Memorial Day 2024: Best Arizona Road Trips for the Long Holiday Weekend

Each year, the summer road trip season kicks off with Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day weekend changes things. The calendar claims that weeks of spring still remain on the books. But for all intents and purposes, it’s hello, summer. The holiday also provides a chance to get out of town for a wonderful stretch. 

While backyard barbecues and pool parties are great, there’s a whole lot of Arizona just waiting for you. Take this opportunity to head someplace cool or wet or both. For a few glorious days, you can refresh and recharge. Now you’re ready to face the summer. At least until the July 4 break.

Here are some of Arizona’s best Memorial Day getaways. 

Old Town Cottonwood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Verde Valley adventure: Tigers, a zip line and a historic train ride

Cottonwood and the Verde Valley are your destinations for an action-packed holiday weekend.

Nestled in the high desert of Camp Verde, Out of Africa Wildlife Park provides sanctuary for hundreds of exotic animals and features dozens of large predators. The preserve spreads across 100 acres of rolling terrain. Tiger Splash is the signature show. There is no training and no tricks.

The daily program is spontaneous, just animals frolicking with their caretakers. Visitors can also take a narrated African Bush Safari and attend the Giant Snake Show.

Outside the park is Predator Zip Line which offers a two- to three-hour zip line tour across five lines and a suspension bridge high above the animals. Tours are $99.95; you can save $10 by booking online. 

For a ground-based journey, climb aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad and rumble into scenic backcountry. The train departs from the station in Clarkdale and travels into a high-walled canyon carved by the Verde River and lined by cottonwood trees. Such a rich riparian habitat lures a variety of wildlife, notably eagle, hawk, heron, mule deer, javelina, coyote, and beaver.

By the way, I have a series of posts on the Verde Valley:

Verde Canyon Railroad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrate Wupatki National Monument’s centennial

On the quiet prairie northeast of Flagstaff the pueblos of Wupatki National Monument rise like red-boned ghosts above swaying grasses.

The eruption of Sunset Crater in 1085 covered the dry basin with volcanic ash and cinders creating arable terrain. Soon afterward, Ancestral Puebloans moved in and built the freestanding dwellings that appear almost as natural rock formations.

This year Wupatki celebrates its centennial as a national monument. Short pathways lead to up-close encounters with a handful of these ancient structures. Behind the visitor center, a paved trail leads to Wupatki Pueblo, the largest dwelling in the park. The sprawling three-story ruin contains nearly 100 rooms and straddles an outcropping of sandstone.

Admission is $25 per vehicle and covers both Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, connected by a scenic road.

Tackle the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course

After your visit to Wupatki and Sunset Crater, you’ll have the rest of the weekend to experience Arizona’s summer capital. Why not sample the tree-top thrills of Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Fort Tuthill County Park?

Conquer rope swings, climbing walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges, and ziplines. There are multiple circuits on the adult playground plus a course designed for children ages 7-11. Adult course costs $60 as does the zipline adventure or combine the two for $99. Children’s course is $30.

Ax throwing and laser tag in Flagstaff

If you prefer indoor activities, FlagTagAZ offers ax and knife throwing, laser tag, darts, arcade games, and more. They also serve beer, wine, and mead in their pizza café.

Flagstaff Brewery Trail

Speaking of beer, there’s something supremely satisfying about a day spent walking around Flagstaff’s historic downtown and Southside neighborhoods with their eclectic collections of shops, galleries, restaurants and, yes, craft breweries.

There are eight breweries to be exact, all waiting to quench your thirst with a cold craft beer. You can download a digital passport and score a free commemorative pint glass.

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

You really should see Canyon de Chelly. Here’s how.

At Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona, sheer cliffs plunge hundreds of feet to lush bottomlands lined with crops, pastures, and cottonwood trees.

It’s a staggering blend of high drama and pastoral beauty. The scenic canyon shelters thousands of archaeological sites while dozens of Navajo families still live and farm there during warmer months.

Take one day to travel the rim drives for the stunning vistas. The North Rim Drive is 17 miles with three overlooks at prominent cliff dwellings and is best in the morning. The South Rim Drive is 19 miles with seven viewpoints is even more spectacular and is especially exquisite when afternoon light floods the canyon. 

Then take another day to explore the inner canyon with a Navajo guide. Private operators offer jeep, horseback, or hiking outings. Park admission is free; there are fees for tours.

Tours also leave daily from Thunderbird Lodge within the park.

Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation also manages Cottonwood Campground near the Canyon de Chelly visitor center. The campground has grills, picnic tables, and restrooms. No showers or hookups are available. Maximum RV length is 40 feet.

Here are some helpful resources:

Fool Hollow Lake: Fish, hike, or take a swim 

Nestled in the pines outside of Show Low, 149-acre Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area contains one of the loveliest bodies of water in the White Mountains which is high praise indeed. There’s big open water and isolated coves, quiet marshes, and long channels.

This is the kind of lake that makes you want to jump in a kayak and go exploring. Fortunately, you can. Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals are available from J&T’s WildLife Outdoors at the east boat launch ramp. They also offer a guided pontoon boat tour. You can learn about Adair, the town submerged beneath the water.

Landlubbers can hike the 1.5-mile trail running along the edge of the lake. Anglers try their luck landing rainbow trout, bass, walleye, northern pike, and more. And yes, swimming is permitted. Fool Hollow also has campsites for tents and RVs. Park admission is $7 per vehicle Mondays-Thursdays and $10 per vehicle Fridays-Sundays and on holidays.

Prescott Courthouse Plaza © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore art shows in Prescott

When artists display their work on the big grassy lawn of Prescott’s Courthouse Plaza, you know summer has arrived. Spend a day browsing, listening to music, and enjoying the mild temperatures.

The Phippen Museum holds its popular Western Art Show and Sale on the plaza May 25-27. More than 100 artists will have booths set up beneath the big elm trees. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday. A Quick Draw Challenge will happen on the north steps of the courthouse from 2-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

With a little planning, you can double your art show fun in Prescott. The Prescott OffStreet Festival is May 25-26 at its new home, Pine Ridge Marketplace, formerly the Gateway Mall. There will be fine art, photography, handmade crafts, and food. The fun starts at 9 a.m. both days and ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Scenic drive: Traverse more than 460 curves on the Coronado Trail

A segment of U.S. 191, the Coronado Trail National Scenic Byway twists and turns for 123 miles between Morenci and Springerville in eastern Arizona. The road parallels the New Mexico state line and is the nation’s curviest and least-traveled federal highway.

Expect a 6,000-foot elevation change as the Coronado Trail climbs from cactus-strewn desert to lush alpine meadows and aspen-clad mountains with more than 460 curves along the way. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado is thought to have followed this route centuries ago as he searched for the Seven Cities of Gold.

The road passes the mining towns of Clifton and Morenci and curves around one of the world’s largest open pit mines. It snakes its way up narrow Chase Canyon and switchbacks through scrubby woodland that gives way to dense pine forests as you climb.

The Coronado Trail skirts the edge of the Blue Range Primitive Area where Mexican gray wolves roam. Stop at the high perch of Blue Vista Point for incredible views and to breathe the cool mountain air. Oxygen at 9,100 feet just seems to have a fragrance all its own.

Beyond Hannagan Meadow Lodge, the road softens its tone. The curves are lazier as it winds through forest to alpine ringed by mountains. From here, continue past brush-covered plateaus and the shimmering waters of Nelson Reservoir to the towns of Springerville and Eagar nestled in Round Valley, an idyllic spot to land on Memorial Day weekend.

Queen Mine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee Queen Mine Tour

Back in the days when copper flowed like a river from the hills of Bisbee, the Queen Mine was one of the richest producers in town. The mine operated for nearly a century before closing in 1975.

Today, retired miners lead tours 1,500 feet deep into the dark cool tunnels gouged from the Mule Mountains. Visitors outfitted in yellow slickers and hard hats with headlamps get an up-close look at mining conditions, techniques and dangers. You’ll emerge from the Queen Mine Tour with a whole new appreciation of your current job.

Tours depart several times throughout the day and reservations are required.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Old Bisbee Ghost Tour

When you’re above ground again in this mile-high town, sign up for an Old Bisbee Ghost Tour.

The city’s rowdy past led to some hard deaths among the citizenry and Bisbee maintains a healthy population of lingering ghosts. You’ll learn about them all on this tour that departs at 7 p.m. each evening and lasts about an hour and 45 minutes.

Guides dress in period garb and spin sinister tales of the restless spirits as you roam the twilight streets of Bisbee. Even ghostly skeptics will enjoy the great history and fascinating stories.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3 ways to see Monument Valley: Hike, drive, guided tour

Straddling the Arizona-Utah border, Monument Valley draws visitors from around the world.

Within the tribal park are a restaurant, gift shop, campground, and the Navajo-owned View Hotel. The rooms with private balconies are a great place to watch one of Monument Valley’s lavish sunrises.

Historic Goulding’s Lodge sits just outside the park and also offers a full range of services including guided tours.

The scenic 17-mile drive that winds through the heart of the valley reveals stunning views of the buttes. If you want more of an outdoor experience, hike the 3.2-mile Wildcat Trail that loops around the West Mitten butte.

Yet the best way to experience the beauty of this iconic western landscape and learn about the culture and history of the people who inhabit it is by signing up for a Navajo-led tour. Tours leave daily from the View Hotel and Goulding’s Lodge.

If you need ideas, check out:

Worth Pondering…

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

—Aldo Leopold, 1937

Safety and Security Tips for Traveling in your RV

Traveling into the great unknown can be a lot of fun. Discovering new places adds excitement to an RV trip. Yet many people worry about RV safety. RV security is an important factor to consider and there are things you can do to increase the security of your RV, no matter where you are traveling.

RVing has become one of the most popular ways to travel. But a successful and safe RV trip takes preparation and planning to make it a good experience. Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free.

Embarking on an RV adventure brings the promise of freedom and exploration but ensuring safety as you travel in your RV is critical. In this article I delve into the realm of RV security providing key safety measures to safeguard your RV while you travel.

Cracker Barrel in Goodyear, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware of your surroundings: A critical crime-prevention tool

This rule of thumb sounds obvious but it can be easy to forget. Whether you’re parked at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or boondocking in a national forest, always be aware of what’s around you. When you stop somewhere, get out and take a look around before you commit to staying. We’ve stopped in places where we just didn’t feel safe. Rather than try to talk ourselves into it, we’ve moved on.

We’ve also learned that those uncomfortable feelings are a matter of perspective. We’re more cautious when we’re in the backcountry in areas that are unfamiliar to us. Use your best judgment and only stay in places where you are comfortable.

Leave temptation behind: Keep valuables hidden

Though it may seem obvious, you should never leave valuables in plain sight and unattended. Laptops, smartphones, cameras, and other personal belongings should be stored when they are not in use.

This one seems pretty obvious. To eliminate temptation put all your things away prior to leaving your site. This could include camping chairs, cooking equipment, and/or firewood. Don’t make it easy for them!

Don’t litter your site with valuables. Put away tablets, cell phones, and extra gadgets. Pull the blinds after dark in your rig. Don’t be a lone ranger; camp near other people. Get a safe. Each of these simple steps will keep robbers at bay.

Camping with your dog © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up your campsite with security in mind

From the moment you park your RV, you should start thinking about security. For instance, most RVers reverse into their parking spot but this means that your rig is more accessible.

Also, take a good look at your surroundings and follow your gut feeling. If something about the spot can become a security risk, you’re better off finding a space that feels safer.

If you’re bringing your furry friends with you, you’ll also need to think about their well-being. Therefore, you’ll need to follow RV pet safety best-practices like sweeping for choking hazards and making sure you’re far from a busy road.

Lock it down: The importance of robust door and window locks

One of the first lines of defense for your RV is secure entry points. Invest in quality door and window locks to thwart potential intruders. Consider upgrading to smart locks that provide added convenience and control through mobile apps ensuring you can monitor and secure your RV even when you’re away exploring.

One of the easiest ways to deter thieves is to simply lock your doors anytime you leave, no matter how long you’re going to be gone.  Also, make sure to close and lock exterior storage compartments.

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

Illuminate and deter: Motion sensor lights for enhanced security

Enhance your RV’s security by strategically placing motion sensor lights around your vehicle. These lights not only illuminate the surroundings at night but also serve as a deterrent to potential intruders. The sudden burst of light can startle and discourage unwanted visitors adding an extra layer of protection to your home on wheels.

Eyes everywhere: The benefits of a security camera system

In the digital age, technology offers advanced solutions for RV security. Consider installing a security camera system to keep a watchful eye on your RV. Modern systems provide real-time monitoring accessible from your smartphone giving you peace of mind and the ability to act promptly in case of any suspicious activity.

Conceal and protect: Disguising your RV with camouflage measures

Make your RV less enticing to potential thieves by adopting camouflage measures. This could include discreet branding, covering valuable items, or even using window coverings to conceal the interior. The goal is to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, reducing the risk of burglary when your RV is parked.

Camping at Lady Bird Johnson Park near Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

GPS tracking for recovery: Protecting your investment with GPS technology

In the unfortunate event that your RV is stolen, having a GPS tracking system can be a game-changer. These devices allow you to track the location of your RV in real-time aiding law enforcement in recovering your property quickly. It’s a worthwhile investment for both security and peace of mind.

Community vigilance: Utilizing the power of RV communities

The RV community is vast and supportive. Leverage this by staying connected with fellow travelers. Join online forums, share your location with trusted friends, and participate in local RV groups. In the world of RVing, a collective eye is often the best security measure with fellow enthusiasts looking out for each other’s well-being.

Camping at Palo Casino RV Resort, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Emergency preparedness: Security beyond theft

Security extends beyond theft prevention. Equip your RV with emergency preparedness items including a first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors. Being ready for unexpected situations helps to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your fellow travelers.

Have a way to protect yourself

Whether you’re at an RV park or out in the wilderness, there may come a time when you need to protect yourself. This can mean protection from another person, or from a wild animal like a bear or mountain lion.

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to self-defense from firearms to pepper/bear sprays to blunt objects. Pick the method that you feel most comfortable with. Then, practice using it. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you know how to use it before you ever need to (and hopefully, you won’t).

Camping in Dixie National Forest, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never post your current location on social media

I totally get that you want to share your cool adventures and amazing places you are at. But, be cautious about giving your exact location and time.

If you want to post a photo of your RV at your campsite or in a certain location, refrain from posting the campground name and town you’re currently located. In other words, keep your social media shares vague. Wait until after you leave the area to share those beautiful views online.

Here are some helpful resources on increasing the security and safety of your RV:

Effective security requires a layered approach. There is no single security measure that is guaranteed to deter and prevent crime. However, by implementing the layered approach outlined above, you can feel confident that you have a good plan in place to deter and prevent crime.

As you embark on your RV journey, remember that security is a crucial aspect of traveling. Implementing these measures can safeguard your home on wheels, allowing you to explore with confidence. By combining technology, community support, and smart practices, you’ll fortify your RV against potential risks ensuring a secure and enjoyable adventure on the open road.

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

—Okakura Kazuko

Memorial Day Weekend: Let’s Go Camping

Each year, the camping season kicks off on the Memorial Day weekend

As Memorial Day approaches, it’s time to dust off the camping gear, pack up the RV, and hit the road for a rejuvenating adventure. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and what better way to kick off the season than by immersing yourself in nature’s embrace?

Camping offers an abundance of benefits beyond just a temporary escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It provides an opportunity to disconnect from screens, breathe in fresh air, and reconnect with loved ones or simply with one-self. Whether you’re an experienced RVer or a novice camper, there’s something special about spending a weekend under the stars.

One of the greatest appeals of camping is its versatility. Whether you prefer pitching a tent in a wooded area, parking your RV at a scenic campground, or even glamming it up in a luxurious glamping site, there’s a camping experience to suit every preference and comfort level. Memorial Day weekend presents an ideal opportunity to explore a new campground or revisit an old favorite.

As you make plans for Memorial Day weekend, consider embarking on a camping adventure to celebrate the beauty of the great outdoors. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a chance to unplug and unwind, camping offers an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with nature and create lasting memories with loved ones. So grab your gear, hit the trail, and let the adventure begin!

Wondering where to camp?

Buccaneer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi

Located on the beach in Waveland, Buccaneer is in a natural setting of large moss-draped oaks, marshlands, and the Gulf of Mexico. Buccaneer State Park offers Buccaneer Bay, a 4.5 acre waterpark, Pirate’s Alley Nature Trail, playground, Jackson’s Ridge Disc Golf, activity building, camp store, and Castaway Cove pool. 

Buccaneer State Park has 206 premium campsites with full amenities including sewer. In addition to the premium sites, Buccaneer has an additional 70 campsites that are set on a grassy field overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Castaway Cove (campground activity pool) is available to all visitors to the Park for a fee. 

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

Enjoy camping, fishing, and boating at Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico’s largest state park. Elephant Butte Lake can accommodate watercraft of many styles and sizes including kayaks, jet skis, pontoons, sailboats, ski boats, cruisers, and houseboats. Besides sandy beaches, the park offers restrooms, picnic areas, and developed camping sites with electric and water hook-ups for RVs.

Elephant Butte has 133 partial hookup sites and 1,150 sites for primitive camping.

Get more tips for visiting Elephant Butte State Park

Cedar Pass Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Cedar Pass Campground has 96 level sites with scenic views of the badlands formations. Enjoy the stunning sunsets, incredible night skies, and breathtaking sunrises from the comfort of your RV. Camping in Cedar Pass Campground is limited to 14 days. Due to fire danger, campfires are not permitted in this campground and collection of wood is prohibited. However, camp stoves or contained charcoal grills can be used in campgrounds and picnic areas.

Get more tips for visiting Badlands National Park

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Hunting Island is South Carolina’s single most popular state park attracting more than a million visitors a year as well as a vast array of land and marine wildlife. Five miles of beaches, thousands of acres of marsh and maritime forest, a saltwater lagoon, and ocean inlet are all part of the park’s natural allure.

Hunting Island State Park camping is available at 102 campsites with water and 50-amp electrical hookups, shower and restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground. Two campgrounds are located at the northern end of the park near the ocean. One of the campgrounds provides individual water and electrical hookups. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. A designated walk-in tent camping area is available that includes tent pads, fire rings, picnic tables, no power, and centralized water. 

Get more tips for visiting Hunting Island State Park

Blanco State Park, Texas

This small park hugs a one-mile stretch of the Blanco River. On the water, you can swim, fish, paddle, or boat. On land, you can picnic, hike, camp, watch for wildlife, and geocache. A CCC-built picnic area and pavilion are available for a group gathering. Anglers fish for largemouth and Guadalupe bass, channel catfish, sunfish, and rainbow trout. Swim anywhere along the river. Small children will enjoy the shallow wading pool next to Falls Dam. Rent tubes at the park store.

Choose from full hookup sites or sites with water and electricity. Eight full hookup campsites with 30/50-amp electric service are available. Nine full hookup sites with 30-amp electric are available. 12 sites with 30 amp electric and water hookups are also available. Amenities include a picnic table, shade shelter, fire ring with grill, and lantern post.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia

Wander among the pines at Laura S. Walker, the first state park named for a woman, an oasis that shares many features with the unique Okefenokee Swamp. This park is home to fascinating creatures and plants including alligators and carnivorous pitcher plants. Walking along the lake’s edge and nature trail, visitors may spot the shy gopher tortoise, saw palmettos, yellow shafted flickers, warblers, owls, and great blue herons.

The park offers 44 electric campsites suitable for RVs, six cottages, and one group camping area. Sites are back-ins and pull-through and range from 25 to 40 feet in length.

Get more tips for visiting Laura S. Walker State Park

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of north Mobile Bay and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman and a self-guided walk on the boardwalk will give visitors an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hook-ups. There are 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. The park also has four cozy bay-side cabins (one is handicap accessible) overlooking Ducker Bay. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities.

Get more tips for visiting Meaher State Park

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, Arizona

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invite camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails that wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. The park is located within minutes of the Tucson metropolitan area.

120 electric and water sites are available at Catalina. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grill. Roads and parking slips are paved. Campgrounds have modern flush restrooms with hot showers and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs but reservations are limited to 14 consecutive nights.

Get more tips for visiting Catalina State Park

Myakka River State Park, Florida

Seven miles of paved road wind through shady hammocks, along grassy marshes, and the shore of the Upper Myakka Lake. See wildlife up-close on a 45-minute boat tour. The Myakka Canopy Walkway provides easy access to observe life in the treetops of an oak/palm hammock. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy.

The park offers 76 campsites with water and electric service, most sites have 30 amps. A wastewater dump station is located near Old Prairie campground. All campsites are located within 40 yards of restroom facilities with hot showers. All sites are dirt base; few sites have vegetation buffers. Six primitive campsites are located along 37 miles of trails.

Get more tips for visiting Myakka River State Park

My Old Kentucky Home State Park State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky

The farm that inspired the imagery in Stephen Collins Foster’s famous song, My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night! is Kentucky’s most famous and beloved historic site. Built between 1812 and 1818, the three-story house originally named Federal Hill by its first owner Judge John Rowan became Kentucky’s first historic shrine on July 4th, 1923. Located near Bardstown the mansion and farm had been the home of the Rowan family for three generations spanning 120 years. In 1922 Madge Rowan Frost, the last Rowan family descendant sold her ancestral home and 235 acres to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The golf course is open year-round.

Admire the beautiful grounds of My Old Kentucky Home State Park in the 39-site campground. Convenience is guaranteed with utility hookups, a central service building housing showers and restrooms, and a dump station. A grocery store and a laundry are nearby across the street from the park.

Get more tips for visiting My Old Kentucky Home State Park

Lackawanna State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania

The 1,445-acre Lackawanna State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania ten miles north of Scranton. The centerpiece of the park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through the forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities. A series of looping trails limited to foot traffic wander through the campground and day-use areas of the park. Additional multi-use trails explore forests, fields, lakeshore areas, and woodland streams.

The campground is within walking distance of the lake and swimming pool and features forested sites with electric hook-ups and walk-in tent sites. Campground shower houses provide warm showers and flush toilets. A sanitary dump station is near the campground entrance. In addition, the park offers three camping cottages, two yurts, and three group camping areas.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Spanning more than 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest park and one of the best places for camping. A diverse, desert landscape the park encompassing 12 wilderness areas rich with flora and fauna. Enjoy incredible hikes, crimson sunsets, and starlit nights, and view metal dragons, dinosaurs, and giant grasshoppers. Set up camp at Borrego Palm Canyon or Tamarisk Grove Campground. Amenities include drinking water, fire pits, picnic tables, RV sites, and restrooms.

Get more tips for visiting Anza-Borrego State Park

Snow Canyon State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park is filled with great hiking, beautiful Navajo sandstone formations, ancient lava rock (basalt), and out-of-this-world views

There are 29 camping sites at the Snow Canyon State Park; 13 are standard sites with no hookups and 16 are sites with partial hookups that come with water and electricity. Most sites are not big-rig friendly. Group camping is also available.

Get more tips for visiting Snow Canyon State Park

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

Mount St. Helens Erupted 44 Years Ago Today: Here’s How It Unfolded

After the eruption, ash poured into the atmosphere for nine hours

Washington’s Mount St. Helens erupted for nine hours on this day in history, May 18, 1980, killing 57 people and triggering the largest landslide in recorded history. 

Prior to the eruption, Mount St. Helens stood at 9,677 feet, says the website for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It was the fifth-tallest mountain in the state of Washington.

“It stood out handsomely, however, from surrounding hills because it rose thousands of feet above them and had a perennial cover of ice and snow,” said the site.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That changed on May 18 when the volcano erupted for the first time in more than a century. Instead, there was a horseshoe-shaped crater in its place. The crater’s highest point located on the southwestern side of the mountain is 8,365 feet. The eruption came almost exactly two months after seismic activity began on the long-dormant volcano. 

On March 16, 1980, a series of small earthquakes began to shake the area. Eleven days later, on March 27 following hundreds of small earthquakes, Mount St. Helens had a relatively small eruption—it’s first since 1857. 

In that eruption, steam explosions blasted a 200- to 250-foot wide crater through the volcano’s summit ice cap and covered the snow-clad southeast sector with dark ash. 

These eruptions continued through April 22. 

After about a two-week stop in volcanic activity, smaller eruptions and earthquakes continued from May 7 through May 17. 

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By that time, more than 10,000 earthquakes had shaken the volcano and the north flank had grown outward about 450 feet to form a prominent bulge. 

This bulge was strong evidence that molten rock (magma) had rose high into the volcano and was growing at a rate of up to five feet per day.

At 8:32 a.m. on May 18, a 5.1 earthquake with no immediate precursors struck Mount Saint Helens triggering a rapid series of events. 

At the same time as the earthquake, the volcano’s northern bulge and summit slid away as a huge landslide—the largest debris avalanche on Earth in recorded history. 

A small, dark, ash-rich eruption plume rose directly from the base of the debris avalanche scarp and another from the summit crater rose to about 650 feet high. 

The volume of the avalanche was the equivalent of one million Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

Following the landslide, the destruction continued. 

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The landslide had removed part of the cryptodome which was a very hot and highly pressurized body of magma. With the cyptodome removed, Mount St. Helens’s magmatic system depressurized, triggering powerful eruptions that blasted laterally through the sliding debris knocking 1,000 feet off the height of the mountain. 

The cloud of tephra or rock fragments reached 15 miles within 15 minutes. 

The aftermath of the initial eruption was devastating. 

Virtually no trees remained of what was once a dense forest in the six-mile radius of the former summit and other trees were knocked to the ground and seared.

The eruption then became a Plinian eruption defined as as one that produces a sustained convecting plume of pyroclasts and gas rising more than 15 miles above sea level.

The Plinian eruption lasted for nine hours sending 520 million tons of ash into the air.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ash was so thick that the city of Spokane, Washington, located 250 miles from Mount Saint Helens was plunged into complete darkness. Over four inches of ash covered Yakima, Washington. 

Major ash falls occurred as far away as central Montana and ash fell visibly as far eastward as the Great Plains of the Central United States more than 930 miles away. 

The ash cloud spread across the U.S. in three days and circled the Earth in 15 days.

The blast also triggered something called a lahar which is an Indonesian term that describes a hot or cold mixture of water and rock fragments that flows down the slopes of a volcano and typically enters a river valley.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Mount Saint Helens’ case, the snowy peak melted in the initial eruption. That rush of water combined with the rock flow created a lahar. 

In the weeks leading up to May 18, people who lived near Mount St. Helens were evacuated.

The area immediately surrounding Mount St. Helens was divided into a red zone and a blue zone

Of the 57 people who died in the eruption, only one Harry Randall Truman did not have express permission to be near the mountain the day it erupted and most of the deaths actually occurred outside the boundaries of the blue zone. 

Truman, an 83-year-old man who had lived near Mount St. Helens for 54 years refused to comply with evacuation orders and leave the red zone. 

In a colorful interview with National Geographic prior to the eruption, Truman said, “I’m going to stay right here because, I’ll tell you why, my home and my (expletive) life’s here.” 

“My wife and I, we both vowed years and years ago that we’d never leave Spirit Lake. We loved it. It’s part of me and I’m part of that (expletive) mountain,” he said.

Truman’s remains were never found. 

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mt. St. Helens eruption 44th anniversary

Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980 at 8:32 am

The volcano, located in southwestern Washington used to be a beautiful symmetrical cone about 9,600 feet above sea level.

Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!

On March 1, 1980, a new system of seismographs at the University of Washington went into operation to monitor earthquake activity in the Cascades. On March 20, it recorded a magnitude-4.2 earthquake deep beneath Mount St. Helens inaugurating a round-the-clock watch that was to save many lives. From March 25 to March 27, quakes of magnitude 4.0 rocked the mountain as many as three times a day and smaller quakes occurred several times every hour.

At 8 a.m. PST on March 27, the U.S. Geological Survey issued an official Hazard Watch for Mount St. Helens; around noon, the first eruption of steam from the summit sent a column of ash and steam 6,000 feet into the air. Twin fissures opened on the mountain’s north face.

On the morning of May 18, USGS volcanologist David A. Johnston camped on the ridge with his lasers, radioed in his regular 7 a.m. report. The changes to the bulging mountain were consistent with what had been reported several times daily since the watch began. At 8:32, a magnitude-5.1 earthquake registered on the seismographic equipment. His excited radio message, “This is it!” was followed by a stream of data. It was his last transmission; the ridge he camped on was within the direct blast zone.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the numbers

  • 57: Lives lost
  • $1.1 billion: Damage costs
  • 9,600 feet: Height before eruption
  • 8,300 feet: Height after eruption
  • 200: Homes destroyed
  • 90 mph: Mudflows speed
  • 5,400,000 tons: Estimated ash
  • 2,200 square miles: Ash covered
  • 185 miles: Roads destroyed
  • 15 miles: Railways damaged
Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go deeper

Worth Pondering…

Each volcano is an independent machine—nay, each vent and monticule is for the time being engaged in its own peculiar business, cooking as it were its special dish, which in due time is to be separately served.

—Clarence Edward Dutton, American geologist (1841-1912)

Six Tips for Visiting the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky

The Bourbon Trail in Kentucky is a bucket list trip for whiskey lovers around the world

Kentucky is home to some of the most famous whiskey distilleries on the planet and touring them is a treat. But there are some things to know before visiting the Bourbon Trail that will make your trip hiccup-free.

Before we set out on our trip I did a ton of research and even still learned many things once we arrived. Here are the best tips for visiting the Bourbon Trail.

Woodford Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The Bourbon Trail is not a singular trail so plan accordingly

The Bourbon Trail may sound like a singular, simple road connecting all of Kentucky’s distilleries but the distilleries are actually quite spread out. They are loosely categorized into four regions: Central (Louisville and Bardstown), Bluegrass (Lexington), Western (near Tennessee), and Northern (near Cincinnati). It’s best to organize your itinerary into those regions as well focusing on one region (or partial region) a day.

The Central and Bluegrass regions are the most popular consisting of the best-known whiskey brands. We used two bases for our touring: Grandma’s RV Park in Elizabethville (20 miles northwest of Bardstown) and Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown (22 miles north of Lexington).

Which leads me to my next point…

Willett Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The best way to get around the Bourbon Trail is a car—or a tour

Because the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky is so spread out the only way to get from region to region—and even distillery to distillery—is a car. Ubers and carshares are unreliable or nonexistent in the small towns and many distilleries are an hour’s drive or more from main areas like Louisville and Lexington.

3. Plan your distillery tours early and carefully

Distillery tours must be booked in advance. And a word of warning: they fill up fast, so book early! Organize the distilleries based on the area you’ll be in and keep an eye on the travel times between each one. Some are farther away than you think! Also, most require visitors to check in 15-20 minutes before the tour starts so make sure to plan extra time into your day.

If you’re planning to cover a lot of ground, divide your distilleries into different areas on different days.

Wild Turkey Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Don’t forget to eat

When planning your distillery tours, don’t forget to schedule time for lunch. You don’t want to spend an entire distillery tour with your stomach growling and it’s always best not to drink on an empty stomach.

Some distilleries have on-site cafés or restaurants. Check distillery websites beforehand. One place that comes highly recommend is The Bar at Willett. It’s a beautiful place for a great cocktail and some food. But it’s no secret, so make reservations in advance. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 am.-5:30 pm.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Don’t overbook yourself

Obviously you want to see all your favorite distilleries while you’re in Kentucky but don’t overbook yourself. It’s tough to visit more than two distilleries a day because of the tour times and the distance between them.

Plus distillery fatigue is real! While distillery tours are definitely fun they require paying careful attention and some even require a lot of walking. Plus you’ll be drinking at each one. All that adds up to an exhausting day, so give yourself some down time to reflect on your adventures.

And know that it will probably take more than one trip to see all the distilleries you want.

Burton 1792 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. The whiskey distilleries aren’t all the same

Even though there are distinct differences between bourbons, I half expected the whiskey distilleries in Kentucky to be similar to each other.

So I was surprised to learn that the whiskey distilleries in Kentucky are quite different from one another. Most distilleries make whiskey using a column still (typical of bourbon and rye production). And even those using column stills varied in size from Barton 1792’s 55-foot high still to Angel’s Envy’s 35 foot still. Then there are those using pot stills instead of column stills like Michter’s, Woodford Reserve, and Willett.

There were old, historic distilleries on huge campuses like Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace compared with Angel’s Envy’s modern, petite downtown distillery that looks like a cathedral. There were really good tours (like Barton 1792) and not-so-good tours (Four Roses). So every day—and every distillery—was a different experience.

Makers Mark © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. When is the best time of year to do the Bourbon Trail? 

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is open year-round except for a few weeks in the late summer (usually August) when the distilleries close for routine maintenance. Plan your trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail around this routine closure. 

Here’s a breakdown of visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail during each season: 

  • Winter: Winter is a great time to visit the distilleries if you’d like to dodge the crowds and don’t mind the cooler weather. However, if you’re planning on doing a self-guided driving tour, be prepared to potentially drive in rain, ice, and snow. 
  • Spring: Spring is a beautiful time to visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail because the crowds are still slim and the weather is pleasant. However, remember that the Kentucky Derby takes place in May and hotels and RV parks will book up quickly. Early spring is the ideal time to visit! 
  • Summer: Summer is one of the busiest (and least pleasant) times to embark on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you can handle the heat and humidity, it may be tolerable. However, keep in mind the distilleries close in late August so plan your trip accordingly. 
  • Fall: Thanks to the beautiful weather, fall is the most popular season to visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you’re planning an autumn distillery trip, tours will book out quickly, so book the tours you want to go on a month or so in advance. 
Jim Beam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. There’s more to Kentucky than just whiskey

For whiskey nerds, it’s easy to forget that Kentucky contains more than just whiskey distilleries! Louisville is also home to Churchill Downs, the home of the famous Kentucky Derby horse race. If there’s not a race while you’re in town, you can also tour the racetrack. Or check out the Kentucky Derby museum.

Speaking of museums, there are dozens in Louisville including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and the Muhammad Ali Center. There’s plenty of history in Kentucky, so seek out some historical spots in between distillery tours.

As for food, Kentucky is home to more than just fried chicken (although don’t miss that while you’re there!). It’s famous for the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich topped with Mornay sauce. And, the Derby Pie, a chocolate and walnut tart.

Heaven Hill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to know before you hit the Bourbon Trail

  • Book your tour reservations in advance—at least a week, if not more.
  • Leave plenty of time between tours to assure you arrive 15 minutes before your tour starts.
  • Children can attend tours as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. You must be 21 to participate in tastings.
  • Some distilleries offer samples of other products during tastings such as moonshine or vodka.
  • Some distilleries sell cocktails before and/or after tours.
  • Most distilleries sell bottles and other merchandise at their Visitor’s Centers.
  • Plan on spending at least 90 minutes at each distillery for the tour and tasting although some specialty tours may take longer.

Here are a few links to related articles I’ve previously posted on the Bourbon Trail:

Not only are there hundreds of distilleries in Kentucky, there’s plenty to do and to eat. So take your time, enjoy your trip, and keep a running list of what to do on your next visit—because your first trip likely won’t be your last!

Worth Pondering…

I take with me Kentucky

embedded in my brain and heart,

in my flesh and bone and blood

Since I am Kentucky

and Kentucky is part of me.

—Jesse Stuart

Do You Have A First Aid Kit In Your RV?

It does not matter if you are a weekend tailgater or a full-time RVer you need a first aid kit in the RV

Many RVers have discovered, often at the worst possible time that their rig lacks a basic first aid kit. Usually, this happens right after an injury or medical condition that requires treatment. Another version of this oversight is the first aid kit which never seems to have the right items like discovering that it has four bottles of aspirin but no Band-Aids.

Whether you’re a full-time RVer or an occasional weekend warrior, having a well-stocked first aid kit in your RV is essential. In this article, I’ll explore the benefits of having a first aid kit and what you should include in one to be fully prepared for any medical emergency that may arise during your travels.

Camping at Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why you need a first aid kit in your RV?

Here are just some of the benefits of having a first-aid kit in your RV:

  • Peace of mind: Knowing that you have a first-aid kit in your RV will give you peace of mind on your travels. If something does happen, you will be prepared and know exactly what to do.
  • Preparedness: Having a properly stocked first-aid kit, knowing what’s in it, how to use it, when to call emergency medical services (EMS), or handle the situation yourself. Being prepared could help save a life.
  • Convince: First-aid kits are very convenient. Have a full first-aid kit for in your RV and a smaller kit for when you are out on a hike, in a boat, or in your care.
  • Peace of mind for loved ones: If you are traveling with family or friends, having a first-aid kit will give them peace of mind as well knowing if something happens you are prepared.
Camping at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to include in your first aid kit in your RV

Your RV first aid kit should be packed with items that will allow you to deal with minor injuries and illnesses.

The following is a list of suggested items:

  • Bandages/tape: Assorted sizes of adhesive bandages and gauze pads, adhesive bandage tape
  • Ointments and cleaning: Hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, antiseptic spray 
  • Pain relief medication: Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen
  • Anthihistamines: Benadryl 
  • Supplies: Tweezers, scissors, thermometer, pulse oximeter, disposable gloves, flashlight 
  • Hot/cold pack: Instant heat pack, instant ice pack
Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to assemble a first aid kit in your RV

There are many different types of first-aid kits available on the market; it is important to choose one that is right for your needs. You may want to consider a kit that is specifically designed for RVers. These kits typically include items such as bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, and more.

When choosing a first-aid kit, it is also important to think about the type of medications you might need while on the road. If you have any allergies or medical conditions, be sure to include medications for those in your kit. It is also a good idea to pack extra supplies of any prescription medications you take regularly.

Assembling a first-aid kit for your RV does not have to be difficult or time consuming. By taking some time to think about what you need, you can easily put together a kit that will serve you well in case of an emergency.

Making sure you and your family members are familiar with the first aid kit, where it’s located, how to find the items, and how to use them in an emergency is as important as having the kit.

No matter how careful you are accidents do happen. That’s why it’s important to have a first-aid kit in your RV. You never know when you or a family member will need it.

If you have pets, remember to include their needs too! If your four-legged companion is joining you on your journey, be sure to pack pet first-aid items as well.

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

First-aid kit instructions

Always include a quick-reference guide or more comprehensive booklet that explains how to administer first aid. Kit-makers pay close attention to the quality of their guides, so you should do the same.

Trip-specific first-aid supplies

Just as you would with a premade kit, you should supplement your home-assembled kit with extra supplies for a longer trip or special supplies for your destination, activity, and group members.

Preventative items to keep on hand

In addition to the first aid kit, I recommend that you keep some preventative items on hand. Things like sunscreen and insect repellent should be readily available in the RV. Chapstick with SPF is also a great thing to keep on hand to prevent chapped lips.

Hand sanitizer and soap should be available at each sink. You want to make it easy for people to clean up, wash away bacteria, and keep nasty germs from spreading.

While not necessarily preventative, I also recommend keeping some cough drops on hand during the fall/winter months. Even if they are just for sore throats following a crazy football game, these sure come in handy.

Camping at Snow Canyon State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Having a first-aid kit in your RV is an essential part of being prepared and keeping everyone safe. With the right items, you can help prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones. By having the necessary supplies and medications on hand, you won’t have to worry about running out or not having what you need when an emergency arises.

Take some time now to stock up on all the items that should be included in your RV’s first-aid kit so that it will always be ready when you need it.

Worth Pondering…

I suppose that means you don’t want any band-aids, either,” I said, a touch more bitterly than I’d meant to.

—J.M. Richards

Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels Celebrates 85th Anniversary

National Chocolate Chip Day: May 15

From the first chocolate chip cookie to decades of inspired chocolate baking, the Nestlé Toll House brand continues its tradition of baking up memories in kitchens across America

Every American has a chocolate chip cookie memory. The scene of children coming home from school to the scent of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies wafting from the oven is as ubiquitous as the chocolate chip cookie itself. This year, Nestlé Toll House is celebrating 85 years of the chocolate bit that dropped its way into the kitchens and memories of American families everywhere—the Nestlé Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsel.

Olympic Candy Kitchen, Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Nestlé Toll House story begins with chocolate chip cookie inventor Ruth Wakefield who ran the successful Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts. One day, while baking a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies, a favorite recipe dating back to colonial times, Wakefield broke a bar of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate into tiny pieces and added them to the dough expecting to create a chocolate cookie.

Instead, the semi-sweet bits held their shape and softened to a delicate creamy texture. Wakefield’s Toll House Crunch Cookie recipe was published in a Boston newspaper and quickly became the trending cookie recipe everyone was baking.

“Ruth Wakefield’s unexpected discovery and invention of the chocolate chip cookie, the most popular cookie of all-time, is central to the tradition and heritage of the Nestlé Toll House brand,” says Al Multari, President of the Baking Division at Nestlé , based in Solon, Ohio. “A baking innovator from the start Nestlé Toll House products have inspired home bakers for 75 years and that’s just the beginning of its chocolate baking legacy.”

Realizing a way to make the Wakefield’s Toll House cookie recipe easier for bakers in 1939 Nestlé scored its semi-sweet chocolate bars into 160 right size pieces especially for Nestlé Toll House cookies. Shortly after, the familiar ready-to-use teardrop shaped morsels were introduced. Fast forward to 2024 and we still enjoy one of the most iconic foods of all time—the Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsel.

For 85 years, the Nestlé Toll House brand has led baking trends that millions of home bakers emulate in their own kitchens, according to a news release. From inventive recipes to new morsel flavors to the convenience of ready-to-bake cookie dough, it has never been easier to create and share the delicious taste of Nestlé Toll House products after the game, around the table, or as a midnight snack.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The famous recipe

Here’s the original recipe that’s still the gold standard of chocolate chip cookie recipes even though it’s been slightly tweaked over the years. Try it!

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

1 cup chopped nuts (optional. If omitting, add 1 to 2 tbsp. of all-purpose flour.)

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Step 2

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Step 3

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Worth Pondering…

Lou pushes a plate of cookies in front of us.

Chocolate pieces tease like jewels in sand.

Please, she says, have some!

I don’t want to be impolite, so I take five.

—Katherine Applegate

High-Elevation RVing: How to Beat the Heat and Camp in Perfect Weather

As another camping season approaches I want to share how you can beat the heat and camp in perfect weather all year. The solution is high-elevation RVing.

Let’s face it, summer camping is great but it also brings 90-degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity.

Even in northern climates, it gets very hot during the dog days of summer. 

But by moving about in your RV and using high altitude camping to regulate the heat you experience, your summer locations can be much more agreeable—and scenic.

Let me show you some examples of how to do this when the temperature rises and some peculiarities of high-altitude RV operation.

The goal is to camp in perfect weather, to experience daytime temperatures in the low to mid-70s which we have found to generally be the most comfortable camping climate there is.

High elevation camping at Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

The formula to camp in perfect weather: Keep it around 70 degrees

New Mexico is a great state to begin a summer’s travels and by April you can pretty much always find those sweet seventies.

That will last close to Memorial Day if you move around a bit. A good place to be in late May is around Farmington, New Mexico waiting for the snow to melt and the mountains to open up.

Eventually, when you see the snow line climbing higher on those peaks, you’re starting to sweat at lower altitudes and experience those 80 degree days.

Head up the Million Dollar Highway (US 550) into the Colorado high country when the weather is so warm you need the A/C on.

Try Haviland Lake in Colorado at 8,100 feet assuming the snow has melted. Daytime highs in early June will probably be upper 60s to low 70s. Once the holiday crowds dispersed, you should have lots of places to boondock. It’s a National Forest campground with electricity and water and online reservations for maybe half the spots.

High elevation camping at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take it slow when high-altitude RVing

I recommend spending about a week and a half getting acclimated to the altitude. Watch the snowline on the mountains. The elevations will undergo a remarkable transformation. Feet of snow will quickly start melting away and in rapid order those low 70s at Haviland Lake will start to hit the 80s and you’ll know it’s time to start climbing again.

You can follow the hummingbirds also looking for perfect weather. A good place to stay in the 70s in mid-June is around Silverton, Colorado.

Mineral Creek has great high-altitude RVing spots to camp in perfect weather.

There are numerous boondocking locations here. Mineral Creek dispersed camping in the San Juan National Forest is a favorite for many of those chasing perfect weather.

High elevation camping at Dillon, Montana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Up there, you’ll now be at 9,600 feet and the weather for what will not be full-on summer should be ideal. High temperatures that high will seldom get above 70. At night you may need the heater as it will regularly dip into the 40s.

Since the Forest Service will allow you stay a maximum of 14 days, it’s a simple matter of moving over to the other side of Silverton which is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management, another Federal agency) to Maggie Gulch at 9,800 feet.

It’s time to reset the 14-day clock in another spectacularly beautiful place with near-perfect camping weather.

There are some quirks to being up where the air pressure is 70 percent of normal—if you make biscuits they’ll be things of beauty. 

But your potato chip bags may have popped those air seals as you climbed up to this altitude. Fortunately, the low humidity will keep them from going stale. The downside is that water boils 20 degrees cooler so potatoes will take forever to cook. 

Forget about cooking rice. Plus you’ll need to add more coffee and boil it longer if you prefer it strong.

High elevation camping at Fish Lake, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your camper appliances may be affected when you are high-altitude RVing

RV appliance operation can also be affected by altitude. If you have a generator you may find it has a hard time warming up and running smoothly.

The key is to get out the manual and make an attitude adjustment on it. Pull the generator access cover and look for a black plastic set screw cap with a line on it pointing to a 0-10,000 foot scale.  Rotating the set screw clockwise until the line in the black plastic cap corresponds to your altitude will make your generator a lot happier.

A propane hot water heater could develop the mechanical equivalent of emphysema at 9,800 feet with the flame popping and going out requiting much relighting and lean-burn smells.

Alas, this is something that you probably need to leave alone and turn off. You can heat water on the propane stovetop just fine in a pot. 

When it really gets hot down below, head to the Beartooth Pass

There’s one more climb you may want to take if the weather gets really hot in late July and August; head north toward Montana and the Beartooth Plateau at 10,164 feet. Up that high, 70 is about the highest temperature you can expect even when it’s 90 a few thousand feet lower.

High elevation camping at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Again, get acclimated to the higher elevations

All that altitude does require acclimation.

Ascend gradually and stop for a week or so on your way up through successively higher altitudes. If you climb slowly you won’t suffer any adverse altitude sickness consequences other than shortness of breath with sustained exertion. Everyone notices that.

You aren’t the only species looking for perfect weather

One other possible downside of high-altitude camping is that you aren’t the only species up there.

Bears will almost always be found at altitude in the summer. Practice keeping a clean camp and secure your vehicle, especially at night. 

To be extra cautious, I suggest you never take any food outside the vehicle when you’re in bear country and be sure to read Hiking and Camping in Bear Country: What You Need to Know.

Whether you’re fulltiming or just hot, head for the mountains and enjoy a break from the oppressive summer weather. 

Worth Pondering…

We shall not cease from exploration 

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started

And know that place for the first time.

— T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Laura S. Walker State Park Plus a Bonus

Wander among the pines at Laura S. Walker, the first state park named for a woman, an oasis that shares many features with the unique Okefenokee Swamp where you can enjoy the serene lake, play rounds on a championship golf course, and stroll along the trails and natural communities in this southeast Georgia haven

Waycross is located in the heart of beautiful Southeast Georgia at the northern tip of the Okefenokee Swamp Wildlife Refuge. Waycross is a nationally-recognized Main Street City filled with Southern hospitality and charm. From the historic downtown district to the swamp lands of the Okefenokee, there is something for everyone.

The city sits on the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, the land of the trembling earth, one of Georgia’s natural wonders. Waycross is home to one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. The swamp is teeming with wildlife and flora you won’t find anywhere else. Carnivorous pitcher plants, alligators, and a seemingly endless variety of birds make Waycross the perfect place for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

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

But there is so much more to this historic town. Down-home cooking at local restaurants, comfortable accommodations, a thriving downtown business district, and a music scene that continues to draw on the city’s rich musical past make Waycross a great place to visit for everyone in the family.

But Laura S. Walker State Park was the initial reason for driving our RV 55 miles northeast of Kingsland on I-95 to Waycross.

Laura S. Walker seemed quite small when we first arrived compared to the other parks I’ve been to recently but that’s just because I didn’t realize how spread out it was.

The initial entrance gives you two options, going straight into the RV parking and their group summer camp rental or left to the picnic areas, big group shelters, and amenities.

Something this state park offers that none of the others I’ve visited is a dog park. It was fairly large too with a couple benches and a splattering of trees.

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

Two sand volleyball courts were also in the main section of the park as well as a large playground right on the edge of the lake and exercise equipment for a full body workout.

Heading over to where the boat ramp disappears in the water there is a gazebo with a fan.

I was very excited by this and after I explored everywhere went back to it so I could enjoy sitting under it for a while. It gave me the chance to enjoy the fresh air while both having a constant breeze, albeit warm, and not having the sun blasting down on me.

As I sat and ate a snack, I could hear the laughter of the families playing in the park’s small sand beach. It’s even roped off to keep people from swimming out too far and to keep the boats from coming in too close. A disclaimer though, there are no lifeguards at this swimming spot so please make sure you are safe if you choose to swim here.

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

If swimming doesn’t interest you, there are two main trails at Laura S. Walker State Park, the Lake Trail and the Big Creek Nature Trail with a couple small connecting trails.

Though I didn’t make it this far on the Lake Trail (because I primarily walked the other one and then ran out of time) there is a boardwalk that passes by an egret rookery with a wildlife observation platform. That is something I would like to come back and see and photograph.

Critters and plants that can be found on the trails at Laura S. Walker State Park are snakes, alligators, pitcher plants, gopher tortoise, otters, saw palmettos, and a variety of pine and oak.

The main thing I found unique about this state park is there is one primary entrance but if you know where to go there are other parking lots around the back of the lake with a separate boat ramp, entrance to the lake trail, and more group shelters for parties.

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

I discovered these hidden gems on the way to take a peek at The Lakes Golf Course at Laura S. Walker State Park.

This 18-hole course features three different lakes and accommodates both junior and adult players.

After noticing the parking lot to the golf course was quite full, I didn’t want to take a parking spot for too long since I wasn’t there to golf and it was off to Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Ownership of the swamp was transferred to the State of Georgia in 1955; however, Okefenokee Association, Inc. still leases the land for the Okefenokee Swamp Park as a private non-profit.

Though the swamp was placed under permanent protection as a National Wilderness area by Congress during President Gerald Ford’s era it is not a Georgia State Park.

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

What it is, however, is one of Georgia’s Seven Wonders.

Covering roughly 700 square miles, Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America, spanning across four counties: Ware, Charlton, Brantley, and Clinch.

25 dollars gets an adult one 45-minute train ride through the drier parts of the swamp as well as a 25-minute nature instruction.

For an extra $10 there is the option to also have a 45-minute tour through the swamp via a jon boat.

Not to mention just the landscape itself is so unique to be in. Not many places a person can be in a swamp like that and have a wild alligator only a handful of feet away from you in the water.

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

Okefenokee also has an adventure camp as well with its own entrance on the other side, but I chose to go to the entrance that was only 10 miles from the park. I wanted to be able to get a taste of the swamp without having to spend all day there.

Maybe another year I’ll go back and explore the swamp further but I’m really glad I decided to spend a day at Laura. S. Walker State Park.

Worth Pondering…

There’s no other place in the world like the Okefenokee.

—Francis Harper

Mother’s Day 2024

From the sheer volume of flowers purchased in the US and Canada to the holiday’s unique origins, there are many fascinating facts about how we celebrate Mother’s Day today.

Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story because hers is where yours begins.

—Mitch Albom

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 12, 2024. It’s held on the second Sunday in May every year and is hugely popular in the US and Canada with the number of bouquets sent to American moms numbering in the tens of millions every year.

Happy Mother’s Day! In addition to prompting millions of phone calls throughout the US and Canada, the holiday is a chance to celebrate the love, wisdom, and support that mothers and maternal figures provide us. One way to do just that is through laughter—and I suggest incorporating some hilarious mom jokes into your conversation (see below).

Mother’s Day was not always about flowers, greeting cards, and brunch plans, though. Here, I look at some information about the history of the holiday as well as some statistics about how popular the day is and the top gifts for mom.

Happy Mothers Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2023, Americans spent $35.7 billion in total on Mother’s Day gifts and activities. That’s a whole lot of daisies and spa gift cards! This figure is up almost $4 billion from the previous year. In fact, spending on Mother’s Day has gone up steadily since 2018 (yes, even during the pandemic).

In a 2023 National Retail Federation survey, 84 percent of respondents said they celebrated Mother’s Day in some way. Consumers spent an average of $274.02 on their Mother’s Day celebrations which is almost $30 more than the past year.

Flowers are one of the hot-ticket items on Mother’s Day with 74 percent of respondents to the National Retail Federation’s 2023 survey saying that they picked out some blooms for mom. Americans spent around $3.2 billion on flowers alone for the holiday.

Mother’s Day or some form of holiday meant to honor moms is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world. Most, like the US and Canada celebrate the day on the second Sunday of May. Other countries including many in Eastern Europe celebrate their family matriarchs on International Women’s Day, March 8, while several Arab nations celebrate it on the day of Spring Equinox, March 21.

In Mexico, the day falls on May 10, no matter what day of the week it is and involves flowers, music, food, large celebrations, and a morning serenade of the song Las Mananitas from mariachi singers.

Mother’s Day is the third most popular holiday when it comes to card sales, according to the Greeting Card Association. Americans purchase an incredible 113 million cards for the holiday every year. Flowers and a card for mom are a pretty standard gift so it makes sense that Mother’s Day ranks behind only Christmas cards (1.3 billion) and Valentine’s Day cards (145 million) when it comes to total sales.

According to National Retail Federation research, the top purchase for moms in 2023 was greeting cards followed by flowers and special outings including things like dining out.

So, just how many mothers (or mother figures) around the world will be getting gifts this year? Those numbers are hard to crunch but it’s estimated that there are about 2.2 billion mothers living in the world right now with 77 million of those moms living in the US. Given what we know about how many countries around the world have their own version of Mother’s Day, that’s a whole lot of celebrating mom.

Happy Mothers Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mother’s Day is usually the busiest day of the year for restaurants

Going out to a fancy restaurant is often tied to a special occasion—and there’s no special occasion quite like one for moms. Research from the National Restaurant Association has found that in an average year, about a third of U.S. adults visit a restaurant to celebrate on Mother’s Day. That often makes Mother’s Day the busiest day of the year for restaurants.

This deluge of diners even surpasses Valentine’s Day perhaps because the mid-February holiday really only takes up tables for two whereas a Mother’s Day celebration often takes up a four-top or more. 

Restaurants aren’t the only businesses that get a boost on Mother’s Day. The National Retail Federation estimated that consumers were expecting to spend $31 billion on Mother’s Day celebrations with a big chunk of that change being forked over for jewelry while other industries such as spa services also see a noticeable uptick.

However, the two biggest winners of the day besides restaurants are florists (it’s their third-most-lucrative day of the year) and greeting card companies (which deliver heartfelt salutations to three-quarters of the moms in America). Overall, Americans spend much more on gifts for mom than dad—people spent an average of $246 on Mother’s Day in 2022 compared to $171 for Father’s Day.

Happy Mothers Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first official Mother’s Day took place 109 years ago when Woodrow Wilson made it a holiday

The history of the Mother’s Day holiday has a few starting points. Celebrations of mothers can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated mother goddesses like Rhea and Cybele. Mothering Sunday was an early Christian festival.

Mother’s Day, as we know it today, originated in the United States. It was made into an official holiday more than a century ago but the holiday’s original creator had different intentions when she put a day to honor mothers in motion in the early 20th century.

Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragette who wrote the lyrics for Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 to call for mothers to promote peace. She also campaigned for a Mother’s Peace Day. This laid the groundwork for Anna Jarvis.

Jarvis, a woman from Philadelphia, held a service memorial for her late mother on May 12, 1907. Jarvis’ mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had organized women’s groups to promote health and friendship. For example, she started Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to help women learn to care for children and Mother’s Friendship Day which brought mothers together after the Civil War.

The following year, Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to Andrews Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother which started the tradition of wearing and giving carnations on Mother’s Day. This is considered by many to be the first Mother’s Day celebration. She started to campaign for a national day to celebrate mothers.

Within five years of Jarvis’ 1907 tribute to her mother, every state in the U.S. had started observing the day. President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday 108 years ago, in 1914. As time went on, Jarvis became displeased with her creation taking issue with the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Happy Mothers Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numbers don’t lie

  • 2.2 billion: Estimated number of mothers in the world, according to a 2014 Pew Research Study
  • 30: Median age for first-time mothers in the US
  • $178,201: The salary stay-at-home mothers should make, based on 2019 research by Salary.com
  • 1914: Year President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official national holiday

Funny Mom Jokes

  • While mom jokes may not constitute their own endearingly groan-worthy genre like dad jokes do, these one-liners are perfect for putting a smile on her face.
  • Motherhood is a fairytale in reverse. You start in a beautiful gown end up cleaning everyone’s messes.
  • Being a mom to a teenager will make you understand why some animals eat their young.
  • It’s sad when you sit around waiting for mom to make dinner and then you realize you are the mom.
  • There’s nothing quite like being told you’re wrong by someone who depends on you for food, clothing, and shelter.
  • Nothing is lost until mom can’t find it.
  • I told my mom I thought parenting got easier as the kids get older and she laughed so hard she cried a little.
  • My tween is mad at me and it could be because of any of the horrible things I did this morning: stood in the kitchen, poured coffee, stared out the window, said good morning, breathed…
  • “That’s it. I’m selling my kid on eBay.” “Don’t be silly! You made him. Sell him on Etsy.”
  • That feeling when your kid threatens not to talk to you for the rest of the day.
  • When you finally have time for a girls’ night and realize your entire wardrobe went out of style in 2003.
  • When your teenager asks for personal space and you remind her that she came out of your personal space.
  • I asked to switch seats on a plane because I was next to a crying baby. Evidently that doesn’t work if the baby is yours.
  • Mom’s recipe for iced coffee: 1. Have kids. 2. Make coffee. 3. Forget you made coffee. 4. Drink it cold.
  • They say women speak 20,000 words a day. I have a daughter who gets that done by breakfast.
Happy Mothers Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line

Devoting a day to honoring mothers is actually a tradition that dates back thousands of years to fertility rituals and festivals dedicated to celebrating mother-like deities and Mother Nature. The US version of the holiday has evolved from a ceremony honoring family matriarchs to a massive worldwide holiday. Even though it’s become commercialized, it’s still a great and meaningful way to honor the moms of the world and all that they do.

Worth Pondering…

When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.

—Nora Ephron