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

8 Best Fall Vacations for your Autumn Getaway

We’ve rounded up the best fall vacations for every type of traveler

Crisp, cool weather and brightly colored foliage make fall the perfect time for RV travel. The road trip is quintessentially American, and, autumn is the perfect time to pack up and hit the open road to see this vibrant season change before your eyes. Whether you head to the mountains or elsewhere to spot the changing leaves or opt for an autumn activity, we’ve rounded up the best fall vacations for every type of traveler.

Travel restrictions and guidelines are changing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, so be sure to check with any destinations, RV parks, or attractions to ensure they’ll be open when you visit.

Here are the eight best fall vacations for your next autumn getaway.

Cradle of Forestry, Pisgah National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has everything you could want in a fall getaway. The quaint downtown area is filled with unique shops, galleries, breweries, and restaurants. Go for a hike in nearby Pisgah National Forest to spot beautiful waterfalls among the changing leaves or take a scenic drive through part of the park to take in the beauty without working up a sweat. The Biltmore Estate is another popular Asheville attraction worth visiting; this Gilded Age mansion is the largest privately owned house in the US complete with gardens and a winery.

La Sal Mountain Loop Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab, Utah

To be fair, we had to drive a little far afield of Arches National Park to see fall leaves in this corner of Southern Utah. But boy was it worth it. The La Sal Mountain Loop Road is a 60-mile tour well beyond the bustle of Moab and Arches that takes more than two hours straight-through and longer planning time for stops. Some of the best views are at overlooks pointed back over the red rock formations of Castle Valley as the road winds and climbs to more than 10,000 feet. Along the way, the vegetation changes from the juniper and pinyon common on the Colorado Plateau to the larger evergreen pines and colorful aspen blend that make this season so popular.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blairsville, Georgia

When fall makes its much-anticipated appearance in North Georgia, in-the-know leaf peepers head to one spot: Brasstown Bald near Blairsville. As the state’s highest peak—4,784 feet above sea level—Brasstown Bald is also among the first to display the season’s fall colors. On clear days, you’ll see four states even without the help of the on-site telescopes. Nearby, take a scenic drive through the national forest via the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. From the byway, stop at Vogel State Park which offers ample camping, plus fishing, hiking, and lake swimming. The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail offers a bird’s-eye view of Lake Trahlyta and the golden vegetation that surrounds it.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff is a nature lover’s dream in fall. This Arizona city is surrounded by national forests, monuments, and parks, so there’s plenty to see and explore at this time of year. Learn about Native American history and culture at Wupatki National Monument where you’ll find pueblos that were occupied 900 years ago and visit the Petrified Forest National Park to see petrified wood and the hills of the Painted Desert. Grand Canyon National Park is just an hour and a half away so you can easily take a day trip to this incredible national park and enjoy milder weather and fewer crowds compared to the summer months.

Sacramento River at Redding © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Redding, California

The east coast gets a lot of credit for beautiful fall colors, but you’re in the West, well? West coasters deserve autumn splendor, too, and you don’t have to RV across the country just to enjoy some. Northern California has a fantastic fall season and it’s already blazing. The Shasta Cascade region is 25 percent of California’s area but with only 3 percent of California’s population. That means there are a ton of non-people, not-city space for trees, trees, and more trees. Plus, up there in far NorCal, those trees are arranged around wild and scenic rivers, mountain lakes, actual mountains, and even a handful of volcanoes. Less than an hour’s drive from Redding sits beautiful Lassen Volcanic National Park.

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

Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown might be best known for being the bourbon capital of the world. However, it was named the ‘Most Beautiful’ small town in America by Rand McNally and USA Today. If you’re not a bourbon fan, don’t let that stop you from visiting Bardstown. The distillery tours and tastings might make a convert out of you…as they did me. The history of bourbon making is fascinating as are the distilleries and sites themselves. For more than 225 years, the southern hospitality, historic surroundings, fine restaurants, and friendly accommodations in Bardstown have made folks feel right at home. Civil war history runs deep in these parts, and a tour of the various museums and sites will surely be an education you’ll not soon forget.

Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga, Tennessee

It’s no wonder Chattanooga’s nickname is “the Scenic City.” It’s tough to find a place in and around town that’s not a nature lover’s paradise. Chattanooga offers many options to see the brilliant changing colors by foot, boat, train, air, bike, or Segway. Take a cruise into the Tennessee River Gorge where you’ll see nature’s brilliant canvas of fall colors aboard the Southern Belle. Try something a bit more unique on the downtown Tennessee River with the Chattanooga Ducks or rent your own boat and go exploring on your own. Jump aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad or Lookout Mountain Incline Railway for a variety of train rides that take you through the beautiful Tennessee valley or straight up Lookout Mountain.

Jacksonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Medford, Oregon

Fall in southern Oregon is absolutely stunning! Every tree bursts out in beautiful oranges, reds, and yellows making for the perfect weather to get outside and with that comes pumpkin patch fun and grape harvest celebrations. The aroma of autumn is carried through the Rogue Valley, across apple orchards, whistling through corn mazes, and rustling the orange, red, and yellow leaves falling from the trees. Steeped in history, the nearby entire town of Jacksonville is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self guided walking tour and trolley tour.

Worth Pondering…

Early fall may be the most enjoyable time of year to travel. Summer crowds are gone and the weather is pleasant nearly everywhere—no longer hot but not yet cold.

8 Creative Ways to See Some Fall Color

The trees, the leaf-covered lawns, and the early frosts! There are bonfires with a cup of hot cider, pumpkin carving, and corn mazes to explore. Do we have your attention yet?

You already know that the countryside is filled with trails and vistas that provide great opportunities to catch a glimpse of fiery fall color while you’re hiking. This year, get your thrills while you’re enjoying the season with these eight activities.

Seven Oaks Market, Central Point, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pumpkin picking

Whether Halloween eve brings trick-or-treaters door to door or not, pumpkin-picking, carving and baking are guaranteed fall fun. It wouldn’t be autumn without a trip to the pumpkin patch. Keeping social distancing in mind, plan an excursion when the crowds are less to take in all that many of the area’s fall attractions have to offer. Vast selections of pumpkins are also available from farm stands and markets.

Apples along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apple picking

Choose from a variety of apple orchards in your area to find the best apple picking near you. Some of the apple orchards only offer apple picking while others have fall festivals with other activities in addition to picking your own apples. Apple picking will look a little bit different this year—timed entries and reduced capacities will be the norm—but luckily, one element that’s not affected are the apples themselves. Most farms will still be open to visitors this fall with many of them offering markets with pie and apple cider (both the doughnuts and beverage kind) along with attractions like petting zoos, hay rides, and corn mazes. So grab your mask, and check out an apple orchard in your area.

Corn maze, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navigate a corn maze

The corn maze is a real challenge that is sure to put your skills to the test as you wind down trails of corn. Some annual corn mazes are canceled due to the pandemic but others are moving forward with the beloved autumn tradition. Assume masks are required and that you should stay home if you feel symptoms or have been exposed to an infected person. Keep social distancing protocols in mind. Check websites for ticketing procedures.

Hay ride coming up! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hayrides

Hayrides are a popular fall tradition that is enjoyed by all ages and are a wonderful way to enjoy the season and the natural beauty that it brings. Some hayrides feature scenic views of endless land while others take you through acres of cornfields. A wonderful way to capture the breath-taking views that autumn offers, hay rides will forever be a part of this favorite season. Some farms have opted to do away with the traditional hay ride, while others are limiting riders and socially distancing.

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

Go hiking

Lace up your boots and be prepared to be wowed with a scenic fall hike. This fall, as the air turns crisp and the rolling hills change from mottled green to a fiery mosaic of yellow, orange, and red, get into the woods, as autumn is prime time for hiking. The worst of the pesky bugs have disappeared with the heat and the forests are ablaze with color.

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

Go canoeing

One of the best ways to see fall foliage is to take a boat trip along a wilderness stream. You can see the autumn colors from the river as you kayak or canoe for a day. Plan your perfect scenic kayaking and canoeing adventure!

Rio Bend RV and Golf Course, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan a golf outing

If you’re inclined to spend some time on the links then you’ve probably been taking advantage of the wide open courses this summer. If not, or if you want to try giving it a swing, head to a local golf course to try while you take in the crisp fall air and beautiful foliage.

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

Autumn drives

If you’re feeling an expedition to nature but want to observe from the comfort of your car there’s plenty of great fall drives you can take throughout the countryside. The trees, the leaf-covered lawns, and the early frosts! There are bonfires with a cup of hot cider, pumpkin carving, and corn mazes to explore. Do we have your attention yet?

Worth Pondering…

Days decrease,

And autumn grows, autumn in everything.

―Robert Browning

7 Fall Inspired Road Trips

Whether you’re craving a day trip or a longer getaway this autumn, here are great destinations for a fall road trip in the US

The air is crisp, homemade pies are bubbling, and pumpkin spice lattes are in high demand. What better way to take in the splendor of the fall season than with a selection of scenic road trips. America is ideal for scenic road trips year-round but there is something special about the changing leaves colors that make for an essential experience.

Take in the changing trees, inhale the crisp fall air, and taste local foods on one of these seven road trips across the United States.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina

Launched in 1935 as a New Deal project, the Blue Ridge Parkway took 52 years to complete and is now one of the country’s most iconic highways. Come fall, it’s also one of its most vivid. To make the most of the experience, give yourself plenty of time to cruise from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina (the most popular segment of the 469-mile road). You’ll want that time to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, pop into Blue Ridge Music Center for a little bluegrass, and savor both barbecue and fall colors.  

Brasstown Bald © 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.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hill Country, Texas

You can begin your journey into Texas Hill Country from Austin or San Antonio; limestone and granite hills radiate out from both cities. They’re also where the worlds of cowboys and wine collide. For the former, head to Bandera (the self-proclaimed “Cowboy Capital of the World”); for the latter, check out the wineries that line Wine Road 290 in Fredericksburg. There are more than a dozen other towns to explore including New Braunfels (where two rivers flow through) and Lockhart, the state’s barbecue capital.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina to Tennessee

A skinny highway winds through mountains blanketed only by trees with nothing but more mountains in the distance. 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. The route stretches from western North Carolina to eastern Tennessee, crossing through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests. There are scenic vistas along the way but more adventurous travelers can hike one of 29 trails along the route or fly-fish in Tellico River near the end of the skyway.  

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Whether you tool along by car over the historic 105-mile Skyline Drive or take a hike on one of the Park’s 500+ miles of trails, autumn beauty will surround you in October and early November. The highway meanders along the mountaintops, providing exceptional views of the terrain. The 75 overlooks offer unforgettable views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and Virginia piedmont to the east. The mountains are blanketed with fiery hues of yellows, reds, and oranges, coming alive with the bright autumn foliage.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah

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, 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.

Road to Von Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green Mountain Byway, Vermont

The Green Mountain Byway travels from Stowe to Waterbury between mountain ridges. Along the route are Little River, Smugglers Notch, and Waterbury Center state parks and Mount Mansfield and Putnam state forests. Stowe is a premier four season resort destination particularly known for its alpine and Nordic recreation, mountain biking, and hiking. Here, the Von Trapp family (of Sound of Music fame) attracted worldwide attention more than 50 years ago. Along with beautiful scenery, a large variety of attractions for all ages and tastes including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and Vermont Ski Museum.

Worth Pondering…

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

—William Cullen Bryant

10 Best Things to Do this Fall

From hikes to scenic drives, day trips to weekend getaways, here are the best ways to get out and safely enjoy the season

As the air cools and the leaves start to fall, America offers countless experiences to seek out with your family and friends. From hikes to scenic drives, day trips to weekend getaways, take time to get out and enjoy the seasons best while keeping in mind the guidelines for safe travel.

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some seasonal events have been canceled. Disney World’s popular event Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been cut for 2020 as well as Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. While certain yearly Halloween traditions may be canceled this year such as visiting a haunted house you could still participate in other outdoor fall activities including pumpkin picking and navigating corn mazes.

Hiking to Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go hiking

Hopefully you’ve been taking a chance over the last few months to get outside for a breath of fresh air along a nice hike. But if you’re looking for a reason to finally break out the boots or sneakers, the multi-colored leaves and crisp air of fall provides the perfect backdrop to enjoy a wilderness area. Nature centers, recreation areas, local and state parks all offer a variety of trails and sights for hiking in the outdoors.

Pumpkin patch at Seven Oaks Market, Central Point, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit a pumpkin patch

Explore a pick-your-own pumpkin patch for the perfect pumpkin! Vine-ripening pumpkins are perfect for Jack-o-Lanterns, decorating your home or RV, or baking Grandma’s famous recipes. Picking out your very own pumpkin, decorating it, and carving it is one of the very best parts of fall. Not only are pumpkins fun and festive, but they’re delicious to eat in so many ways! There’s nothing that signals fall quite like a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Pumpkins to trick out your RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pumpkin carving

Just because we’re trying to keep our distance doesn’t mean we can’t decorate our homes and RVs. That of course, starts with pumpkin carving. Hopefully you’ve had some experience gouging out these gruesome gourds, but if not, there’s a host of designs online. This is a perfect activity with family and friends of all ages and also yields a good reason to roast some pumpkin seeds.

Picking apples along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go apple picking

What perfectly pairs with the crisp air of fall? Biting into a delicious, juicy apple! When the crisp fall air and soft light descends, it’s time to break out your best argyle sweater and go apple picking. Enjoy the fresh fall air while you pick your own Cortland, Macintosh, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Honey Crisp apples then bring them home to make pies, crisps, and other treats. Check with apple orchard first for picking hours and conditions and COVID-19 rules and regulations.

Apple pies at Moms Pie House, Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall food

With the end of summer we’re gearing up for shorter days, longer nights, cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, sweatshirts, and football. Not only is the weather changing but also the way we’re cooking, from using fresh fall produce, like squash, sweet potatoes, and apples, to creating warming (and, okay, gluttonous) comfort food dishes, like stews, pot pies, and mac and cheese.

Corn maze at Southgate Crossing, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get lost in a corn maze

Are you ready for some corn-fusing fun? Wind your way through acres of corn. Local corn mazes are now open and each one offers something a little bit different between now and November. Many corn mazes this year will have wider paths and additional passing lanes where maze-goers can distance themselves from others at points where they must decide which way to go; some are reducing the number of those decisions or eliminating dead-end options. Phone ahead as some mazes require pre-registration.

Indian corn for fall decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall decorations

Along with pumpkins, there’s several ways you can dress up your RV for the fall. Buy some gourds at the grocery store or make a fall wreath with some of the fallen leaves from your hike in the country. If you’re a Halloween fanatic there’s no better time to spook your home-on-wheels.

Biking the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan a long bike ride

If you’re like most people, you either bought a new bike or rekindled your love of biking during the early months of quarantine. The leaves starting to turn and a nice bite to the air will keep you peddling longer. Most cities and towns have paved trails for bikers that range from short connecting rides to long excursions. It’s time to start planning your next trip.

Quilting is a popular hobby © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hobbies

While fall can bring a lot of fun outdoor activities, it also harkens winter and months spent inside. So if you’ve got down time, now is a good time to start a new hobby? Start knitting scarves and toques for your family. Or maybe get on goodreads.com and join your friends in their mad dash to complete end-of-year book reading challenges.

Quilt Garden Trail in Amish Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check out your area’s calendar of events

For everything that doesn’t fall into one of these general categories, check out your area’s tourism website for upcoming events. There you may find movies under the moonlight, art installations, walking tours and much more.

Worth Pondering…

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

—George Eliot

Colorful Road Trip Destinations for a Variety of Interests

Here are seven of our favorite colorful road trip destinations for spring, summer, and autumn RV travel

From multi-hued canyons to elaborately-decorated streets, there are hundreds of places in the U.S. that leave visitors spellbound by a vivid presentation of colors. Some appear so beautiful that you’d be forgiven for believing that they have permanent filters attached to them.

Check out these seven colorful spots you don’t want to miss when traveling around the country. A kaleidoscope of colors await!

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The horseshoe-shaped, russet rock hoodoo formations of Bryce Canyon National Park are a true sight to behold. This is one of the world’s highest concentrations of hoodoos and their colors alternate between shades of purple, red, orange, and white. One of the most rewarding ways to admire these geological wonders is to hike to Sunrise Point and its panoramic lookouts where you can witness the magic of the sunlight hitting the rocks.

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall Foliage of Stowe, Vermont

The state of Vermont is an ideal spot for admiring the fall foliage. Forests cover three quarters of the state, so there is no shortage of places to discover the brilliant shades of gold, red, and orange of the sugar maples. But if you have to choose one destination, then make it Stowe. The image of the whitewashed Stowe Community Church set against a forested backdrop is emblematic of the town.

Painted Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Painted Desert, Arizona

The Painted Desert derives its name for the multitude of colors ranging from lavenders to shades of gray with vibrant colors of red, orange, and pink. It is a long expanse of badland hills and buttes and although barren and austere, it is a beautiful landscape of a rainbow of colors. You simply cannot fully experience the wonders of the Painted Desert without visiting Petrified Forest National Park which also sits about 25 miles east of Holbrook, Arizona, next to the Painted Desert.

Rainbow Row, Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rainbow Row, Charleston

Boasting a landscape of Antebellum, Georgian, and Greek Revival treasures the Charleston Historic District has postcard-perfect images at the turn of every corner. Rainbow Row is a delightful street of 13 Georgian townhouses painted in bright pastel colors on East Bay Street downtown. Once used by merchants, the houses fell into abandonment after the Civil War until a local judge and his wife purchased a house and painted it pastel pink in 1931.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Monument Valley, Arizona and Utah

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

Fields of tulips © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skagit Valley, Washington

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is magic! The Skagit Valley’s natural wonders also include shorelines, bays, islands, mountains, the Skagit River, and a large agricultural community. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is designed as a driving tour. There is no one location that you go to for the festival. The fields are centrally located in the valley between La Conner and Mount Vernon with events and happenings sprinkled all around Skagit Valley.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock State Park, Arizona

Red Rock State Park is a 286 acre nature preserve with stunning scenery. The creek meanders through the park creating a diverse riparian habitat abounding with plants and wildlife. Trails wind through manzanita and juniper to reach the banks of Oak Creek. Green meadows are framed by native vegetation and hills of red rock.

Worth Pondering…

The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.

—Hans Hofmann

National Parks are Best in Autumn

Six of the best national parks to visit in the fall

If you’re thinking about visiting a national park this fall, you’re in luck. There’s a secret many travelers with flexible schedules have long known: national parks are best in autumn.

Of course, that’s not true of every national park—there are more than a few best visited during other seasons of the year. But, generally speaking, autumn can be a spectacular time to visit the nation’s parklands. The temperatures have dropped and the crowds have thinned, meaning you can enjoy the scenery without breaking a sweat or competing with other visitors for a photo.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best of all, depending on when and where you travel you will get the added bonus of a vibrant display of fall foliage. Just remember, as winter draws nearer, snow can cause road closures at Glacier, Yellowstone, Lassen Volcanic, and Rocky Mountain national parks.

So plan ahead and get the timing right, and these will be six of the best national parks to visit in the fall.

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

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall is arguably the absolute best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park and take in the colorful display of leaves from the observation deck at the peak of Clingman’s Dome.

Cade’s Cove © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or, if you prefer a scenic drive, admire the autumnal hues from Cade’s Cove Loop Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway (also known as “the Tail of the Dragon”). Fall temperatures in the Smokies are also a great alternative to the oppressive heat that comes with summertime in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a very popular national park which often creates crowding issues during the peak summer months. But in fall—especially if you can delay your visit until late in the season—the crowds taper off along with the temperatures. If you have your heart set on some of the more popular trails, such as Angels Landing or the Narrows, a less-busy autumn day will be a far more enjoyable experience.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

Another Utah park best seen in autumn is Arches National Park. In addition to glimpses of changing leaves, the temperatures are more tolerable with highs in the 70s in October (compared to daily highs in the 90s from June through August). The 3-mile hike to the Delicate Arch is easier to manage when the air is cooler. If you’re hoping to capture some amazing photographs, the autumnal light cast on the red rocks is spectacular.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park’s hills run with red knotweed in late summer. Because this national park has a volcanic landscape, much of it is austere though bright color pops on autumn days particularly along its hillsides and in its meadows where cadmium-yellow rabbitbrush, crimson knotweed, white pearly everlastings, and golden and rust-colored grasses are seen peaking in the waning days of summer and early autumn. Technically, they are late blooming wild flowers rather than true “autumn color.” Though because of their timing, we classify them as fall color.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia may not have the same nationwide recognition as Great Smoky Mountains or Zion but it holds treasures of its own especially in the fall. Shenandoah is known for its fall foliage which usually peaks in late October or early November. The red, orange, and yellow hues signifying the changing of the season can be enjoyed not only during hikes within the park but also from the serpentine Skyline Drive that runs 105 miles north and south along the Blue Ridge Mountains right through the national park.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park

Most people don’t think of South Carolina as a fall foliage destination but autumn there is long and colorful and best of all begins much later in the season than other destinations which means you’ll be able to get in a “second autumn”. The best time to see the leaves here is mid-November through the first half of December. Take the 2.4-mile boardwalk hike through the park or one of the many trails into the backcountry for miles upon miles of color. Another great option is to paddle along Cedar Creek in a canoe. It meanders under canopies of spectacular fall foliage.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line

It’s hard to go wrong with a trip to a national park during the fall. After all, September, October, and November are really the best times to get out and enjoy the crisp, autumnal air before winter blankets everything with snow. Whether you’re seeking lower temperatures and smaller crowds or you’re purely in pursuit of peak foliage, pack your jacket, bring the camera, and prepare for an unforgettable trip.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.

―Jim Bishop

20 Charming Towns for Your Bucket List

Hit the roads less traveled

When planning a road trip, most travelers search out popular destinations. It’s usually cities they’ve read about or towns and attractions that have been recommended by friends or family or on social media. But there are an unlimited number of small towns in America that are worth visiting even if you didn’t know they existed. These 20 unheard-of towns across the U.S. may not be on your bucket list but they absolutely deserve a spot.

St. Simons Island, Georgia

History buffs and beach lovers alike will love this small island town off the Georgia coast. There, you can play a round of golf, fish, visit historical sites, and climb to the top of the St. Simons lighthouse for amazing views.

Bisbee, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee, Arizona

Back in the day, Bisbee was a major silver and copper mining hub, but now it’s a quaint small town home to artists and dreamers. With houses on cliffs’ edges and a mine cavern that you can still explore, it’s picturesque.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse, Bardstown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

If you like whiskey, Bardstown is a can’t-miss stop. The bourbon capital of the world, Bardstown is to several distilleries including Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. Be sure to tour My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

This town’s motto is “The Oldest Summer Resort in America” and its prime location on Lake Winnipesaukee proves why. People from all over New Hampshire and Boston vacation here during warm summer months.

Corning, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corning, New York

Wineries and breweries: check. Panoramic views of a gorgeous lake: check. Restaurants filled with top-notch food: check. The Corning Museum of Art is celebrating 50 years and welcoming visitors in a unique way. This southern Finger Lakes community offers something for everyone.

Woods Hole, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woods Hole, Massachusetts

This tiny, bustling Cape Cod town was once a pass-through destination for Martha’s Vineyard ferry travelers. Now it holds its own thanks to a charming waterfront filled with restaurants and shopping.

Marietta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marietta, Ohio

This town was settled in the 1700s and named in honor of Marie Antoinette. Today, it’s a historic riverboat town that’s ideal for families who seek out vacations full of outdoor adventures.

Cedar Key, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Key, Florida

This secluded beach community is less about the hustle and bustle and more about small town living. Proof: The restaurant- and buffet-filled streets of the mile-long historic district are filled with bicycles instead of cars.

Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg maintains a small-town feel while having lots of things to see and do. With its unique German heritage, thriving wineries, and shopping, it’s the perfect getaway. The historic buildings along Main Street are home to over 100 shops. Influenced by the town’s heritage, German and German-inspired food options abound.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Bon Temps et Bon Amis, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana is the place to be.  For toe-tappin’, lip smackin’, ol’ fashioned fun, this little town has something for everyone! Nestled on the banks of the Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge is a unique community filled with “Joie…

Shipshewana, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shipshewana, Indiana

This cute town boasts an Amish community and the largest flea market in the country featuring a whopping 900 booths that cover 100 acres of land. You can munch on treats like sweet corn, while the kids feed animals at the petting zoo.

Fairhope, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

Shangri-La may be a fantasy, but you can find a real-life utopia on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The city of Fairhope (population, 16,000), founded in 1894 by a society based on cooperative community ownership, was named for its members’ belief that their enterprise had a “fair hope” of success. Ever since, it has beckoned artists and writers. Galleries and studios pepper downtown streets along the waterfront, alongside more than 80 antique shops, small boutiques, and locally owned restaurants. Visit once and you will be back.

Helen, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helen Georgia

Helen is a replica Bavarian Alpine town the family will enjoy visiting. A faltering logging town, Helen resurrected itself in 1969 by requiring all of the buildings to be designed in the style of a south German mountain village. It features a downtown with specialty shops offering everything from toys, to pottery, to fudge, and delicious German delicacies like Spätzle and Bratwürst.

Gruene, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gruene, Texas

Gruene (pronounced like the color green) is designated a historic town by the state of Texas—part of that history is musical. The oldest dance hall in the state (still in its original 1800s-era building) is most famous for its country concerts, but swing, rockabilly, jazz, gospel, and folk musicians take the stage, too. The likes of Willie Nelson, George Strait, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Lyle Lovett have all graced the stage at Gruene Hall.

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

Waterbury, Vermont

Look around town with its brick commercial architecture and sampling of handsome early homes. Most travelers, however, are either passing through or looking for “that ice cream place.” Just to the north of Waterbury along Route 100 Scenic Byway lie a major destination for food-lovers—Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Lake Champlain Chocolates, the Cabot Cheese Annex—and Waterbury Center, with its stunning views of the Worcester Range.

La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Grange, Texas

You’ll discover a fanciful cache of history and culture in this Central Texas community, a town steeped in German and Czech culture. Much of the town history is encased in dignified old architecture laid in the late 1800s. Many of the original buildings have been renovated and serve as creative outlets. The Texas Quilt Museum is located in two historic 1890s buildings.

Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moab, Utah

Moab is a small city in eastern Utah famed for its natural beauty and fun escapes for adventure lovers. Moab is a quick drive from two national parks (Arches and Canyonlands) and home to the most popular state park in Utah (Dead Horse State Park). The La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop Road features spectacular scenery ranging from the forested heights of the La Sal Mountains to expansive views of red rock landscape. 

Urbanna Oyster Festival, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Urbanna, Virginia

A beautiful Colonial port town, Urbanna offers surprises around every corner. Turn off the main road or cruise up the Rappahannock River from the Chesapeake Bay to the charming and friendly historic Colonial port town of Urbanna. Home of Virginia’s Official Oyster Festival, more boats than folks and laid back innkeepers, shopkeepers, and townspeople.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Midway, Kentucky

Located midway between Frankfort and Lexington, Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad (1832). During the railroad’s heyday, the 1930s and 40s, up to 30 trains a day rumbled through the middle of town. The passenger trains dwindled until the old depot was closed in 1963. Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its reputation as one of Kentucky’s favorite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing.

Murphys, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murphys, California

The town of Murphys is overflowing with wine courtesy of 25+ tasting rooms dotting Main Street. The microclimates in the Sierra Foothills AVA allow for all kinds of grape varieties but the most common varietals include zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and chardonnay. There are also a numerous nearby vineyards that offer on-site wine tasting. 

Worth Pondering…

Once a year go somewhere you have never been before.

—Dalai Lama

Ultimate Guide to East Coast Destinations for a Road Trip

If you haven’t considered the possibility of an epic east coast road trip, we’re here as your guide

Getting on a plane can seem daunting, but taking a road trip beyond the four walls of your home is quite embraced, as long as it’s socially-distanced. If you want to take a weekend trip or an extended road trip, read on for your guide to East Coast destinations that are ideal for a summer or autumn road trip, ordered from North to South.

Remember to travel with caution, follow good health practices, and behave responsibly when outdoors or around other people. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Hampshire is bursting with a variety of landscapes to choose from. If you’re looking to get outdoors and stay active, New Hampshire is your state. Lake Winnipesaukee is the sixth-largest in the country. The lake’s beaches are perfect for relaxing in the sun or for the more active, swimming and sailing are a few of the water sports you can take advantage of on Lake Winnipesaukee in the summer.

White Mountains National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arguably one of the most popular destinations in all of New Hampshire, White Mountain National Forest is home to endless hiking trails, wild species, and views galore. Whether you visit in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, it is worth the few hours of driving. Be sure to bring your camera and stop at the ranger station before beginning an excursion because they will fill you in on all of the things to keep an eye out for on your trek.

Massachusetts

Freedom Trail, Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts is a state that many yearn to visit in the summer. With every type of scenery from picturesque islands—think Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket­—boasting sailboats to a city with an old, cobblestone street vibe, you can do and see it all in Massachusetts.

Old Ironside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It would be remiss to visit Massachusetts without at least dropping in on the bustling city of Boston. Boston is a city with old-time charm and a lot of history. As you walk through the town you encounter cobblestone streets, old buildings, and the waterfront of the harbor. Be sure not to miss iconic stops like Fenway Park, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, USS Constitution (Old Ironside), and Boston Public Garden for gorgeous park views. For the history buffs out there, pick up a map of the Freedom Trail for a self-guided history lesson.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before leaving this incredible city, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend more incredible New England breweries based in Boston. Of course, the well-known Samuel Adams Brewery is a must-see. If you’re in the mood for incredible craft beers and deliciously fluffy pretzels (made from the actual hops of the beer) then Harpoon Brewery is for you.

Rhode Island

The Breakers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1639, Newport, Rhode Island is considered to be the shining gem in the coastal crown of New England. A haven for religious dissenters, a critical Colonial Era port city, a thriving artists’ colony, a summer playground for America’s barons of industry during the Gilded Age, and home to the U.S. Naval War College, Newport is a destination like none other.

International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Possibly best known for its timeless mansions, the Cliff Walk is a must-see upon entering Newport. Beautiful estates like the Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and more are available for walking tours. You can purchase tickets for one or multiple estates at the Breakers upon arrival and you can walk or drive amongst each one. Along the Cliff Walk, you will also pass the beautiful Salve Regina University.

Upstate New York

Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upstate New York is like a whole new world from the concrete jungle that we know as New York City. Full of quaint small towns with boutiques and beautiful scenery, Upstate New York is not a destination to be missed.

Village of Lake George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga is most notably known for the Saratoga Race Course. Although races may not be happening during this time, consider simply making the trip to walk around the massive grounds or perhaps wait until horse racing is back in action to visit. During the summer, the Saratoga Farmers’ Market is in full swing, making for the perfect summer activity. And of course, the sweeping hills of New York contain many well-known wineries and Saratoga is no exception.

Saratoga National Historic Park reenactment © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saratoga National Historical Park has a number of attractions and activities that happen throughout the year. Visit the site of the historic Battle of Saratoga, take tours at the Schuyler House, check out the Saratoga Monument, walk through Victory Woods, and explore the battlefield. Before you go, check the park’s official website for alerts. As always, be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  

Corning Museum of Glass © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Corning Museum of Art is celebrating 50 years and as many museums allow back visitors, they’re doing so with extra safety precautions and in a unique way. The museum, which showcases a first-hand look at glassblowing and 3,500 year-old glass on exhibit, is now scheduling online virtual reservations. Guests will be temperature checked when they walk in, masks are required for both guests and even the glassblowers who run the workshops and capacity is limited to allow social distancing. Normally, there’s a make your own glass workshop but they’ve had to adapt—there’s now individualized packages for the materials for families to get involved.

Pennsylvania

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania is known for its popular cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that contain a ton of historical value and things to do. However, the Keystone State is quite large so where you end up may depend on how far you’re willing to travel and what you want to see and do.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gettysburg National Military Park is a must-see for any fall excursion, providing the perfect, scenic backdrop for visitors experiencing this historic battlefield. Explore the sights and sounds of battlefield reenactments, monuments, memorials, and true history. Gettysburg offers guests a part of the nation’s past all year and provides optimal trekking treasures in the fall.

Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia’s Historic Triangle is full of living history and fun for the whole family. Located in Coastal Virginia between the James and York rivers—Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg together are named the Historic Triangle for their historical significance and close proximity.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area includes five historic sites and attractions from the first English settlement at Jamestown, to the end of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown, and the founding of a new nation at Williamsburg. The sites are easy to visit when traveling along the scenic Colonial Parkway and many offer discounted tickets and packages when you visit more than one.

Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Williamsburg is great for all ages if you have younger kids you really can’t go wrong here. This town is an extremely interactive way to engage your little ones in the rich history of America. Williamsburg served as the capital of the Colony and Commonwealth of Virginia from 1699 to 1780 and acted as the center of political events leading to the American Revolution. You will be transported back in time through “townspeople” willing to tell their stories and include you in interactive experiences that tell a tale of Williamsburg long ago.

Worth Pondering…

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.

—Henry Rollins

Best Road Tips to close out Summer

Road trip-worthy travel ideas for summer’s golden hour

The weirdest summer in generations is coming to a close and while the Summer of the Road Trip will no doubt transition into the Autumn of the Road Trip, there’s still time to squeeze out a few drops of summer fun before fall shows up. So by all means, hit the beach, visit a lake town, taste the latest vintage. Head out to some of America’s most treasured outdoor spaces for warm nights and brilliant stars. Pick some apples and watch the fall colors emerge. Yeah, this summer’s weird, but it’s still out there.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you need inspiration for things to do this month, we’ve got a few ideas so you can safely sate your travel bug. Here are some of our favorite places to go this September—all are road trip-worthy. 

Take one final beach getaway

September is a severely underestimated month to hit the beach. In the before times, that was largely because of school being back in session (less crowds!) and post-Labor Day price drops (less money!). And despite jumping the gun on all this pumpkin spice “fall” nonsense, the weather out there is still great. 

Edisto Island, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s worth visiting Edisto Island just for the drive down Highway 174, a National Scenic Byway featuring live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Once on the beach, the geographical isolation maintains a lost-in-time feel. There’s an intriguing mix of family vacationers and locals here.

Botany Bay Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hurricanes have taken their toll on Edisto Beach with erosion leaving a mere strip of beachfront at high tide—the positive side of which is the boneyard beach left behind at Botany Bay Plantation where trees emerge from the surf as the ocean overtakes the maritime forest. 

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto is quiet and the rules reflect that. Parking is easy at any of the 37 public beach access points. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed from May 1 to Oct. 31. Edisto’s dining scene is mostly fried-seafood-and-beer joints like the timeless Whaley’s.

…Or visit a lake town

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best beaches aren’t always on the ocean: Michigan, for instance, offers 3,000 miles of pure coastal bliss on four Great Lakes. The case of the best Michigan beach town remains unsolved but in Wisconsin, the obvious answer is Door County. 

Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And in Arizona, camp and swim at Patagonia Lake State Park. Nearly 80 miles south of Tucson, Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular destination where you can hike, camp, fish, boat, and bird watch. The lake has separate areas for swimming and boating. The park is limiting admission to help promote social distancing and has reached capacity as early as 9 a.m. on some busy weekend days. Mask use is required in ranger stations, restrooms, and other buildings as well as whenever you cannot maintain social distance.

Explore Central California, in and beyond Yosemite

Amador City in Gold Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that school’s back in session—whatever that means—the crowds in national parks should be dwindling. That should mean it’s easier to nab a pass into Yosemite which has been operating on a reservations-only basis to keep the usual crowds (4 million a year) at bay. But if you find yourself denied access to Half Dome, don’t fret. Just outside of the park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a historic part of California most tourists don’t even realize exists. In Gold Country, nature’s just as stunning, the Old West charm is abundant, and the options for adventure are endless.

Murphys, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome to the California wine region you didn’t even realize existed, the antithesis of Napa. The town of Murphys is overflowing with the stuff, courtesy of 25+ tasting rooms dotting Main Street—and thanks to their abundance of patios and converted parking lots, most are open..

Go apple picking

Apples along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get those picnic baskets ready: its apple picking season! Whether your favorite, Honeycrisp or Red Delicious, a day trip to an apple orchard (many of which are family-run) can be a pleasant escape from the hectic pace of the modern world. Still, most farms are operating differently this year, so expect timed entries and socially-distanced festivities. Drink some cider. Savor a fresh-baked apple pie.

Hit New England for that summer-to-fall sweet spot

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

Apple picking is cool and all, but OMG, who’s excited to peep some leaves? While there are many places to catch fall colors, there’s nothing quite like New England, a region that’s cornered the market on that crisp, golden, late-summer, early-fall feeling. 

Fall splendor in the parks

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

If you’re thinking about visiting a national park this fall, you’re in luck. There’s a secret many travelers with flexible schedules have long known: national parks are best in autumn. Of course, that’s not true of every national park—there are more than a few that are best visited at other times of the year. But, generally speaking, fall can be a spectacular time to visit the nation’s parklands. The temperatures have dropped and the crowds have thinned, meaning you can enjoy the scenery while social distancing. Just remember, as winter draws nearer, snow can cause road closures at Glacier, Yellowstone, Lassen Volcanic, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Worth Pondering…

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.

—Henry Rollins