Saturday, December 10, 2011

Crater Lake National Park


Crater Lake National Park is a wonderful must-see National Park.  The lake is breathtakingly beautiful, and you can easily see the entire park in one day.  We stayed for three nights at the Crater Lake Resort, which was 25 miles SE of Crater Lake on Highway 62.  The campground was comfortable, and offered  full hook-ups for $30.00 a night.

We went through the National Park twice, but also had time to explore the surrounding area which included checking out nearby Kimball State Park and Collier Memorial State Park which offers full hookup sites on a first come first serve basis.  Collier State Park even offers a logging museum which is quite interesting.

We were there in July, and as you can see it was still pretty chilly and some snow was still on the ground, so plan accordingly.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting Ready For Florida

Well, it's that time of year again, and I'm getting excited.  After spending half of the year at home we are once again getting ready to depart for Florida.  We think that the trailer is ready, although there is a pesky leak that hopefully got fixed after caulking the roof a couple of weeks ago.  The car just got new heavy duty break pads on the back along with a new caliper - the old one broke apparently.  New back tires are going on the truck tomorrow.  Outside of that, it's just a matter of loading the trailer up, enjoying the holidays, and then heading out January 7th.

We're going to winter in Salt Spring Recreation Area until March 10th this year.  Then we'll be heading to the keys for two months.  We're booked into John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for 10 days then Curry Hammock for two weeks.  We had intended to book Long Key for the two weeks after Curry Hammock, but had to change plans when we found out that the road work they had planned will close the park until May.  As an alternative, we booked two weeks into W.P.Franklin North, a US Army Corps of Engineers park.  It will make a nice change, and it will be good to see something different.  It's between Fort Myers and Lake Okeechobee, and our site is right on the water.  Should be interesting.  After that, we'll head down to Bahia Honda for two weeks, then travel up the coast to Jonathon Dickenson State Park near Jupiter, Florida, for two nights.  Our final Florida stop is Anastasia State Park near Saint Augustine.  We're staying there for three nights.  We will probably stay at Hilton Head Island for one night, then enjoy a one week stay at Huntington Beach State Park in the Myrtle Beach area - one of our favorites.

Hopefully I'll be able to access the Internet during this time.  I get service through my Palm Pre phone - it has a WiFi hot spot for up to five devices, and works really well.  However, the service was very shaky in Salt Springs, and often we'd have to drive a few miles in the truck to pick up 3G.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miracle - Our Traveling Companion



Our Old English Sheepdog Miracle (Mirra for short) is our constant companion, and a great traveling dog.  We got Mirra soon after we lost our male Old  English Sheepdog Buster.  Buster made it to the ripe old age (for an Old English Sheepdog) of 13.  My husband and I were heartbroken over loosing him.  We lost him right before I retired, and we had our first big post-retirement trip scheduled - a winter in Arizona, then stops along the way home in Texas and the Florida Panhandle and Keys.  I couldn't envision making this trip without my Buster, and just had to get another dog to ease my breaking heart.  We searched for a dog that was old enough to travel with us but was still a puppy, and lucky for us we found a breeder in New Hamshire that had a 41/2 month female that she had decided she didn't want to show and would sell.  Anxiously, we went to pick Miracle up.  She greeted us by jumping up on us and licking our faces all over, something we have now gotten used to and call a "mugging".  She jumped into the car with us and I could tell from the trip home that she was going to be a wonderful traveling dog.  She has accompanied us on all of our trips since, and has brought us so much laughter, joy and love.   Here's a cute video of Miracle's first encounter with Sheep that I put on YouTube. 



Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Coast to Coast on Vancouver Island

Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino

As the grand finale of our 2010 cross country tour, we decided to make Vancouver Island our last northwestern stop before heading home.  We had just finished visiting Olympic National Park which was nearby the ferry in Port Angeles, so it was a natural extension of our trip.

Our first stay was at Crystal Cover Resort in Tofino which is on the West side of Vancouver Island.  The drive to Tofino was somewhat rough once we got away from Victoria.  The road took lots of really sharp turns and wound its way through mountains.  Finally we reached Pacific Rim National Park, so I knew that we weren't far from our destination.  It was foggy and damp, a theme that remained throughout our entire stay in Tofino.  We pulled into our campground late in the day, checked in and headed to our site.  The site was extremely narrow and hard to get into, but Bob, ever the skilled driver, got it in after much grumbling. The resort was really quite beautiful though, and was right on McKenzie Beach.  Although no campsites were on the beach it was a short walk to the access path.

We had dinner out in the small town of Tofino that night and were treated to a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.  The next day we took a whale watch, expecting to see Orca Whales, but found out that you rarely see them.  We did see some Humpback Whales and lots of Sea Lions laying around on rocks.  The next few days were spent exploring Pacific Rim National Park which is outstanding, but after just having been to Olympic National Park probably didn't seem as spectacular as it should have since the two parks are quite similar.  Still, we loved hiking along the Ocean every day.  However, by the time our five days were up in Tofino we were anxious to get going because of the eternal fog and damp cold air, which was really getting to us.  Keywords for Tofino - foggy, damp, cold, expensive.



Whale watch from Tofino

Sea Lions seen on whale watch

Tight fit!


Weirs Beach Campground in Victoria was our next destination.  I had booked us into an oceanfront campsite for five days.   It felt like a long drive from Tofino to Victoria, but we arrived at our campground fairly early and we were pleased with our site, although once again it was a little tight.  However, the clear sunny weather more than made up for any displeasure felt, and we happily settled in.

Of course we went to Buttchart Gardens, a must see in Victoria, and we played golf at nearby course.  Outside of that our five days were spent enjoying the beach and the sunshine, walking, reading books, and just chilling out.


Moonlight Over Weirs Beach

Buttchart Gardens

Although we loved our stay in Vancouver Island, I must caution anyone going that it is VERY expensive.  Everything is taxed so much that it really costs to stay there for any amount of time.  I'm glad that we went, but think that it may be a very long time before we stay in Canada again because of the expense.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bison Crossing River in Yellowstone



I took this video in 2010 in Yellowstone National Park.  A couple of bison crossed the river, then went across the highway.  Notice Bob quickly running back to the truck as the one big bison comes near.  They will charge you if they get aggravated, so you have to be careful!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Olympic National Park

Bob and me on Hurricane Ridge

During our 2010 trip from New Jersey, the furthest Northwest US point that we traveled to was Olympic National Park. This huge 632,000 acre park was designated Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897 by Grover Cleveland, and was declared a national park by Franklin Roosevelt in 1938.

The diversity of the park is what makes this place so unique and wonderful to visit. You can see rain forests, soak in hot springs, hike along the rocky ocean beaches, or explore Mount Olympus with its glaciers and alpine meadows. And we got to do it all!

We stayed in the RV campground adjacent to the Sol Duc Hot Springs which is run by Aramark. We were very disappointed by the campground, which for $30.00 a night was little more than a parking lot with trailers and RVs shoved up against each other. There was water and electric, but no sewer, and no bathrooms in the campground. You had to walk over to the lodge and shower for a charge (I think it was $1.00) at the Hot Springs. The only nice thing about the campground was that our site backed up the the woods where you could walk along the Sol Duc River. You are within walking distance of the hot springs, and it costs $12.25 to go into the pool and hot springs for the day. We did this one evening, and were disappointed that the mineral water from the hot springs was warm, not hot, and very crowded. I honestly think that the bordering Sol Duc National Park campground is a much better deal if you have your own generator.

Sol Duc River bordering our campground

Deer wandering through the campground

Outside of not liking the campground that much, I will say that the location was really convenient, since it was the closest location to Port Angeles where we were planning on catching the ferry over to Canada on our next stop. It was also pretty central to all of the sights.


The first day we spent hiking through the Hoh Rain Forest, which had fascinating foliage. We even got treated to seeing some large elk on the walk. Olympic National Park has the largest herd of Roosevelt elk in the world.

Hoh Rain Forest


Our next stop was to see Hurricane Ridge on Mount Olympus. The views were spectacular, and we enjoyed a walk in the alpine meadows there where we saw many deer wandering around.

Deer in alpine meadows at Hurricane Ridge
View from Hurricane Ridge

View from Hurricane

Our third day was spent touring the coast, ending up at Cape Flattery, where we hiked to most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. The rugged scenery made the hike well worth the effort.

Northwestern most point of contiguous US

Lots of driftwood!

Bob on coastal walk


During our drives around the park we went through Forks, the setting of the popular Twilight series. The town really capitalized on being somewhat famous, and features Twilight tours and businesses with Twilight woven into their name such as a the “Dazzled by Twilight” store which features everything Twilight.

Looking back on our time spent in Olympic National Park, I rate it as one of the most interesting parks that we have explored so far, and one that I would love to return to. There is just so much to see and do.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Custer State Park

The elusive big horn sheep
One of my very favorite parks in the country is Custer State Park in South Dakota.  Bob and I first explored the park on a three week trip to Yellowstone National Park that we had taken before I retired.   We were camping outside of the park and only visited it for a day.  We loved it so much that we decided it deserved further exploration.  When we went cross country in 2010 we camped there for five nights and really got to enjoy this gem of a park. 

Custer State Park is like a mini-Yellowstone, but without the crowds.  You have close up adventures with the huge bison herd that resides there, the wild donkeys, antelope and even big horn sheep.  The proximity of the park to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monument, the historical town of Deadwood, Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park make this a great central spot to stay and explore South Dakota.

We had already visited Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, and although we saw bison, bear and mountain  goats we hadn't seen any big horn sheep.  We stayed in the Blue Bell campground and were very close to the wildlife loop, so every day we went around the loop and were treated to plenty of sightings of bison, antelope and the resident wild donkeys.  The donkeys are extremely tame and beg for apples or other treats that they have become used to.   Often we would be caught up in a bison traffic jam, as they surrounded your car to cross the road.  This was all wonderful, but still no sightings of big horn sheep!

The day before we left the park we were driving into our campground, and guess what we almost drove into - a female big horn sheep that froze long enough for Bob to get a shot of her, and me to get some wonderful video.  Well, that up-close encounter really made the stay for me!

This is such an outstanding park that we will return again if we are out that way.  It is more than worth the $20.00 nightly fee.

One of the many antelope we saw

Feeding the "wild" donkeys

View of Mount Rushmore from the highway


Bison seen during an evening drive on the wildlife loop


Check out my YouTube Video!


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Five Easy Ways To Stay Fit While Traveling In Your RV

Since Bob and I travel so much, we needed to find good ways to stay in shape. We have a gym membership that we use while we are home, but while we are traveling keeping in shape becomes more of a challenge. Here are five simple ways to maintain your fitness while Rving.
  1. Yoga - Yoga is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for your body and mind and is a tremendous way to start the day. I have been doing yoga for about 30 years now, and it is an essential part of my daily routine. I highly recommend the Rodney Yi morning yoga routine on the "AM and PM Yoga" DVD because it is very gentle on your body and easy for beginners. The best thing about doing yoga while camping is that you can do it outdoors, and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable.
  2.   Floor exercises - I do about 100 stomach crunches followed by some core stability and abdominal exercises such as the plank and side plank. Click here to see some good abdominal exercises.   
  3. Weight Work - Weight work is essential to maintain bone strength and prevent osteoporosis as you age. We carry 2, 5, and 10 pound weights and a stretch band. Included in my workout are curls, hammer curls, front and side deltoid raises, upright rows and triceps extensions. Free weights are great because of the variety of exercises they allow you to do. I use a stretch band around a chair to do seated rows. I try to do my weight work routine about three to four times a week. About.com has great exercise pages that can help you with your weight workouts.   
  4. Walking - Since we are in such beautiful locations, I try to take full advantage of the wonderful hiking trails that are available to us while we are camping. I try to get at least two miles a day in, sometimes much more. I walk my dog every morning for about a mile, and repeat this at night. Any additional walking is a bonus.
  5. Biking - We try to get in a good bike ride around three times a week. I especially like to burn off part of my dinner by taking a bike ride about an hour after we eat.
The most important thing that you can do is to maintain consistency. It can be difficult to stick to a routine, since while you are traveling you always feel as if you are on vacation and it is easy to take a day off. However, you have to push yourself if you want to stay healthy and continue to enjoy the traveling life style.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Excitement at Goose Point Park

 


We were so impressed with Goose Point Park during our trip last year that we decided to return this August. Goose Point campground has three different sections.   Section A is up on a hill away from the lake and has water and electric. Section B is on another hill above the lake, and has no electric or water. Section C is the most desirable loop with water and electric, and beautiful campsites right on the lake. I had reserved two campsites in the Section C loop - campsites 14 for five nights and 29 for the remaining 9 nights of our trip. When we arrived we were disappointed to find out that campsite 14  was too difficult to get into with a 30 foot trailer, so we had to go up into section A for five days. There was also a problem with campsite 29 - it was long enough, but our 30 foot trailer would just about fit into the site leaving little room for the truck, and we would have to really jack the trailer up because of the severe incline. Most of the campsites are reasonably easy to get into, and it seemed as if we had picked the two most difficult. After a bit of grumbling, we settled into a decent campsite up on the hill in section A.

About three days into our trip a tow truck with a flat bed appeared with an old class C camper on it. The rig didn't have any license plates on it and didn't appear to be road ready. However, the owner left it on the site overnight, and the next day a group showed up and moved into the camper.

We left after our five nights, and moved into campsite 29. We noticed that the old class C had driven down the hill and moved to a different site below us. The next day I was sitting outside, and my husband said "Oh my God - come look at this". The camper had rolled backwards and fell down the steep hill that the site was on. The only thing that kept it from plunging into the water below was a tree which had fortunately stopped it. The owner said that he was trying to move the rig and the breaks failed. The rangers came by and fined him $800 for damage to the tree and tacked on some other fines as well.  Guess the moral of the story is to make sure that your rig is really driveable and registered.

We took our canoe with us so that we could go fishing and explore pristine Philpott Lake a little more. Bob was told by a fishing store in Chincoteaugue that if you were a senior citizen you didn't need a license in Virginia. Unfortunately we found that to be false, and we were stopped by the police and ticketed for fishing without a license ($120 each).   Moral of that story is don't ever believe what you are told - check the rules for yourself.

In spite of some of the mishaps, we loved our stay here and will definately return. Now we know what campsites we prefer and which ones not to stay on. I'm sure our next visit will go a bit more smoothly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bargain Camping in the Florida Keys

sunset at Bahia Honda State Park

The Florida Keys are notoriously expensive for campers, with many campgrounds charging over $100.00 a night. However, there is a bargain to be found – the state parks. There are four state parks in the keys – John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Curry Hammock, Long Key and Bahia Honda. Each of these are wonderful parks that charge $38.50 nightly for sites with electric hookups and water. John Pennekamp offers sewer hookups as well. Bob and I have stayed in all but Curry Hammock, and we are looking forward to staying there for two weeks in April 2012. Out of the other three we think that Bahia Honda is the best for swimming, but Long Key has all waterfront sites that have spectacular views. Bahia Honda has waterfront sites, but we have never managed to book them since they are in such high demand. In order to get reservations at these parks you have to log into Reserve America exactly 11 months before the day that you want to start your reservation. My advice is to log in about 15 minutes before 8:00 AM, pick out your campsite and get everything set up so that you are able to click on the button to reserve the campsite at exactly 8:00. It is very difficult to get these sites, and so you may have to try over a period of a few days. We have managed to get reservations for three years now, so it just requires a little patience and determination. Believe me it's worth it to get these great sites

view from our campsite at Long Key State Park

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Army Corps of Engineers Parks - The Best Camping Bargain in the Country

Bob and I stayed at an Army Corps of Engineers park for the first time in 2010 on the way to California.  I had heard from fellow campers that these parks were always clean, well designed and spacious, and that they were a real bargain for anyone with a Golden Age or Golden Access passports (these passes have now been replaced with the Inter-agency Senior or Inter-agency Access Pass), since the sites are reduced by 50% with these cards.  Most of the sites are already very reasonable, so the 50% reduction makes these sites some of the best camping deals we have ever seen.

Our first experience was at Goose Point on Philpott Lake in Virginia.  There are campsites right on the lake that are outstanding with water and electric for $22.00 a night, $11.00 with one of the passes.  This beautiful lake has swimming, fishing and boating.  We were so impressed with this park that we are returning for two weeks in August.

We next stayed at Floating Mill Park in Tennesee where we had full hookups and a very large concrete site right on a lake.  There are two swimming beaches - one for the campground, and a public day area beach.

Next was Maumelle Park in Arkansas, which offered a beautifully shaded site on the Arkansas River with full hookups.  The park is conveniently located near Little Rock if you want to tour the city.

We stayed at two more parks on the way home from California.  John Day Lock and Dam in Washington provided us a great campsite with full hookups from which to tour the Washington wine country.  Cochiti Lake in New Mexico had water and electric, but no sewer.  As usual though, we found the campsites to be very large and the park well designed.

Goose Point Campground, VA
Floating Mill Park, TN
Maumelle Park, AR
Not one of these parks was a disappointment, and compared to private parks that we have been to, they are far superior in the spaciousness and beauty that they provide.  If you are looking for a great deal, try out these wonderful parks.  You can reserve them at https://www.recreation.gov .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our Trip of a Lifetime

Yellowstone National Park

My husband Bob and I love the National Parks, and have made a point of visiting these treasures during our travels. So far we have visited 25 of the 58 National Parks, as listed below:

Acadia National Park
Badlands National Park
Bryce Canyon
Carlsbad Caverns
*Crater Lake - Oregon
*Glacier - Montana
Grand Canyon
Grand Teton
Heleakala
Hawaii Volcanoes
Joshua Tree
*Kings Canyon
*Mount Rainier
*Olympic
*Petrified Forest
*Redwood
*Rocky Mountain
Saguaro
*Sequoia
Shenandoah
*Theodore Roosevelt
Wind Cave
*Yellowstone
*Yosemite
Zion

We visited 11 of those parks (the ones with asterisks) in one trip!  In 2010 we took a fabulous trip that we designated the “Trip of a Lifetime” since we don’t think that we will ever get that ambitious again. We traveled 14,000 miles in five months , and not only got a good tour of those 11 National Parks, but also Custer State Park, the Cooley Dam and some other wonderful state and federal parks. We even traveled over to Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. Since Bob and I love wine, our trip had to include a tour of the California, Oregon and Washington wine country. We bought ourselves many wonderful bottles of wine, and then were presented with the problem of what to do with them when we entered Canada. We had no idea that you were not allowed to bring the wine over into Canada without paying a huge amount of taxes. We were in Olympic National Park before we took the ferry over to Canada, so we rented a small climate controlled self storage container in Port Angeles (the monthly rate was only $50.00). We would have had the wine shipped home, but we live in New Jersey and they do not allow wine to come into the state. On the way home we had the misfortune of breaking a trailer axle and got waylaid in Santa Fe New Mexico for nearly three weeks. We were going to stop in Santa Fe anyhow, but we got to know it much better that we expected to. If you are going to get stuck somewhere, it’s certainly not a bad place to hang out. We quite enjoyed it even though at this point we were anxious to get home. Outside of that the trip was one of the most memorable experiences that we will ever have.


Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC

San Francisco

Feeding the Donkeys Custer National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Mount Ranier in July

Hiking in Mount Ranier

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Sun Lake State Park Washington

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Oregon Coast

Redwood National Park

Crater Lake National Park

 Glacier National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Custer State Park, SD

Crater Lake

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley

Washington Winery

View from our campground in Victoria BC


Custer State Park

Victoria, BC

Mount Saint Helens
Golden Gate Bridge
Sequoia National Park

Rodney Strong Winery Senoma CA

Point Reyes National Seashore