Adventure is Just around the (Four) Corners

The Four Corners area represents more than the connection point of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Canyon de Chelly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A tourism destination by itself or a perfect addition to Arches and Canyonlands itineraries, Four Corners is a journey into sweeping landscapes with human and geologic history. Culturally, the region is a combination of Mexican, Mormon, Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Zuni ancestry. It is a part of the Colorado Plateau, a geological formation responsible for much of the snow and rainfall over the central U. S.

Here are eight adventures in the Four Corners region that RV travelers shouldn’t miss.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

The iconic landscape of Monument Valley symbolizes the American West with its towering buttes and sweeping skies. Located on the Utah-Arizona border, a 17-mile loop drive takes visitors through the park with guided tours also available which allow access to more remote areas of the park. The 3.2-mile Wildcat Trail is open for unguided hiking. A $20 cash-only fee is charged to enter the park, and the on-site The View Campground has views living up to its name.

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

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell

Stretching from the beginning of the Grand Canyon at Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is graced with scenic views, unique geology, and evidence of 10,000 years of human history. Within the recreation area, Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in the U. S. and is widely recognized as a premier boating destination.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges is home to three expansive rock arches and the first International Dark Sky Park. Though less accessible than Utah’s national parks, it is just as grand. At 6,500-feet in elevation atop the massive Cedar Mesa the park is a little cooler in the heat of summer than other parks. Abundant hiking, stargazing, and canyoneering make this a quiet haven for those looking to explore a little off the beaten path.

Canyon de Chelly showing Spider Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly offers a spectacular collection of sheer red sandstone cliffs forming a maze of canyons that all lead into the main Canyon de Chelly. Although none of the cliffs exceeds 1,000 feet the huge 800-foot monolith Spider Rock is an awesome sight. Part of the Navajo Reservation, Canyon de Chelly is also home to thousands of Ancestral Pueblo ruins and archaeological sites dating as far back as 2500 BC.

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hovenweep National Monument

Once home to over 2,500 people, Hovenweep includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. Explore a variety of structures, including multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. The construction and attention to detail will leave you marveling at the skill and motivation of the builders.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park (Spanish for green table) was established to preserve archaeological sites built by the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited Mesa Verde for more than 700 years (550 A.D. to 1300 A.D.). Currently Mesa Verde has over 4,700 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings and the mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures. These sites are some of the most notable and best-preserved dwellings in the U. S.

Navajo Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navajo Bridge

Navajo Bridge was the only vehicle structure spanning the Grand Canyon until it was replaced in 1995 by a new bridge immediately next to it. The old bridge was kept as a pedestrian bridge, and today visitors can walk across and take in the beginning of the Grand Canyon at Marble Canyon and the Colorado River 467 feet below. Often seen are Grand Canyon rafters and endangered California condors with nine-foot-wide wing spans.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, formed by the currents and tributaries of Utah’s Green and Colorado rivers is home to many different types of travel experiences from solitude in the more remote stretches of the park to moderate hikes through Islands in the Sky and the Needles district.

Worth Pondering…

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.

—Lawrence Block

Advice to Help You Get Outside This Summer

Tips for people who don’t really camp but kinda want to camp

It’s the summer of camping. It’s the summer of RV rentals and takeout picnics, of visiting national parks, and exploring small towns. Summer has always been the season of road trips, but this year, being able to escape the four walls you’ve been quarantining in holds even more appeal.

Versailles, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After spending half the year cooped up inside due to a certain virus we’re all sick of thinking about, our need for a good old fashioned camping trip has never been greater.

But camping can be intimidating, especially for first-timers. The key is preparation.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to bring (sunscreen and socks!), what to do (hike and stargaze!), and what to know (bears and bug prevention!) for a successful camping trip.

Socks might be the most important thing you pack. No kidding! Wet socks—whether from rain, mud, sweat, or a wet trail—make feet blister easier which can pretty much end your fun times right there.

Quail Gate State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To avoid unwanted run-ins with bears and other wily critters, you’ll need to put all of your “smellables” away (this includes toothpaste). If you plan on doing any hiking in bear country, invest in some bear spray.

Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t forget the deet. And don’t stress about it too much, either. Past health problems caused by the insect repellent were mostly due to overapplication and ingestion. If you apply as the label recommends (once a day, to exposed skin only), and wash it off at the end of the day, you’ll be fine. It certainly beats risking mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile—or the woes of being the mosquito magnet at camp.

An added benefit of camping: You might just wake up to the sight of a rugged mountain range bathed in morning sunlight, like we did in the photo below at Catalina State Park.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shutdown-induced boredom renewed our appreciation for scenic drives; now, we’re going full-on day trip, complete with roadside attractions, oldies on the radio, and a cooler in the back—but wait. 

Weekenders, meanwhile, are back in love with RVs. According to industry predictions, 46 million people plan to hit the road in an RV this summer. And it’s not just seniors getting in on the wonderful world of sewer drains and s’mores; millenials who used to roll their eyes at their parents’ traditional ways are largely behind the wheel. 

Camping in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those motorhomes, camper vans, and trailers are bottlenecking the national parks which are reopening across the country to renewed enthusiasm. For self-contained campers—those whose idea of roughing it includes being able to keep all your stuff within 10 feet—campsite reservations are among the hottest tickets to be had. Want to camp in Arches? Check back in October, when some spots might open up.

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

With the more popular parks at capacity, people are discovering America’s beautiful B-sides: Enter national forests with millions of acres to explore and hardly any people. America’s 154 national forests cover more than 188 million acres across 40 states: three times the total area protected by the 62 national parks. State parks, county and regional parks, and the lesser-loved national parks are now as valid a destination as Disney World reminding us that sprawling protected lands should never be taken for granted. So yeah, you’ve got options in these favorite often-overlooked natural playgrounds from coast to coast.

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

These throwbacks to the “good old days” have always been available to us. But a funny thing happened this spring when we all started to hunker down, faced with unprecedented anxiety about the still-uncertain future: Collectively, people yearned not just for fresh air, but for the familiar

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut, Alamogordo, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The past is telling us that the best way to experience the present is to hop in an oversized vehicle and hit the road. To take a three-hour detour to see the world’s largest pistachio nut or some cute little town that somebody said has good pie. To struggle with a cheap popup tent and tell ghost stories with our friends. To get out this summer and barrel down the highway to rediscover places from our youth.

Discover cute little towns like Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For now, those simple pleasures of discovery and escape from an increasingly fraught world—and sometimes, that’s enough.

Worth Pondering…

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

—Douglas Adams

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Naturally

A Delaware-sized museum of sedimentary erosion that walks you down through a 200-million-year-old staircase

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

So called for the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon south toward the Grand Canyon, marked by vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs, and Chocolate Cliffs. Lots of colorful scenery herein, natch! They ought to call it the Grand Stare-case.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sense of wonder inspired by the magnificent beauty of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument excites the imagination and invites exploration of the natural world. Within this vast and untamed wilderness, visitors find places for recreation and solitude.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a huge area consisting of a maze of sandstone cliffs, canyons, and plateaus. The Canyons are part of a natural basin surrounded by higher areas of the Colorado Plateau. Parts of the Colorado Plateau, such as the Aquarius Plateau, rise to above 11,000 feet, while lower parts of the canyons empty towards Lake Powell at 3,700 feet.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument dominates any map of southern Utah and spans 1.7 million acres of America’s public lands between the Utah-Arizona border to Bryce Canyon National Park on the west and Capitol Reef National Park on the east. It is unique in that it is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), rather than the National Park Service.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Entry into the national monument is by two paved roads: Highway 89 between Kanab and Big Water on its southern end and All American Road Scenic Byway 12 between Bryce Canyon and Boulder on the north. Johnson Canyon Road and Burr Trail are two other hardened-gravel access roads. All the other roads into the Monument are dirt, clay, or sand. Caution should be exercised when traveling on unpaved roads as conditions can change quickly and dramatically depending on the weather. High clearance four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Services, smart phone access, and water are generally not available.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The monument is a geologic sampler, with a huge variety of formations, features, and world-class paleontological sites. A geological formation spanning eons of time, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons. It is divided into three distinct sections: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite their different topographies, these three sections share certain qualities: great distances, enormously difficult terrain, and a remoteness rarely equaled in the lower forty-eight states. Human activities are limited on these lands, yet their very remoteness and isolation attract seekers of adventure or solitude and those who hope to understand the natural world through the Monument’s wealth of scientific information.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Staircase rises in broad, tilted terraces. From the south the terraces step up in great technicolor cliffs: vermilion, white, gray, pink. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth’s history.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The highest part of the Monument is the Kaiparowits Plateau. From the air, the Plateau appears to fan out southward from the town of Escalante into an enormous grayish green triangle, ending far to the south at Lake Powell and the Paria Plateau. The 42-mile-long Straight Cliffs mark the eastern edge of the plateau, ending at Fiftymile Mountain in the southeast.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To the north of Fiftymile Bench is the Aquarius Plateau, dominated by the 11,000-foot Boulder Mountain. To the east lies an expanse of pale Navajo sandstone which the Escalante River and its tributaries, flowing down from the plateau, have carved into a maze of canyons. In this arid territory, it is ironically water that has done the most to shape the landscape.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As intriguing as it is beautiful, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument also provides remarkable possibilities for scientific research and study. Researchers continue to uncover new insight about how the land was formed and the life it sustains.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What scientists are learning and the methods they use to understand what it all means can be discovered at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument visitors centers located in the communities of Kanab, Big Water, Cannonville, and Escalante. With so much information to share, each visitor center’s interpretive exhibits focus on different scientific themes, including paleontology (Big Water), geology and archaeology (Kanab), the human landscape (Cannonville), biology, botany, and eology (Escalante).

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Through interpretive exhibit, visitors learn about the spectacular Monument resources and gain a greater appreciation for the natural world.

Worth Pondering…

There is something very special about the natural world, and each trip outdoors is like an unfinished book just waiting for you to write your own chapter.

—Paul Thompson

Celebrating Independence Day during the Pandemic

Happy Birthday, USA! Like all birthdays this summer, celebration will probably look a little different than usual.

2020 is shaping up to be the summer—maybe even the year—of the road trip. Pent up demand to get out of town is ramping up with millions of Americans planning to hit the highway for Fourth of July.

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

After months of staying home, many Americans are itching to get away during the Fourth of July holiday bringing a bump up in travel, particularly short trips by car or recreational vehicle. But many vacationers also appear to be making last-minute decisions as they navigate travel restrictions, canceled fireworks, and uncertainty amid rising coronavirus cases across much of the country.

Road trip along the Blue Ridge Highway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A recent story in the Detroit News indicated that sales of bikes, kayaks, and other outdoor gear is at an all-time high, and in fact, some major outdoor retailers are completely sold out of these items. The owner of a bike store in the region stated that he has had his two best months of bike-related accessories and bike repair in over 20 years of business.

Hiking in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recent studies have shown that people are beginning to return to travel, but they are looking for unique outdoor experiences, as is being proven by their outdoor equipment purchasing habits. Also, people can travel and enjoy the outdoors in such a manner that allows for social distancing. The trend coincides with the most significant increase in Google “camping” searches in nearly a decade.

Canoeing in Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having all you need at your fingertips including kitchen, bedroom, toilet and shower, and entertainment center coupled with the ability to easily change course adds to a sense of freedom following COVID-19’s lengthy lockdown.

Fishing at Lynx Lake near Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not everyone is venturing out to cure cabin fever. Only 18 percent of Americans have taken an overnight trip since March, according to a survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. A majority said they have no plans to travel for the rest of 2020.

Utah Scenic Byway 12, an All-American Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the latest projections from the AAA, Americans will take more than 700 million trips this summer but that number is down nearly 15 percent or 120 million trips from last July through September. It’s the first decline in summer travel since 2009 when cash-strapped Americans were trying to climb out of the recession. Airline travel is expected to see a nosedive of 74 percent due to coronavirus fears while cruises, buses, and train travel will be further sunk by about 86 percent.

Fishing at Port Aransas, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s where the good old American road trip comes in. Nationally, road-tripping will only decrease by 3 percent with 683 million summer road trips still taking place. Awareness of crowds, self-contained travel, and lower fuel prices are changing the name of the travel game. The spirit of the open road and freedom that comes with departing your driveway has been a staple of travel for generations.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Popular destinations and even some states may raise or lower their restrictions at the drop of a hat. But driving gives people a chance to change their travel plans at the last minute.

Camping at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With all due respect, summer 2020 is probably not the best time to live out your Jack Kerouac fantasy. Planning in advance is essential, and that includes a pandemic-specific packing list.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AAA lists masks, Lysol wipes, toilet paper, gloves, sanitizer, health insurance cards, and thermometer as the new road trip essentials. Make sure to stock up your COVID kit before departure: These items are in high demand and may be out of stock.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are requiring travelers from states with outbreaks to self-quarantine for 14 days. Other states have varying policies and recommendations. Before you head out to camp for the July 4th weekend, or any weekend, be sure to CALL FIRST.

Although we all need to maintain social distancing and follow CDC guidelines for avoiding the COVID-19 virus, your family can still enjoy the July 4th celebration.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go camping – Camping is a) perfect for social distancing b) surrounded by natural air filters and c) an excellent excuse to go offline. As we’ve been saying, camping and the outdoors are the safest ways to enjoy nature and have fun.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picnic with your family – Grill those favorites…burgers, hot dogs, potatoes, and make s’mores over your campfire. 

Worth Pondering…

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

―Marie Curie

Mount St. Helens: On the Eruption 40 Years Ago & Future Eruptions

Before Mount St. Helens blew its top it was a beautifully symmetric rounded snow-capped mountain that stood between two jagged peaks, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams

Mount St. Helens, located in southwestern Washington, is one of several lofty volcanic peaks that dominate the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest; the range extends from Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia to Lassen Peak in northern California. Geologists call Mount St. Helens a composite volcano (or stratovolcano), a term for steepsided, often symmetrical cones constructed of alternating layers of lava flows, ash, and other volcanic debris.

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Forty years ago, Mount St. Helens erupted, killing 57 people and leveling the surrounding region. At 8:32 a.m. that fateful day, a 5.1 earthquake rattled the volcano, triggering an explosion of fluid. The north face of the volcano collapsed altogether. The eruption of Mount St. Helens caused the largest landslide in recorded history sweeping through the Toutle River Valley and removing 1,306 feet from the top of the volcano.

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The powerful lava flow, savage winds, and deadly heat destroyed much of the previous landscape. What the mountain left behind is the history of a violent eruption that shook the surrounding region and left many with stories of that tumultuous day on May 18, 1980.

Mount St. Helens from Hoffstadt Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four visitor centers tell the story of the mountain and the people living in the region surrounding it. The awesome views from each of the centers bring you face to face with a monumental natural event. 

People remember the thick, dark plumes of clouds that day, the choking ash and lightning bolts that catapulted across the skies. That terrifying, apocalyptic scene is forever seared in the memory of so many.

Mount St. Helens from Lowitt Viewpoint © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since that natural disaster, scientists have made considerable progress in tracking volcanic activity, but more still needs to be done. Seismologist and former University of Washington professor Dr. Steve Malone was one of many experts who had been tracking warning signs of the eventual eruption for months in advance. He said there’s a real threat for another eruption in the decades ahead.

Mount St. Helens from Lowitt Viewpoint © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While he says Mount St. Helens is the most likely to erupt next, Mt. Rainier is considered the most dangerous volcano of the Cascades, largely because it’s surrounded by communities that are heavily populated.

There are five major volcanoes in the Washington Cascades, including Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and of course, Mount Saint Helens. Mt. Hood in Oregon also poses a threat.

On the road to Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The one we think is sort of the most frightening in many respects are what are called lahars or volcanic mudflows, that can travel down valleys and be totally devastating to anything within that valley,” Malone said.

While scientists can’t predict volcanic explosions with any precision, there can be warning signs up to a week in advance of an eruption.

On the road to Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I think Mount St. Helens triggered that awareness, that says ‘hey, we really need to pay more attention to these’ and there’s not just Mount St. Helens, but the other cascade volcanoes as well,” Malone said.

Seismologists say scientists will likely never be able to predict future volcanic eruptions with a great level of accuracy and precision, better monitoring stations on the volcanoes can help. While there’s an adequate number of volcano monitoring stations at Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, more are needed on other Washington volcanoes like Glacier Peak.

On the road to Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) says we cannot forget the message that Mount St. Helens communicated all those years ago. The mountains are beautiful, but they also have the potential to create these hazardous eruptions.

On the road to Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congress has authorized $55 million to better track volcanoes across the country, but they have yet to invest that money. Even still, the PNSN says it’s working on plans to implement those monitoring devices for once those funds are appropriated and any permits have been granted.

Mount St. Helens Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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)

Best Places for RV Travel this July

Fill up the tires, top off the tank, and pile in the RV for the best summer road trip of your life

July is the birth month of Julius Caesar and that’s why the month was named after him. July is also the first month on the traditional calendar that isn’t named after a god or goddess of Roman or Greek origins, but is named after a real person.

Black Hills of South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the Fourth of July this week, there is an extra emphasis on outdoor activities in the age of COVID-19—due to the open air as well as the ability to easily social distance. As such, a number of national and state parks around the country are open while others plan to do so just in time for the holiday. This is a very good social-distancing type of vacation. It’s just you and your family and your RV out there in the great outdoors.

Eleven Mile Range in Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also a chance to catch North Dakota in a rare moment of warmth. Or just crash out on the beach. The sun is strong and temperatures soar far and wide—South Dakota, New Hampshire, even North Dakota, for god’s sake. Enjoy.

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in April, May, and June. Also check out our recommendations from July 2019.

Needles Highway in the Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota

Road-trippers are too often guilty of blowing through South Dakota with a soda stop at Wall Drug and a quick gawk at Mount Rushmore, then back to I-90 and onward. Well, ease off the gas a bit. SoDak has a lot going on. The Black Hills would hold their own as a national park replete with winding scenic drives, deep forests (the “black” in Black Hills), sparkling lakes, world-class caverns, and the tallest mountain east of the Rockies. Even the farm-and-prairie country to the east, bisected by the Missouri River, is sprinkled with gems, particularly if you’re drawn to lakes and rivers.

New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hampshire

New Hampshire is heavily forested and riddled with rocky crags and more than 1,300 lakes. The steep, rugged White Mountains are a collection of 4,000-foot peaks that dominate the northern portion of the state. Move south looking for mellower terrain and there’s barely enough time for those mountains to transition to hills before you’re at the coast which is almost as thrilling as the peaks on the other end of the state. The 18 miles of coastline are known for cold surf, rocky beaches, and jagged islands popping up from the Atlantic.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step aboard the Cog Railway and climb to the Northeast’s highest summit, Mount Washington. The train travels the steepest railroad tracks in North America, passing through several climate zones before reaching the summit. With 93 state parks offering everything from surf breaks to mountain peaks, New Hampshire is a state built for adventure.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

For wildlife spotting opportunities away from the crowds head west to the littler-known Theodore Roosevelt National Park which sees just 749,000 annual visitors. Twenty-nine American bison were reintroduced here in 1956 with herd numbers today totaling several hundred between the park’s north and south units. For the best chance of seeing bison, make your way around the Scenic Loop Drive in the south unit but be sure to maintain a respectable distance from the massive creatures. Fortunately, bison prefer to graze the nutritious grasslands surrounding prairie dog communities, and thus, you may spot both species.

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond the park’s critters, there is an abundance of scenic views and impressive rock formations to enjoy. Visiting at sunrise or sunset is an ideal time to appreciate the multitude of colors emanating from bands of minerals in the rugged rock face.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston

There are few better places to be for the Fourth of July than Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution. This richly historic, seafront state capital come alive with celebrations. Packed with museums and galleries, Boston was once hailed the Athens of America. Bostonians are proud of their food culture with classics like clam chowder and lobster rolls.

Forest Center, Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Everyone loves a two-for-one, especially when it comes to national parks. As Yosemite’s southern neighbors, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are often overlooked. Although Sequoia and Kings Canyon’s natural beauty rival its northerly neighbor, it only received 1.2 million visitors in 2018 compared to Yosemite’s four million. But as the famed naturalist John Muir once penned, “…southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is a grander valley of the same kind.” And we have to agree.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.”

—Walter Winchell

Celebrating Canada Day during the Pandemic

COVID-19 means it’s time for a road trip

With Canada Day rapidly approaching, this year will be totally different. There will be few, if any, Canada Day parades, festivals, or big July 1st parties.

Along the Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer is the best time for a road trip and Canada is filled with some of the world’s most scenic drives. After months of staying indoors, Canadians are more than ready for a change of scenery. This will be the summer of the road trip—the kind of vacation many of us recall from childhood. With ultra-low fuel prices, a road trip is an inexpensive and easy way to get away.

Along the Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you simply hop in a car or hit the open road in a recreational vehicle, the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in Canada—or most anywhere else.

This 232-kilometre (144-mile) stretch of road between Jasper and Lake Louise (also known as Highway 93) was built along the backbone of the North American continent.

Along the Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The road is dotted with more than 100 glaciers, rugged mountains, waterfalls, stunning blue lakes, and vast sweeping valleys. It has been described as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring road trips by National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, and numerous other publications.

Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The drive can be done in three hours but you’ll want to budget a full day or more. The Columbia Icefields for which the road is named is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies and a stop at Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre is a must. Here, you’ll travel on a massive Ice Explorer to a place where you can walk on the Athabasca Glacier. Then, take a jaw-dropping walk along the glass-floored Glacial Skywalk at the cliff’s edge. With reduced occupancy these tours fill quickly.

Columbia Icefields © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peyto Lake and Bow Summit, Bow Lake, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Parker Ridge, Weeping Wall, and Mistaya Canyon are just a few of the other amazing stops that can be made along the way. You’ll find many more amazing natural wonders on either end of the Icefields Parkway in Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another way to celebrate and have fun with a Canadian theme is to enjoy some tasty Canadian wine. In all, British Columbia now has 370 wineries, most of them in the Okanagan. The statistics are a testament to the strength and rapid growth of the wine industry in the province.

In the South Okanagan, rainfall is scarce and the soils are sandy. The resulting thickly tannic wines favor Syrah, Merlot, and other Bordeaux reds, along with hot-climate whites such as Viognier.

Black Hills Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, Black Hills Estate Winery is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first release of their iconic Bordeaux style red, Nota Bene. Normally they celebrate the release with a big party but this year the winery is taking its party online on July 17th.

Black Hills Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Customers who purchase 12 bottles of the 2018 Nota Bene ($59.90 each) will receive access to the online party featuring recording artist Steven Page joined by Jason Priestley, Erin Cebula, Prevail, and 2018 Olympic winner, Kelsey Serwa. Black Hills’ Winemaker and Master of Wine, Ross Wise kicks off the celebration with a guided tasting of his 2018 Nota Bene. Customers also receive a VIP Cabana Tasting at the winery and free shipping.

Black Hills Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The South Okanagan Valley icon is located on the famed Black Sage Bench, 13 kilometres (8 miles) north of Osoyoos and 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Oliver. This places Black Hills Estate in the Okanagan Valley appellation centered in the middle of Canada’s only official desert. The resulting microclimate leaves Black Hills with one of the hottest, driest, and sunniest sites in the country. In fact, this northern latitude attracts more sunlight hours than Napa Valley in the key growing months of June through August.

Black Hills Estate Winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While in the Okanagan, nothing quite says summer than a refreshing float down Penticton’s river channel. The man-made waterway, also known as the Okanagan River Channel, was first created in the 1950s to control flooding and water flow from the Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake.

Okanagan River Channel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The seven-kilometre (4-mile) river float has since changed into a beloved community staple that draws people from across the valley for an up-to three hour river float. Coyote Cruises which offers shuttle and inner-tubes said that due to the current water flow, the float only takes an hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish.

Okanagan River Channel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recently a long list of COVID-19 procedures for health and safety were posted on its website and included insights into how social distancing will be maintained. Among the things listed, the shuttle bus will only be 2/3 full. Personal inflation services will not be provided and staff will not be helping guests in and out of the channel.

Okanagan Lake at Penticton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So Happy 153rd Birthday, Canada. And here’s to the delicious wines of the Okanagan! May both continue to grow and prosper!

Worth Pondering…

Think I’ll go out to Alberta

Weather’s good there in the fall

Got some friends there I can go to.

—sung by Ian Tyson

Red Rock Scenic Byway: All-American Road

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls”

The fifteen-mile stretch of State Route 179 from Interstate 17 (Exit 298) is the primary route that millions of tourists use to visit Sedona, a premier world tourist destination. Visitors winding their way along this route are treated to one of the more incredible scenic drives in America. 

The Red Rock Scenic Byway is a tourist attraction onto itself. Many will claim that the natural beauty along this winding road is unparalleled anywhere else in the nation.

Forest Service Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Forest/Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center

Your first must-stop is the beautiful Forest Service Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center, located just south of the Village of Oak Creek on SR 179. Get maps and tons of Red Rock Country “fun things to do” information, as well as your Red Rock Pass for trailhead parking. Learn all the stories and history of this amazing area, like how the rocks and mesas were formed and named.

Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Crossing on Oak Creek

As you leave the Visitors Center driveway, turn north (left) on SR 179 and you’ll see a major intersection with a stoplight. Turn west (left) onto Verde Valley School Road and drive 4.7 miles where the road dead-ends at the Red Rock Crossing parking lot. Do not park anywhere but the parking lot. This road travels through residential areas so be aware of the 30-35 mph speed limit; also, for the last 1.2 miles, the road is unpaved as well as curvy, hilly, and subject to flooding after excessive rains.

Oak Creek near Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the parking lot, it is a very short walk to the pathway that will lead you down to the unique red rock banks of Oak Creek. Don’t forget your camera, because you’re at one of the most photographed sites in the country as well as one of the most naturally beautiful settings in Sedona.

Cathedral Rock near Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If it’s a Saturday, chances are there’s a small wedding taking place at the north end of the crossing. Most days there will be artists painting or photographers setting up their shots or people just soaking up the inspiring view.

If the creek water’s low enough, step across the red rock stepping stones which is the crossing to Crescent Moon Ranch State Park situated on the other side.

Bell Rock Vista © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bell Rock Vista and Pathway Southern Trailhead

Turn east (right) out of the Red Rock Crossing parking lot and take Verde Valley School Road 4.7 miles back to its stoplight intersection with SR 179, where you will turn north (left).

Bell Rock Vista © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Proceed through the Village of Oak Creek and just past the next stoplight on your right hand side will be the entrance to the Bell Rock Vista and Pathway parking lot. Here’s where you’ll discover the size and power of the red rocks; this is a travelers up close experience with mystical Bell Rock and mammoth Courthouse Butte. Feel the red rock energy and enjoy the views.

There are many pathways to choose from all going to or near Bell Rock that can be done in a half hour or as long as you feel like walking.

Hiking along the Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little Horse Trail and Bell Rock Pathway Northern Trailhead

Turn north (or right) out of the parking lot onto SR 179; proceed straight and be on the lookout for signs that say “Little Horse Trail” and “Bell Rock Pathway”; entrance to this stop’s parking lot will come up fairly quickly, on your right.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Discover a little serenity among the glorious hiking and biking trails that meander to hidden washes and breathtaking red rock panoramas. Little Horse Trail is a local favorite, rated moderate, and 6.5 miles if you do the full round trip. Remember the rules of the trail, and have fun!

Also at this stop, view the “Three Nuns” with the renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross perched below.

Chapel of the Holy Cross © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Officially, the scenic road ends just beyond this point so after your hike, and before resuming your drive, take a moment to look west and gaze upon famous Cathedral Rock, a huge rock formation with multiple red rock spires. Whether it is silhouetted against a glowing sunset or shining in the midday sun, it is considered one of the most beautiful of all the red rock formations in the Sedona area, and surely a fitting way to end your day of Red Rock Splendor.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

Experience the Past in the Present along the Amish Country Byway

Traveling the Amish Country Byway is quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul

Due to changing advisories, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a map, routes 39, 62, 515, and 60 form a sort of “eyeglasses” shape throughout Holmes County in Ohio. That’s fitting, because exploring these four roads are a great way to explore Amish Country. These routes make up the Amish Country Scenic Byway, designated in June 2002 as a National Scenic Byway. These 72 miles of roadway are recognized for their unique cultural and historic significance.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along these roadways, you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns. In the fall, the vistas become even more awe-inspiring, as nature puts on its finest show—the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of the trees amid a backdrop of that bluest sky that only fall can produce.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes. Entrepreneurial businesses owned by the Amish add to the friendly atmosphere along the byway while creating a welcome distance from the superstores of commercial America.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Agriculture is the economic heart of Amish Country and visitors to the area are likely to see rows of haystacks or fields being plowed. Holmes County boasts the second largest dairy production in the state, the largest local produce auction during the growing season, and weekly livestock auctions in the communities along the byway. The Swiss and German heritage of the early settlers in the county is evident in the many specialty cheese and meat products and delicious Swiss/Amish restaurants.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apart from the beautiful scenery, these routes have numerous special attractions that shouldn’t be missed along the way. U.S. Rt. 62, for example, winds down into the heart of Holmes County from Wilmot, passing such Amish Country mainstays as the Amish Door Restaurant and Wendell August Forge before leading you into Berlin, the area’s ultimate shopping destination.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you get to Berlin, however, you’ll pass through the cute village of Winesburg. There’s enough here to keep you busy at least an afternoon, with several unique shops, antiques, art, and sculptures for sale, and an old-fashioned corner restaurant.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside Winesburg, you can turn off 62 onto State Rt. 515, a hilly, winding road that takes you through Trail, home of the famous Troyer’s Trail Bologna, and past Yoder’s Amish Farm, where you can tour two Amish houses, a barn full of animals, a schoolhouse, and even take a buggy ride. Rt. 515 ends up in Walnut Creek, intersecting with another part of the byway, State Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rt. 39 offers a wealth of things to see and do, especially in the eastern portion of Holmes County. The road passes through Millersburg, Berlin, and Walnut Creek before heading to the village of Sugarcreek.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelling east toward Berlin, Rt. 39 merges with Rt. 62 for a time, and you’ll pass numerous shops and restaurants. In Berlin, go through the light (stay on 39) and immediately turn left, for you’ve found yourself at the Berlin Village Gift Barn, one of the best places around to find just the right accessory for your RV. You’ll also discover Country Gatherings, a new off-shoot of the gift barn, featuring primitives and floral designs.

“Must-stops” in Walnut Creek include the shops at Walnut Creek Cheese and Coblentz Chocolates, both easily accessible from Rt. 39.

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll leave the Amish Country Byway feeling much the same as the traveler who said, “Traveling to Amish Country is a great getaway from our day-to-day routines. It’s quiet, clean, and refreshes the soul. When you get away from the telephone ringing, from the traffic on the roads, it’s a gift, a refuge from the everyday noise of your life.”

Along the Amish Country Byway in Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts—sewing, quilting, cooking, baking—as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.

―Beverly Lewis

Visual Marvels: America’s Seven Natural Wonders

The Seven Natural Wonders of America are a list of the most astonishing natural attractions

Ever since the list of the Seven Wonders of the World was first inked by either Antipater of Sidon (second half of the 2nd century BC), Philo of Byzantium (c. 280–220 BC, Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC), or Callimachus of Cyrene (c. 305–240 BC)—depending upon which ancient historian you believe—all manner of “Seven Wonders” lists pop up from time to time including the New Seven Wonders of the World, of the Natural World, of the Modern World, of the Architectural World. Well, this could go on for a while.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it is that original collection of wonders, now referred to as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Great Pyramids of Giza (the only one that still exists), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus, the Temple of Artemis (at Ephesus near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey), the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (in present-day Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandra—that sparks the imagination, stirs the soul, and stokes the curiosity. These are the finest creations of the ancient world and at the very least inspire wonder in their sheer archaeological greatness.

Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That much can be said of any wonder, whether natural or manmade, and then add into the mix the almost obsessive need for the world to categorize and break down everything into parts. That’s how these types of lists came to be in the first place. Often for reasons to promote tourism, numerous countries have tallied their own wonders as have almost all the United States.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon

One of the world’s great natural wonders, the Grand Canyon is a true marvel of nature. John Wesley Powell said it best, “The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.” A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million years ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Great Smoky Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.

Great Smoky Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This exceptionally beautiful park is home to more than 3,500 plant species, including almost as many trees (130 natural species) as in all of Europe. The park is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams.

Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park

The horseshoe-shaped, russet rock hoodoo formations of Bryce Canyon National Park are a true sight to behold. This is one of the world’s highest concentrations of hoodoos and their colors alternate between shades of purple, red, orange, and white.

Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Sunset, Sunrise, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints are the spots to hit for the best views in the shortest amount of time. There are several easy trails located near the rim of Bryce Canyon to hike as well as ranger programs that take you on guided hikes through the park.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee Swamp

The Okefenokee, whose name means “Land of the Trembling Earth” in the Creek language, is now part national wildlife refuge, part privately-owned park (Okefenokee Swamp Park) that is widely known for harboring an incredible cache of biological and ecological wonders. The swamp’s dark, coffee-colored tannic water is the base for a living jumble of pine, cypress, swamp, palmetto, peat bog, marsh, island, and sand ridge.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A hodgepodge of animal and bird life, among the hundreds of species are black bear, alligators galore, snakes galore, deer, anhinga, osprey, and sandhill crane call the swamp home.

Arches © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches

Arches contains the world’s largest concentration of, yes, sandstone arches. There are more than 2,000, all of which took millions of years to form via erosion. And the arches are just one of an infinite number of absolutely jaw-dropping formations within the 120-square-mile park—Devil’s Garden, Balanced Rock, Fiery Furnace, Landscape Rock, The Windows, it goes on.

Arches © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches is one of the most distinctive, alien-looking landscapes in America, and you should take advantage of the hiking trails like Devil’s Garden to really get the full experience.

Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Black Hills

Driving through the Black Hills takes you through some of the most rugged, distinctive, and beautiful land in America. It’s hard to stick to the main road in this rugged land of canyons, cliffs, and caves.

Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Black Hills are home to some of the most majestic scenery you can imagine from the winding Spearfish Canyon to the mountain lakes that surround Mount Rushmore—rivers, mountains, caves, and more make it ideal for hikers and climbers and everybody in between.

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns

The Chihuahuan Desert, studded with spiky plants and lizards, offers little hint that what Will Rogers called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it” waits underground. Yet, at this desert’s northern reaches lies one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found.

Carlsbad Caverns © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 limestone caves that are outstanding in the profusion, diversity, and beauty of their formations. Most of the formations—or speleothems—found inside Carlsbad Cavern today were active and growing during the last ice age when instead of a desert above the cave, there were pine forests.

Worth Pondering…

We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.

—Thomas Browne