill in the depression. A mosaic of habitats like wet prairies, dense cypress forest, and upland pine forests are found throughout this 438,000-acre wetland.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For those planning to explore this diverse array of natural habitats, there’s no shortage of lodging options scattered all across the park grounds. There are over 60 sites available for RVs or anyone brave enough to rough it in their own personal tent while anybody in need of more upscale accommodations can book one of the park’s nine fully-furnished cottages. Equipped with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a personal backyard fire pit these spacious dwellings are perfect for immersing oneself in the natural world without having to go totally prehistoric.

Many sites offer scrubs and trees to afford privacy. The wide grassy hiking trail that runs behind the campsites is a natural haven. Birds of various kinds flutter between the moss laden oaks and cypress trees. Saw palmetto and blackberry vines are a large part of the undergrowth. Plaques along the trail tell the story of Spanish moss and the native trees and scrubs. 

It’s not really a swamp. It’s the headwaters of both the Suwannee and the Saint Marys rivers. It’s just easier to say swamp than natural wetlands preserve.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Extensive open areas at the core of the refuge like the Chesser, Grand, and Mizell Prairies branch off the man-made Suwannee Canal accessed via the main entrance to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, 11 miles southwest of Folkston. The prairies are excellent spots for sportfishing and birding and guided boat tours of the area leave from the Okefenokee

Refuge concession Okefenokee Adventures works in partnership with the refuge to provide guided boat trips; rent camping gear, bicycles, motorboats and canoes; operate a gift shop; collect entrance fees; and provide food service.

Truly the best way to get a close look at the swamp inhabitants is to take a boat tour from Okefenokee Adventures. Their regular boat is a 24-foot Carolina skiff and there’s one step down into it from the dock. Additionally, you need to have a good balance in order to maneuver to a seat as the boat rocks a lot. An accessible pontoon boat is also available but it might not be the next boat out.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This boat has level access for wheelchair users and folding seats for able-bodied passengers. Both boats have a canopy for protection from the midday sun. Best bet is to check in the gift shop about the availability of the accessible boat as soon as you arrive then enjoy the visitor center while you wait.

The 90-minute tour goes through the Suwannee Canal as the naturalist points out the flora and fauna and gives passengers a short history of the area. Expect to see turtles, herons, ibis, hawks, and lots of alligators along the way. And if you visit in the fall, you’ll also likely see the migrant Sandhill Cranes.

The concession also has equipment rentals and food is available at the Camp Cornelia Cafe. The visitor center has a film, exhibits, and a mechanized mannequin that tells stories about life in Okefenokee (it sounds hokey, but it’s surprisingly informative). A boardwalk takes you over the water to a 50-foot observation tower. Hikers, bicyclists, and private motor vehicles are welcome on Swamp Island Drive; several interpretive walking trails may be taken along the way.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Save some time to explore the refuge on foot on one of the three accessible trails along the eight-mile-long Swamp Island Drive. It’s easy to find—just follow the signs as you leave the main parking lot.

The Upland Discovery Trail is the first trail you’ll come upon along the drive. There’s a paved parking area with accessible parking on the right with level access to the trail across the street. The quarter-mile trail is made of hard-packed dirt and although there are some exposed roots along the way they are easy to dodge. The worst obstructions are at the beginning of the trail so if you make it past the first ten feet, you’re good to go. Be sure and look for the trees marked with the white bands and they mark either a roosting or nesting spot of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Our guide steered the pontoon boat to a patch of grasses and peat in the process of forming land to show how the name Land of Trembling Earth came about. When he poked at the small island with his paddle, it trembled. With these little pockets of almost-land dotting the surface of the lake, it’s easy to see how a person could become lost in this place that’s more water than land.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’re likely to see alligators and birds as you travel about 2 miles into the lake from the dock. Although it’s named Billy’s Lake, the path amid the many islands looks more like a creek ranging from 35 to 155 feet wide. We ventured into a narrow offshoot of water called Minnie’s Run. Here, our guide maneuvered between giant cypress trees with branches that often brush the sides and top of our little boat. Throughout the waterway, we encountered several types of water lilies. The most distinctive, the American white water lily has dozens of narrow white petals surrounding a bright yellow center. 

Wood signs with arrows direct us where to turn to reach certain places in the swamp. Five Sisters is another marker that boaters use for navigating the area. It’s a cluster of five cypress trees, three of them living and two dead representing five sisters who once lived deep in the swamp. It’s here that we spot a small alligator swimming with just its eyes and the top of the head visible. 

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I asked about some of the other wildlife found in the park including deer, bears, foxes, snakes, bobcats, and otters. He said the best time to see a bear is when the blackberries are ripe or when there are a lot of acorns on the ground. Bobcats are early morning and late evening prowlers.

Of course, no trip to Okefenokee is complete without venturing into the remote depths of the swamp in search of wildlife—a feat that’s best accomplished on a guided motorboat tour. With a Stephen C. Foster State Park ranger versed in the ins and outs of the swamp as your pilot this is by far the best way to acquaint yourself with the many creatures that call the park home.

There are around 620 species of plants, 39 fish, 37 amphibians, 64 reptiles, 234 birds, and 50 mammal species known in the swamp today. Alligators, white-tailed deer, and turkey are regularly seen around the park during the day. Most nights, barred owls hoot across the campground, and after an evening rain shower many species of frogs will call out.

In spring, swallow-tailed kites arrive from their wintering grounds in South America to nest and are frequently seen acrobatically flying over the park. During the winter, river otters are more commonly seen in the main waterways and sandhill cranes are frequently heard calling from marshy areas throughout the swamp.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While some may be drawn to the park in search of the South’s larger mammal inhabitants including bobcats, black bears, and gray foxes these particular beasts tend to steer clear of any human activity. They’re therefore seldom seen by visitors—though you may be able to catch a glimpse of one if you’re particularly lucky. For avid bird watchers, a particularly prized sight is the red-cockaded woodpecker. These mottled creatures tend to gravitate towards mature pine forests and they’re currently endangered in the state of Georgia.

Okefenokee Swamp may be one of the state’s most iconic natural features but it’s far from the only one worth visiting in the region. For a truly memorable time add a second preserve to the list after you’ve thoroughly explored Stephen C. Foster State Park.

Okefenokee Swamp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A few minutes’ north of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge boundaries, Laura S. Walker State Park offers visitors the opportunity to spot gopher tortoises, pitcher plants, and all manner of wading birds and it even comes equipped with its own 18-hole golf course. Meanwhile, those who make the journey to Georgia’s idyllic seashore can find Cumberland Island, a pristine coastal getaway that’s rife with sandy beaches.

Georgia might earn most of its acclaim thanks to its world-class cities but the state has far more to offer than simply Atlanta and Savannah. Stephen C. Foster State Park may be a little difficult to get to but there are few things in life more satisfying than sitting still in a kayak in the heart of the swamp surrounded by nothing but the gentle hum of Georgia’s native wildlife.

For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

Worth Pondering…

Choose only one master—nature.

—Rembrandt

Looking for Your Next Favorite Road Trip? You Need to Take a Scenic Byway!

Take a scenic byway on your next road trip

In This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie sang the words, “As I went walking that ribbon of highway / I saw above me that endless skyway.” If Guthrie was singing about some of the most beautiful ribbons of highway in the United States, there’s a good chance he was talking about one of the country’s scenic byways.

In both popular culture and our imaginations, we tend to romanticize road trips as epic journeys across the nation’s vast highways. The only problem is there’s nothing romantic about our nation’s highways. Either you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic as you pass through a major metropolis or you’re the lone motorist on an eerily empty stretch of cornfield-lined pavement. We almost take for granted that the great American road trip should be on a highway—but we’re forgetting about a far more attractive alternative: scenic byways.

National Scenic Byways are officially designated roads that meet a set of government-defined criteria. To become a scenic byway, a road must be recognized for one or more of six intrinsic qualities which include archaeological, cultural, natural, historic, recreational, or scenic significance. As their name suggests, these roads are the most scenic way to see the country by far. Here’s why your next road trip should be on a scenic byway.

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The difference between a byway and a highway

On the surface, distinguishing a highway from a scenic byway might sound complicated. The differences, however, are quite obvious especially when you first make the switch from highways to byways. Highways are wide roads connecting big cities, built to facilitate the flow of heavy traffic. Though they can be found all over the country, they’re a staple of major metropolitan areas with high population density. Though highways are certainly the most efficient way to travel, they’re often not free with many requiring tolls to pass.

Byways, by contrast, tend to be narrower, secondary roads often located in rural areas. You won’t find scenic byways wrapping around major cities but rather serve as a means of connection for those living in less populated areas. They’re unstructured, unsurfaced, or even covered with grass.

The National Scenic Byways Program started in 1991 when Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act which aimed to promote roads of special aesthetic or cultural significance. Some byways are even designated All-American Roads which must meet two (instead of just one) of the intrinsic qualities mentioned above. All-American Roads are considered to have unique features that can’t be found anywhere else in the US. Many even consider these roads to be destinations on their own.

Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why ride a byway?

If you still find yourself tempted by the efficient allure of the highway, there are plenty of reasons to give scenic byways a shot the next time you hit the road. The biggest benefit of scenic byways is the access they provide to local experiences like food, history, and scenery. From New Jersey to California and everywhere in between highways feel pretty homogenous. Byways don’t circumvent an area’s natural beauty in favor of efficiency— they take you through the heart of forests, mountains, and small towns giving you a reason to look out the window.

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, for example, gives drivers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway in Maine gives you a sampling of Maine’s natural beauty: lakes, forests, farms, rivers, and wildlife. Meanwhile, the Mohawk Trail Byway in Williamstown, Massachusetts marks where Benedict Arnold led an army during the Revolutionary War, and where the Mohawk tribe battled the Pocumtucks. That’s a slice of culture you just can’t get on a highway.

Byways are also beneficial for local communities. Rather than spending your money at the McDonald’s in the highway rest stop, you’ll be passing through small towns. That means local shops, restaurants, and a warmer introduction to an area than you’d ever receive at a highway visitor center.

Trade the highway McDouble for some steak tips at a local barbeque joint. Rather than stretch your legs at a nondescript rest stop, park on a town’s Main Street and go exploring. A more intimate travel experience isn’t just beneficial for you but for the people living there too. Whether it’s patronizing family-owned restaurants, shopping at small boutiques, or filling up at an off-the-beaten-path gas station, the local economy will thank you.

Explore the byways

Now is actually the best time to start exploring the country’s scenic byways. These are a few byways you should keep on your radar for your next road trip.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Red Rock Scenic Byway 

Winding through Arizona’s Red Rock Country, the Red Rock Scenic Byway is often called a museum without walls. Traversing incredible red rock and desert landscapes, State Route 179 runs south from Sedona through the Red Rock State Park to the junction with Interstate 17. There are also several trailheads accessed directly from the road offering numerous options for day hikes. Don’t miss the Cathedral Rock and the Bell Rock vista at the start of the southern trailhead.

If you need ideas, check out: Red Rock Scenic Byway: All-American Road

Alabama Coastal Connection Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama: Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

About 130 miles long, Alabama’s Coastal Connection showcases the best of the state’s Gulf Coast from quiet bays and wildlife-rich sanctuaries to immaculate white-sand beaches and historic forts. Alabama’s southern tip offers five different possible itineraries based on your interests, whether it’s history, food, or nature. The full route runs from Spanish Fort through Daphne and Fairhope via Magnolia Springs and Elberta to Orange Beach, along Gulf Shores to Dauphin Island and finishes in Grand Bay.

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

Amish Country Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio: Amish Country Byway

Just 76 miles long, the Amish Country Byway might seem like a drive you can complete in a few hours but factor in the cultural and historic treasures dotted along the road and you’ll need at least a day. The road curves through and over the hills of pastoral countryside making it easy to forget about the trappings of modern life. Be sure to visit Amish museums, farms and antique shops, and enjoy some seriously good cooking in one of the many places to stop for a bite.

Here are some helpful resources:

Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota: Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway

It twists and loops over just 70 miles yet this Black Hills byway is the perfect introduction to South Dakota’s breathtaking landscapes. The route is actually four interlacing roads including Needles Highway where the drive takes you through narrow tunnels and below towering granite pinnacles. It also cuts through Custer State Park where buffalo graze the fields and passes Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial.

For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah: Scenic Byway 12

At just under 123 miles, this All-American Road cuts through some of the state’s most spectacular scenery (and it’s up against some strong competition). Starting in Panguitch and unravelling east to Torrey, the road feels like it’s always been here curving past moon-grey mountains and ducking under peach-rock arches. Make a brief detour to see Escalante Petrified Forest, filled with fossilised trees. 

Read more: Scenic Byway 12: An All American Road

Colonial Parkway

Virginia: Colonial Parkway

Connecting three of Virginia’s most historically significant cities, the Colonial Parkway links Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Only 23 miles long, the byway is intended for sightseeing so is free of trucks and commercial vehicles and is still a remarkable example of such American parkway design. 

Check this out to learn more: Live in Colonial Times: Experience the Revolution in a Revolutionary Way

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail

Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture, and more can be experienced as you travel along the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s Last Great Wildernesses. Download the free personal tour app (search “creole” in your app store.) Once on the trail, open the app and make sure your location is enabled. It’s like having a personal tour guide in the vehicle with you!

Here are some helpful resources:

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia: Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway

The beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest surrounds this route as it encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Winding through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians, you will find vistas atop Brasstown Bald that are jaw-dropping and the cooling mists of waterfalls are plentiful. Everywhere scenic wonders fill this region. Colorful wildflowers, waterfalls, and dazzling fall colors are some of what you will see. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Carolina and Tennessee: Cherohala Skyway

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests. Popular stops along and near the Skyway include Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Santeetlah Lake, and many Cherokee sites. This byway in particular is known for its fall colors.

If you need ideas, check out:

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Carolina and Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic roadway offering stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. The Parkway meanders for 469 miles, protecting a diversity of plants and animals and providing a variety of recreation opportunities for enjoying all that makes the Blue Ridge Mountains so special.

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

Worth Pondering…

I had spent the day, as Chuck Berry once sang, with no particular place to go. And getting there was half the fun.

Finding Adventure (Without the Crowds) in Utah

Avoid the masses but not the epic adventures at these breathtaking under-the-radar desert landscapes around Moab

From Jurassic-era dunes and prehistoric petroglyphs to amber-tinted cliffs and spires, Moab is an adventure traveler’s dream. Located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, this small city in southeast Utah is one of North America’s greatest outdoor recreation hubs and a gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  

Millions of years of erosion by ancient oceans, freshwater lakes, streams, and windblown dunes shaped this region’s 2,400 square miles of sandstone arches, picturesque mountain peaks, Martian-like rock formations, and colorful mesas and canyons. 

Along the Colorado River near Moab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mountain bikers, hikers, campers, climbers, paddlers, and off-road drivers arrive in droves to explore this red rock playground in jaw-dropping numbers—more than 3 million visitors annually.

With increasing use come big problems! Overcrowding and overuse of trails, campgrounds, and recreation facilities led Arches to institute a timed entry reservation system between April and October. Other popular national parks have implemented similar measures encouraging people to come during off-peak times or explore other nearby recreation areas. 

But here’s the good news: The National Park Service (NPS) manages other parks, monuments, recreation areas, and historic areas within a day’s drive from Moab including Aztec Ruins National MonumentGlen Canyon National Recreation AreaHovenweep National MonumentMesa Verde National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument. About 94 percent of the land surrounding Moab is public meaning there are also plenty of lesser-visited state parks and federal recreation areas extending into the Greater Moab region to discover. 

For adventurers and nature lovers who want to see more of the great outdoors—and less of each other—here are five tips to beat the crowds and explore the elements in Moab this spring.

Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Get crafty about campsites

Many of the private RV parks, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and state and federally owned campgrounds demand ample planning time. Campgrounds closer to U.S. Route 191 and Utah Routes 128 and 279 along the Colorado River (The Riverway) usually fill up by mid-morning. 

Getting one of the 51 campsites at Devils Garden Campground—the only developed campsite in Arches—can be challenging without some pre-trip planning. During the high season (March 1-October 31), sites are reservable up to six months in advance. But from November 1 to February 28 when temperatures are cooler, the campground is first-come, first-served.

For fewer crowds, venture to Canyon Rims Recreation Area, an hour’s drive south of Moab on Route 191. It has two campgrounds to stage your hiking, biking, and driving adventures—Hatch Point in the north and Windwhistle in the south which rarely fills up and don’t require reservations. Be sure to stop at one of the park’s visitor centers and ranger stations to get the scoop on current park conditions and for other trail and campground suggestions.  

Camping at Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore public lands south of Moab

Parks closer to downtown Moab (just five miles from Arches National Park) are usually slammed with eager outdoor enthusiasts, especially during summer months. While spring (April through May) and fall (mid-September through October) still have crowds, they are some of the best times to score prime campsites and experience uncrowded trails, climbing routes, and iconic arches around the city.

During the busy seasons, visiting Moab can be kind of overwhelming but the public lands around Moab offer remarkable remote experiences.

With breathtaking views into Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River 2,000 feet below, Dead Horse Point State Park, a 40-minute drive south of Moab is a highlight for hikers and photographers exploring canyon country. The park, named for an era when cowboys corralled wild mustang herds on the high mesa is also a terrific first outing for bikers new to the area. The 16-mile Intrepid Trail System offers a variety of single-track loops and slickrock (Moab’s weathered sandstone) sections that allow all ages and abilities to experience incomparable cliff-top and canyon vistas. 

Drive further south to Canyon Rims, a 100,000-acre BLM-maintained land between Moab and Monticello to peer over one of three spectacular overlooks—Anticline, Minor, and Needles. Each offers unique views of Canyonlands’ Islands in the Sky and Needles Districts and Bears Ears National Monument’s Indian Creek and Lockhart Basin sections. These sites are comparable to those seen from the rim of the Grand Canyon but without the shoulder-to-shoulder visitor experience.   

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bike away from the crowds

With its seven new non-motorized trails, updated signage, and fresh markings on existing trails plus stunning views of the Salt Valley and Arches National Park, Klondike Bluffs should be on every biker’s list. Just a 30-minute drive north of Moab, this 58-mile single-track trail on dirt and slickrock includes 26 named paths from beginner to advanced which can be combined into loops of any length. It’s the first trail that visitors pass on the way to Moab from I-70 in the north making it the most accessible for cyclists coming from Denver or Salt Lake City. 

Further into the park is the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds hiking trail which features several dinosaur trackways and individual dinosaur prints. Paleontologists believe Utah was part of an island landmass called Laramidia where a wide range of dinosaur species roamed more than 75 million years ago. 

Indian Creek Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan a desert road trip

Recreation areas south of Moab such as Canyon Rims and Bear Ears National Monument are usually less crowded due to fewer developed trail systems. Take a scenic drive through Utah’s vibrant vermillion canyons, over plateaus of mesas and buttes, and around the region’s open plains of grass and shrubland.

In Canyon Rims, travelers may spot pronghorn antelope near Hatch Point and can cruise to remote overlooks with breathtaking views of Canyonlands and the Colorado River.

Rather than endure the hours-long wait to see Delicate Arch in Arches, drive an hour south of Moab to reach Bear Ears’ Indian Creek Scenic Byway. This 40-mile-long route takes travelers through flat-top buttes and colossal sandstone towers. Along the way, make a pitstop at Newspaper Rock, one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in the world.

Newspaper Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike in solitude

A hike around Moab’s natural spaces reveals deep red canyons, buttes, and pinnacles. Summer brings high temperatures and midday crowds around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. To get around that, experienced adventurers plan their hikes and bike rides in the morning and evening, bringing the best sunlight for photography. To help photographers, the NPS has created a table of the park’s notable landscape features and the best time to photograph them. 

For a quieter trek outside the national parks head three miles from the Hatch Point campground in Canyon Rims to Trough Springs Canyon trail a relatively easy five-mile roundtrip hike. It starts at the top of the plateau and descends 2.5 miles into the canyon where a creek flows year-round. The path continues through the waterway’s riparian zone, riddled with tamarisk, cottonwoods, and willow. Follow the stream into the larger Kane Creek Canyon where a popular but difficult 4×4 off-road trail of the same name invites adventurers to explore. 

Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downstream, where Kane Creek approaches the Colorado River, travelers find several ancient rock art sites, including Moonflower Canyon Panel, Elephant Panel, and False Kiva. The drawings resembling bighorn sheep and hunters with spears along with crescent moons, lightning bolts, and snakes tell the story of the nomadic Puebloans (formerly called Anasazi) who briefly farmed and built dwellings and granaries—used to store squash, maize, and beans—around the region.

Even today, potsherds (or pottery fragments) can be found poking out of the sand near surviving granaries but visitors should be careful to leave these artifacts untouched.

Worth Pondering…

…the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere.

—Edward Abbey, American author and former ranger at Arches National Park, on Canyonlands

The Complete Guide to Bird Watching in South Texas

Birders come to South Texas to see bird species they can’t find anyplace else in the country

In the next few weeks, the South Texas countryside will come alive with the arrival of the spring migration made up of many colorful bird species. South Texas is an awesome birding area all year long but spring is one of the best times to go birding.

Not only will the summer birds start returning but many species of waterfowl, warblers, and other seldom seen birds can be spotted as they work their way to their breeding grounds in the northern latitudes.

Green jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the past, birding was a pastime for just a select group of people. It has gained so much popularity that it is a major tourism draw to many areas of the country with South Texas being a top destination.

Texas is one of the top three birding states in the country based on species. Up to 250 different species can be found along the Gulf Coast areas. Several businesses offer guided birding tours from Houston through the Coastal Bend region to the Rio Grande Valley.

Birding is a simple and enjoyable activity that ranges from passively hiking or driving through the countryside to attracting birds with feeders.

Several area guides use an interesting technique to lure in birds by concocting a peanut butter spread and applying it to a log or tree trunk. The spread is made with a mixture of lard, cornmeal, and peanut butter and it works great at drawing in a variety of birds.

Great kiskadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birding doesn’t require a huge investment as a beginner. To start, beginners will need an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a birding field guide book.

Experienced birders will usually invest in better optics or even a good camera with a telephoto lens. Some experts with years of experience can tell a species just by the sounds the birds make.

Whether you are a novice or an expert birder, you’ll want to have a bird checklist to keep track of how many species you have seen. A great place to find a checklist is any local state park or national wildlife refuge. They’ll have a list of species native to that particular area.

Local residents and Winter Texans that are used to seeing strikingly colored, year round birds such as Green Jays, Great Kiskadees, Cardinals, Altimira Orioles, and Pyrrhuloxias can expect many more migrating birds over the next month or two.

Clay-colored thrush © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the Black-chinned Hummingbird is a summer resident of South Texas, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will soon be passing through on their way north and you might get a glimpse of rare visitors to the area such as Rufous, or Buff-bellied Hummingbirds.

Like the hummingbirds, orioles will be arriving soon. A few will spend the summer but five different species can be seen in the area: Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole, Audubon’s Oriole, and Baltimore Oriole. Use oranges or grape jelly at your feeders to increase the odds of attracting them.

Many species of waterfowl can be found as they migrate through the area. Watch around water holes, area lakes, ponds, and coastal marshes for colorful teals, redheads, canvasbacks, and many others in doning their spring breeding plumage.

Yellow warbler © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorful and beautiful sounding warblers are commonly sighted as they rest up for a few days along their journey north. Some are year round residents but most are migrating through.

There are many species of warblers and it can be challenging to spot them. Some will forage on the ground in thick brush but most prefer trees. Watch for warblers high in the treetops as they glean for insects. Some warblers can have varying colors such as blue, green, and orange but the predominant color in warbler species is yellow.

Several species of sparrows also migrate through the area this time of the year. They are perhaps the most difficult to identify. To make it easier sparrows are usually found in groups of the same species. A good bird book is a helpful tool for identification.

Black-crested titmouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last but not least and perhaps the most colorful bird that actually nests in South Texas is the Painted Bunting. These beauties can be found along woodland edges and brushy roads but will come to backyard feeders. Millet is a great seed for attracting Painted Buntings to a feeder.

Expect to see many other species of shore birds, wading birds, birds of prey, woodpeckers, and upland birds in the region as spring arrives.

April and May allow birders to see South Texas specialties and neotropical migrants at the same time. It’s possible to tally up over 100 species along the coast in a single day.

Spring migration here peaks approximately April 15th through May 10th. Bird diversity in the Valley is at its annual peak during this three week window.

The closer you get to the coast, the more neotropical migrants you see like kites, hummingbirds, thrushes, vireos, grosbeaks, and warblers.

Altamira oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spending a day birding at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (right on the coast) along with South Padre Island could easily net over 100 species. You’ll get plenty of classic south Texas specialties along with all the migrating songbirds hugging the coast on their way north.

April 19 to May 7 is historically the busiest window for spring passage among a group of Neotropical migratory songbird species including American Redstarts, Cana­da and Cape May Warblers, and Balti­more and Bullock’s Orioles.

In addition, early April also marks the peak of wildflower season in Texas with fields and roadsides often blanketed with bluebonnets, phlox, paintbrush, and Gaillardia.

Black-bellied whistling ducks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the coast near Rockport target specialties such as Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbills, majestic Whooping Cranes, up to 30 species of shorebirds, and eight species of terns. Under certain weather conditions, this area can host sizable fallouts of migrant land birds as well though this is a more common sight further up the coast. In addition, you’ll likely find White-tailed Hawks, Crested Caracara, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers by the dozens, and possibly Audubon’s Oriole.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas with its numerous refuges, state parks, and birding centers, harbors most of the Valley specialties including Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Common Pauraque, Ringed and Green kingfishers, Aplomado Falcon, Green Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot, Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, and Altamira Oriole. Many accidentals have appeared over the years here as well. In the vicinity of Falcon Dam, seek out Red-billed Pigeon.

Worth Pondering…

A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

—Chinese Proverb

What is a Super C Motorhome?

There are different types and classes of RVs available to own, each with perks that are enjoyable and well worth having. But every RVer is different and we all have different priorities based on our lifestyles and styles of camping.

When it comes to motorized (vs towable) you can choose from Class A, B, or C, each of which has its pros and cons. But there’s another class of motorized RV on the market that might surprise you and today I explore it in depth. Welcome to the Super C motorhome.

Class A motorhome (diesel pusher) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are the classes of motorhomes?

As I mentioned above, there are several different classes of motorhome. What are they?

Class A motorhomes are the big, box-like vehicles that look the most like a bus and it’s what we drive. The house or living area extends from bumper to bumper giving Class A motorhomes the largest amount of living space for their length which is one reason for their popularity.

Class A motorhomes are available in two basic categories: Gas and diesel, obviously based on the fuel they use. Due to their rugged durability and higher torque, diesel engines are used to power the largest Class A motorhomes. Those powerful engines and the additional carrying capacity they bring allow for larger rigs with lots more heavy gear stuffed into them. Hence the higher price for a diesel-powered RV.

The engine in a Class A motorhome can be located at the front or the rear of the RV but gas rigs typically have front-mounted engines and diesel engines are usually in the rear. This is where the term diesel pusher comes from as the engine pushes the RV from the back.

Class A motorhomes come in a variety of lengths but because larger diesel models are built on rugged heavy-duty chassis they can extend up to 45 feet in length. Most diesel rigs also benefit from the luxurious ride that air suspension brings.

These large Class A motorhomes are great for people like us who live half-time plus in our RV. They can offer lots of space for both living and storage as well as large fresh, grey, and black tanks to accommodate more people and/or and more time in the boondocks. Depending on the size and floorplan, Class A motorhomes can sleep anywhere from 2 to 8 people and larger models provide ample storage space in full pass-through basement compartments.

New Class A motorhomes can range in price from over $100,000 to $2,000,000 (that’s mostly for the highest-end bus conversions) depending on their size, quality, and amenities. So the cost can be a big deterrent to owning one. And because they can get quite large, another drawback is that they can be more difficult to maneuver and harder to park. Some state and national parks won’t have sites large enough to accommodate them.

As they get larger, it becomes even more important to tow a small vehicle for exploring. Driving a Class A motorhome into town or to a remote trailhead falls somewhere between cumbersome and impossible depending on where you’re traveling.

Class B motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contrary to what may seem logical, motorhome types (A, B, and C) aren’t in size order with A being the largest and B being the smallest. If they’d consulted with me when they were crafting the naming scheme, I would have told them to put them in order!

Class B motorhomes are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Class A motorhomes being the smallest and most fuel-efficient motorhomes available. They drive and park like a van because they’re primarily built using van-based chassis: traditionally from Ford or Chevy but these days the more common choice is either the Mercedes Sprinter or Ram ProMaster. Their small size makes them easy to maneuver on city streets as well as in the boondocks making them versatile as both a home base at camp AND a vehicle to go out and explore in.

The drawback of a Class B motorhome is that they’re highly limited in terms of space and don’t usually accommodate more than one or two (very close, very tolerant) people and maybe a small child (or a small pet or two). There are people who full-time in them for which I give major props!

Class C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Class C motorhomes are the middle child of the motorized RVing world and can vary significantly in size and length. They’ll accommodate more people and have more amenities and larger tanks than Class B motorhomes and are less expensive and easier to drive and park than most Class A motorhomes. They’re recognizable because of the large over-cab extension that often houses an additional bed for kids or guests.

One surprising note about Class C motorhomes—if you need additional sleeping accommodations, many of them provide more than even the largest Class A rigs! That’s probably because they’re often designed with the ability to be the perfect family hauler.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So what is a Super C motorhome?

With all of the options listed above there are still travelers whose needs and desires are different. They want a motorhome that’s larger than a typical Class C with more luxury and more space but they don’t want the style of a Class A motorhome. They’re looking for a heavier vehicle, a larger chassis, and maybe a more significant towing capacity. What’s a traveler to do with this conundrum?

That’s where a Super C motorhome is perfect! It takes the best attributes of a Class C—and super-sizes it all

The benefits of choosing a Super C motorhome

Super C motorhomes have numerous benefits for travelers with specific needs. Let’s take a closer look at some of the greatest perks of owning one.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More robust chassis in a Super C motorhome

The foundation of a Super C motorhome is a larger, heavier-duty chassis than a standard Class C—much more akin to the chassis used for a Class A. They can range from the more consumer-grade heavy-duty truck chassis from Ford (like the F550) up to full-on truck chassis from Freightliner and even Volvo. Everything about the chassis is more robust: chassis rails are larger and stiffer; axles are larger with greater carrying capacity; wheels and brakes (often air brakes) are bigger to support and stop the extra weight; and, of course, engines are bigger and more powerful!

More living space

The larger, heavier-duty chassis of a Super C enables the manufacturers to increase the size of the motorhome overall which means that it offers more living space, the ability to accommodate more travelers (for sleeping, dining, and riding), and loads of storage space for everything you want to bring along.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Larger tank capacities on a Super C motorhome

More space in holding tanks is another advantage of the Super C motorhome. Larger models can have freshwater tanks that hold 100-150 gallons of fresh water and grey and black tanks that hold up to 75 gallons each. That makes the behemoth Super Cs ripe for some serious boondocking.

Lots of exterior storage

The number of storage compartments as well as the large size of those compartments allows you to bring a multitude of recreational items for the enjoyment of the entire family. These might include bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, surfboards, parasails, skis, and golf clubs.

Most RVers carry some basic tools for minor repairs and modifications on the road but the Super C motorhomes allow for the carrying of just about any set of tools a DIYer might want to have on hand.

The large, heavy chassis allows you to carry heavy loads and makes it a breeze to bring lots of toys along.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Higher towing capacity

The bigger chassis and larger (usually diesel) engines of Super C motorhomes allow for larger hitch receivers and larger towing capacities.

A Super C motorhome might have a towing capacity between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds. For this reason, the Super C is a common choice for travelers who haul large trailers for car racing, for example.

Great stability on the road

The larger, heavier chassis and longer wheelbase mean that the Super C motorhome is more firmly planted while driving making it more secure on the road and less susceptible to buffeting by larger vehicles. This is an attractive feature for most drivers as tall, flat-sided vehicles tend to feel the wind from both nature and large passing vehicles in a dramatic way.

More comfortable ride

Just like Class A motorhomes, Super Cs often come with air-ride suspension. The large airbags that support the weight of the coach on the chassis help to soften the ride and make them comfortable options for long-range driving. Several Super C motorhome models go so far as to incorporate air-ride driver’s seats just like a long-haul commercial truck would. That extreme isolation from the bumps and vibration of everyday driving DEFINITELY makes for a super-comfortable ride.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Super C motorhomes provide easier access for maintenance

Another benefit of the Super C motorhome is that the engine is located under the hood in the front of the vehicle which makes access for maintenance easier than that of a Class A gas or diesel pusher. Whether you’re doing your maintenance or taking it into a shop that access can come in handy.

Safety

Another benefit of the heavy engine under the hood is that it serves as protection and may provide a larger crumple zone in the event of a collision. Additionally, heavy vehicles like the Super C motorhomes tend to fare well in all but the most serious crashes due to their sheer size and weight.

The extra stability provided by the design of the Super C motorhome is another safety feature that is surely felt as one drives down the road in such a heavy, stable rig.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The disadvantages of choosing a Super C motorhome

While the Super C motorhome provides many excellent benefits, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include in this overview some of the disadvantages as well.

Higher price point

One big disadvantage especially with larger or more luxurious models can be the cost. Super C motorhomes typically range in price from $150,000–$800,000 with most new models costing more than $400,000. As with any other class of motorhome, the make, model, and age of the RV (i.e. whether it’s new or used) are cost factors. But in general, Super C RVs come at a high price point.

Fuel economy

The advantages of the heavier, larger Super C come at another cost as well. The bigger, thirstier engines consume a fair amount of fuel. Most Super C owners report fewer than ten miles per gallon. Towing a heavy towed car or large trailer behind the RV only decreases the fuel efficiency further.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Super C motorhomesc can be harder to drive/park

Bigger is not always better. Larger RVs (regardless of Class/Type) can be harder to drive and certainly make parking more challenging. Not only can it be difficult to navigate city or small-town streets but not all parking lots accommodate such large vehicles. And even when they have sufficient space, those lots can be difficult to get into with a very large rig.

The other prominent issue is campsite accommodation. Many campsites are not equipped to handle a Super C motorhome especially one hauling a long trailer. Most national park campgrounds are unable to accommodate such a large rig, for example, or the few large sites they do offer are often full.

So, while a Super C motorhome may cruise down the highway with little effort, turning, navigating small streets, parking, and backing can present unique challenges for the Super C motorhome owner.

Less living space than a comparable Class A

While having the engine up front under the hood offers advantages for ease of maintenance and safety, it does have a negative: that space is lost. So a 40-foot Super C will have less living space than a 40-foot Class A. While many Super C motorhomes will have driver and passenger seats that swivel around to offer seating in the front living area, the space consumed by the hood is still lost.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you need a CDL to drive a Super C motorhome?

Based specifically on the class of RV, a CDL is not required to drive a Super C RV. However, the size and weight of the rig can be a factor depending on the state or province in which you’re licensed.

For those who are unfamiliar, a CDL or Commercial Driver’s License must be obtained by truckers and commercial bus drivers. The driver of a Super C motorhome does not need to obtain a license like this based on the fact that he or she is driving a Super C but there are states and Canadian provinces that do require a driver to obtain a non-commercial version of this type of license if your rig weighs over 26,000 pounds, if it can carry more than 16 passengers, or if it’s equipped with air brakes.

Many Super C motorhomes weigh at or near 26,000 pounds but if you’re opting for a mode of Super C that exceeds 26,000 pounds you’ll likely need an enhanced license to do so. Check with your state or provincial motor vehicle agency to be sure. In general, it’s the state where you’re licensed that matters most. If you’re legal to drive a certain vehicle in your home state, other states offer reciprocity by allowing you to drive there as well even if they have more stringent requirements for their residents to be licensed.

Is a Super C motorhome right for you?

Choosing the class of RV that’s right for you involves evaluating your needs and desires as a traveler as well as where you intend to travel and where you intend to camp. Other important considerations include cost, fuel efficiency, and whether you need to accommodate a certain number of passengers and/or to be able to haul a small or large load.

A Super C motorhome is a wonderful, high-end rig that is just right for a unique population of travelers but it’s not a rig for everyone. While these fantastic RVs hold a multitude of advantages for some travelers they may be cost-prohibitive and/or excessively large for RVers who are traveling to explore smaller campsites in state and national parks, cities, or small lakeside campgrounds.

Many manufacturers offer Super C models including (but not limited to): Dynamax (Isata, Europa, DX3 and others), Renegade RV (Renegade XL, Ikon, Valencia, and Verona), Jayco (Seneca), Nexus RV (Triumph SC, Wraith, and Ghost), and Thor (Omni and Magnitude).

Super C motorhomes have become popular enough that even Newmar has gotten in on the game offering two models—the Super Star and the Supreme Aire. So there are plenty of options available for you to choose from.

Super C motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

While the focus of this post has been the Super C motorhome, there are so many choices out there. From the multitude of driveable Class A, B, and C rigs to the wide variety of towables, there’s a rig out there for almost everyone who wants to travel and camp.

And if a Super C doesn’t sound like it would be the right choice for you, how about a look at some small Class A motorhomes, instead?

Worth Pondering…

Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.

—Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

Stop! 5 Reasons to Stop at National Park Visitor Centers

National Park Visitor Centers offer opportunities to explore the nature and history of the parks, watch park films, and get trip-planning information. Park stores within visitor centers offer books and other products related to the park.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Stopping at the National Park Visitor Center is a must!

Our first National Park Visitor Center experience happened by chance. We stumbled upon the visitor center on our way into a park. Stopping at the visitor center wasn’t even on my radar at the time. The visitor center is now the first place that we stop when going to a new national or state park, state, city, or town and I am saddened when I see people pass up on their opportunity to stop at one.

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

When I was a National Park newbie (for lack of a better word) I didn’t know what to expect from park Visitor Centers. I thought that they were just a place to stretch your legs and maybe grab a quick snack from a vending machine. Friends, let me tell you—I was SO WRONG! The National Park Visitor Centers are so much more than any ol’ dingy rest area off of any ol’ winding interstate!

Below are five reasons that I sign the praises of National Park Visitor Centers and highly encourage you to not pass them up!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The National Park Visitor Center will enhance your experience

Each Visitor Center is unique but one thing that they each have in common is that they provide an abundance of information and resources that set you off on the right foot for fully appreciating your park experience. Whether you are in a Historical Site, Battlefield, Scenic Park, or Monument, chances are that your stop at the Visitor Center will yield one or more of the following experience-enhancing things:

Interpretive displays

These displays will set up the context that you are about to experience. I particularly think that the displays at Historic Sites and Battlefields are an absolute must! You will see various artifacts, learn about important people, and learn about the environment that existed when the events that you are about to experience unfolded. Some of these sites are even hands-on and provide great visuals that will not only educate you but also leave an image in your mind to help you digest your experience and appreciate it even more.

Video introduction to the park

Many parks have developed videos that will talk about the history of the park and significant events of note. The videos usually last from a few minutes to 20 minutes or so and along with the interpretive displays, give more depth to your understanding. Some of my favorite videos connect the place to the people who have lived in the areas that I am about to explore. Some share stories that I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to hear.

Demonstrations, guided tours, or other special events

Many National Park units offer special programming and events throughout the year. Some of these events include things like biking with a ranger, ranger-led tours, musket firing demonstrations, outdoor wildlife tours, and nature talks. The Visitor Centers are typically the hub for learning about much of this programming and is where you will be able to register for and depart for these special events.

Junior Ranger Programs

Many parks offer a Junior Ranger Program. These programs are typically targeted for children between the ages of 5 and 13 although many others will participate as well. The Visitors Center will have material for these programs and is the places where Junior Rangers return their completed booklets in exchange for a badge and swearing in ceremony.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The National Park Visitor Center will provide you with information that you can take with you as you explore

Sure, we all have smartphones these days and you can look up information about the park that you plan to explore well before setting foot within the park’s boundaries. Did you consider; however, that the information that you have online is only the beginning? For starters, don’t count on being able to use your phone in all areas of the park (you might not have access to data). Instead, stop by the Visitor Center to get information including the following:

The Visitor Center will load you up with maps and brochures

You will even have the opportunity to get a curated plan for the day when you chat with a Park Ranger or volunteer. We have found that Park Rangers and Volunteers are happy to share the inside scoop on the park in which they serve. If you’ve already done your research, you can ask them questions to deepen your love for the place that you are visiting as well.

Stop by the desk to ask a Park Ranger for their tips on how to best make use of your time

Park Rangers will often highlight areas that you might otherwise overlook. They will be able to point you to the key sites within the park (often not the most popular stops) that they recommend when you have only a limited amount of time to spend in the area. In our experience, Park Rangers are good folks and are an invaluable resource.

Zion National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. The Visitor Center can point you to the National Park Bookstore

A lot of the National Park Bookstores are contained within the park’s Visitor Center. There are some; however, that are located in another facility that is distinct from the Visitor Center. The park bookstores are typically where you will be able to find stamps and stickers to commemorate your visit in your National Park Passport (and support your stamp-collecting addiction). You can often find great gifts for yourself and others in the bookstores. I love it when you are able to support local artists at the park bookstores.

Arches National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. The National Park Visitor Center will increase your comfort with the park

In addition to adding to your knowledge and providing context for your visit, the Visitor Center is a place that will make you feel at home. You will find clean restrooms, air conditioned facilities, places to sit, friendly faces, and a safe place to explore. Visitor Centers will make you feel proud of the great care that is provided for America’s precious natural and historical places.

5. Visitor Centers will provide you with an opportunity to donate to the park

Many National Parks are open to the public each and every day without charging a fee. It is amazing to me that we have access to such special places and experiences at no, or low, cost. For this reason, when we are able to, it adds to our enjoyment to make a donation to the parks. The Visitor Centers provide an opportunity to do this.

Cowpens National Battlefield Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

While national parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year not all visitor centers are open year-round. Some close seasonally, others operating outdoors may close due to inclement weather or poor air quality.

Here are some helpful resources when it comes to National Parks:

Worth Pondering…

National parks are sacred and cherished places—our greatest personal and national treasures. It’s a gift to spend a year adventuring and capturing incredible images and stories in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

—Jonathan Irish, photographer

UNWRITTEN Rules for Overnight RV Parking at Cracker Barrel

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is a great convenience for RVers looking for a free place to park for the night. However, there are UNWRITTEN rules every RVers should follow.

Most RVers have heard of Wallydocking which is parking overnight in a Walmart parking lot. It’s a form of lot docking that extends to another popular location: Cracker Barrel.

There aren’t nearly as many Cracker Barrels as Walmarts but with 660 locations (as of March 2024) in the United States, there’s often one nearby. And the company has always been welcoming to RVers, allowing people to park overnight for free.

Of course, their hospitality should only be expected to extend so far. There are UNWRITTEN rules that RVers should abide by to ensure Cracker Barrel’s courtesy continues to be extended to us. 

I will outline those rules for you so you can enjoy what I like to call Barreldocking.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all Cracker Barrels allow overnight RV parking

Before we get into the rules, it’s important to note that not all Cracker Barrels allow free overnight parking. It is at the discretion of the manager whom you can call ahead and ask.

In most cases, the managers are more than happy to oblige. 

However, some state and city regulations do not allow overnight parking. Cracker Barrel, of course, has to abide by these regulations, so in some locales, they can’t permit you to stay in such cases.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to find Cracker Barrel locations

The easiest way to find Cracker Barrel locations is to visit their website’s location finder. You can enter a city, state, or zip code, and the map will display nearby locations. Or, you can browse by state.

There are only five states that do not have Cracker Barrel:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

The states with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • Florida (60)
  • Texas (54)
  • Tennessee (51)
  • Georgia (47)
  • North Carolina (41)
  • Kentucky (37)

The cities with the most Cracker Barrels are:

  • San Antonio (5)
  • Knoxville (4)
  • Louisville (4)
  • Nashville (4)
  • Jacksonville (4)

So then, what are those rules?

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be an overnight convenience, not a full-on campground stay. It’s perfect if you just need a place to sleep for the night on the way to your next destination.

Out of respect and gratitude for the company, it’s highly recommended you follow these UNWRITTEN rules.

By the way, this is one article in a series of UNWRITTEN Rules. You should also read:

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 1: Eat something

Ideally, RVers should enjoy a meal at any Cracker Barrel where they park overnight. Whether you have dinner when you pull up or breakfast when you wake up, it’s a great way to thank them for their hospitality.

After all, they’re not really offering their parking lot altruistically. They’re hoping (and perhaps expecting) you’ll eat at their restaurant. And why wouldn’t you?

It’s a win-win for RVers, too. They get a place to stay for only the price of a good meal. And thankfully, Cracker Barrel is reasonably priced and the food is yum delicious.

If you have a tight budget, you don’t have to have an entire meal. You can enjoy a slice of their delicious pies, cobblers, or biscuit beignets. 

If you’re not hungry, though, you have another option to be a patron.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 2: Buy something

In addition to its all-day breakfast and homemade cornbread, Cracker Barrel is known for its Old Country Store. This little shop is packed with fun little souvenirs, toys, clothes, and treats. So, if you don’t wish to eat in the restaurant, you can opt to purchase something from their store instead.

The jump-one-peg games and giant checkerboards are favorites. There’s always the Ye Old Candy Section, too!

RULE # 3: Don’t take prime parking

It’s considered proper boondocking etiquette not to take prime parking if you’re parking overnight at Cracker Barrel. Park off to the side or nearer the back of the lot. You don’t want to park right up front where dinner or breakfast patrons are most likely to park. 

In truth, you want to do this for your own privacy as much as you do it out of respect for the other patrons. You don’t want people peering through your windows as they walk into the restaurant.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 4: Park safely

You don’t want to take prime parking; however, always keep your safety in mind. It’s not, for instance, a good idea to park in dark areas that butt up against a back alley. Find a happy compromise between safety and not taking parking away from patrons that are coming just for a meal.

Cracker Barrel is, of course, not responsible for your safety. So, you need to rely on your own street smarts when choosing a parking space.

Here’s another parking hint: Don’t park next to the dumpsters. You don’t want to block the access for employees or their garbage truck service. And those trucks come VERY early in the morning. Often way before sun up! If you are next to a dumpster, I guarantee you will be awakened by the noise.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 5: Stay one night only

Parking overnight at Cracker Barrel is meant to be a one-night courtesy. You are not meant to stay more than one night. More so, you’re not meant to hang around all morning, either. Once you wake up and have your breakfast, you should clear out.

This brings me to the next UNWRITTEN rule…

RULE # 6: Don’t set up camp

You cannot treat a Cracker Barrel lot like a campground. You should not extend your awning, set out camping chairs or portable grill, or even extend your slides if you can avoid it. 

If your RV requires you to extend a slide to reach the sleeping quarters, try to find an end spot where you won’t overlap into the next parking space and/or only extend it the minimum amount to get through.

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RULE # 7: No bathing in their bathroom sinks

Some people use public restrooms to sponge bathe or wash their hair in sinks. While this behavior can be considered acceptable at some locations (like some rest stops), you shouldn’t do it in a Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrels are restaurants serving food to patrons who trust that they uphold the highest health standards.

Customers don’t want to enter a restroom in between their entree and dessert course to find someone sponge bathing. Cracker Barrel management doesn’t want that either. It’s best to tap into your own water supply if you’re in dire need of a cleaning.

On that same note, don’t take your pet’s potty near the restaurant! Take them away from the restaurant (especially away from the entrance) to do their business and don’t forget your biodegradable doggy poo bags.

(PSST! If you travel with a pet, check out these UNWRITTEN Rules of Camping with a Dog)

Cracker Barrel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where else can you stay overnight?

Most of us know about parking overnight at Cracker Barrel or Walmart or Harvest Hosts but there are numerous other places where RVers can stop—places right along the highway where pets are welcome and you can find just about anything you need for an overnight stay.

Worth Pondering…

 Folks know Cracker Barrel for comfort foods, the fire place, the rocking chair, and nostalgic candy.

—Jim Taylor

The Class B +: Goldilocks of Motorhomes

Most RVers know there are Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes but did you also know there are Class B + motorhomes? It’s confusing, though. A Class B + is really a Class C motorhome.

Class B + is a made-up marketing term. But the term Class B + motorhome is so widely used now that people and RV salespeople commonly refer to them that way. Whether accurate or not the Class B+ motorhome is the choice for many who want something bigger than a B but smaller and less boxy than a C. 

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why choose a Class B + motorhome?

The short and simple answer for most people is because a Class B + motorhome has more space than the Class B but is a small enough motorhome to be easily maneuvered.

Class B motorhomes are also known as campervans. They consist of a van body. The RV stuff is built and formed inside the walls of the van. It can get pretty close quarters in a Class B van.

A Class B + motorhome (and the traditional Class C) is built on cutaway chassis. A cutaway chassis consists of the engine and cab and behind that just the rails and wheels without walls. That back portion of the cutaway chassis is what RV manufacturers build the motorhome part on. Think of the motorhome part as a box attached to rails and outriggers to that cutaway chassis.

The box is a bit bigger and has more living room than the B van.

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is with the Class B + designation?

In short, a Class B + is an unofficial industry classification that refers to a Class C size (chassis/body) motorhome minus the cab overhang at the front that typically is used for sleeping in a Class C. For registration and insurance purposes, in fact, Class B+ motorhomes are considered a Class C.

People wanted something that doesn’t have that overhang so the industry came up with the name Class B +. In other words, it’s a marketing term. Totally made up!

A Class B Plus motorhome is built on the same cutaway chassis cabs used for Class C motorhomes typically from Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, or Ford. The living space of the Class C motorhome or any class for that matter is built by a third-party RV manufacturer. As an example, Leisure Travel Vans builds on the Ford Transit and the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Advantages of a Class B +

Since the only real difference between a Class C and Class B + motorhome is the absence of the traditional overhang associated with Class Cs, a Class B + offers more space and amenities than Class B campervans.

Class B + benefits

With a Class B motorhome you don’t usually get a full bath. And if they have a shower, it’s most often a wet shower meaning the entire bathroom gets wet when you shower in it. Most Class B showers share space with the toilet and sink.

Most Class B + motorhome models, however, offer an enclosed dry shower separate from the toilet and sink which stay dry as you shower.

There’s another thing: Because the Class B + motorhome is smaller than a Class A they are easier to drive and park. You can pretty much take a B+ anywhere you can take a B. It can even fit in a parking spot at most big-box stores.

In fact, you can use a Class B + as a second vehicle, running errands, shopping, doing everything we would with the family car.

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Important features to look for in a Class B+

Despite being a niche rig type, you’ll find quite a few Class B+ models on the market. How do you decide which Class B+ motorhome is best for you? Here are a few features to consider.

Off-grid capabilities

Class B+ manufacturers understand that their nimble rigs appeal to those wanting to travel off the beaten path so units are designed with a range of off-grid capabilities. Expect to find solar power systems, water filtration, cassette toilet options, and more, either standard or as optional upgrades. 

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Platform

Do you want your rig to run on diesel or gasoline? What engine size do you want? Which van manufacturer do you prefer? These elements all relate to the Class B+ chassis which provides the platform on which the rig is built.

Class B+ motorhomes are primarily built on a Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, or Ford E-350-450 chassis and come with both diesel and gasoline engines. You can also find items like all-wheel drive and automotive handling features. There can be more than one platform available from the same Class B+ manufacturer. 

Style

Within the Class B+ motorhome category, you’ll find a range of exteriors to suit your taste. Some exteriors are stylized more like traditional motorhomes with graphic swirls and bright colors. Others use a single color for the exterior. 

Class B + motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why are Class B Plus motorhomes so popular?

I think it’s because the big Class As are big and some of the smaller Class Bs are a little bit too small for first time owners. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears…she found the exact right one. It’s not too big, not too small.

Worth Pondering…

Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.

—C.W. Ceran

The History of Tubac Presidio

Conflict has shaped the Southwest since colonizers arrived in the late 1600s. From the earliest presidios to a modern-day Army base, fighting near and far has caused communities to thrive and fall.

Tubac nestles in a high, mountain-framed valley on the banks of the Santa Cruz River. This pastoral landscape of rolling grasslands, shaggy with mesquite, is 47 miles south of Tucson and 25 miles north of the Mexican border.

In 1948, landscape painter Dale Nichols opened an art school and the quiet little burg began an evolution into an artist colony. Today, over 80 shops and restaurants are clustered in the village plaza where old adobes, Spanish courtyards, and ocotillo fences blend seamlessly with a handful of newer buildings. There’s a whiff of emergent Santa Fe here without the jostling crowds.

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s not immediately apparent in this peaceful setting is that Tubac was born of violence.

The New World Spanish Empire known as New Spain sent missionaries to Christianize the natives.

Father Eusebio Francisco Kino arrived in 1687 and began work among Indians the Spaniards called Pimas. In their language, they were O’odham, or the people. Kino traveled the region he called Pimeria Alta from today’s Sonora, Mexico to southern Arizona establishing missions including Tumacácori, just south of Tubac.

Spanish colonists began to arrive in the Santa Cruz valley during the 1730s, farming and raising cattle, sheep, and goats. Angry over the appropriation of land and harsh punishment doled out by missionaries, the Pimas revolted in 1751. Led by Luis of Saric, they attacked several settlements. When the violence ended, more than 100 colonists were dead.

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

As a result of the rebellion, a presidio was founded at Tubac in June 1752, the first European settlement in Arizona. The 50 cavalrymen garrisoned at the Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac were to protect the missions in the area and quell uprisings. The presidio would serve as a base for continued exploration of New Spain.

Soldiers were encouraged to bring their families which gave Tubac an air of permanence. Indians killed the first captain of the post in 1759. The man who would become Tubac’s most famous resident, Juan Bautista de Anza, assumed command.

De Anza led numerous campaigns against the Apaches and achieved a notable reputation as a soldier and leader. However, he is best known for establishing a long-sought overland route through the desert to northern California. Following a successful journey in 1774, de Anza immediately began organizing a colonizing expedition. In 1775, de Anza set out from Tubac with more than 240 men, women, and children on a treacherous trek of 1,200 miles to establish a settlement near the San Francisco Bay.

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

The journey emptied Tubac of most of its occupants. Increasing Apache raids drove away others. In 1776, the presidio was moved to Tucson. Without military protection, Tubac languished for a decade. It wasn’t until the presidio was reactivated that the community began to recover.

The Royal Fort of St. Rafael at Tubac was established in 1787. This time the garrison consisted of four Spanish officers and 80 Pima Indians. The viceroy of New Spain, Bernardo de Galvez implemented a policy to settle Indians who sought peace near the presidios on makeshift reservations. The goal was to make them dependent on the Spaniards by giving them gifts, supplies, food, sugar, firearms, and ammunition.

This plan of peace by deceit gained the Spaniard’s allies against warring factions. It also pushed the Indians away from a nomadic lifestyle and toward an agricultural one considered more appropriate by European standards. Tubac enjoyed a period of relative calm.

Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 and the new Republic of Mexico’s flag flew over Tubac until 1848. That year, an Apache attack caused great loss of life. Months later, men poured out of town streaming for the California gold fields. Tubac was abandoned again.

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

Tubac was part of the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 and fortune hunters began making their way back. Charles Poston and associates formed the Sonora Exploration and Mining Co. and used Tubac as their headquarters. They repaired some of the old presidio buildings and moved in.

Poston who would become known as the Father of Arizona for his role in procuring Arizona’s Territorial status served as mayor, judge, treasurer, and justice of the peace. By 1859, Tubac was the largest town in the region and Arizona’s first newspaper was established there.

When the Civil War broke out, U.S. troops were withdrawn from Arizona to fight in the East. Tubac residents moved to Tucson and did not return until the presidio was regarrisoned in 1865 after the war.

For the next two decades, Tubac’s fortunes again depended entirely on military presence. This was the heart of the frontier, exposed and vulnerable, and it wasn’t until the Apaches were subdued in the 1880s that Tubac stabilized.

But that also was about the time silver strikes led to booming growth at Tombstone. And the railroad was routed through Tucson sparking that town’s development. Tubac had lost its position of prominence.

Tumacácori National Historical Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Getting there: From Tucson, travel south on Interstate 19 to Exit 34. Cross under the interstate and continue south on the frontage road another half-mile to Tubac.

History walk: The Juan Bautista de Anza Trail is a 4.5-mile pathway connecting Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Tumacácori National Historical Park. The level trail traces the Santa Cruz River through shady woodlands and follows the route Juan Bautista de Anza took on his expeditions. It’s popular with hikers and birders.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park: Arizona’s first state park was established in 1958. The Presidio was the final staging area for two expeditions to California, the second of which resulted in the founding of San Francisco and is commemorated in Anza Days every October at the park. Long before colonial days, the site was home to O’odham, Tohono O’odham, and Apache Indians. You’ll see evidence of their contributions and those of other cultures in the park’s museum and archaeological dig.

Tumacácori National Historical Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tumacácori National Historical Park: This is the site of a Jesuit outpost settled in 1691 by Eusebio Francisco Kino. The current building, Mission San Jose de Tumacacori was built in the late 18th century. In 1921, construction began on a roof to protect the interior of the mission. The mission grounds and visitor center are open for exploration and guided tours are offered January through March.

Worth Pondering…

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

—Basil of Caesarea, Ancient Greek theologian (330-379)

A Fool’s Errand and Other Forms of Foolery on April Fools’ Day

I know your inbox is probably full of pranks today but…

April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.

—Mark Twain

Every year on April 1, the world turns into a minefield of pranks and deception—all in the name of a centuries-old holiday. But why and how did this Fools’ Day tradition start and what’s the significance of the date?

One of the oddest annual traditions on the modern calendar falls on the first day of April otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Once a day reserved for harmless pranks pulled on friends and family, April Fools’ Day now reaches into the furthest depths of the internet with multimillion-dollar brands and corporations getting in on the fun. Although the tradition is certainly an oddity, it’s strange still that no one is exactly sure where April Fools’ Day comes from.

Madera Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some historians think when France moved to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, those who still celebrated the New Year in April (having not gotten the memo, wilfully or otherwise about the calendar change) were labeled April fools. Others have tied the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria which took place in late March. A more modern version of April Fools’ Day took root in 18th-century Britain before evolving into the mischief holiday we know today.

The origins of the prank-lovers’ favorite holiday are murky. It’s possible that the entire concept of April Fools’ Day is itself a prank. Or is it?

The origin of April Fools’ Day is debated but its history covers centuries of April Fools’ pranks from family high jinks (like pranks to play on your parents or your kids) to office pranks (like having your co-worker call a funny number) and April Fools’ jokes at everyone’s expense.

Your pranking ambitions might be a little more modest but what gave rise to those ambitions in the first place? When is April Fools’ Day 2024? And why do we collectively try to pull a fast one on this day? Let’s look into the origin of April Fools’ Day.

Spring wildflowers, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

April Fools’ Day is an annual holiday that consists of practical jokes, pranks and hoaxes. Pranksters often unmask their joke by yelling a loud and proud, April Fools at their victim. This custom has been observed for hundreds of years.

April Fools’ Day always occurs on the first of April. In 1561, a Flemish poet wrote some comical verse about a nobleman who sends his servant back and forth on ludicrous errands in preparation for a wedding feast (the poem’s title roughly translates to “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April”). The first mention of April Fools’ Day in Britain was in 1686 when biographer John Aubrey described April 1 as a Fooles holy day.

It’s clear that the habit of sending springtime rubes on a fool’s errand was rampant in Europe by the late 1600s. On April Fools’ Day in 1698, so many saps were tricked into schlepping to the Tower of London to watch the washing of the lions (a ceremony that didn’t exist) that the April 2 edition of a local newspaper had to debunk the hoax—and publicly mock the schmucks who fell for it.

The April 2, 1698 edition of Dawks’s News-Letter reported that “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” This is the first recorded instance of a popular April Fools’ Day prank that involved sending people to the Tower of London to see the washing of the lions. The joke was that there was no lion-washing ceremony. It was a fool’s errand.

Back to the origin of April Fools’ Day and how did it become an international phenomenon?

The totally legit, not-pulling-your-leg answer to the origin of April Fools’ Day is: Nobody really knows.

Spring in the South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historians do have some clues, though. For one thing, we do know that April Fools’ Day customs date back to at least Renaissance Europe but it’s likely the tradition originated long before then.

Some historians have linked April Fools’ Day to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria where at the end of March people would come together to commemorate the resurrection of the god Attis. It was a celebration of renewal in which revelers would dress up in disguises and imitate others.

It’s also possible that the medieval celebration of the Feast of Fools where a mock bishop or pope was elected and church customs were parodied could have inspired the day.

In 1561, an early, clear-cut reference to April Fools’ Day appears in a Flemish poem written by Eduard de Dene. In the poem, a nobleman sends his servant out on a series of wild errands. The servant eventually realizes that these are fool’s errands because the date is April 1.

Scholars say one of the first mentions of an April Fools’ Day in English appears in John Aubrey’s 1686 book Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme which reads, in part: “We observe it on the first of April. And so, it is kept in Germany everywhere.”

Spring in the South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

April Fools’ Day is apparently an ancient enough tradition that the earliest recorded mentions including the following excerpt from a 1708 letter to Britain’s Apollo magazine ask the same question we do: “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?”

Even in 1760 there was speculation as to the origins of the holiday with a line in Poor Robin’s Almanac reading: “The First of April some do say. Is set apart for all Fool’s Day. But why the people call it so. Nor I nor they themselves do know”

One likely predecessor to the origin of April Fools’ Day is the Roman tradition of Hilaria, a spring festival held around March 25 in honor of the “first day of the year longer than the night” (to us, the vernal equinox which typically falls on March 20). Festivities included games, processions, and masquerades during which disguised commoners could imitate nobility to devious ends.

It’s hard to say whether this ancient revelry’s similarities to modern April Fools’ Day are legit or coincidence as the first recorded mentions of the holiday didn’t appear until several hundred years later.

While April Fools’ Day is not technically considered a national holiday, many countries have adopted the idea of playing pranks on or around April 1.

For example, France celebrates April Fools’ Day on April 1 by sticking a paper fish onto the backs of as many people as possible while yelling Poisson d’Avril! (Fish of April). This particular tradition is now mostly practiced by children.

Snowdrops, a spring flower © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This centuries-old name is linked to a 1508 poem by Renaissance composer and writer Eloy d’Amerval who used the phrase to describe the springtime spawn of fish as the easiest to catch; young and hungry. April fish were considered more susceptible to hooks than older fish swimming around at other times of year. Today, celebrating April fish in France—as well as Belgium and Italy—is akin to April Fools’ Day complete with pranks.

Prima Aprilis, uważaj, bo się pomylisz! is a phrase frequently spoken on April 1 in Poland. This translates to: “April Fools’ Day, be careful—you can be wrong!” Be wary of any appointment changes or news reports on this day if you don’t want to fall victim to a trickster’s trap.

A foolish person in Scotland is called agowk so it makes sense that the day is traditionally known as Hunt the Gowk Day. Scotland is unique in that they celebrate April Fools’ Day for the first two days of April. The first day is celebrated by pranking and hoaxing people while the second—known as Tailie Day—is when people place tails on each other’s backs.

On Första April (April 1) in Sweden many are out attempting to trick others as is the usual activity for April Fools’ Day. However, if you are successful at tricking someone, instead of screaming “April fools!” you’d shout the phrase “April, April, din dumma sill, jag kan lura dig vart jag vill!” before running away. This means: “April, April, you stupid herring, I can trick you wherever I want!”

In Greece, successfully tricking someone on this day is said to bring the prankster good luck for the entire year. In some parts of the country, rainfall on April 1 is said to have healing abilities.

Most of us don’t especially enjoy being pranked, tricked, or otherwise made to look like a fool but April 1 arrives all the same. If you’re dreading the shenanigans inherent in that most dreaded of holidays, it would behoove you to peruse the calendar for all the other days to celebrate. Here are five of them:

Although we may never know its true origins, April 1 has come to represent a day of joy and comedy as we move out of the darkness of winter and into the spring.

And no matter how you choose to celebrate the day, it’s best to be wary of what you read and what you hear on April Fools’ Day.

Except for this story, of course!

Spring along the Pacific Northwest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numbers don’t lie

  • 265: Jokes included in Philogelos, an ancient Greek book dating to the fourth or fifth century
  • $50,000: Taco Bell’s donation for Liberty Bell upkeep after claiming the brand bought it in a 1996 prank
  • 2000: Year Google released the mind-reading MentalPlex search tool, its first April Fools’ prank
  • 3,900+: Age of the world’s oldest known joke written by ancient Sumerians in 1900 BC

Worth Pondering…

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.

—Charles Lamb