Historic Frankfort: Kentucky Distilled

Frankfort embodies the essence of everything that makes Kentucky special from natural charm and beauty to world-renowned bourbon. You could say that Frankfort is Kentucky Distilled. Frankfort is capitol halls and bourbon balls, rolling hills and rushing rivers, southern hospitality and historic buildings. Frankfort is beauty, big ideas, and bourbon.

Kentucky’s capital city, Frankfort, is nestled between Louisville and Lexington along the banks of the Kentucky River. Built among picturesque hills on both sides of the river, Frankfort is in the midst of the famous Kentucky blue grass region. An historic city, Frankfort is a quintessential river community with small town charm, rich history, and typical Southern hospitality.

Frankfort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll through the city to admire its fabulous architecture, especially the new and old capitol buildings, as well as the new and old governor mansions, which are open to the public.

Center For Kentucky History © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get a sense of local history at the Kentucky Historical Society’s Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. The museum presents the history of Kentucky in an interesting way that appeals to people of all ages.

Center for Kentucky History © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum encompasses all aspects of the Commonwealth’s history from the time of Kentucky’s Early People, the Native Americans who hunted and farmed the land. Exhibits show what it was like to live on the Kentucky Frontier in the late seventeen hundreds and how the Great Depression and World War II influenced the state’s development and its people.

Kentucky State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The city’s most prominent building is the State Capitol, about 400 feet long and 185 feet wide, built of granite and white limestone in the Italian Renaissance style, with 70 large Ionic columns, and a dome 205 feet above the terrace line, supported by 24 other columns. The Capitol was built in 1905-1907.

Kentucky State Capitol Floral Clock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky’s Capitol is the fourth permanent building since statehood in 1792. It was built to replace the earlier 1830 capitol, still standing and available for tours in the historic downtown area.

Old State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drinking it isn’t the only way to enjoy Kentucky bourbon. That’s why your tour of the Bluegrass should also include a trip to a candy shop. A Kentucky schoolteacher-turned-entrepreneur named Ruth Hanly Booe is credited with inventing bourbon candy. In 1919, she and another teacher, Rebecca Gooch, set up a candy business in the Prohibition-closed barroom of the Old Frankfort Hotel in Frankfort. The saloon-turned-candy shop was a big success. Ruth became sole owner in 1929.

Rebecca Ruth Candies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The idea of making bourbon candy supposedly grew out of a chance remark during Frankfort’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1936, when a friend of Ruth’s pointed out that her mint candy and bourbon were the two best tastes in the world. Candy made using her secret recipe is still sold by Ruth Booe’s descendants at Rebecca Ruth Candies. You can tour the factory in historic downtown Frankfort at 116 East Second Street, a short distance from the state capitol.

Rebecca Ruth Candies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our informative tour included the story of Ruth Hanley Hooe, a museum of olden candy making equipment, a view of the candy production line, chocolate sniffs, and a bourbon ball sample. We took a bunch back with us to the motorhome for additional research.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Kentucky, buffalo carved a pathway that was followed by America’s early pioneers. On the spot where the buffalo migration route crossed the Kentucky River, bourbon whiskey has been distilled for over 200 years. Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously operating distillery in America. During Prohibition the distillery was permitted to remain operational making whiskey for “medicinal purposes”.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The distillery sprawls over 130 acres and is home to four centuries of architecture—all still fully operational.The Trace Tour began at the gift shop and included a warehouse and small bottling house where the distillery’s “single-barrel” bourbons—Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s Reserve, and Elmer T. Lee—are bottled and sealed by hand.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We walked the path of rolling bourbon barrels and were captivated by the alluring smell and atmosphere of bourbon aging inside the warehouses. Then we toured inside the Blanton’s Bottling Hall and saw signature bourbons being filled, sealed, labeled, and packaged—all by hand. 

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of Buffalo Trace Small Batch Bourbon, Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon, and Bourbon Cream Liquor.

Buffalo Trace Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

The 7 Most Scenic Drives in the Country to Add to Your Bucket List

Calling all leaf peepers!

Crisp air, apple cider pit stops, and of course, brilliant foliage—there’s truly no better time for a family road trip than the fall. But rather than stress over what to do when you get to your destination, why not make it about how you get there?

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute day trip or weekend adventure, these scenic highways and byways are all about the RV lifestyle and savoring your front-row view of the beautiful landscape. So pack up the RV for one of the below drives (organized from west to east) the family won’t forget.

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byway 12

Length: 124 miles | Region: West

Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” this rugged Utah trail winds through rock-formation-rich Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks as well as the awe-inspiring Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is made up of plateaus and canyons the size of Delaware. Make sure to stop in Dixie National Forest for supreme views of the area from its 9,000-foot summit.

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Length: 7.5 miles | Region: West

Red Rock Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Scenic Byway winds through Sedona’s Red Rock Country, often called a “museum without walls.” Travelers are amazed by the high desert’s power, diversity, and sense of intimacy with nature. Inhabited for thousands of years, the stunning red rocks are alive with a timeless spirit that captivates and inspires.

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66

Length: 2,448 miles | Region: West/Midwest

Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No list of road trips would be complete without this east-west stretch, which spans from Chicago to Los Angeles. While many parts of this route have been decommissioned, it’s still possible to travel provided you’re willing to ignore your phone’s GPS directions and rely on good ol’ analog maps. Early fall is the best time to attempt this drive, as the weather is calm and the summer crowds have dwindled.

Black Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway 385

Length: 53 miles | Region: Midwest

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While this road nearly bisects the country, the most picturesque section is in the famed Black Hills and Badlands of western South Dakota. Fall is the most temperate time of year to visit, and it also happens to be breeding season for many of the larger wilder animals (so be on the lookout for bison, pronghorn, deer, and elk!).

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway

Length: 43 miles | Region: Southeast

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Skyway offers the cultural heritage of the Cherokee tribe and early settlers in a grand forest environment in the Appalachian Mountains. Enjoy mile-high vistas and brilliant fall foliage, as well as great hiking opportunities and picnic spots in magnificent and seldom-seen portions of the southern Appalachian National Forests.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive

Length: 105 Miles | Region: Southeast

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This lush drive through Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park is particularly popular during the last three weeks in October, when the Blue Ridge Mountains erupt in color. Leave room in your schedule for a hike: There are over 500 miles of trails, 100 of which are part of the great Appalachian Trail.

Route 100

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Length: 90 miles | Region: Northeast

Ben & Jerry’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the eastern edge of Vermont’s Green Mountains, this is the easiest drive of the bunch—it’s nearly a straight shot the whole way, running the entire vertical length of the state. Don’t miss your chance to tour the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury or indulge in various maple-flavored goodies in Ludlow!

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Visiting LBJ Ranch

The Texas Hill Country rises out of south-central Texas like an island out of a vast ocean

East of Fredericksburg on Highway 290, is the not-to-be-missed complex of Lyndon B. Johnson historical parks. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park has two distinct visitor areas separated by 14 miles.

The LBJ Ranch is in the heart of the Hill Country on the banks of the Pedernales River.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Operated jointly by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Park service, the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall and the Boyhood Home and Johnston Settlement in Johnson City constitute a remarkable historic preservation.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Johnson City you will find the National Park Visitor Center, Boyhood Home in which President Johnson spent his childhood, and the Johnson Settlement where the President’s grandparents first settled in the 1860s.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park tells the story of America’s 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch. This entire “circle of life” gives the visitor a unique perspective into one of America’s most noteworthy citizens by providing the most complete picture of any American president.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Between the day he became president in November 1963, and the day he left the White House five years later, Lyndon Johnson returned to the Hill Country 74 times.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

President Johnson had a deep attachment for place and heritage. The LBJ Ranch was where he was born, lived, died, and was buried. In 1972, the Johnsons donated their home and 690 acres for a national park. After the President’s death in 1973 at age 64, Lady Bird Johnson continued to live at the Ranch part time until her death in 2007.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors are now able to tour the Ranch at their own pace in their private vehicle with the ability to stop at sites along the way such as the President’s birthplace, Johnson family cemetery, and the Johnson’s ranch house known as the Texas White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Obtain a free driving permit at the LBJ State Park and Historic Site Visitor Center in Stonewall. You will also receive a ranch map indicating the tour route. No Permits are given out after 4:00 p.m. A CD containing narrative audio for the tour is available for purchase in the bookstore and comes with a bonus DVD filled with videos and photos.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then, just like LBJ did over 50 years ago in his white Lincoln Continental, drive through the main gate—but not as fast as the heavy-footed president liked to speed through himself.

After leaving the visitor center, continue to Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, where visitors can see how the Johnson family’s German-Texan neighbors lived.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After touring Sauer-Beckmann head for Ranch Road 1 along the Pedernales River. The right guardhouse on the left, once manned by uniformed Secret Service agents, marks the previous low-water crossing on the ranch.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As part of the self-guided Ranch Tour, you may stop at the Texas White House for a ranger-guided tour.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll see Junction School, the one-room schoolhouse where Johnson learned to read; the reconstructed LBJ birthplace, and the Johnson family cemetery, here generations of the Johnson family are buried, including the president. You’ll also see the ranch house, known during the Johnson presidency as the “Texas White House”.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you arrive at the Texas White House, obtain a ticket for a house tour at the Airplane Hangar. House tour fee for ages 18 and older is $3.00.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas White House was officially opened to the public on August 27, 2008. The entire ground floor is available for public tours. Rooms on the tour include the President’s Office, living room, dining room, and the Johnsons’ bedroom suites. The majority of rooms have been restored to their appearance during the presidential years (1963-1968) while the bedroom suites retain their appearance at the time of President and Mrs. Johnson’s deaths.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A few miles east is Johnson City, named after LBJ’s family. Here, there’s more fine historic preservation, including Johnson’s boyhood home and the Johnson settlement, featuring several 1800s barns and cabins, an old windmill, and a water tank and cooler house.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

There’s something different about this country from any other part of the nation.

The climate is generally pleasant.

The sun is generally bright.

The air seems to be always clean.

And the water is pure.

The moons are a little fuller here.

The stars are a little brighter.

And I don’t how to describe the feelings other than I guess we all search at times for serenity.

And it’s serene here.

—Lyndon Baines Johnson

Utah’s Fishlake Scenic Byway Fall Foliage Amazes

See a kaleidoscope of fall colors along the scenic route to Fish Lake

The lure of fall foliage is no secret. Bursts of saturated yellow and fiery red demand your eye and call you to the open road.

With forecasting apps and digital foliage maps, terms like peaking and peeping are common language among RVers and other travelers with a craving for visual fall flavor.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah is an ideal place to see nature’s paintbrush at play. There are a number of native trees which create brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple. A cascade of color comes from canyon maple, quaking aspen, scrub oak, Douglas hawthorn, serviceberries, evergreens, and more—each turning in succession.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s wide array of forests, national parks, and scenic byways are located at different elevations and receive varying amounts of rainfall. This creates a multitude of peak viewing times throughout the state, so you can come early or late in the season and still spot breathtaking colors.

Explore the best drives for fall foliage paired with unexpected adventure. One such road is the scenic route to Fish Lake.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway (SR-25) bookends Fishlake National Forest, an often-missed oasis featuring three mountain ranges broken up by desert canyons. Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, scenic drives, trails, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fishlake Scenic Byway begins at the intersection of Highways 24 and 25. Like us, most travelers reach this intersection via Richfield on I-70. This approach from the northwest is a pleasant drive and deserves mention.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highway 119 east from Richfield is a scenic route, starting out through pretty farmland then climbing into wild, open, undeveloped desert hills. It is 9 miles to the intersection with Highway 24. Angle to the right, signed for Fish Lake, Loa, and Capitol Reef. Highway 24 is very scenic, through mostly undeveloped public land, high-desert prairie covered with pinyon, juniper, and sagebrush. A few miles farther you reach the northern end of Koosharem Reservoir.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At about mile 17 the road begins to climb into the foothills of the Fishlake Plateau. At just under mile 23 you reach the well-marked turnoff on the left for Highway 25, the proper start of the Fishlake Scenic Byway.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fishlake byway, somewhat narrow but paved and well maintained, continues climbing and enters Fishlake National Forest 4 miles from the start of Highway 25. By this point you have completed most of the initial altitude gain on this drive. From here the road actually descends slightly to Fish Lake at mile 7. Dense stands of aspens make this drive especially attractive in the fall. At this elevation even summer nights are brisk, and the days are cool and pleasant.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The national forest’s prize jewel, Fish Lake, is known for its recreational bliss and yellow-blazen aspen forests. Seize the opportunity to see the leaves change on an aspen clone known as Pando, which is believed to be the heaviest organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds. Pando is located about 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake on state Route 25.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake, Utah’s largest natural mountain lake, lies in a down-faulted valley (technically known as a graben) at an elevation of 8,843 feet. The 5.5-mile-long lake is one of the most popular fishing resorts in the state, attracting as many as 7,000 visitors on summer weekends.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Across the lake, the long ridge of Mytoge Mountain forms the eastern limit of the Fish Lake basin. To the north, Mounts Marvine and Hilgard, both well over 11,000 feet, remain snowcapped for most of the summer.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake shore is dotted with three commercial resorts, two RV parks, three campgrounds, and numerous picnic areas and boat launches. At just under mile 8, note the large board locating the several campgrounds within the Fish Lake Recreation Area. Though camping is abundant, count on the campgrounds filling up quickly on summer weekends.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a full-scale National Forest Service brown-log-cabin resort development here, but it is on a low-key and fairly unobtrusive scale. Here you will find a gas station, general store, marina, RV park, cabin rentals, and even a laundry.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is earth’s eye, looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

—Henry David Thoreau

Driving a Road through Beauty

Only the forest, streams, and wildlife occupy this wild country

A Road Through Beauty, the Cherohala Skyway’s 36 miles of scenic mountain views rival any scenic byway in the eastern United States.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mountaintops, waterfalls, and waterways adorn this high country of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. The average trip over the Skyway takes 2 1/2-hours, if you just want to drive and view scenery. I would recommend setting aside the best part of the day to enjoy some of the bigger than life features the Cherohala Skyway and Unicoi Mountain Wilderness have to offer.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name “Cherohala” comes from the names of the two National Forests: “Chero” from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In October 1996, the Cherohala Skyway was opened to the public at a cost of 100-million dollars offering access to the top of the world for far western North Carolina and far southeastern Tennessee.  For the first time Robbinsville, North Carolina and Tellico Plains, Tennessee became sister cities if you can call them that. Both towns are modest in size yet large in local history, newly connected by a ribbon of asphalt over a vast wilderness.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The official scenic Cherohala Skyway is 36-miles in length, with 15-miles in North Carolina and 21-miles in Tennessee, although actual distance between Robbinsville and Tellico Plains is roughly 50 miles of paved road. The 36-mile scenic byway connects TN 68 with NC 143. There are no services over the actual scenic highway except for public restrooms at three locations along the Cherohala Skyway.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From heights nearing 6,000-feet, are views of the rugged rolling mountaintops of the Unaka Mountains with the Great Smoky Mountains to the northeast and the Tennessee River Valley to the west. What you will find along the route are lots of great mountain overlooks, camping areas, and numerous hiking trails leading off from the scenic byway. 

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mountain-and-valley scenery along the 36-mile stretch is spectacular. Mountain balds as they are called, crown the Unicoi Crest at the pinnacle of the Cherohala Skyway and are without doubt part of the great mystery of mountain creation itself. The Cherohala Skyway scenic overlooks have rightfully been compared to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Newfound Gap Road through the Great Smoky Mountains.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 29 trails along the Cherohala Skyway covering 150 miles. These trails offer long and short hikes to special locations of natural beauty and mystery. There are also 8 horseback trails totaling 31 miles for equestrians to explore from the saddle. 

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To reach the eastern gateway to the Cherohala Skyway, take NC 143 west from Robbinsville, for approximately 12-miles, signs will mark the way. At this point where highway NC 143 becomes the Cherohala Skyway, you can access Joyce Kilmer Road. A two-mile drive along this side-road will take you to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Slickrock Wilderness Area. The memorial forest is named after the poet and American patriot Joyce Kilmer who wrote the famous poem “Trees,” in 1913. 

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joyce Kilmer, while serving in France during World War I was killed in action and highly decorated for his heroism by the French government. The memorial forest is an old-growth forest of giant trees, some ranging over 100 feet tall, over 20 feet in circumference, and estimated to be over 400 years old. The memorial forest remains isolated deep within a large mountainous cove, unspoiled and preserved for posterity’s sake.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Due to its remote mountainous location, a logging company’s bankruptcy and just plain good luck, these giants of the mountain forest were saved from destruction, preserving their beauty for our enjoyment as well as the generations to come. 

This 3,800-acre woodland is an awe-inspiring experience that makes the Cherohala Skyway adventure unlike any other. Flowing through the heart of the memorial forest is the Little Santeetlah Creek, which is one of the main watersheds that feed the sky blue waters of Lake Santeetlah. Lake Santeetlah is one of the most beautiful lakes in all the North Carolina Mountains, mostly isolated and pristine.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Isolated in a wilderness land, adventurous souls come to appreciate the mountain country the Cherokee People’s ancestor called, “land of the noon day sun.”

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A journey across the Cherohala Skyway is an experience you’ll want to repeat often.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

—Joyce Kilmer

Otherworldly National Parks

National parks come in many different sizes and features. Some parks make one feel as if they’re on another planet.

A trip to a national park can make for a great fall vacation. In fact, it makes for a great vacation any time of the year.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, if you plan on going to some of the most popular national parks in the U.S., like the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you might end up fighting the crowds. And, while all of the 421 park sites (including 61 official national parks) in the National Park Service system are unique in their own way, there are a few underrated parks that deserve some attention for their particularly strange or peculiar features that you can’t find anywhere else.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For instance, did you know it was possible to travel to another planet in your RV? Otherworldly national parks like Carlsbad Canyon in New Mexico, Bryce Canyon in Utah, and Petrified Forest in Arizona all feature unique landscapes that you wouldn’t expect to find in America.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are thousands of incredible hiking trails, campgrounds, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and mountain peaks throughout the country, but only at these national park sites can you find something fascinating, something unique, or even something downright weird.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for interesting red and pink rocks, you can’t do better than Bryce Canyon. The national park is known for its fascinating rock formations and hoodoos, as well as its gorgeous, starry skies at night. Some of the best places to visit in the park include Sunrise and Sunset Point and Fairyland Canyon where you can get eye-level with hoodoos.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk among the flat-topped mesas and sculpted buttes of the Petrified Forest National Park and you’ll surely feel like you’ve been transported to another world—or perhaps to the moon. This ancient forest in the middle of the desert became fossilized over time as minerals like quartz slowly replaced the wood remains. The park’s Blue Mesa Trail takes hikers into the heart of the otherworldly badlands—an eerie landscape dotted with mounds of multi-colored petrified wood.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The otherworldly subterranean landscape of Carlsbad Caverns National Park is—justifiably—New Mexico’s most famous attraction. Take the self-guided audio tours of the Natural Entrance and Big Room. Then sign up for a 1.5-hour ranger-led tour through the four Kings Palace chambers, which lie some 830 feet beneath the park’s surface and contain hundreds of eerie geological formations. A “bat show” takes place at Carlsbad Caverns every evening from Memorial Day through October.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah

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

Drive the long stretches of highway that cut through the Colorado Plateau to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and it will be hard to miss the colorful bluffs, mesas, buttes, and canyons that dominate the landscape. Glen Canyon lies in the middle of the Colorado Plateau, an area that can be characterized by its high elevation and arid to semi-arid climate. Take some time to explore this vast landscape, and you will find traces of dinosaurs that roamed this area millions of years ago during the Mesozoic Era.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of Moab rises a kaleidoscope of tilted and carved geology laid down over the eons. Baked by time, Canyonlands features an eerie landscape cut by canyons, rumpled by upthrusts and elongated fault blocks, and even pockmarked, some believe, by ancient asteroids. There’s the red and white Cedar Mesa sandstone, the grayish-green Morrison Formation, pinkish Entrada sandstone, and tawny Navajo sandstone, just to name some of the geologic layers. Stacked like pancakes, they help make Canyonlands the most rugged national park in the Southwest.

Worth Pondering…

Nature was here a series of wonders and a fund of delight.

—Daniel Boone

24 Photos That Prove Fall Is the Best Season Ever

We are SO ready

We could be here all day talking about fall. When the air gets crisp and the leaves start to change colors, we’re filled with a special sort of joy that might even surpass our feelings about Christmas (okay, it’s a tie).

There are so many outings we can’t wait to do. Like going to the pumpkin farm and grabbing a gourd to carve. And don’t forget about apple picking—and apple pie! And pumpkin pie, for that matter. Or, sweet potato or pecan pie!

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

But it’s not only the activities. The sheer beauty of autumn is a standout all on its own, which is why people travel far and wide for the best leaf peeping each year. And don’t forget your camera!

Seven Oaks Market near Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But if you can’t get away to a charming small town to see it for yourself, don’t worry. You can take a drive in the country or even just a stroll down a city street. But if you really need an autumn fix, then we suggest flipping through these photos. Trust us: They really do prove it’s the best season ever

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Great Outdoors

Head east and take a hike in the Smoky Mountains. The stunning views will not let you down.

Pumpkin Perfection

Pumpkins, colorful leaves in the distance, and a beautiful blue sky in Oregon? Nope, a more perfect fall day doesn’t exist.

Warakusa, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One with Nature

Fall is the best time to take a break from life and immerse yourself in nature. Just look at this scene from Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah and try to argue otherwise.

Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Serenity in the Suburbs

Walk down a quiet suburban street lined with trees shedding their leaves. The beauty could inspire anyone to give up city living.

Amish Country Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Autumnal Countryside

The crops may already be harvested, but there’s still plenty to behold on this Amish Country farm.

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving a Road through Beauty

Cherohala Skyway’s 36 miles of scenic mountain views rival any scenic byway in the eastern U. S.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

Scenic Drive

Lush forests provide gorgeous views for long drives across the country.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina Has It All

Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina

Okanagan Valley Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Farewell My Summer Love

What better way to end an amazing summer than to dive into a wine country extravaganza?

Montpelier, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Small Town Charm

The rich foliage beautifully complements Montpelier, Vermont’s many red and white buildings.

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colorful Vineyard

Rows of yellow, orange, and red vines make British Columbia’s Okanagan Wine Country look even more stunning.

A walk in the park near Penticton, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vibrant Fall Foliage

There’s nothing quite like a walk in the park during autumn.

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

Pretty Reflection

Who wouldn’t want to take an autumn canoe ride on this gorgeous river?

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Early Fall Morning

The reflection in the water of this New Mexico landscape means double the fall foliage.

Oregon Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rolling Hills

These Oregon vineyards seem so serene in autumn.

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

Crimson Trees

We could spend all day daydreaming in this magical forest filled with fall hues.

Lancasster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall Fields

Vibrant colors abound during autumn in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Along Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaf Peeping

Discover fall colors on Skyline Drive as the Blue Ridge Mountains erupt in color

Cranes at sunrise prepare for flight © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cranes at Sunrise

Autumn leaf color too at Bosque during the Crane Festival

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visual Marvels

At Okefenokee, the dark, coffee-colored tannic water is the base for a living jumble of pine, cypress, swamp, palmetto, peat bog, marsh, island, and sand ridge.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mountain Splendor

The Icefields Parkway winds through Rocky Mountain peaks, icefields, and vast sweeping valleys.

Pops of red © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pops of Red

The Blue Ridge Parkway is arguably the country’s most beautiful drive.

Fish Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saturated Yellows of Quaking Aspens

Utah’s Fish Lake is known for its recreational bliss and yellow-blazed aspen forests.

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Daydreaming of the European Alps

Take a Sound of Music history of Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Visit Central Vermont and enjoy the great outdoors

Quaint to quirky, this state has it all. Vermont is predominately rural with mountains, villages, and a few small cities. From the Green Mountains to the Connecticut River on the east to Lake Champlain to the northwest, Vermont has much to attract the RVer.

Vermont State House in Montpelier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The intense green forests are studded with colorful bursts of summer flowers. Central Vermont, from Burlington to the Montpelier area, offers many interesting and delicious attractions to RVers.

Montpelier, the smallest capital in America with a population under 8,000 people, is a charming historic town with the largest urban historic district in Vermont. It is readily accessible from I-89 which runs from the southeast corner of the state to the northwest.

Montpelier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The crown jewel is the impeccably restored State House. The gold leaf dome includes real gold and offers a spectacular contrast with the wooded hillside of Hubbard Park in the background. Guided tours are available free of charge. Next door to the capitol, the Vermont Historical Society Museum is a must for history buffs.

Vermont State House in Montpelier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montpelier is a walking city. The heart of the downtown is three blocks from the State House. Downtown Montpelier is a vibrant center of interesting, independently owned shops and restaurants. It is also home to the New England Culinary Institute, which operates three restaurants—NECI on Main, Dewey Cafe, and La Brioche Bakery & Café—with irresistible delights in this eclectic New England town.

Montpelier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty of beautiful countryside to see around Montpelier and a number of interesting tours nearby.

Rock of Ages granite quarry © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 7 miles southeast of the state capital is Barre, known as the Granite Center of the World. Its downtown, with several prominent sculptures and granite faced buildings, reflects that heritage. Its famed quarries at the edge of town are sprawling and spectacular with an estimated 4,500-year supply of Barre Gray granite still to be quarried out of the surrounding hills.

Rock of Ages granite quarry © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rock of Ages which claims to be the world’s largest granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. Climb aboard a shuttle bus for a guided tour of the quarry and watch the process of mining granite. From behind a wire fence, gaze down at the 600-foot-deep quarry. In the quarry, workers and machines drill, split, explode, and lift massive blocks of granite. Watching steel derricks hoist the blocks from the deep quarry is quite a sight.

Rock of Ages manufacturing plant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the impressive quarry tour, head inside for a self-guided tour of the manufacturing plant where you can watch granite artisans working on everything from large mausoleums to tombstones and small memorial markers. The precision cutting, laser etching, and other sculpting techniques are fascinating to watch.

Rock of Ages manufacturing plant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, is situated on the east side of Lake Champlain and, like Montpelier, is accessible from I-89. Burlington’s waterfront is home to parks, a walking/bike path, fine restaurants, ferry crossings, and cruise boats. The core of this vibrant city’s downtown is the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall filled with over 100 retail shops, boutiques, cafes, and craft vendors.

Rock of Ages manufacturing plant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sweetest tour in town, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been making fresh, small batch chocolates on Pine Street since 1983. They offer free factory tours Monday to Friday from June to October, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; tours start on the hour and self-guided tours start at 3:00 p.m. On the weekends, free chocolate tastings are available between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Learn the flavor profiles of four different chocolates with a chance to win a free chocolate gift basket. Lake Champlain Chocolates features caramels, clusters, truffles, almond butter crunch and much more—including lots of factory seconds and free samples.

Lake Champlain Chocolates © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Shelburne Museum is a unique American treasure, a sprawling complex of three dozen relocated buildings including a covered bridge, round barn, a lighthouse, and huge 220-foot dry docked paddlewheel steam-powered lake boat. Inside, the 39 galleries house an eclectic collection of art, Americana, architecture, and artifacts.

Morris Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ships, lighthouses, whole barns—you name it, it’s here. There’s so much to see that the entry ticket is valid for two days.

Morris Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This amazing collection just south of Burlington was started just over 50 years ago by Electra Havenmeyer Webb, and it just keeps on growing. Today, it covers 45 acres and 37 buildings and contains some of the best collections of Americana in the country. Kids love the big stuff, like the 220-foot steamship. Serious collectors gravitate to the weathervanes, toys, and tools.

Worth Pondering…

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont
—lyrics by John M. Blackburn; music by Karl Suessdorf; recorded by Ella Fitzerald, Jo Stafford, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and others

We Found the South’s Best Fall Color

Fall is the perfect time of year to head to the South on an RV road trip

Our collection of breathtaking views might end the debate on the South’s most beautiful season.

Take a stroll through the golden leaves of autumn as we share the South’s best fall color.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont (about 30 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky) includes 15,625 acres of fields and forests, as well as over 40 miles of hiking trails that weave their way through the forest and a bike route that winds along the fall-color-filled Long Lick Creek.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether it’s hiking one of the many trails, fishing in Lake Nevin, enjoying public art, reading under a tree, or taking advantage of one of the many informative programs, Bernheim offers visitors unique opportunities to connect with nature.

New River Gorge

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National River in West Virginia is known for its white-water rafting, fishing, and hiking. A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent.

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along 53 miles of the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities. Hiking along the many park trails or biking along an old railroad grade, the visitor will be confronted with spectacular scenery.

New River Gorge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park provides visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of the area and visit some of the historic sites within the park. There are many possibilities for extreme sports as well as a more relaxing experience.

Cades Cove Color

Cades Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spreading across 800 square miles of southern Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, the nation’s most visited national park offers acres of fall color. One of the most popular places to see the leaves and wildlife (including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and black bears) is Cades Cove, a broad valley at the northwestern corner of the park near Townsend, Tennessee.

Autumn in the Bluegrass

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Kentucky, the scenery ranges from the Appalachians in the east to the many beautiful lakes in the south and west. However, the area that most symbolizes the state is that of the central Bluegrass region. The gently rolling hills are lined with white and black fences where the thoroughbreds graze, defines this area. 

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its beauty is even more noticeable with the falling yellow and red leaves on a sunny autumn afternoon. It is a unique and special place with more than 400 horse farms dotting the region.

Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the heart of Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, make a stop at Showalter’s Orchard, where visitors can stroll on more than 40 acres of land that overlook the Valley. The u-pick orchard grows more than 20 varieties of apples, some of which are turned into a sweet, fresh apple cider. Taste something stronger and buy a bottle of Old Hill Hard Cider.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The winding Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles in the Appalachian Highlands. Drive the southern 40 mile section as it winds through Western North Carolina’s Jackson County. Be sure to stop at the parkway’s highest point, the Richland Balsam Overlook at 6,053 feet.

Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bosque del Apache stands out as one of the country’s most accessible and popular national wildlife preserves—for wildlife and human visitors alike—providing a seasonal home, November through March, for up to 12,000 sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese, and nearly 40,000 ducks.

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many thousands of bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the nation and beyond follow them here. And there’s no better time or way to appreciate all that the 57,000-acre refuge has to offer than attending the annual Festival of the Cranes, the week before Thanksgiving.

Bosque del Apache © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I love the fall season. I love all the reds, gold, and browns, the slight chill in the air, and watching the geese fly south in a V.

Marietta: Ohio’s First City & Historic River Town

The historic riverboat town of Marietta, Ohio is known as the first permanent settlement of the Northwest Territory—and it’s unbelievably charming

Ever since the 1882 arrival of Marquis de Lafayette, widely considered to be Marietta, Ohio’s first tourist, this charming river town has been rolling out the welcome mat for visitors. With its outstanding museums, river cruises, and historic attractions, it’s easy to understand why it is such a popular destination for travelers.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, it’s not surprising that Marietta has a strong river heritage. It also has a prominent place in Ohio history as both the state’s and the Northwest Territory’s first organized permanent settlement, founded in 1788. It was once considered the “Gateway to the West” for travelers from the East seeking land and new opportunities.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glance at what this lovely river town offers with a narrated 90-minute trolley tour, which meanders past numerous landmarks and heritage sites. Tours depart from the Levee House Cafe on the corner of Ohio and Second streets from July through October. While a great place for lunch or dinner, the structure also has historical significance. Built in 1826 for a dry goods merchant, it later became a hotel, then a tavern, and today is the town’s only remaining riverfront building.

Take a stroll across the Harmar Pedestrian, an old B&O Railroad bridge over the Muskingum River that links the downtown shopping area with Historic Harmar Village. This where Fort Harmar was established in 1785 as a garrison for US soldiers. Today it’s a neighborhood of brick streets (seven miles of original brick street—more than any other Ohio town) and quaint buildings housing crafts and antique shops, and several museums.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop by the memory-laden Marietta Soda Museum and view a fun collection of vintage soda-related items including soda machines, coolers, and advertising signs and gimmicks. Sit at a 1950s soda fountain and order a hot dog, a malt, or chocolate-cherry Coke.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Complete your trip down nostalgia lane with a browse through the Children’s Toy and Doll Museum a few steps away. Located in a restored 1889 Queen Anne style home, the museum hosts an impressive collection of antique dolls and vintage toys from around the world. Highlights include a reproduction carousel horse and Circus Room featuring dioramas and circus-related miniatures including animals, tents, and circus trains.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head back across the river and stroll Front Street. Boutique-style shops are filled with artisan jewelry, collectibles, antiques, quilts and fabrics, confections, furnishings, gifts, fine clothing, and craft brews.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The aroma of craftsmanship permeates a leather goods store that has been in operation since 1867. Yes, you can still haggle over a harness for your buckboard. Schafer Leather Store has progressed from the local harness shop to a unique, diversified store offering a variety of quality merchandise including, jewelry, handbags, wallets, belts, men’s and ladies’ clothing, hats, buckles, bolo ties, and over 3,000 pairs of men’s, ladies’, and children’s boots. 

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fascinating story of the birth and growth of Marietta, Ohio’s first city, is told in two outstanding museums, Campus Martius and the Ohio River Museum. Both will immerse you in the days when America’s rivers were her highways.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Campus Martius Museum preserves the history of America’s migration west, its earliest native inhabitants, and Marietta’s pioneers. The museum named for the fort was built on the site in 1788 by the Ohio Company of Associates was erected over the Rufus Putnam House. The Ohio Company Land Office, the oldest known building in Ohio, was also moved to the museum site.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Ohio River Museum consists of three exhibit buildings, the first chronicling the origins and the rich lore of the area’s waterways. The history of the steamboat on the Ohio River system is featured in the second building, along with a video presentation on river steamboats. The last building features displays about boat building and tool and equipment from the steamboat era. Take an escorted tour of the W. P. Snyder Jr., a 1918 steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After your museum visit, enjoy a 90-minute scenic cruise on the Ohio River aboard the Valley Gem, a working sternwheeler docked next door to the Ohio River Museum. What better way to fully appreciate a true river town than to see it from the river?

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.

—William Shakespeare