The Ultimate #OptOutside Guide

It’s amazing what a couple of hours outside can do for your well-being. Fresh air is a state of mind. One we could all use a little more of these days.

For a lot of people, the pandemic has turned life upside down. It’s decimated savings, derailed dreams, and thrown the future into dark uncertainty. I’ve been fortunate to have remained relatively unscathed especially compared with those who have fallen sick, lost jobs, or faced other challenges. Fifty-three percent of adults report that pervasive concerns about the virus have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a poll conducted in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

#OptOutside at Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Especially now, we need outdoor spaces free from the distractions of modern technology and the negativity of our never-ending social media feeds. There are numerous mental health benefits to be found in spending time outdoors, be it a neighborhood walk or bike ride. But there’s something special about the deep woods, the wide-open desert, mountain landscape, even the forested corners of an urban park. Those places help to remove us from the anxieties and stresses of everyday life.

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

On Black Friday, we’re going outside. Because we need to! Because that’s where we feel good, and awesome, and human again! Join us!

Ways to Spend More Time Outside

Here is a list of ways to spend more time outdoors. Some big! Some small! Some you can do right outside your door wherever you are. I hope this list serves as inspiration and motivation, or at least a little nudge in the right direction (hopefully, that’s outside).

#OptOutside on Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch the sunrise

Explore a local park

Walk a mile

Check out a new neighborhood

Camp someplace new

#OptOutside in Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camp someplace old

Dance in the rain

Find the end of a rainbow

Walk in the snow

Park your car and walk and then walk some more

#OptOutside at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just walk out of your door

Take a hike

Take your dog for an extra-long walk

Walk around a lake

Read a book under a tree

#OptOutside at Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go RVing

Climb the biggest hill you can see

Reflect on your time outside through journaling

Explore a new trail

Spend a day in the woods

#OptOutside at Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have a picnic

Climb a mountain

Hug a tree

Feel sand in your toes

Splash in a stream

#OptOutside at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kayak or canoe in a lake or creek

Walk in a meadow

Feel the wind on your face

Surround yourself with trees

Walk a dry creek bed

#OptOutside at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stroll around a park

Stop and smell the roses (literally)

Go camping in a tent

Look for a four-leaf clover

Listen to the birds

#OptOutside at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sit on a pier

Visit a national park

Visit a state park

Visit a regional or county park

Enjoy a new path

#OptOutside at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Optoutside and cast a line

Go bird watching

Observe nature with a camera

Float a river

Stand on a summit (any size will do)

#OptOutside at Natural Bridges National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Listen to the ocean

Pick up trash while on the trail

Watch the sunset

Watch the moon rise

Count the stars in the night sky

#OptOutside at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The #OptOutside movement was started by the outdoor retail company REI in 2015. The basic meaning of #OptOutside is: Go outdoors on Black Friday instead of shopping.

Everything is easier said than done. So don’t just read or say it; do it!

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

How to Visit National Parks during COVID: Here’s what you can do in 22 of the 62

National parks are open with COVID restrictions in place

Between wildfire concerns in the West and park closures both seasonal and weather-based, the status of these parks can change overnight. Check—then double check—each park to ensure you’re traveling safely and to a place you can actually access. We’ll continue to intermittently update this list throughout the winter. 

If you thought the national parks—which punched well above their weight in providing quarantine relief once they reopened—would be able to ease out of fall and into winter, you are underestimating 2020. Most parks are humming along with COVID restrictions in place. But seasonal closures are going into effect in many areas. Wildfires have effectively closed Rocky Mountain while smoke continues to choke parks all along the west coast. Even in places where skies are clear new safety protocols make visiting the parks somewhat more complicated. 

To keep you informed on the status of each national park—what services are available, whether you can camp, and more—I’ve kept tabs on 22 of the 62 to ensure you’re maximizing your time outdoors. This list is current as of November 14, 2020. Now go forth and be safe.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities:  Yes

Arches is back in pretty much full swing… and everybody knows it. If the park is at capacity, they will very much turn you away. The whole of Utah is basically one big national park so if you do get turned away, you still have many, many options. 

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This South Dakota icon with its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual. Be sure to stop off for free ice water at Wall Drug while you’re here: Now that the Sturgis rally is long over and all the Hogs have gone home, you’ll likely find smaller crowds at the T-rex show. 

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Status:  Open
Camping:  Limited
Amenities: Yes

After COVID crashed the party this summer things are easing back to normal. Day-use hikes and backcountry stays are on the table so make a reservation for one of the limited RV campsites. 

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

Bryce is pretty much back in full swing with distancing protocols and a limit on campground occupancy. Shuttles are open, horses are rearin’ to go, breakfast is back on the menu, and ranger tours are a thing again. One of Utah’s greatest treasures has awoken. 

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This oft-overlooked Utah gem is back and going strong: You can now hit up the winding roads and endless trails then bed down at campsites. You can also score supplies at park stores. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of awesomeness. And it’s fully open for all activities including camping, hiking, and checking out the visitor center.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No

Carlsbad’s open with one-way traffic in the cavern. No timed entry except November 21-29 and December 19-January3. The bat flight can still be viewed from the east parking lot past the visitor center around sunset each evening.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited

The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old bald cypress and water tupelo alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight saga by taking chances. The park opened slowly and now most of it’s in play: That means you can hike in most of the park, canoe and fish, and camp if you scored a spot. 

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

The Grand Canyon has widened (pun aside) its access 24/7 though there are some limits. Campsites are slowly expanding their availability and lodges are now open.

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

The nation’s most popular park allows access to most of its sprawling trails so go forth and peep those leafs but keep an eye on their site for closures. If you’re looking to stay overnight, several campgrounds are now open though most are still on lockdown.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

This gloriously trippy desert playground has opened up its trails, roads, bathrooms, and individual “family” campsites, which in California parlance ranges from actual family units to cult compounds of up to 25 people. Those are available on a first come, first served basis so arrive early if you plan to find yourself at night peering up at the star-studded heavens as is the way here.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities:  Yes

This remarkable park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades is now offering up ample access to its rugged wilderness and rare geothermal delights. Just be sure to take that “rugged” part seriously. For example, Manzanita Lake is currently closed because river otters—we kid you not—will not hesitate to straight-up maul your face if they think you’re a threat to their babies. And check for snow closures before heading out.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

America’s largest archeological preserve has been around since 7,500 BC and is more or less in full swing at this point though you still can’t tour the cliff-dwellings, the museum, or the main visitor center. Otherwise, go nuts, and feel free to stay in the RV campground or the lodge. 

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No

The park road, trails, and very hard wilderness areas are now open at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of Route 66 in eastern Arizona. Even if you’re just on an epic road trip you should make it a point to cruise through.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No

The site for this Central California park boasts about it being “Born of Fire.” Right now, fire danger is extreme following significant fire-related closures. Be smart. 

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities: Yes

Located on either side of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem is currently allowing tent campers though groups are limited to 10 which gives you a good excuse not to invite Cousin Eddie. 

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities:  Yes
Both Kings Canyon and the densely forested Sequoia are open but fires are causing closures in and around the park. Smoke is giving it a serious ’70s dive bar vibe. You can still visit but will likely have a better experience sometime down the road.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Status: Open
Camping:  Yes
Amenities:  Yes

Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is well into phase 3 which means you can now access Old Rag and Whiteoak, set up shop in backcountry campgrounds and huts, and pitch a tent in designated sites provided you respect the social distancing rules.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Backcountry only
Amenities: Limited

Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park—where the prairies and the Badlands converge, forests stand petrified, Buffalo and antelope roam and the sky’s one big panoramic light show—James Buchanan National Park. It’s named after Theodore Roosevelt. Of course it’s open for day use and backcountry camping. Seasonal closures, however, are currently in place as winter comes early in these parts. And I’m talking big time cold and snow!

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park. New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Yes

America’s newest national park didn’t pick a great time for its coming out party. Transitioning from a national monument to a national park in the final days of 2019, the park was forced to shut down just a few months later and was among the last to reopen. But hey, it’s open now! No, you can’t camp. Yes, you can rent a sled and go rocketing down the dunes. Seems like a fair tradeoff. Then head up the road Alamogordo way for the World’s largest nut!

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes

One of America’s most beloved parks is easing back into public life with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open, though Angels Landing is still off limits. Shuttles, too, are back in business on a timed reservation system. Services including canyon rides and the Zion Lodge are also back in action. 

Worth Pondering…

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy.

—Eric Metaxas

Get Inspired To Get Back Out There

Sometimes, “great outdoors” is an understatement

Good morning. Every now and again, it’s good to remind ourselves what a bizarre world we are living in. So far, 2020 has been a year like no other! With less than two months left, no one is sure whether it’s flown by or dragged on. One thing is for sure, though—you deserve some recognition for sticking with us through it all! 

RV Exterior cleaning at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your impulse to scrub every corner of your home (on-wheels) has benefited household goods companies handsomely. P&G, the consumer goods giant and owner of Tide and Charmin, said organic sales jumped 6 percent higher for the past fiscal year. The company’s fabric and home-care unit (which includes Swiffer, Mr. Clean, and Dawn) grew 14 percent, the biggest-ever bump. 

A clean coach at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why? One word: COVID. People who are suddenly cleaning their doorknobs twice a day tend to buy more cleaning products. An added layer of P&G’s success? We kept buying its products even at premium prices during an economic slowdown—P&G’s wares are generally a bit more costly than competitors. 

A clean coach at Sonoran Desert RV Resort (formerly Gila Bend KOA) in Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zoom out: Disinfecting like mad has also polished the reputations of other cleaning-focused brands. Clorox reported overall sales increase of 27 percent from a year ago and double-digit increases in eight of its 10 business units. People are using Clorox’s namesake disinfectant products to clean household surfaces, cell phones, and laptops—but the company is also benefiting from people cooking more at home instead of going out. That’s because Clorox also owns the plastic bag brand Glad and the charcoal line Kingsford. Sales for Clorox’s household division, the unit that includes these products, soared 39 percent compared to last year.

In an Axios/Harris poll of U.S. attitudes toward companies, Clorox got the best grades in “Ethics” and “Products & Services” and came in second in “Trust.”

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

It’s Fall, Y’all

Fall isn’t just a time for pumpkin-spiced everything, cool-weather hikes, and Thanksgiving overindulgence. It’s also when nature shows off the autumnal art display of trees clad in brilliant colors.

Autumn along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world grapples with the current reality, the great outdoors have become a welcome respite. Biking is on the rise. RVs became mobile motels for a new generation of traveler. And camping is a now go-to weekend activity for backcountry aficionados and newbies alike. With fall in full swing, there is an unlimited supply of ideal camping destinations coast to coast. 

With wildly diverse wilderness, a massive playground for campers of all walks, whether you’re seeking a trip to one of the country’s most celebrated national parks or one of its most underrated.

Autumn in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National parks might get all the fame and glory, but the United States is dotted with some stunning state parks as well. America is home to more than 10,000 state parks attracting some 739 million annual visitors. As more and more travelers seek the open road and open spaces, those numbers will continue to grow. More and more of these parks are catering to RV travelers with campgrounds, hookups, and other amenities.

Autumn in Brasstown Bald State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t let the cool temperatures of the fall season keep you from getting out and camping. There are great advantages to “cold season” camping including fewer people, fall colors, and seeing areas in different seasons to name just a few. With some preparation you can stay comfortable in cooler temperatures and keep on adventuring.

Driving Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jaw-dropping vistas can be discovered after a long hike or by simply pulling off the road. Whether you’re looking to flee the big city or stop off for a while in the middle of a cross-country journey there are campsites for all interests. 

Autumn in Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today’s post is all about road trips going on RIGHT NOW. I am feeling pent up and could use the expanse of the horizon line to keep me going in these COVID-trying times. Filling my mug with coffee, hiking a local trail, and channeling some of my favorite road dawgs from Jack Kerouac and Paul Theroux to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie! Put the phone on RV mode and ride off into the sunset. But also, check it every once in a while so you can keep up with the latest RVing with Rex post.

Walking the trails at Bernheim Forest near Louisville, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All that said, I hope you are safe, and making the best of our challenging times. Be wise. Be careful. Don’t take needless chances. Be kind to others because right now that goes a long way to comforting people who are nervous, scared, or otherwise emotionally hurting over the dramatic upheaval in their lives.

And thank you for reading.

Worth Pondering…

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

—Winston Churchill

How COVID-19 Changed RVing

Six significant ways that COVID-19 has impacted the RV lifestyle

It seems like we’ve been dealing with the various effects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic forever, but it’s really just been in the United States and Canada since February. There were reports of coronavirus infections prior to that time but community spread was first proven about eight months ago. It just feels like eight years.

What follows is an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has brought to the RV community. I’ll also offer several tips to help you navigate these impacts.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Impact: Campgrounds and RV parks close temporarily

On Tuesday, March 17th, a Florida state campground ranger knocked on a camper’s door, stood back, and informed them they had to leave the campground and park by that Friday. Everyone camping in the Florida State Parks was being evicted—no exceptions.

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

Numerous accounts of campers being forced out of their campgrounds and RV parks surfaced coast-to-coast. As RV parks closed, many snowbirds, full-time, and other far-from-home RVers were stranded. Our future RV park reservation was cancelled and we were left scrambling.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Closing campgrounds and RV parks was the first major impact of COVID-19 facing RVers. For us, it was the red flag warning that this virus was not something that we could ignore. By mid-March, national, state, county, and private campgrounds were closing coast-to-coast due to an increasing number of COVID-19 shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders. 

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By late April, Campendium reported 46-percent of their listed campgrounds were closed due to the pandemic. Essentially half of the possible campground sites across the continent were shut down. Over the course of the following four months, federal, state, and local authorities lifted and adjusted coronavirus-related orders allowing RV parks to reopen. By mid-July, Campendium reported just 9-percent of their listed campgrounds remain closed. Although they have not updated that information, it’s likely to have further improved.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re all hopeful that the worst of this wretched experience is behind us and RV park closures do not return. Don’t let what happened to us happen to you. Have a Plan B campsite plan ready, COVID or not. The best made plans can occasionally fall through on the road. Things do happen.

Columbia Sun RV Park, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Second Impact: High RV demand

Seemingly every journalist who could locate their laptop has published an excited article on how RVing is the “best socially-distanced travel alternative to flying and cruising”. It’s as if every network, newspaper, and knucklehead blogger simultaneously discovered RVs and decided to join the Go RVing marketing team.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Having read a few of these articles I have no doubt that most of these reporters have never stepped foot in an RV and are probably bored out of their minds working at home. You can almost hear them mutter, “Maybe I could get an RV and get out of here”.

The Lakes RV and Golf Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This coverage has triggered unprecedented demand for RVs from the general public while ill-preparing newbies for life on the road. Obviously this has been an unexpected godsend for the RV industry but it’s not all roses and sunshine for those of us who already love the RV lifestyle.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Third Impact: Tight RV supply

RVs are flying off dealer lots and showrooms across the United States and Canada. Inventory is currently the lowest they’ve ever seen. And RV manufacturers hampered by COVID-19 shutdowns and related supply shortages are struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demand the pandemic triggered. You can still find RVs on dealer lots but selection is limited. 

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want a new RV that’s not in stock at your local dealer place an order as soon as possible. Otherwise, it may be a long wait before they have what you’re looking for on their lot. With the high demand and the short supply of new RVs, interest in pre-owned RVs is also high.

Alamo State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fourth Impact: Stretched RV service

For years the RV industry has struggled to find qualified service techs. When the pandemic created a tremendous surge in new customers, it exacerbated already tight service availability. Service has been further hampered as customers, managers, and service techs are required to maintain social distancing and a variety of safety protocols.

When you require RV service, call for an appointment as early as possible. When you call, be prepared for an appointment date further out than you would prefer as dealers work through an increasing service demand.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fifth Impact: Strained RV park availability

The surge in RV popularity has also dramatically increased demand for campgrounds and RV parks. This demand may subside once people feel safe flying, cruising, and staying in hotels again. COVID-19 has allowed a host of newbies to discover the magic and fun of the RV lifestyle but not all will stay with it.

Make RV park reservations as far in advance as possible to increase the likelihood of obtaining the site you desire. Once again, have a Plan B campsite or overnight location in place.

Eagle Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sixth Impact: Travel restrictions

As of this writing, the United States and Canada have agreed to extend the border closings to non-essential travel through November 21. Furthermore, some U.S. states have their own specific travel restrictions and may require self-quarantine for 14-days. 

Needless to say, these restrictions are not exactly what, “Go Anywhere” RVing is all about! As the COVID-19 situation improves these travel restrictions will change. Be sure to research any possible travel restrictions along your route before setting out and keep an eye on them as you travel.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bottom Line: COVID stinks, but we can adapt

The impacts of COVID-19 are negative and positive, sometimes at the same time. We are pleased to see the RV industry doing so well. At the same time that strength and interest in RVing has brought its own challenges. These six impacts should be temporary but they cannot be ignored.

In summary, anything and everything related to RVs—including the availability of units, service, campgrounds and RV parks, dump stations, national and state parks, BLM lands, and even rentals are all experiencing higher demand than ever before. As RVers, it’s important to understand these new realities and ways to deal with them.

Las Vegas RV Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing lasts forever and this too will pass. RV manufacturers will eventually meet the increased demand, and that demand will subside to normal. RV dealers will eventually work through the increased service need and that too will return to normal. RV parks will expand and new parks will emerge as the reservations return to what was prior to COVID. And yes, RV travel between Canada and the United States will resume.

Worth Pondering…

We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems!

—Lee Iacocca

Life Lessons during the COVID Era

Here are some lessons for life to be learned from the pandemic. Many we probably should have known all along, but the current situation has brought them out again in sharp relief.

We all thought this was a temporary thing. But here we are. People are already calling this the “COVID era” as if they are reading about it in a history book. But we’re still going through it. 

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For us the social distancing and handwashing aren’t that bad. We got used to that stuff quickly. The tough part about this era is that life has changed permanently for many folks. 

Salton Sea, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rifts are created between people with different beliefs on wearing a mask. Complete industries are swept away and will probably never be the same. The world has truly changed. 

In this article, I’m sharing life lessons I’ve learned from observing these changes. Hopefully, these short reminders will make life during this era easier for you.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard on everybody

I know your life is hard. But so is the life of your neighbor. That puts us all in the same boat. So go easy on yourself and others.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is forever

It seems like this will last forever. But everything dies. And so will pandemics.

Harvesting in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Make the best of your time

Accepting circumstances doesn’t mean we give up. Make the best of it. To be clear: Worrying and thinking about stuff that’s outside of your control is NOT a good use of your time. Yes, easier said than done. I know.

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights

Take a breather

Take a moment for yourself and breeeeath…. Aaaah. Yes, that’s the feeling.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Exercise every day

Go for a walk or hike. Stay in shape. If you’re not injured or ill, it’s your duty to take care of your body. Never take this lightly. 

Fraser River at Hope, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Get off social media

Social media is a waste of your time. Always! Pretty much so!

Gilroy Garlic Festival, California © Rex Vogel, all rights

Read books

Reading is a better use of your time. We all have reading lists with hundreds of books on them. And we’re not going to live 200 years. That means you need to make some tough choices. Which books will you read before you die?

Boyds Bears, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights

Learn new skills

Technology is improving and changing so fast that we’re not aware what’s going on. We just learn it after the fact. But that may be too late. Stay on top of your game and keep learning new skills you need to do good work.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Keep a daily journal

The COVID-19 pandemic will probably be one of the weirdest times of our lives. Don’t you want to document this? Even if you never read it again, it’s still worth writing because it makes you a better thinker. 

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Inspiration comes from within

“I need to go to Sedona for inspiration.” Or replace Sedona with any city or place. Why do we think inspiration comes from the outside? Look inside!

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Good food improves your mood

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary and adventurous? Try a Philly cheesesteak, poutine, crab cake, gumbo, alligator, jambalaya, boudin, étouffée, crawfish, Texas BBQ, green chili cheese burger, tamales, chimichanga, or hushpuppies. On the sweet side, try Key lime pie, kolaches, sweet potato pie, goo goo clusters, apple pie, pecan pralines, Ben & Jerry’s, or Blue Bell ice cream. Take your taste buds for a tour!

Don’s Specialty Meats, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Objects will not make you happy

STOP BUYING CRAP ONLINE! You need to tell yourself that after a few too many useless purchases.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

More money is not the answer

I’m not going to lie. Having a little bit of money will lighten the load. So start that online business or side-gig you’ve been thinking about. But don’t expect that money will make you happy. It just solves your money problems. Nothing else!

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights

Do work you enjoy

Just because you need to survive, don’t say yes to the first available job you encounter. And also don’t start some kind of soulless online business so you can make a few bucks. Find something you enjoy—and that pays the bills. 

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights

Appreciate what you have

Grass is always greener on… So here’s a reminder: If you’re reading this on your smartphone in the comfort of your home, life isn’t so bad!

Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Give back

Do something altruistic. It’s fine to give money to charity. But I’m not talking about that. Talk to your elderly neighbors, hold the door for someone, do a small kindness. Small things have a positive impact on people.

Change is good

Life is hard when your job is no longer there. But remember, change is a part of life. And in the long-term, it’s good. We just don’t see the sunshine when we’re going through a storm. 

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Stop consuming. Start creating.

The world never changed for the better by doing nothing. Right now, our biggest challenge is paralysis by consumption. We’re over-consuming everything: News, food, clothes, entertainment, you name it. To get through this era, we need more action. So stop sitting there and go create something. Without creation, there’s no progress.

Hopefully we’ll also feel a new sense of appreciation when we get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this over time, will stick around for a long time. Let’s hope we’ll be smart enough to remember these life lessons over the long-term.

Worth Pondering…

To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose in becoming human, and that is the purpose of all of life.

— Neale Donald Walsch, in Conversations with God

Anxiety and Depression: The Fall-out from COVID-19

Health impacts of pandemic were felt first; now, effects of lockdown, social isolation are starting to appear

It is official: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly despondent and our youngest adults—ages 18 to 29—are feeling it the most.

Along Dike Road, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California provides a snapshot of what much of the nation is experiencing. Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation’s mental health. By late July, more than 44 percent of California adult respondents reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder, a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the spread of COVID-19.

Red Rock Canyon, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America at large has followed a similar pattern with about 41 percent of adult respondents reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11 percent of U.S. adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The findings reflect a generalized sense of hopelessness as the severity of the global crisis set in. Most adults have been moored at home in a forced stasis, many in relative isolation. The unemployment rate hit its highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Thousands of families across California and tens of thousands across the U.S. have lost people to the virus. There is no clear indication when—or even if—life will return to normal.

“The pandemic is the first wave of this tsunami and the second and third waves are really going to be this behavioral health piece,” said Jessica Cruz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The surveys were part of a partnership between the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau to provide relevant statistics on the impact of coronavirus. In weekly online surveys over three months, the Census Bureau asked questions to about 900,000 Americans to quantify their levels of anxiety or depression. The four survey questions are a modified version of a common screening tool physicians use to diagnose mental illness.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respondents were asked how often during the previous seven days they had been bothered by feeling hopeless or depressed, had felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, had felt nervous or anxious, or had experienced uncontrolled worry. They were scored based on how often they had experienced those symptoms in the previous week ranging from never to nearly every day.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In both California and the nation, symptoms of depression and anxiety were more pronounced among young adults and generally decreased with age. For example, nearly three in four California respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 reported “not being able to stop or control worrying” for at least several of the previous seven days. And 71 percent reported feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless” during that time.

Lovers Key State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interestingly, respondents 80 and older—an age group far more likely to suffer and die from COVID-19—reported nowhere near the same levels of distress. Just 40 percent reported feeling down or hopeless for at least several days in the previous week, and 42 percent reported uncontrollable worry.

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruz said that may be because young adults are more comfortable expressing worry and sadness than their parents and grandparents. However, even before the pandemic, suicide rates among teens and young adults had been on a years-long climb nationwide and California emergency rooms had registered a sharp rise in the number of young adults seeking care for mental health crises.

Amish Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some researchers have cited the ubiquitous reach of social media—and with it an increased sense of inferiority and alienation—as factors in the rise in mental health struggles among younger generations. COVID-19 could be exacerbating those feelings of isolation, Cruz said.

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Census surveys also found higher rates of depression and anxiety among those who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Young adults in the service sector have been hit particularly hard by the wide-scale economic shutdowns. In July, the unemployment rate among U.S. workers ages 20 to 24 was 18 percent compared with 9 percent among workers 25 to 54, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Others noted that many other young adults who would normally be immersed in college life are stuck on the couch in their parents’ home staring at a professor online with little social interaction and no paid work after class.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Californians with lower incomes also reported higher levels of anxiety or depression. About 72 percent of California respondents with household incomes below $35,000 reported “little interest or pleasure in doing things” for at least several of the previous seven days, according to an average of survey results from July 2 through July 21. These increasing rates of depression and anxiety could outlast the pandemic itself, particularly if the economy lapses into a prolonged recession.

Worth Pondering…

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.

—Martha Washington

Get Outside and Enjoy Nature

Finding joy in the outdoors

The world was flipped upside-down when COVID-19 spread to the US and Canada affecting each aspect of human life and social interaction. As humans we have a weapon to fight against the negative effects that come with social isolation—the great outdoors.

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

Many cities across the country issued shelter-in-place orders, directing individuals to stay home to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. The resulting loneliness often led to higher stress levels, increased depression, impaired immunity, or other negative health impacts.

As days go by without social relationships, our mental and physical health is at risk. These ill effects can counter by spending time in the outdoors.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a study conducted by the University of Exeter in England, researchers found that people who spent more time outdoors were less likely to feel anxiety or depression. Another study found that exposure to sun rays was associated with lower blood pressure. People who feel more connected to nature tend to feel more life satisfaction, vitality, and general happiness.

Forest bathing, or nature therapy, has become a popular technique to promote the health benefits of being outside. Exposure to green space has been proven to induce relaxation.

Brasstown Bald Scenic Byway, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since COVID hit, people have been taking the opportunity to explore the outdoors more. A survey conducted by Civic Science found that 43 percent of Americans 13 years or older said they have participated in more outdoor activities because of social distancing rules.

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So what can you do during this time to combat the stress and fatigue that follows social isolation? Go outside! Go on a scenic drive! Go to a state park! Go for a hike! And find the peace that nature provides!

As the weather cools get outside and soak up the beautiful sights and sounds of the autumn season. The yearly spectacle of fall puts changing leaves at the forefront of our imagination but you don’t have to imagine the beauty.

Valley of the Gods, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are several great suggestions for fall trips to help you get the most out of this amazing time of year in America’s most beautiful places. So, come along and find out what to do and where to go this fall. Step out of summer and into an autumn adventure. And snap some photos while you do!

Roaring Fork Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

This 522,427-acre park straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee comes alive with red, yellow, and orange from mid-September to early November thanks to a collection of 100 tree species, most of them deciduous. The best way to view the likes of flaming cove and northern hardwood, maple, and beech trees is via a scenic drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or Cades Cove or a hike along area trails such as the Appalachian Trail or Oconaluftee River Trail.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Vermont

Vermont

The state’s loveliest drive might just be its largest highway, Route 100—a 200-mile-plus thoroughfare that vertically dissects the state from Massachusetts to Canada. In fact, nature photographers from all over the country hit the highway for guaranteed peak foliage photography. But the main event comes when you turn off Route 100 onto the Green Mountain Byway which takes you from Waterbury to Stowe. This means leaf-watching against a backdrop of bucolic mountains and farmland, cider donuts from Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and a detour into the Ben and Jerry’s Factory (for pickup orders only).

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia

Just 15 minutes from the town of Front Royal, Virginia awaits a state park that can only be described as lovely. This park is on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and has more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline. In addition to the meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic views of Massanutten Mountains to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east. A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, and river access make this a popular destination for families, anglers, and canoeists. Ten riverfront tent campsites, a campground with water and electric sites, cabins, camping cabins, and a group campground are available. With more than 24 miles of trails, the park has plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and adventure.

Valley of the Gods, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods, Utah

Often described as a ‘miniature’ version of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods is arguably, equally spectacular. What Valley of the Gods may lack when it comes to the size and volume of its free-standing monoliths, spires, and fins, it makes up for with solitude. It would be a rare occurrence to pass through Monument Valley without seeing another visitor but at Valley of the Gods you’re likely to have the whole place to yourself to explore and enjoy. Take in a scenic hike or stop for a picnic in the crisp fall air.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avery Island, Louisiana

Lush subtropical flora and venerable live oaks draped with Spanish moss cover this geological oddity which is one of five “islands” rising above south Louisiana’s flat coastal marshes. The island occupies roughly 2,200 acres and sits atop a deposit of solid rock salt thought to be deeper than Mount Everest is high. Geologists believe this deposit is the remnant of a buried ancient seabed, pushed to the surface by the sheer weight of surrounding alluvial sediments. Today, Avery Island remains the home of the TABASCO brand pepper sauce factory as well as Jungle Gardens and its Bird City wildfowl refuge. The Tabasco factory and the gardens are open for tours.

Jungle Gardens, Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It’s a beautiful day for it.

—Wilbur Cross

Wildness is a Necessity: Interest in Camping Is at an All-Time High Following COVID-19 Outbreak

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

The international ripple of COVID-19 has dealt a crippling hand to select businesses and industries. And yet, unfamiliar circumstances have simultaneously provided others unparalleled profitability—and not just those in the toilet paper or hand sanitizer industries.

Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sales of bicycles, for example, have spiked so significantly in the U.S. that the nation is now facing a shortage—especially on low-end models—as overworked suppliers struggle to keep up with the never-before-seen demand.

Along the Colorado River, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Similarly, public interest in camping has increased exponentially in the months since the nation first locked its doors. A dread of at-home confinement has led to the American public turning its eyes toward the outdoors, according to recent data.

Along the Mississippi River, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some families have spent decades loading up the camper and heading to the lakes and forests for a week or two of relaxation. But thanks to a drastic change in travel habits, some folks are now getting that first camper and discovering state parks. It’s the kind of family getaway that’s been around for a long time, hitching up the camper, or loading the motorhome, or packing a tent and heading to a state park. Those campsites are tucked away in piney hills, laid out along clear-water lakes or streams, or nestled among the oak trees in a mountain hideaway.

Parker Canyon Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The renowned naturalist John Muir wrote that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

The world has changed immensely since he wrote this in 1901. People, now more than ever, seek the benefits of nature.

Pinnacles National Park,California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Safe Ways to Recreate Outside This Summer

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

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

As states and local communities continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines about what activities are safest and where people should visit continue to evolve. Many are seeking opportunities for outdoor recreation, including visits to the nation’s public lands, waterways, and public spaces like parks and trails.

Artisan Village, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the summer season in full swing, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition released an update to its tips, initially released in May, for safely recreating outdoors. The coalition first came together two months ago as a group of two dozen organizations based in Washington State. Since then, the group has grown into a diverse, nationwide community of over 500 businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, outdoor media, and influencers. The coalition’s common ground is a shared love of the outdoors, a desire to help everyone experience the benefits of nature, and a belief that by sharing best practices, people can get outside safely and help keep our parks, trails, and public lands open.

Along the Tech at St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The overall #RecreateResponsibly message remains simple: We all have a role to play in keeping people, places, and communities safe as we enjoy the outdoors this summer and beyond. 

The latest #RecreateResponsibly guidelines are:

  • Know Before You Go—Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan.
  • Plan Ahead—Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer.
  • Explore Locally—Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Practice Physical Distancing—Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play It Safe—Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  • Leave No Trace—Respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.

—Edward Abbey

How Will People Travel After the Coronavirus?

With people still concerned about COVID-19, social distancing away from home can be easier in an RV

With travel restrictions loosening all around the country, where and how will vacationers get out and go? Many will get behind the wheel.

COVID-19 has left most travel industries like airlines, hotels, resorts, and cruise lines struggling for business. International travel is essentially dead on arrival now with numerous countries in Europe alone requiring or planning to require travelers to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive. Setting your sights on a tropical isle isn’t a good idea either.

Camping at Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But one is doing surprisingly well, the RV industry. We’re going to take a lot of road trips. Some one-tank trips where we can go just for the day and come back, not even do an overnight. Cooped-up Americans and Canadians desperate to get out after months of lockdowns are dreaming of doing something—anything—that resembles a vacation.

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

Many are ready to get back to normal and travel. AAA predicts more Americans will hit the highway instead of the skies this year. A recent study by the U.S. Travel Association found 68 percent of people feel safe traveling in their own car but only 18 percent feel safe taking a flight to somewhere in the U.S. It’s good news for the RV industry.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to recent Ipsos research examining consumer interest and planned actions on travel choices in light of the COVID-19 crisis, 46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months. This positive news for RV manufacturers, dealers, and campgrounds reinforces what dealers are already seeing at the retail level.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV dealerships are seeing a surge in sales and campgrounds are seeing an increased number of reservations as people plan for summer vacation during the pandemic. The attraction to recreational vehicles is that no one’s slept in that bed except you, you’re using your own private bathroom, and you can still be outdoors. It’s hard for a virus to jump across a campfire.

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With an RV you really know what you have. You can clean it to your personal standard and let the people of your choosing share the space with you. You have a lot more control and yet you still can be outside enjoying nature.

For decades, sales of motorhomes and travel trailers were a reliable indicator of the beginning—and end—of a recession. Sales would dip as a downturn approached and rise ahead of a recovery. But this time, it’s different: sales are rising as America enters its worst contraction since the Great Depression.

Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most sales have been reflective of the desire to wring as much recreation out of a socially distanced summer as possible. While more than one in five workers has filed for unemployment, some people are shelling out upward of $100,000 so they can hit the road while staying away from everyone else. Social distancing is a lot easier when you can bring along your own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Along Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to providing a personal space that allows people to maintain social distance in a safe manner, the RV life also allows people to connect with loved-ones, provides the ability to get away for short, frequent breaks or longer adventures, and helps people reconnect to nature or explore some of the many attractions that are often just a drive away. That’s what RVing is all about. It’s a lifestyle that you never can get going to a hotel or resort as far as camaraderie with other people and that sort of thing.

Arizona Oases RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And social distancing away from home for families can be easier in an RV.

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

The U.S. has about 13,000 private RV parks and an estimated 1.23 million individual campsites according to estimates from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (and that doesn’t include campsites in state and national parks). Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 60,000 new camping spots would become available.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not just purchases that are climbing according to Jen Young, co-founder of Outdoorsy which matches 40,000 RV owners with people who want to rent. Though bookings fell during the early stages of the pandemic, they have since skyrocketed.  Outdoorsy rival RVshare also reported a surge in reservations.

The Lakes Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People say “‘I won’t visit any place where a lot of people will go,’ so that pretty much (cancels) out all the big city centers and air travel,” she said. “There’s just so much more flexibility in recreation vehicle travel.”

Worth Pondering…

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

—Blaise Pascal

COVID-19 Road Trip: Best Places for RV Travel this June

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb, pack the RV, and travel again.

June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer season officially arrives and the sun is out longer than ever––providing hours of daylight for exploring a new area. To visit a destination in June is (often) to see it at its joyful best. If you’re looking for a destination worthy of your June vacation days consider places with generally good weather this month.

Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By now, it’s clear that the road trip will be the most popular form of travel this summer. Though it is not without risks, it has the potential to be one of the safest forms of travel in the current COVID-19 era especially if you target wilderness areas, camp, and keep to yourself as much as possible. So, where should road trippers look to explore? Here are a few ideas.

Kentucky

Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yeah, the bourbon and fried chicken in Kentucky are superb but so is the adventure. Kentucky has a unique geography that has turned the state into a honeycomb of caves and rock formations. It is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest known cave system.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer sunlight, there’s Red River Gorge Geological Area which has the most sandstone arches outside of Arches National Park not to mention hundreds of sport-climbing routes. In between these two superlatives, you have 49 state parks including My Old Kentucky Home, massive lakes, and, yeah, really great bourbon and fried chicken.

Utah

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

With five national parks and an uncountable amount of nooks and crannies, Utah is one of the best states in the country for a road trip. That said, considering that the State’s national parks suffer from overcrowding when they are fully operational, don’t expect complete solace or unlimited availability when they are only partially open (especially Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon). As an alternative, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or Glen Canyon Recreation Area where you will find it easy to disappear (in a good way).

Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for open space, Texas might have more than anyone. Keep an eye on the reopening status at Big Bend National Park. Normally, it’s one of the most out of the way national parks but maybe time is now not as much of an issue as it usually is.

Big Thicket National Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise, consider heading to the southeast part of the state towards the Louisiana border where four national forests—Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine—hide between Shreveport and Houston.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young Theodore Roosevelt had the world to choose from. Where did he come to satiate his yen for wild open spaces? North Dakota. The state’s badlands, wooded valleys, mighty rivers (featuring the Missouri and the Little Missouri), and rolling hills are the perfect backdrop for “the strenuous life” that T.R. endorsed. Whether that manifests as an epic bike ride on one of America’s finest off-road trails or a session of walleye fishing in a quiet lake is, of course, up to you.

New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been a long time since Breaking Bad, but it’s time to get reacquainted with New Mexico. On a normal road trip combining Carson National Forest with a couple nights in Santa Fe would be an ideal pairing. But for these times I suggest something more remote, perhaps the sandstone cliffs of El Malpais National Monument or the unexpected, rugged mountain terrain of Lincoln National Forest. Perhaps no road trip to New Mexico should skip some time spent in Gila National Forest which covers much of the landscape in the southwest and leads into Arizona.

Arizona

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month. The Grand Canyon seems poised to continue its gradual reopening which will no doubt draw many road warriors to Arizona. Nearby Lake Powell will also be a big draw in the next few months and between the two there’s plenty of room to find your own space via hiking, biking, and boating. Check out the two million acres of forest within the boundaries of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the red rock formations of Coconino National Forest, or the big, desert cacti of Tonto National Forest.

Red Rock State Park © 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 March, April, and May. Also check out our recommendations from June 2019.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery