Friday, August 31, 2012

Santa Rosa Lake State Park - New Mexico

Santa Rosa Lake State Park
Santa Rosa Lake State Park is a wonderful place to camp. It's not far off of Route 40, so if you're traveling across the country on 40, it's very convenient. We stayed there for three nights in May of 2010, and really enjoyed it. The campsites are large and well spaced. We stayed on the Rocky Point Electric Loop, which has 17 on-line reservable sites with water and electric for $14.00 a night. We stayed on A004, which had a nice brick and concrete shelter with a picnic table on it and a pretty view of the lake in the distance.

Here's a good video I found on YouTube showing all of the campsites:

During our three day stay, we enjoyed hiking in the park. There's a path right in the campground that goes down to the lake. Actually, it was fun just hanging out around the campsite. Mirra especially enjoyed the shelter.  We were there over Memorial Day, so she had her flag scarf on.

Santa Rosa Lake State Park is only 7 miles from the little town of Santa Rosa where the famous Blue Hole sinkhole is. The Blue Hole is 81 feet deep, and is crystal clear. There's a cave system that generates 3,000 gallons of water every minute and the water temperature is a consistant 61-64 degrees all year. This combination makes the Blue Hole is a very popular place for divers, although when we went there, there weren't any. There were plenty of kids jumping fearlessly into the water, though. I bravely ventured into the cold water, but came out after a few minutes. Brrrrr. Bob said there was no way he was going in, and that I was crazy (he's probably right about that!).

The town of Santa Rosa is right on Historic Route 66. We had dinner out at a the Silver Moon Cafe, which is on the famous route, and got a very good Mexican meal. We bought ourselves a Route 66 bumper sticker for our truck in the gift shop.

Silver Moon Cafe on Historic Route 66
 If you're looking for a good place to stop off of Route 40, or just looking for a great place to hang out for a few days, Santa Rosa Lake State Park is a great pick.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Touring California Wine Country

Sonoma wine vineyards
Bob and I both love wine (especially reds), so during our 2010 trip we made sure to stop in California wine country. We stayed in the San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA for a week because it was close to Sonoma, Napa, and San Francisco. We were somewhat disappointed with the KOA. Our campsite seemed a little cramped, and although the KOA has a large swimming pool and spa, it was so noisy and crowded that it detracted from our enjoyment of the facilities. We were there in June, and probably a better time would be in the spring or fall when there are less vacationers.

We weren't disappointed with the wine tour, though. On the first day, we started our self-guided tour with one of our favorite wineries – Clos Du Bois. We arrived there early – around 11:00, and we were the only ones there. The highlight of that tour was a tasting straight out of the barrel of an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that would be released in 2011. Our favorite from that tasting was an Old Vine Zinfandel -which we bought - as well as a few other choice selections. We followed that by going to another of our favorites – Rodney Strong. We got a great tour of their winery, and bought some bottles of our favorites from them – a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill Chardonnay, and a Pinot Noir.

Rodney Strong Winery
Clos Du Bois Winery
The most fun we had though was finding the small boutique wineries in the area. One of our favorites was Pedroncelli Winery. They offered some great bottles in their free tastings, and even let our dog come into their tasting room. What more could your ask? Another great find was Muscardini Cellars which also offered a free tasting. We joined their wine club because we were so enthusiastic about their wonderful Sangiovese.

One of the important things to remember when doing a wine tasting is the importance of spitting out the wine, no matter how tempting it may be to guzzle it all.  You would never make it through the day if you drank all that each winery gives you without getting a pretty good load on.  Choose to actually drink only the very best, and spit out the rest.

Pedroncelli Winery

We spent another day in Napa, and just the drive was a treat. This is beautiful country, with rolling hills and vineyards everywhere. Our stops there included BV, Robert Mondavi and Kendall Jackson. We were charged for all of the tastings here, and we thought that BV, although offering a great selection, charged too much at $15.00/tasting. All of these wineries are beautiful, however, and well worth visiting.

Vineyards at Robert Mondavi Winery

We made two non-wine related trips while we were in the area. The campground offered a tour of San Francisco, so we thought we'd take advantage of it rather than deal with the hassle of driving to the city. Our tour guide was great, and we had a wonderful full day of touring the city with stops at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Park, lunch on the waterfront, Chinatown, and even a trolley ride. Lots of fun!

Cable Car Ride in San Francisco
Japanese Gardens at Golden Gate Park
A Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

We also took a day to drive to Point Reyes National Seashore. It was a foggy, cool and windy day, which contributed to the wild feeling that this park has.

Pounding Surf at Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore

We left wine country with the trailer much heavier from the weight of the great bottles of wine that we purchased, but with out wallets much lighter. However, the whole experience left us wanting to return. The next time we'll be sure to stop in the Pasco Robles area – they have some great wines there.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park was a big reason that we decided to make our cross country trip in 2010. It was definitely one of the destinations on our bucket list. We decided to spend a full week so that we could get to tour the park adequately.

We stayed at the West Glacier KOA, which was only a couple of miles away from the park entrance. Although a little pricey ($72/night), we splurged, and I'm glad we did.  We really enjoyed their heated pool and hot tub after a long day of touring the park.

The park was everything we hoped for in the way of beauty, with spectacular views as we drove along the scenic Going To The Sun Highway. However, it was pretty crowded, since we were there during the peak season. We were there from August 1 – 8, and everywhere we drove was pretty crowded. Also, the Going To The Sun Road had construction going on, so that made things even slower.  I think if I had it to do over again, I'd choose a less busy time of year to visit.

Lake McDonald

Day after day my husband and I were hoping to spot a mountain goat. We failed to see any on our drives through the park, and would take a nightly drive down the highway to an outlook outside of the park where they were often viewed, but no luck. Finally on our last day we took one last drive on the Going To The Sun Road, right around Logan Pass.  We spotted a mother and baby mountain goat in the distance. Excitedly, I whipped out my video camera and got the best shots I could of them in the distance. We continued on, visited the lodge, and turned around. On the way back, there they were right on the side of the highway, posing for cars passing by. That just made my day!

We managed to stop at a few pullovers along the road, and get in some short hikes.  Below is a beautiful little pool that we saw only a few yards off of the highway.
Pool right off of Going To The Sun Road
I was somewhat disappointed by the glaciers – there are only 25 left, and they are former shells of what they once were. Sadly, it's predicted that there will be no more Glaciers left by 2030.   However, the park was absolutely amazing and I'm so glad we got to see it when we did.