Skiing at Stokely Creek Lodge – Feb 11 – 13, 2024

This will be my quickest post, ever!

I just returned from 3 nights at Stokely Creek Lodge in Goulais River, Ontario. It is a back-country lodge with an extensive cross-country ski trail sytem, perfectly groomed for both classic and skating. There is also an extensive snowshoe trail system.  My friend, Marcy and I spent 3 nights at the lodge and had 4 days of wonderful skiing.  We have been skiing there together for 29 years. This was our first time back since 2020.

The entire midwest is snow-free, due to abnormally warm temperatures, but there is snow at Stokely. It is located east of Lake Superior, creating the best chances for snow anywhere.

I mostly used my classic, no-wax skis, as waxing was challenging due to the high ice content in the snow. I even managed to skate ski for the first time in 4 or 5 years. Wow, was that challenging. I had to re-teach myself how to do it, but succeeded. Marcy skiied and also used her snow shoes.

The food was absolutely fabulous. Somehow, my clothes still fit me ! In addition to enjoying great meals, we also got to meet many skiers from across the US and Canada.

Now, I will finish packing and loading the RV. We are heading south tomorrow. Yayyyy!!!! First stop, Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Walking towrd the lodge from the parking area. Home Run Hill is to the left.
Stokely Creek Lodge, Goulais River, ON
View of King Mountain from the beginning of Evans Lake Trail, Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
View of Evans Lake from Evans Lake Trail, Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
Waterfall off of Julie’s Trail. I have never seen this because it is usually frozen in the winter.
Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
Stokely Creek, less frozen than usual. Skiing The lower Stokely and Eva’s Way trails follow the rushing creek. They are the easiest trails, but 2 of my favorites.
Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
Trail marker for the Voyager Hiking trail which runs through the area.
Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
The Roth loop, an easy, peaceful trail.
Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
Marcy is obviously very happy to be skiing at our favorite place again.
Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON
Skiing back toward the lodge from the Lower Stokely trail, at the end of the day. Stokely Creek Trails, Goulais River, ON

 

2023 updated camping statistics and campground log

 

We had another great year! (Be sure to see Slushie’s photo and comments below)

2023 summary:
·         Nights camping – 118
·         Campgrounds – 22
·         New campgrounds – 19
·         States we camped in – 9
·         Nights at our northern outpost – 36
All-time summary since buying RV (fall 2018):
·         Nights camping – 615
·         Campgrounds – 97
·         Campgrounds we visited multiple times – 10
·         States we camped in – 18
·         Nights at our northern outpost – 162
Campground State Year
Sanilac County Forester Park Michigan 2018
Stafford County Park (we do not recommend) Michigan 2019
Holland State Park Michigan 2019
Young State Park Michigan 2019
Fayette State Park Michigan 2019
Marquette City Park Michigan 2019 (x2), 2020
Porcupine Mountains State Park Michigan 2019
McLain State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wilderness State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Brimley State Park Michigan 2020
Cheboygan State Park Michigan 2020
Orchard Beach State Park Michigan 2020
Hartwick Pines State Park Michigan 2020
Lake Michigan Rustic Campground, Hiawatha Nat’l Forest Michigan 2020
Wells State Park Michigan 2020
Fort Wilkins State Park Michigan 2020
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Michigan 2020
Straits State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wild Cherry Resort, Leelanau Michigan 2021
Warren Dunes State Park Michigan 2021
Grand Haven State Park Michigan 2021
Ludington State Park Michigan 2021
Manistee River Trail, Huron-Manistee Nat’l Forest Michigan 2022
South Higgins Lake State Park Michigan 2022
Port Crescent State Park Michigan 2022
Goose Island County Park Wisconsin 2020
Myre-Big Island State Park Minnesota 2020
Blue Mounds State Park Minnesota 2020
Badlands National Park, Cedar Pass CG S. Dakota 2020
Buffalo Gap National Grassland (USFS) S. Dakota 2020
Whistler Gulch Campground S. Dakota 2020
Custer State Park S. Dakota 2020
Tower Campground, Sioux Falls (we do not recommend) S. Dakota 2020
Cloquet/Duluth KOA Journey Minnesota 2020
Rickwood Carverns State Park Alabama 2021
Big Lagoon State Park Florida 2021
Gulf State Park Alabama 2021
Fort Pickens Area – Gulf Islands National Seashore Florida 2021
Henderson Beach State Park Florida 2021
Dr Julian G. Bruce State Park Florida 2021
Anastasia State Park Florida 2021
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area Florida 2021, ’22 (x2), ’23 (x2)
Rivers End Campground & RV Park, Tybee Island Georgia 2021
James Island County Park S. Carolina 2021
Huntington Beach State Park S. Carolina 2021, 2022
Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore N. Carolina 2021
Fredericksburg / Washington DC South KOA Holiday Virginia 2021
Fox Den Acres Campground Pennsylvania 2021, 2022
Geneseo Campground Illinois 2021
Eugene Mahoney State Park Nebraska 2021
Ogallala KOA (we do not recommend) Nebraska 2021
Heaton Bay Campground (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
Redstone Campground  (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park, Fruita Colorado 2021
Matterhorn Campground (USFS) Colorado 2021
Ouray Riverside Resort Colorado 2021
Lightner Creek Campground Colorado 2021
Bruce Spruce Ranch Colorado 2021
Antlers Rio Grande Lodge/ Campground Colorado 2021
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Colorado 2021
Hunter Cove Park Nebraska 2021
Walnut Woods Campground Iowa 2021
Fisherman’s Corner Illinois 2021
Starved Rock State Park Illinois 2021
Clinton/Knoxville North KOA Tennessee 2022
Forsyth KOA Journey Georgia 2022, 2023
Eagles Roost RV Resort Georgia 2022
Favor-Dykes State Park Florida 2022
Sebastian Inlet State Park Florida 2022
Fort Clinch State Park Florida 2022, 2023
Rodman Campground, Rodman Recreation Area Florida 2022
Skidaway Island State Park Georgia 2022
Island’s Choice RV Park N. Carolina 2022
Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Frisco Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Newport News Park Campground Virginia 2022
Misty Mountains Campground Virginia 2022
East Harbor State Park Ohio 2022
Indian Mountain State Park Tennessee 2023
Kathryn Hanna Abbey Park Florida 2023
Jonathon Dickenson State Park Florida 2023 (X2)
Bahia Honda State Park Florida 2023
Currie Hammock State Park Florida 2023
Jekyll Island State Park Georgia 2023
Dreher Island State Park S. Carolina 2023
Asheville East KOA Holiday N. Carolina 2023
Mill Creek Campground Tennessee 2023
Lake Cody Campground Ohio 2023
Fisherman’s Island State Park Michigan 2023
Lelenau State Park Michigan 2023
Geneva State Park Ohio 2023
Letchworth State Park New York 2023
Watkins Glen State Park New York 2023
Four Mile Creek State Park New York 2023
Robert H. Treman State Park New York 2023
Lampe Campground Pennsylvania 2023
Maumee Bay State Park Ohio 2023
Slushie, showing off his Christmas stocking and his Christmas gift – a Detroit Lions Barry Sanders jersey. Go Lions! Now he just wants to go back to the Florida Keys. Slushie says “Happy New Year and See you down the road!”

Fall Waterfall Tour Part 2 – Sept 23 – 29, 2023

Niagara Falls area

We left the Finger Lakes area just before the rain came. The weather forecast was looking good for Niagara Falls. We had a quick overnight at Lakeside State Park, then we headed to Four Mile Creek State Park, which is on Lake Ontario and about a 25 minute drive from Niagara Falls State Park. I forgot to photograph the campsite, but it looked very much like the campsite at Lakeside State Park, posted below.

We set up camp and went to check out Devil’s Hole State Park and Whirlpool State Park. After a lot of walking and hiking, we went to the town of Lewiston, which is about halfway between the falls and our campground. It is a very cool small town. They were just packing up after their fall festival. There was a microbrewery/barbeque place with a nice outdoor patio. It was a perfect way to top off the day.

The next day we went to Niagara Falls State Park. Neither of us had ever been there and we were just blown away by the size of the falls. There were no brochures or maps, just a large sign with a map on it, labeling all of the sights. We just assumed if something was on this map, we should see it (once again, New York State Parks not providing much information). That strategy worked for us. We walked everywhere, all day. We walked to the visitor center, to see if there was any info or history. There was no information, only souvenirs. The popular viewing areas were pretty crowded, even on a Monday in September. I noticed a lack of safety features, some crowded rickety stairs and loose hand railings. We limited our visit to the American side, not wanting to deal with a border crossing. We didn’t track our mileage, but we figure we walked at least 7 miles. The food concessions didn’t look too appealing, so we headed back to the barbeque place in Lewiston.

Allegheny State Park

After two nights at Four Mile Creek, we headed to Allegheny State Park. It was somewhat on our way home and the photos online looked beautiful. We spent two nights there. We hiked, checked out the historic administration building, the fire tower, the dam, Thunder Rocks and drove around the park. The park has a lot of cabins and some very nice paved bike paths. They were not on the map we received at check-in, but I think they are new. The map we had was drawn by hand and probably 30 or more years old. There was no cell service or internet, so we were thankful to have it. We happened to get a campsite that wasn’t difficult to back into. One highlight for us, was hearing an owl while we were hiking late afternoon, the first day.

Eerie, PA

We had never been to Eerie, so we decided to check it out for a night on our way home. Our brewer friend, Kristy, moved there a couple of years ago from Detroit, so we planned to try to meet up with her. Unfortunately she was traveling for work, but gave us some tips on where to go and what to see. Lampe Campground, run by the Eerie Western PA Port Authority, was very nice. The sites are easy, paved back-in sites, perfect for a quick one-night stop. We apparently “won the lottery” by getting a site there. It is very popular with fishermen, as it is located on Lake Eerie, near Presque Isle State Park.

Eerie has a nice waterfront area with outdoor bars and restaurants. It looks like a fun place to spend time in the summer. Mid-week in September, there were no people there and many places were not open. We drove around the city and checked out a couple of microbreweries recommended by Kristy. We had a pretty good impression of the town and would definitely return.

Maumee Bay State Park

We wanted to go someplace new in Ohio, on our way home. We also did not want to tow the fifth wheel through downtown Detroit on a Friday afternoon, when rush hour starts early. Maumee Bay State Park is about 11 miles east of Toledo. It is located at the site of Niles Beach,  a community of vacation cottages that was destroyed in a storm in 1972. The campsites are level, well-spaced and have plenty of foliage between them.  All of the campsites appeared to easily accommodate large rigs. We did not check out the beach area, but the entire campground was really nice. We were fortunate to not be near some large groups and families, meeting up for the weekend. Best of all, we had a short, easy Saturday morning drive through Toledo and Detroit.

The second half of our trip ended up being very different than planned, but it was pretty fun! After 118 nights of camping, we planned to watch the weather and head north again or even camp somewhere near home. After a couple of weeks at home, the weather did not cooperate, so we winterized the rig and stored it for winter. Next camping trip – Florida!

We spent one night at Lakeside State Park, which is about 50 miles east of our Niagara Falls campground. It is on Lake Ontario. It allowed us to arrive fairly early to start sight-seeing the next day. We met a friendly camper there, who told us about Whirlpool State Park and Devil’s Hole State Park, which we had never heard of. We otherwise might have missed them.

We hiked down about 1000 feet on Devil’s Hole Trail in Devil’s Hole State Park. It was a great warm-up for the following day at Niagara Falls.
Devil’s Hole Trail in Devil’s Hole State Park
The Niagara River at Devil’s Hole State Park
The Niagara River at Whirlpool State Park
The Niagara River at Whirlpool State Park
Lewiston, NY
American Falls at Niagara Falls State Park
Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park
Niagara Falls State Park
Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls State Park
American Falls at Niagara Falls State Park
Our campsite at Allegany State Park, NY
Allegheny State Park, Salamanca, NY
Allegheny State Park, Salamanca, NY
The hand-drawn map we were given at check-in had “Thunder Rocks” highlighted. We had no idea what it was, but drove up to check it out. On that chilly fall weekday, we had the place to ourselves. I have been reading the
Outlander books and felt like we were at Craigh na Dun. (Fortunately, we were not transported back to the 18th century.) Allegany State Park, NY
Thunder Rocks at Allegheny State Park, NY
Science Lake, Allegany State Park, NY
Allegany State Park, NY
View of Red House Lake from the patio of the Red House Administration Building. The lake was formed when red House Dam was built in 1929. Allegany State Park, NY
Red House Administration Building, built in 1929 at Allegany State Park, NY
Red House Administration Building, built in 1929 at Allegany State Park, NY
The Brewerie at Union Station, Eerie, PA
Eerie, PA
South Pier near Lampe Campground, Eerie, PA
Lampe Campground, Eerie, PA
Our campsite at Lampe Campground, Eerie, PA
Lampe Marina, near Lampe Campground, Eerie, PA
Our beautiful campsite at Maumee State Park, OH. We were happy we stopped at this campground. It is a true gem! We walked through most of the campground and ALL the campsites were this nice – large, level, well-spaced with foliage between sites. We didn’t get a chance to check out the beach area on Lake Eerie, but we will be back. It was a great way to get closer to home and time our drive through Detroit, to avoid rush hour.
Maumee State Park, OH
Dave and Slushie chilling out at Maumee State Park, OH

Fall Waterfall Tour part 1 – Finger Lakes region, New York – Sept 12 – 22, 2023

I have named our fall trip “Fall Waterfall Tour” because we saw more waterfalls within a couple of weeks, than we ever have before. We headed east, with plans to explore the Finger Lakes Region in New York, then head south to Shenandoah National Park. We had all or our campsites booked in advance, with the end of the trip left open, in case the weather was good and we wanted to stay out longer.

Following our normal approach to RV travel, we monitored the weather and other factors that could affect our plans. We have learned that in the fall, hurricanes quite often eventually move toward New England or the midwest, after making landfall and downgrading. These enormous weather systems can stall for long periods over an area, causing days or weeks of rain, where we have plans to camp.  This year, Tropical Storm Ophelia did just that, resulting in a very different second half of our trip.  This post covers the first half.

1 night in Ohio then Letchworth State Park, NY

We left our house on a Tuesday, just after rush hour, heading to our first stop at Geneva State Park, in Ohio. We chose to avoid going through Canada, since Dave has been hassled by US border agents in the past (no problem with the Canadians). We figured crossing the border with an RV increased the chances of being hassled. It was a great 1-night stop, where we could pull in, stay hitched and do plenty of walking around the park before dinner.

We spent 4 nights at Letchworth State Park in New York. When we checked in, we were told we had one of the best campsites. We had a partial view into Letchworth Gorge and lots of space around us. We hiked every day and checked out the spectacular waterfalls and scenic views throughout the park.  There are nearly 30 different waterfalls and cascades in the park. We walked nearly every inch of the campground and through much of the park. We visited the museum and gift shop.

It was our first New York State Park and our first realization that the park system does not provide much information about a park, once you are there (accurate maps, directories, what to see, history of the park, conservation information). With no cell service, you should really research the trails and what waterfalls to see before you go. Of all the parks we visited on this trip, this was the only one that had information on the history, but only at the museum.

The New York Park state park system seems to be far less concerned with visitor safety than other places we have been to. With the exception of the fence between our campsite and the gorge, there were few safety railings or barricades. I imagine there have been many deaths there, accidental or not. My fear of heights kept me away from anything too dangerous. We managed to see a lot and stay safe. We really loved Letchworth State Park.

Watkins Glen State Park, NY

We spent 6 nights at Watkins Glen State Park.  We set up camp and then went to check out the town and harbor. We hiked the Gorge trail on our first morning there.  The trail is 1.5 miles, 500 feet elevation gain and feature 19 waterfalls, sheer rock walls and 832 staircase steps. It was so beautiful I did not even notice the steps and elevation gain.  I have really never seen any place like it. We went through pretty quickly with a plan to return really early another day, when there were less people. By mid-morning it was packed.

We explored the area around Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. There are countless breweries and wineries with great views, our favorite being Two Goats Brewing. We visited the town of Montour falls for more waterfall viewing.  We spent a morning walking around the Cornell campus in Ithaca and visited Taughannock State Park. and the Cayuga Nature Center. We also went to Geneva, NY, which was a bit disappointing, as nothing was open and it was quite deserted. We hiked the South rim trail in the park, which was uncrowded and beautiful. We never did return to the Gorge trail, as  it became increasingly more crowded with day visitors. We believe it was likely near the beginning of leaf-peeping season.

Near the end of our stay there, the weather was starting to turn. Tropical storm Ophelia had moved north from the Carolinas and had become a tropical depression.  It was approaching Shenandoah National Park and was headed north. At the same time we were watching the news regarding the funding of the federal government and were concerned that there could be a government shut-down, which would close the campgrounds there.  We didn’t want to drive all the way there, only to head home right away. The rain was moving in toward us, at Watkins Glen, The beauty of camping is that you can watch the weather and change your plans at minimal cost (unlike canceling hotels and airfare). We canceled our reservations at nearby Robert Treman State Park, as well as Shebandoah and left the Finger Lakes area early. We headed toward Niagara Falls, where we found available campsites and the forecast looked good. Neither of us had ever been there, so we were excited to go.

We had a nice, level campsite at our first stop, so we did not need to unhitch and then rehitch in the morning. Geneva State Park, Ohio
This was only the second time in my life, that I have been to Lake Erie. Geneva State Park, Ohio
Genessee Arch Bridge and Upper Letchworth Falls
Genessee Arch Bridge, Letchworth State Park
Middle Letchworth Falls
Our campsite at Letchworth State Park had a lot of space around it and a view into the gorge.
Letchworth State Park is commonly referred to, in New York, as “The Grand Canyon of the East”
Geneseo, NY is a college town, home to State University of New York (SUNY)
We stopped in for a cold one at the Dublin Corners Taproom. It’s always fun to chat with the locals in a new town. Geneseo, NY
A mastadon skull at the William Pryor Letchworth Museum. Mr. Letchworth donated 1000-acre estate to the state of New York for use as a park , with the provision that he could remain there for the rest of his life.
This old stone footbridge built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provides a great view of Lower Letchworth Falls. The main trail to this area was closed for maintenance, so we had to take an extremely steep, wet, slippery path down to this area. Hiking up was a workout, but much easier!
Lower Letchworth Falls, Letchworth State Park
Hiking in Letchworth State Park. This trail had great views and many hawks.
Strange Design Public House was originally built in 1879, as an addition to the County Poor House. It was purchased and remodeled in 2018 and would be Geneseo’s first brewery.
Inside Strange Design Public House, Geneseo, NY
Letchworth State Park Camp store has a produce stand with fresh local produce. The sweet corn was really good!
Letchworth State Park
Our beautiful campsite in Watkins Glen State Park
Enjoying a pumpkin spiced ale at Horseheads Brewing Seneca Lake in the Watkins Glen Harbor
The Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park
The Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park
The Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park
The Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park
On the deck at Two Goats Brewing on Seneca lake near Watkins Glen
We had a great carry-out dinner from Nickel’s Pit BBQ, Watkins Glen, NY
Geneva, NY
Geneva, NY We were surprised at how deserted town was ona Tuesday afternoon.
Aunt Sarah’s Falls in Montour Falls were nearly dry. Montour falls, population 1,583, is just 5 minutes outside of Watkins Glen, NY.
Shequaga Falls is located in the center of town in  Montour Falls, NY.
Some of the buildings in Montour Falls, NY date back to the mid 1800’s.
Eagle Cliff Falls in Havana Glen Park, Montour Falls, NY
Deckertown Falls, Montour Falls, NY
Hiking above Deckertown Falls. The trail was pretty sketchy with a steep drop-off, so I stopped where I was…
Upstate Brewing Company, Watkins Glen, NY
The 6-story tree house at Cayuga Nature Center, Ithaca, NY. There are several rescue animals housed there who cannot be rereleased into the wild. There were foxes, a red-tailed hawk and a raven. I won’t post any photos because it is too sad to see their tiny cages.  I really hope they will be moved to a better place some day.
The lower falls at Taughannock State Park, on Cayuga Laken near Ithaca, NY.
The main attraction is Taughannock Falls, a 215 foot waterfall. It wasn’t possible to get a good photo in the afternoon, as the sun was just behind it.
Pond on the South Rim Trail in Watkins Glen State Park
Campfire at Watkins Glen State Park

Summer part 2 – home, Frankfort and Lelenau – July/August 2023 (updated 1/1/24- bear encounter)

Writers Block, 808 Day and a massive tragedy

I have been really behind on this blog (the post dates are aligned with the dates we traveled, rather than actual date I posted). I have been having a sort of writer’s block, due to a tragic event that occurred on August 8. I always celebrate August 8 (I call it 808 Day) for a couple of reasons. One reason is that 808 is Hawaii’s area code and another is that it is my birthday. That number seems to show up in my life on an almost daily basis. It started happening while I was deciding whether or not to retire from my corporate job. Since then, I have seen it as a sign from the universe that I am on track with what I am supposed to be doing.

August 8, 2023 was a great day in the Eastern Time Zone, though not in the Hawaii–Aleutian Time Zone. We spent the day doing our favorite things in Frankfort. Dave didn’t tell me, but he had read that a fire started in Lahaina, but it had been put out before we went to sleep. The next day we learned the entire town had burned. We were scheduled to head downstate to restock and catch up on things around the house. All the way home I was on my phone looking for updates or news. We were sick with worry and many other horrible feelings, including loss. It took quite some time to learn anything because of the power outages there.

By that evening we confirmed that our friends, Ron and Rhowenna were home and okay. We also got a text from our friend Dave describing how he drove himself, Charlotte, her sister and the dog and cat out, barely escaping with their lives, by speeding over sidewalks, with the girls screaming and shouting the whole time. The next few days we would be searching online for any news of people we know. We have been going to Maui together for about 25 years, usually going twice a year. We have some close friends there and many casual friends. We belonged to the Lahaina Yacht Club for many years, where we met a lot of people. We have many wonderful holiday memories in town. It really is a small town, where everyone knows everyone. Since most people are not from there, everyone is like family (ohana, in hawaiian). There were so many people we were worried about.

We would learn that dozens (or more) people we know lost their homes and/or their place of work. There were countless stories about people we know and don’t know, running for their lives, as I’m sure everyone read about in the news.  There was one guy we knew from the yacht club who was missing and confirmed dead, weeks later.  The loss of life, pets, people’s homes, historic buildings, wonderful waterfront restaurants, art galleries, cool shops, the harbor, and boats is just gut-wrenching to think of.

I spent the next 2 weeks scouring the news, looking for updates, and worrying about where people would live. We donated and helped raise some money for some friends there. Eventually, I had to cut back on the news searching and get on with life. Heading north again and planning our fall trip really helped take my mind off of it.

Until now I have just been at a loss for words.  I have not wanted to write about how great my life is, while so many people I know are suffering (At this point many are still homeless or jobless). The need to wrap up my posting for the year is the only reason I am writing. It is nice to review all of the fun times. I am not sure what I think of 808 Day, at this point…..

Bear!

I am updating this post on New Year’s Day, as I just recalled a highlight of the summer.  One morning, I was in the outhouse at the northern outpost. I looked out the screened window and saw a bear. It was roughly 2 feet away from me, with only the outhouse door between us. I  immediately gasped, which startled the bear. It quickly turned and bounded off into the woods. It was pretty small, so I assumed it was a cub and I was terrified that the mother was nearby. I did not have my phone with me. Dave was in the RV and the generator was running. I knew if I yelled, he would not hear me.  I stood, shaking in the outhouse for about 15 minutes and finally hurried back to the RV.

Later, I did some research about black bears. Based on the bear’s size and the time of year, it was likely a juvenile that had just started off on its own. We have been aware that there are bears in the area. They are likely in the area because of all of the orchards. Our neighbors had to get rid of bird feeders because of a bear. Our friends nearby, in Benzonia had recently seen a bear near their house. We also saw a bear one morning, while riding our bikes on the Betsie Vally Trail. It was crossing Mollineaux Road, near Crystal Lake, its massive size covering an entire lane.

Dave saw a bobcat near the outhouse a few years ago. I saw what I think were juvenile bobcats a couple of years ago. I no longer ever go to the outhouse without my phone!

Leelenau State Park, Northport, Leland and Frankfort

We continued the rest of summer, alternating time between up north and home every 7 – 10 days.

We went to Leelenau State Park for some car/tent camping. We had a beautiful lake front site. We enjoyed time in Northport, first at a microbrewery, then at a restaurant for great tacos. It’s a very cool town. We hiked a beautiful trail in the park, on our way out the next day.  On the way home we stopped at Leland where we went to the beach to look for “Leland Blue” stones. We had no luck but enjoyed walking around historic Fishtown and had a great lunch.

In Frankfort we rode our bikes or hiked nearly every day. We spent time time at our favorite beaches and went to our favorite microbreweries. We met up with several sets of friends in the area. We listened to live music in Beulah, Traverse City, Benzonia and Frankfort and ate at our favorite Mexican Restaurant. I spent time identifying birds, trees and butterfies and picking wild raspberries.

Our last night at our Northern Outpost was September 2. It was our 44th night in northern Michigan, this year, and 97th night camping since we headed south on March 23. No, we were not finished yet! We headed home to do our annual RV maintenance and prep for our fall trip to Finger Lakes, NY and Shenandoah National Park.

Our deluxe, top-of-the-line outhouse at the northern outpost.  The bear was right at the “porch” and appeared to be coming closer. (The angled board in back and trench on the side direct rain and snow away from it.)
I might as well take this opportunity to share some details, as we are both quite proud of this structure. Dave designed and pre-built most of it in our garage downstate. I made the sign and designed the closeable window with screen – perfect for light, ventilation, keeping the flies out and for wildlife viewing!
View from inside the outhouse. We often see Indigo Buntings, as they like to nest in the area.
The structure is quite roomy, so we can use it for tool and lawnmower storage.
Slushie at our campsite at Leelanau State Park, Northport, MI
Slusie’s first time in a tent
Morning coffee on the beach, Leelanau State Park, Northport, MI
Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau State Park, Northport, MI
We hiked a beautiful trail in Lelenau State Park that led to this beach
View of the waterfall and Falling Waters Lodge from the docks in Fishtown, Leland, MI
You can’t go to Leland, MI without getting a gourmet sandwich at the Village Cheese Shanty in Fishtown, Leleand’s historic district.
Enjoying a Green Pepper, Onion, Spinach, Cucumber, Olive Spread, Tomato, Dill Havarti and Guacamole on pretzel bread sandwich in Fishtown. The cheese and spreads are phenomenal.
Campfire at the Northern Outpost.
Peanut butter s’mores!
This year we bought a 100 watt solar panel and new 100 ah AGM battery. We didn’t upgrade the converter, yet, so the battery only runs lights, the pump and the refrigerator. The panel keeps the battery charged. We no longer have to rely solely on the generator to charge it or to haul it back to the grid for charging.
There are butterfies gallore at the Northern Outpost. This American Admiral is checking out our stickers and taking a shade break on our RV.
The view from Arcadia Scenic Turnout, off of M22 in Arcadia, MI. It’s no wonder I love this area so much. One of my favorite memories as a kid, was spending a week at Camp Arcadia with my church confirmation class (I had known many of the kids since kindergarten)
Checking out the Bassmaster fishing tournament at the park near our house in SE Michigan
This cabin was built in 1932 and is now ownd by the National Park Service. It is located on one of our new favorite trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort, MI. We have been there countless times, yet I still feel the need to take photos every time I go.
Morning walk on Elberta Beach, Elberta, MI
Hiking Platte Plains Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Upper Herring Lake near Frankfort
One of many hiking trails through the woods near Frankfort
The fishing dock on Betsie Bay in downtown Frankfort
View of Frankfort Michigan, across Betsie Bay. We had been out watching the sunset and stopped at the Elberta Waterfront Park to take a look. When I took this, I was remembering the view of Front Street in Lahaina, from near the old public library. I was thinking I should seer this image into my memory because at any moment it or I could be gone.

 

View of Front Street from near the old library in Lahaina. Gone forever, but forever in our hearts.

Early summer in Michigan – home, Frankfort, tent camping in Charlevoix – June/July 2023

The past few years, we have spent early June at our “sticks and bricks”, enjoying normal-length showers, our huge king size bed and our dishwasher, among other comforts of home. We catch up on laundry, routine dentist and doctor visits and time with family.  This year there were also retirement parties, our niece’s graduation party, a nice Father’s Day picnic and a visit from our Hawaiian friends, Kacy and Bri,  and their daughters.

We started planning for our return to our property in Frankfort and for some short tent camping trips.  We had both been inspired by other tent campers’ set-ups on our previous journey. It would be a way to use our Northern Outpost as a base camp and venture out further, without hauling our large rig.  Last year we went backpacking for the first time in 20 years, with some heavy, outdated equipment.  While tent campsites are less remote than hike-in sites, we could bring a larger tent, a cooler, plenty of food and drinks, and comfortable air mattresses. We would also have access to many more smaller sites that would not accomodate our rig.

We finally headed north in late June.  There is nothing like the feeling of our first arrival of the year, at our property. The first thing we always notice is the strong, sweet smell of Douglas Fir trees, one of my favorite scents on the planet.  I love seeing and hearing the birds, especially those that we don’t see or hear anywhere else. The Eastern Towhee, Indigo Bunting and Black-capped Chickadees sang as we decided where and how to park the rig for the summer. It is always interesting and fun to see which trees have grown bigger, which have fallen or died, and where new saplings have sprouted.

We set up camp for the summer and eased into our normal summer “up north” routine, hiking, visiting our favorite places and meeting up with friends in the area. We spent 2 nights tent camping at Fisherman’s Island State Park In Charlevoix. We had a beautiful lake front campsite. Our only complaint about the place was that the restrooms were very far away (between a quarter and half mile). It was great to see Charlevoix again. Unlike other northern Michigan towns, which have become overrun with tourists and wealthy vacation homeowners, it seemed to be mostly the same as when we last visited in 2009. We loved camping in the bigger tent and the new air mattresses were pretty comfortable. After 11 nights off grid, we were running out of water, so we came home.

Camping off grid at our own Northern Outpost. Home sweet home…

Wildflowers on our long, winding driveway at our Northern Outpost. They are one of the reasons I love Tom Petty’s song “Wildflowers” and often think of the song while I am here.
I rushed to pick as many flowers as I could before Dave mowed the driveway. Slushie really liked them and guarded them with his sword and civil war musket.
Frankfort Beach on a Friday morning before a holiday. Tourism is finally back to normal here! Thank goodness. Two years ago, all parking was full at the beach and in town and the beach was packed with people.
Frankfort Beach, Frankfort, MI
Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts.
Built in 1934, this buiding was the Frankfort coastguard station, before the nearby existing station was built. I often stop here when I am walking around or near town. The exhibits feature local artists.
Many afternoons, while Dave was cutting dead trees on the property, I spent time walking and running on the Betsie Valley Trail. It is a 22-mile paved and gravel trail, runnining from Frankfort to Thompsonville. There are three different trailheads within 5 miles of our property, making it easy to see something new every day. We spend a lot of time cycling on the trail, also.
“Music in the Street”, a regular Thursday night event in Beulah.
Sunset over Beulah Beach and Crystal Lake. Through most of the summer, smoke from Canada’s wildfires affected the area, depending on wind direction. This was a Thursday evening. The area is no longer crowed on weekdays, as it was during and just after the pandemic.
Our lakefront campsite at Fisherman’s Island State Park, Charlevoix, MI
Fisherman’s Island State Park, Charlevoix, MI
Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse, Charlevoix, Mi
East Park and Charlevoix Marina, Charlevoix, MI
Bier’s Inwood Brewery, Charlevoix, MI
Our lakefront campsite at Fisherman’s Island State Park, Charlevoix, MI
Sunset on Lake Michigan at Fisherman’s Island State Park, Charlevoix, MI
One morning, we walked through the marina area in Frankfort, just as the charter boats were coming in.
Frankfort Light on a foggy morning.
Fireworks over Betsie Bay, Elberta, MI
Our bikes on the Betsie Valley Trail

 

A quick overnight in Ohio, then home – May 23, 2023

It would have been about a 10 hour drive home from Pigeon Forge. We don’t drive over 70mph and we like to stop to check the rig so we always factor in extra time. We decided to drive at least 6 hours, to get us closer to home and to allow us to tow the rig through Detroit when it wasn’t rush hour. We rarely drive more than 4 hours in a day, except when we need to get somewhere quickly or to avoid bad weather. After all, we are retired. Why be in a hurry and subject ourselves, to too many hours of sitting?

We found a beautiful county park in Lima, OH, which does not take reservations. We arrived around 3:30pm to find all the sites had been taken since 7am. I had the number for a KOA nearby, in case this happened. The KOA would not answer the phone and was due to close soon, so we found nearby Lake Cody Campground *(see special note below!). It is situated on what used to be a farm. It has many long-term seasonal sites and a few drive-up, full hook-up sites. A couple with a tiny trailer, who had been at our last campground was also there.  The owners were friendly and it was fine for a quick overnight stop.

The next day, after 4875 miles, 12 campgrounds (2 visits each to Flagler Beach and Hobe Sound) in 7 states and 61 nights camping, we returned home. Nine of the campgrounds were new to us. It was a great mix of returning to places we love and seeing new places. We especially loved experiencing the Florida keys.  We are looking forward to returning next year.

Our final campsite of the trip at Lake Cody Campground*, near Lima OH. It was quiet and fine for a quick overnight stop.

*Special note on this campground: Beware the campground descriptions on Campendium. They could be inaccurate. Always look for multiple guest reviews. DO NOT go to Lake Cody, unless you have your own toilet , sinks and shower. They have one disgusting unisex shower and 30-year-old pit toilets that likely have never been cleaned. We were fine, but I felt bad for the peole in the tiny trailer….

 

Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, May 21 – 22, 2023

When we left Asheville, we had already been traveling for two months and were ready to go home. Even so, we could not justify driving from Asheville to Detroit without stopping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was a last-minute plan to go there, so we settled on a private campground in Pigeon Forge. We normally prefer camping in a more rustic setting, but we were only stopping for 2 nights and planned to fit in a couple of hikes, sightseeing and time in Gatlinburg. This was one example of our camping as an alternative to a hotel vs. truly camping. Mill Creek Campground costs about 4 or 5 times what we usually spend on a campsite, but they had an easy pull-thru site available. It was also just a short drive from a free shuttle into Gatlinburg.  It has a pool and small rental cabins. Though it was only 5 minutes away from the very busy, high-traffic area of Pigeon Forge, the hilly landscape blocked the traffic noise.

Dave visited Gatlinburg and the Smokies countless times, as a kid, mostly camping. His parents, Gary and Shirley, countinued to go there,  frequently, after their kids were grown. They climbed Mount LeConte a couple of times.  It is the third highest peak in the park, at 6,593 feet. It’s a 5 mile hike to LeConte Lodge.  We have enjoyed their stories about the lodge and many hikes in the park. The lodge was built in 1926 and offers meals, as well as lodging (we are adding this to our list of cool things we might do soon).

It was my second visit to the park. Dave and I previously spent a week there in October, 2015, a year before the 2016 wildfires.  We stayed in a beautiful,  condo in town and explored most of the park, hiking every day. At that time, the fall colors were at their peak and it was extremely crowded with tour buses everywhere. We managed to avoid some of the crowds by heading out early and hiking longer trails.

This time, we did one hike that I had not done before – Clingmans Dome.  At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We arrived at the trail head fairly early, and were still lucky to find an empty parking spot. It is paved and only about 1/2 mile, but very steep. There were a lot of people of all fitness levels hiking, many stopping along the way, gasping for air. I was really worried that someone was going to have a heart attack. The views from the top were spectacular.

We spent late afternons and evenings in Gatlinburg. It’s not our favorite town, mainly because it is a giant tourist trap. Gatlinburg has changed drastically since I was there over 30 years ago with friends. Then, it was a sleepy little town with “old time photo” places and a few souvenier shops. Now, the town is always packed with tourists and consists of mostly  Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attractions and distilleries.  Thinking I wanted to take something local home, I inquired about a tasting at one place. I learned that everything they sell is very sweet, such as butter pecan moonshine or salty carmel whisky, so I skipped it. Instead, we went to the brewery in town and we ate at a mexican restaurant. The free shuttle was great. We avoided parking fees and trying to find a spot suitable for our large Silverado 3500 HD.

I actually forgot to take a picture of the campsite.  Just imagine a very neat, full campground with little vegetation and campsites very close together. When we return to the area, we will plan ahead and find something closer to our style –  more scenic and more privacy.

View of town from the Skylift, Gatlinburg, TN (Oct 2015)
Smoky Mountain Brewery, Gatlinburg, TN
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Newfound Gap Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Newfound Gap Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Oct 2015)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Charlies Bunyan Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Oct 2015), We hiked everyday on that trip.  My favorite trails were this one, Cades Cove and Chimney Tops. (Interesting grammar note: it appears they chose not to use apostrophes for names in the park)
Dave and his brothers on Charlies Bunyan Trail, sometime in the 1970’s. The usually went over Easter break.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Stopping at an Appalacian Trail sign on the way up to Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was built in 1959 on the mountain named Clingman’s Dome, named after a confederate general. There is an official name change underway, which will restore the mountain to its original native American name,”Kuwahi”.

The view from Clingmans Dome Observation tower, the highest point in the park, with a 360-dergree view. On a clear day you can see seven states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 

Asheville, NC, May 18 – 20, 2023

While planning our route home from Jekyll Island, we were looking for any route that did not require driving through Atlanta. Anyone who has ever driven through that area with or without an RV, could relate. We have been wanting to check out Asheville, so that was our obvious choice. We were lucky to find any campsite without advanced planning, so the Asheville KOA was fine for us.

The campground

We liked the location of the KOA. It was only a 7-minute drive from Black Mountain, which we planned to check out. While the campground was in a pretty setting, it was not very nice. The sites were very close together. The campground website states there is a dump station, but it  is only accessible to fairly small rigs, so I consider that to be false advertising. Fortunately we have our portable waste tank (aka poop trolly), which we can tow to the dump station with the truck. We frequently saw an RV dump service emptying tanks around the campground. We do not plan to return to this campground.

Biltmore Village and Downtown Asheville

We had planned to see the Biltmore Estate, but decided to do that in the future. The entry fees start at $109 per person and we knew we would not spend an entire day and get our money’s worth out of it. Our intention was to get an overview of the area and have more specific plans on our next visit. We opted to see Biltmore Village instead.  It is an area built in the late 1890’s to house workers of the Biltmore estate. It is now an upscale shopping and dining area. We went on a Friday morning and not many places were open. We didn’t have plans for fine-dining or high-end coffee shops. Expensive boutiques and galleries do not really interest us. We were hoping to check out the historic buildings and maybe learn a bit about the history. That was disappointing, as there was nothing displayed anywhere, with information about the buildings or history.  We quickly walked through the area, took a few photos and left.

We headed to the city, parked and spent a couple of hours walking  everywhere. The buildings and general feel reminded us of Detroit. It seemed pretty safe and vibrant,  We will return if we have a specific place we want to go to.

Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounding area

We were glad we did not try to fit in a tour of the Biltmore estate, as we drove a lot of distance over 3 days, checking out the Blue Ridge Parkway and some advertised must-see places that were all very long distances apart. The Asheville area is huge and the many advertised microbreweries are scattered over a very extensive area. We had a guidebook from the visitor center and some online info that were not very helpful, unless you planned to spend all day driving.  We enjoyed many scenic overlooks from the Blue Ridge Parkway, but did not do any hiking. My knee injury from Maui was almost completely healed, but Dave was still dealing with a sore knee from surfing at Flagler Beach. He wanted to spare the knee for any hiking we might do at our next location, the Smoky Mountains.

Our favorite times were spent in the small town of Black Mountain. It is a scenic mountain town with a couple of microbreweries and some restaurants, including a fabulous old-school mexican restaurant. We found the microbrewery that is the favorite of the locals.  Wherever we go, we like to spend time chatting with people who live there. It was fun experiencing the vibe of the town.

Our campsite at Asheville East KOA Holiday, Swannanoa, NC
Our campsite, from across the pond (left) at the Asheville East KOA Holiday
Our curious neighbor at the Asheville East KOA Holiday
View from our campsite at the Asheville East KOA Holiday
Slushie, enjoying the sunset at Asheville East KOA Holiday
Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in 1896
Parish Hall (Zabriskie Hall), in Biltmore Village. Google helped me to identify this building. Apparently, it is owned by the Cathedral of All Souls. It was built at the same time, with mouth-blown, hand-leaded translucent glass windows.
Walking around downtown Asheville was a lot like walking around Detroit.
Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC
Downtown Asheville, NC
This building in downtown Asheville reminded us of the old Milner Hotel (now Ashley Apartments) in Detroil.
Whistle Hop Brewing Company in Fairview, NC was about 25 minutes from the campground. It is a train-themed taproom with a large outdoor space. Like some of the other well-advertised microbreweries, this was the only reason to visit this tiny town.
Whistle Hop Brewing Company, Fairview NC.
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The sign at the Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center, Ashville, NC (No photos allowed inside). Dave scored some extra points with me, as he surprised me with a stop here. I did not know it existed. There was a beautiful gallery filled with local art. It was mainly basket weaving, furniture and textiles, with some painting. I absolutely loved the quilt art.
Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the French Broad Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway. Dave was expecting to see women speaking french, but he did not….
On the outdoor deck at Black Mountain Brewing Company, Black Mountain, NC
This was our favorite Asheville area microbrewery. It was obviously the favorite of the locals and we enjoyed the small town vibe. We ran into this local retiree a couple of times. He and his wife once debated whether they should move to Florida or to the mountains, to retire.
Lookout Brewing Company, Black Mountain, NC

Dreher Island State Park, SC, May 16 & 17, 2023

On our way to Asheville, we made a stop in South Carolina. We had planned to spend 3 days at Jekyll Island, but canceled the last day so we could chill out for 2 days at Dreher Island State Park. The photos online looked nice and we were not disappointed.  It is located about 20 minutes outside  the town of Prosperity, SC. Though it looked like a cute town, we decided to just stay in the park, since we would be driving a lot over the next week.

There are two campgrounds in the park. We stayed at the farthest south Islanders Camp Circle, where the sites were bigger and more well-spaced. We managed to book a large pull-through site. Many of the campsites would have been difficult or impossible for us to park our 33-foot fifth wheel.

We enjoyed the beautiful weather, exploring the park. We checked out the boat ramps and the tackle shop/camp store.  We talked with the ranger and learned a little bit of the park history and fishing conditions. We hiked some trails and walked around the campground. While Dave had previously been inspired to consider tent camping, while we were at Fort Clinch, I had the same inspiration while at Dreher Island (stayed tuned for summer tent camping adventures). We would definitely stop there again, but would be very careful about which campsite we book.

Our pull-thru site at Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity, SC
Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity, SC
Our pull-thru site at Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity, SC

Jekyll Island, GA, May 14 & 15, 2023

We arrived on Jekyll Island on Mother’s Day. The island was packed with local weekenders and day visitors, celebrating the holiday. There was a long line of cars waiting to get through the entry gate. We ventured out for a cold beer at a crowded open-air restaurant/bar, checked out the famous Driftwood Beach  and decided to tour most of the island the following day.

The campground was okay. It was pretty busy and there wasn’t a lot of space or any privacy between sites. Many of the campers were speeding around in golf carts, which they used to get around the island. The highlight was the bird sanctuary. It was an area with many bird feeders and a couple of swinging benches. We were able to see several painted buntings there, which I had not seen in a couple of years.

On a Monday morning we walked around the historic district and had the whole place to ourselves. During the late 19th and 20th centuries, the area was the vacation destination for many of the most wealthy millionaires and industrialists in the country. The historic buildings were once their cottages.  It was there in 1910, that draft legislation was written to create the Federal Reserve. The residents were asked to evacuate during WWll. Most of them never returned.

All of the land and buildings on Jekyll Island are owned by the state of Georgia. Land and buildings are leased to residents and businesses. Some  cottages in the historic district are used for special events. Guided tours of the district are also available.

At one point I considered how the homes of the wealthy and privileged men from that time period are now museums or national historic sites.  Even the names of all of the poor servants, cooks, gardeners, etc. are long forgotten. There is no recognition or remembrance of them. I managed to put the thought out of my mind and enjoy the beautiful weather and sights.

 

Our camsite at Jekyll Island Campground
The bird sanctuary at Jeckyll Island Campground. Unfortunately I was unable to capture any photos of the Painted Buntings, one of my favorite birds. There were several at the feeders.
Jekyll Island, GA
Low tide at the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier
Near the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier
A couple was catching blue crabs and filling a cooler at the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier
Horton House, Jekyll Island GA
This house was built in 1743 for Major William Horton. It is the oldest structure on the island.
Dubignon Cottage, built in 1884
Jekyll Island, GA
Jekell Island Club, built in 1886. It was originally a private club. Today it is a hotel and event venue.
Plantation Oak, the largest and oldest tree on Jekyll Island. 7’~3″ diameter • 128′ limb to limb, 23′ girth, 112′ high, Estimated age 350 years. It is a Live oak. Plantation Oak is its name.
Strachan Carriage House, built in 1910, Jekyll Island
Walking around Jekyll Island historic district, the scent of magnolias was everywhere.
Cherokee, built in 1904, Jekyll Island
The Wharf is a restaurant built on the pier in the Jekyll Island historic district. It wasn’t open when we were there, early on a week day.
Driftwood Beach. Jekyll Island, GA
This area was once a maritime forest. After many decades of erosion, only dead trees remain.
Driftwood Beach. Jekyll Island, GA
Driftwood Beach. Jekyll Island, GA
Beautiful Red Pines at Jekyll Island Campground

Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach May 7 – 13, 2023

We camped at Fort Clinch State Park last year and really enjoyed it. The park is beautiful and we love the beachside campground. The people around Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach are mainly locals and Florida tourists. There are no big resorts in the area and there is limited hotel space, so it isn’t crowded, even when busy. For next year, we scored a beautiful site, right next to the beach.  We are looking forward to that and returing to this beautiful area.

Our spacious campsite at Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL

Slushie, showing off his new pirate costume for Fernandina Beach
Deer at our campsite
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
One of four shark teeth I found this year at Fort Clinch. The age range of shark teeth found near the St Marys River is around 20 million years old to the Ice Age (10,000 years old). The river is deredged regularly, to accomodate the passage of submarines to the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. The dredging brings the long-buried shark teeth to the surface. If you can’t find one yourself, you can buy one this size in town for $6 – $12.
The sweetest, tastiest fruit I’ve ever had. Local Honey Mango, purchased at Publix grocery store.
Live music and a cold beer at Green Turtle Tavern, Fernandina Beach, FL
We took a day trip to St. Marys, GA. It was originally founded by the Spanish in 1566 and is the second oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the lower 48 United States, after St. Augustine, Florida.
On the St. Marys waterfront, the police were assisting two guys, whose boat had overturned in rough water. One of the guys started chatting with us and telling much of his life story. He is from Detroit and his sister lives a couple of blocks from where I grew up. Later, while walking through town, a man pulled over to talk to us. He also previously lived in Detroit.
St. Marys, GA
St. Marys, GA
St. Marys Submarine Museum, St. Marys, GA
St Marys is about 3 1/2 miles from Kings Bay Naval Submarine base.
St. Marys Submarine Museum, St. Marys, GA
St. Marys Submarine Museum, St. Marys, GA
This display made me think about how very brave or very crazy the early submariners were. St. Marys Submarine Museum, St. Marys, GA
St. Marys Submarine Museum, St. Marys, GA
St. Marys, GA
Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church,
St. Marys, GA. Built in 1840
The bird watching exhibit at Fort Clinch State Park. Like last year, this was the only place in the park with no birds.
Our refrigerator needed a quick defrosting after so much time in high humidity.
Sliders Seaside Grill, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Touring the old fort
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
View of the Amelia River from the upper deck of Salty Pelican Bar and Grill
The Alley by AIBC (Amelia Island Brewing Company), Fernandina Beach, FL
Sunset at Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
Dave watching anuclear submarine being escorted out to sea at Fort Clinch State Park
Slushie and his treasures, including shark teeth
Sunrise at Fort Clinch State Park

Link to 2022 post:

Amelia Island/Fort Clinch – April 3-14, 2022

 

Heading North – return to Hobe Sound and Flagler Beach – June 30 – May 6, 2023

On our way toward Amelia Island, we went to Gamble Rogers State Park, again, stopping first at Jonathan Dickinson State Park . JD has large, well-spaced  sites and new restrooms and laundry facilies. It was a great way to take a break from driving and wash some clothes. It is a really nice campground and nice area, so we may stay there a little longer next year.

Our stay at Gamble Rogers was as nice as it always is.  The cool breezes off of the Atlantic were a welcome change from the hot, humid weather in the keys. We have become acquainted with some of the regular camp hosts and the park rangers, at least one of which is an avid surfer. We also regularly run into other campers we have met during past visits at Gamble or other campgrounds. Needless to say, we always feel at home there.

One day, I was out walking and ran into the camp host. He told me he had just seen an exteremly large diamond back rattlesnake near the campground entrance. Apparently that is quite common. I had no idea! It definitely reduced my enthusiasm for hiking on the trails there.

We hated to leave, but were looking forward to Amelia Island/ Fort Clinch. We have reservations to return next year.

Our spacious campsite at Jonathan Dickinson, Hobe Sound, FL

Our 2nd campsite in 2023 at Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), aka Firewheel and Blanket Flower
We often see these flowers in sandy areas along Lake Michigan. They are everywhere at Gamble Rogers State Park.
The Workshop is one of several businesses in Flagler Beach that sells locally made products and artwork.
View of A1A and the ocean from the upper level of Tortugas, Flagler Beach, FL
Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
Slushie, saying “hello” to all the people and dogs who walk past our campsite
Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
On the boardwalk at Flagler Beach, FL

Florida Keys part 3: Eastern Marathon Key, April 22 – 29, 2023

We were quite happy to see our beautiful campsite at Curry Hammock State Park, which is a 30 minute drive from Bahia Honda State Park. It is a smaller campground, with newly rennovated facilities. It was a welcome change from the previous park, which could use some updates. The campground and beach are on the Atlantic/south side of the key, so we had sargassum seaweed fairly close to our site. It was only an issue when the wind shifted and blew from the south.

The weather was still very hot and humid. The low dunes around the campground blocked most of the breezes. We spent mornings walking around the campground and beach, hiking and booking campsites for next year. We didn’t paddle because the seaweed was pretty bad. Unlike Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock does not monitor the bacteria levels. We spent afternoons out, going to the air museum, finding fish markets and happy hours. We went to several local places, but our favorite was Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar (aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers).  There was a great view, affordable drinks and good food. We met 3 separate sets of people from Michigan. One guy lives in the same town that we do. Another couple owns a home where Dave grew up.

We cut our stay short because of the heat and the smell, opting to return to the cool ocean breezes in Flagler Beach. On our last day, we left early because strong storms were moving in. We wanted to  get to mainland before they hit. We learned that there had been a tornado warning overnight and all the campers had huddled in the restrooms. We plan to make sure we don’t miss something like that again.

View of our campsite from the beach at Curry Hammock State Park

The view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park
At the Marathon Air Musuem, run by the southermost chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. It was great chatting with the guys, both pilots, who were working that day.
An airplane, owned and still flown by the 87-year-old pilot who works at the museum.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
Autographed photo of the Blue Angels at Mount Rushmore
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
A WWll Navy coat and broken propeller.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
We really enjoyed looking through this copy of Life Magazine from 1939, 
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
1940 Chevrolet ad in a November 1939 Life Magazine. I worked on many Chevrolet vehicles in my career. In 1940 my mom wasn’t even born yet.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
1940 Sea Ray ad in a November 1939 Life Magazine. Dave’s mom worked for Sea Ray, long ago. The family has owned several Sea Rays.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
Marathon Air Museum
It was the first time I read this quote by Henry Ford. It’s now one of my favorites.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
We frequently saw American White Ibis in the Florida Keys campgrounds
A waterspout near Curry Hammock State Park. I was freaking out, but nobody else seemed to care.
Sargassum seaweed along the shoreline, near the beach at Curry Hammock State Park
A small iguana in our campsite. They are an invasive species in South Florida and can grow up to 5ft. in length
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
I noticed this hole while we were backing into our site. I was relieved to later learn it was the home of a crab and not a snake.
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
A gecko checking out our RV interior
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
Slushie held a conference with his new friends, the gecko, the crab and the iguana. I heard them discussing auto insurance.
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
This place is known as the best for local stone crab. We tried it just days before stone crab season ended. It is a sustainable seafood, as the claws grow back after being removed. Note: served with mustard sauce (no butter!)
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
A shark near the dock at Keys Fisheries, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Hiking on the trail in Curry Hammock State Park. I was on high alert the entire hike, looking out for snakes. I almost walked into a spider web with a very scary-looking spider. I was very happy when the hike was complete!
Hiking in Curry Hammock State Park

 

Floriday Keys Part 2: Key West – a couple of day trips between April 7 & 21, 2023

While we were staying at Bahia Honda State Park, we took a couple of day trips to Key West. We were happy to find a parking lot that would easily accomodate our heavy duty pick-up truck. Next year we will consider taking the shuttle bus that runs between the park and Old Town. We may even spend a night there, so we can experience the sunset festivities at Mallory Square and being on Duvall Street at night.

We used to go to Key West in the early 2000’s, before we bought our place on  Maui.  They were short, fun, care-free trips, usually with friends. We used to stay at the Ocean Key resort, with rooms overlooking Mallory Square, for about $150/night (now $400 – $800/nt). We would rent bikes, spend afternoons at the pool and evenings out on the town. At that time, we were flying somewhere 4 – 7 times a year, so a shorter trip allowed me to use fewer vacation days.

The first thing we noticed was how crowded everything was and how heavy the traffic was, compared to past visits. We actually limited our walking on Duval Street for that reason. We went to the famous Southernmost Point buoy for a photo, but were shocked to see people lined up on the street, waiting their turn for a selfie. Rather than stand in line for 25 minutes, we skipped it. I’m not sure what was more surprising – the amount of people waiting or the fact that they were politely waiting in line.

We spent some time in the historic seaport district. It was quite busy, but seemed less touristy than Duvall Street. We had a great dinner at the Waterfront Brewery. The first visit, we sort of wandered Old Town, around aimlessly. The second time, we mapped out an itinerary and made sure we saw some historic sights.

Note: The beaches on the south side of Key West were unindated with smelly  sargassum seaweed, I think it’s a pretty rare occurence, but I would recommend checking the seaweed status anywhere in the keys, or even Florida, before going.

Sloppy Joe’s Bar – Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar. We went there many times, about 22 years ago. We attempted to return a couple of times this year, but the place was packed, with no empty seats (even mid-day).

Irish Kevin’s Bar. We had a beer at Irish Kevin’s, which was not nearly as crowded as Sloppy Joe’s. We think the poor quality of the live music that day may have been a factor.  We also went to this place many years ago.
Ernest Hemmingway’s house. We toured it many years ago. The highlights for me were seeing his writing desk and the polydactyl cats, who descended from his original cats.
The Key West lighthouse, built in 1848, after the original one was destroyed in the 1846 hurricane. They raised the tower 20 feet in 1894 because the surrounding trees grew and blocked the light.
This Banyan tree is pretty small compared to some in Hawaii, but it’s still pretty impressive.
This historic building is now a condominium. It was The Marine Hospital from 1845 to 1943.
Cornish Memorial African Methodist Epicopol Zion Church, founded 1864, built 1885
Sunset Pier, Key West, FL
Built in 1890, this was a two-family residence for the Navy Commandment and Paymaster. In 1911 it was converted to a single family residence and later became the vacation home of Harry S. Truman
President Truman’s 1950 Lincoln Limo (one of nine in various US locations)
A Gumbo Limbo Tree at the Truman Little Whitehouse. We later saw this type of tree growing wild on a hiking trail in Curry Hammock State Park
This was the United States Weather Bureau building from1911 through 1951.
The Weatherstation Inn building served as residential housing for the U.S. Navy from 1952 until 1974, when the base closed. It opened as a hotel in 1997.
The Custom House, next to Mallory Square, built in 1891, is now a museum run by the Key West Art & Historical Society
The Whistle Bar, Upstairs from The Bull. We had to stop there for old times’ sake. We had a great time people-watching there many years ago with friends Paul and Nancy. I remember Nancy yelling “Look! It’s the silver guy!” and he looked up at her. He was riding his bike home from his sunset gig at Mallory Square, still completely silver, from head to toe.
The view from Geiger Key Marina. We stopped there on the way home one night for dinner. They had live music and fabulous tacos. I had hogfish and Dave had tuna.

Florida Keys Part 1: 1 day in Hobe Sound then Big Pine Key & Western Marathon Key, Apr. 7 – 21, 2023

We spent 22 days in the keys, in 2 different state parks and we took day trips to Key West. This post covers the drive into the keys, the first campground and the surrounding area. Part 2 will cover the day trips to Key West. Part 3 will be about Eastern Marathon Key.

Jonathon Dickenson State Park, Hobe Sound, FL

We traveled from Flagler Beach to Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Hobe Sound, near Jupiter, FL. It was a great 1-day stop, to break up the long drive. We have met many campers who regularly drive 8 – 15 hours in a day, to get somewhere quickly. We don’t like sitting too long and prefer to see as much along our route as we can. There are 2 campgrounds at JD and we stayed in the newly renovated Pine Grove loop. The gravel sites are really large and flat and include water, sewer and electricy.

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, FL

The drive to Bahia Honda State Park was a very long one. We expected lighter traffic on a Saturday, but it was Easter weekend and we believe people were heading to the keys for Easter break. What should have been a little over 4 hours was actually almost 8 hours.  Our campsite was designated for a rig over 30 feet when we booked it, last year. It was changed to 24 foot maximum after Hurricane Ian. We realized that, while trying to book sites for next year. We weren’t notified that we couldn’t camp there, so we decided to show up and give it a try. We were able to fit by angling the RV, but it was tight.

We really loved our campsite with views of the sunset, fish and birds. We were able to launch our paddle boards from our campsite. Swimming was not allowed (except at the beach) ,but that didn’t stop anyone at the campground.  We explored the entire park by bike and on foot. We spent most afternoons away from the campground, seeing as much as possible in the area, including Key West. Mainly we were wanting to cool off, as afternoons were very hot and humid.  We also learned that happy hours were quite affordable, so we took advantage of being able to go out without throwing off our financial plan.

Jonathan Dickinson, Hobe Sound, FL
Live music and watching the boats at Blue Pointe Bar and Grill, near Jonathan Dickinson Stae Park.
Our campsite at Buttonwood Campground at Bahia Honda State Park. We were about a foot from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m pretty sure this rig has never been so closer to salt water and I’m certain this is the furthest south it has ever been.
View of Bahia Honda state Park – Calusa Beach with Buttonwood Campground beyond, from the old bridge.
The Bahia Honda Bridge, now part of Bahia Honda State Park, was originally built by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and completed in 1912. After much of the railroad was destroyed in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, the bridge was converted to a highway. It was replaced by the current bridge in 1972.
Placard on the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. Chevy must have developed an early version of shock absorbers. This was obviously before warranties and car insurance.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Looking at photos of this place and at their website helped me to get through Oct – Dec, three cold, boring months (not going out at all or even seeing the sun) in Michigan. I was not disappointed at all. It was close to the park and a great way to escape the sweltering heat and humidity at our campsite. Always a nice breeze, plenty of shade, a pool  and a very affordable happy hour.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Hanging out with the bartender on her day off. Like many people we have met during our travels, she is a reverse snow bird. She and her husband live and work in Marathon, but head to New England for summer.
This manatee was checking me out at the marina, in the park. Bahia Honda State Park
Early morning walk on the Old Seven Mile Bridge. Like the Bahia Honda Bridge, it was originally part of the overseas railroad, built by by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and later became a highway. When the new bridge was built, the old bridge was converted to a paved 2.2-mile walking and cycling path connecting Pigeon Key and Marathon Key. There is a plan for a 60-passenger tram to shuttle people across, sometime this year. The parking area is also used by people fishing nearby. Oddly, there are no restroom facilities.
Big Pine Key, FL
The Key deer, the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer, is an endangered species. Night time speed limits in the area are lower than daytime, to help protect these animals.
Burdine’s Waterfront, Marathon, FL
We had a casual, delicious anniversary dinner at this upper level restaurant. They are famous for their burgers so Dave had one and I had a shrimp burger. It was fun watching all of the boat traffic below.
View looking east over the marina from Burdine”s Waterfront Bar and Grill
Cabins at Bahia Honda State Park
Loggerhead beach, the main day-use area, located on the south (Atlantic) side of Bahia Honda State Park. The Sargassum seaweed conditions grew progressively worse while we were there. They finally closed the beach due to bacteria levels. The smell was horrifying. Luckily we were in the Buttonwood campground on the gulf side of the park. Calusa Beach, on the gulf side remained open and seaweed-free.
No Name Pub on No Name Key. This place was built in 1931, before the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, which detroyed Islamorada and parts of the Florida East Coast Railway. It was originally a general store that sold bait and tackle. No Name Key was the location of the ferry heading north from the lower keys. I am guessing Hemingway drank here.
Inside No Name Pub.  It is estimated that there are 500,000 dollar bills affixed to the ceiling and walls. (There does not appear to be a fire protection sprinkler system.)
View of our campsite from the bridge
Bahia Honda State Park
View out our back window at Bahia Honda State Park
The nightly sunset gathering under the bridge. The camp hosts brought about 20 conch shells (with sanitizer) so the campers could participate in the “blowing of the conch” ceremony at sunset.
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Sand sculpture at Bahia Honda State Park
Slushie, enjoying a beautiful sunset

 

Jacksonville Beach and Flagler Beach, FL – March 25 – April 6, 2023

On our way to Flagler Beach, we spent one night at Kathryn Hanna Abbey Park, in Jacksonville beach. It’s a city park. The park has 1.5 miles of beach and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails. The beach was beautiful and uncrowded for a Saturday during spring break season. The campsites were pretty small and challenging to enter or exit with a larger RV. The main reason we don’t plan to return is that the route to get into the park took us through a high-traffic area of downtown Jacksonville, which also seemd to be a bit unsafe. That particular detour was not worth being at that park, for us.

We were happy to return to Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler beach again, the next day. This was our third year camping at the small, casual surf town.  There are no high-rises and no big hotels, so the town has not lost it’s charm like other towns, such as Daytona Beach or Destin. It’s a top destination for bikers, but our observation is that they are mostly mellow retirees enjoying freedom after a lifetime of work. We know of a great seafood market in the area, where we get local shrimp, tuna, wahoo and  mahi. We also really appreciate food and drink prices at the local restaurants (ex: $3 for a beer at  happy hour, compared with $12 in Destin)

There are many hiking trails in the area, but I was still recovering from a couple of injuries, so kept my walking to a minimum.  We had mostly great weather, so Dave surfed often and we spent time on the beach. By chance, one of my closest friends, Felecia, has been vacationing in the area for many years with her family, and they happened to be renting a house nearby, with friends. We spent an afternoon visting them and had a great dinner.  I also had breakfast with Felecia one day and lunch and shopping with the girls, another day. It was really fun.

The highlight of this campground is that the campsites are just steps from the beach. We can hear the ocean 24/7 and watch beautiful sunrises every day.  We don’t mind the lack of pavement or grass, to be so close to the ocean. There is another campground across the road, on the river, which has very large crushed gravel sites, surrounded by grass, We have noticed that each campground has it’s own vibe. At Gamble Rogers, people are mostly quiet but really friendly. We have often seen people here that we previously met here or at other campgrounds. We will return next month, as we head north toward home.

Campsite at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
Campsite at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
The beach at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
Sunset at Gamble Rogers State Park
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach, a casual oceanside restaurant. The building sustained some damage from Hurricane Ian. After being closed for several months for repairs, it’s looking better than ever.
Gamble Rogers State Park
One of my favorite Florida wildflowers, Sunshine Mimosa, aka Powderpuff at Gamble Rogers State Park
One of my favorite Florida wildflowers, Sunshine Mimosa, aka Powderpuff at Gamble Rogers State Park
Time at the beach with Felecia. We have been friends for almost 30 years
View of the Flagler Beach fishing pier, from the deck at Funky Pelican. The pier is now closed after Huricane Ian destroyed it Sep. 2022.
View of the beach from the deck at Funky Pelican
The campsite across from ours at Gamble Rogers. I took this photo for Dave’s dad. Dave’s parents, Gary and Shirley, camped at countless places across the country. They always camped in a tent and over many years drove a red Dodge Caravan.
Dave surfing just after dawn, Gamble Rogers State Park
Pelicans at Gamble Rogers State Park
Sunrise at Gamble Rogers State Park

Starting our 2023 winter/spring camping adventure -TN & GA – March 23, 24 2023

Our first stop was a new one for us, at Indian Mountain State Park in Jellico, TN. It was a beautiful, quiet first night with temperatures in the 70’s and spring in the air.  I imagine it is crowded and very bug-infested on summer weekends, but it was a perfect stop, midweek in March. We were fortunate that severe storms did not hit until long after we left the next day.

Our second stop was Forsyth, GA. We discovered Forsyth KOA Journey campground last year. It’s conveniently located, right off the highway. The town has a great microbrewery and a fantastic mexican restaurant. Once again, severe storms were approaching as we departed. We just barely escaped in time. A highlight was meeting a couple who just retired and were on their first night of full-time RV’ing. They were on their way to Florida to establish residency, before continuing on their full-time adventure. They plan to start a blog, so I’m looking forward to following along.

We stopped at Buc-ee’s to pick up some BBQ.  The chain has become even more popular since we discovered it last year. It was quite a circus, with traffic backed up on the freeway exit, crowds in the store and the parking lot almost completely full. Somehow, it was still a pretty quick stop and a great lunch.

Indian Mountain State Park, Jellico, TN
Indian Mountain State Park, Jellico, TN
Indian Mountain State Park, Jellico, TN
Indian Mountain State Park, Jellico, TN
Forsyth KOA Journey, Forsyth, GA (photo taken March 2022)
Buc-ee’s BBQ (photo taken March 2022)
Buc-ee’s BBQ (photo taken March 2022)
Fox City Brewing Co, Forsyth, GA (photo taken March 2022)
Slushie, in his upgraded travel accomodations. He now travels in business class, since he was violently tossed around the RV (coach) in August 2020, on bumpy I-80 in Nebraska.

 

 

 

Coming Soon – Heading back to Florida

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
― Heraclitus

While I truly believe this, I still need to continue going to new places. Our travels are a good mix of seeing new places and returning to some old favorites. I always look forward to both.  Stay tuned, as I am planning to post something in a couple of weeks.

Short ski trip – Grayling, MI Mar 5 – 7

Finley’s riverside cabins, Grayling, MI. It was great to return to this cozy cabin as our home base, as we spent a few days skiing and shopping for ski gear
Finley’s riverside cabins, Grayling, MI
Finley’s riverside cabins, Grayling, MI
Hanson Hills Recreation Area has many miles of groomed cross country ski trails, as well as a small downhill ski and tubing hill
Paddle Hard Brewing has great beer and is also known for their decadent macaroni and cheese. Since Marcy and I don’t feel we ski enough miles to eat all those calories, we like to order a kids mac-n-cheese and split it as an appetizer. So good!
Forbush Corner Nordic is a recreational non-profit cross country ski facility, with many miles of groomed trails and the ability to make snow.
Mushroom ravioli with Marcy’s homemade pesto, calad and artichokes. It was fun to cook our own gourmet dinner at the cabin.
Cross Country Ski Headquarters, Rosscommon, MI. I purchased my first skis here, with Marcy, many, many years ago. They have a great shop, restaurant, many miles of groomed trails and snow-making equipment.

You can read more on cross country skiing in my post from last year:

Cross country skiing in Grayling, MI – Feb 25 – Mar 1, 2022

3 months at home, then Maui 2023 – Jan 3 – Mar 1

3 boring, cold months in Michigan 

October through January seemed like an eternity, doing work around the house, living with cold gray weather and fitting in regular doctor, dentist and other appointments.  Though Dave’s business was busy with holiday sales, we were mostly bored. Looking forward to Maui was how we survived it without losing our minds. I did fit in a 3-week painting class at the local art center, as well as the reorganization of our spare bedroom to make it a studio.  I did some painting, listend to many history poscasts and started a timeline of all of my travels.  I also managed to sort through and shred several years worth of old documents that I previously never got around to. Reviewing old credit card statements, I was able to fill in some gaps in travel timeline.

It was quite gratifying to review all of the cool places I have been to so far. I have been to roughly 31 countries, including 4 territories (It’s an estimate as I took several cruises and don’t recall exact itineraries). Since I met Dave, we have always taken multiple trips every year. 2001 was an epic year with 5 amazing trips – Feb  -Oahu/Kauai/Maui, July – Breckenridge, Sept – Telluride, Oct – Key West, Nov – Maui. We did this all while I was working 55+ hours per week and taking MBA classes at night. I remember being very tired….

Maui

It was great to return to Maui, as always. We had more windy and rainy days, than we did last year, but there was plenty of sun.

Going through life, it is clear that nothing stays the same. Change is pretty much constant. We have noticed that on an island, that is a high-end resort area, the rate of change seems to be far greater.  People change jobs and move more frequently. We know of more people dying, than on the mainland, especially young people. Many of the older people we know, no longer go to Maui. Many full-time residents leave the island. Inflation seems greater. What remains the same is the beautiful scenery, the warm weather, constant whale sightings during whale season and how happy we are to be there.

We often reflect on how we are very grateful that we had the foresight and resolve to figure out how to buy a place there, when we could. If we hadn’t, we would not be able to afford to spend much time there, now.

Two months seemed to pass very quickly. Though I’m always sad to leave, we have new camping adventures ahead.

View from Pu’u KeKa’a (aka Black Rock). It’s my favorite stop on my morning walk or run. My happy place!
A 100-year-old rubber fig trees at the Royal Lahaina Resort. One of my favorite trees on Maui.
Rainy sunset over the pool
Honokowai Beach Park
We see rainbows nearly every morning from ou lanai. The surf break is named “rainbows”
A monk seal, napping on the beach
A typical evening, watching the sunset from our lanai
Morning view of Lanai, from the beach walk
View of a whale breaching from our lanai
Live music by Wilmont, Greg and the band at the Ka’anapali Shores
View of Lanai and Molokai at sunset
Harry Troupe, the Jimi Hendrix of Maui, playing at the Kaanapali Beach Club. We have known Harry and have been listening to him play for about 20 years.
Honolua Bay, one of the top snorkeling and surf locations on Maui.
Slushie loves his souveniers from Maui!. He now has a hat like mine and a koa wood fish hook like Dave’s.

 

 

Camping & travel summary – 2022

2022 summary
nights camping  – 119
nights at northern outpost – 47
cross-country skiing – 4
Maui – 46
All-time camping summary (since we purchased the RV in fall of 2018)
nights camping – 497
camping locations – 78
states – 17
nights at the Northern Outpost – 126

Updated Campground log

Campground State Year
Rickwood Carverns State Park Alabama 2021
Gulf State Park Alabama 2021
Heaton Bay Campground (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
Redstone Campground  (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park, Fruita Colorado 2021
Matterhorn Campground (USFS) Colorado 2021
Ouray Riverside Resort Colorado 2021
Lightner Creek Campground Colorado 2021
Bruce Spruce Ranch Colorado 2021
Antlers Rio Grande Lodge/ Campground Colorado 2021
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Colorado 2021
Big Lagoon State Park Florida 2021
Fort Pickens Area – Gulf Islands National Seashore Florida 2021
Henderson Beach State Park Florida 2021
Dr Julian G. Bruce State Park Florida 2021
Anastasia State Park Florida 2021
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area Florida 2021, 2022 (x2)
Favor-Dykes State Park Florida 2022
Sebastian Inlet State Park Florida 2022
Fort Clinch State Park Florida 2022
Rodman Campground, Rodman Recreation Area Florida 2022
Rivers End Campground & RV Park, Tybee Island Georgia 2021
Forsyth KOA Journey Georgia 2022
Eagles Roost RV Resort Georgia 2022
Skidaway Island State Park Georgia 2022
Geneseo Campground Illinois 2021
Fisherman’s Corner Illinois 2021
Starved Rock State Park Illinois 2021
Walnut Woods Campground Iowa 2021
Sanilac County Forester Park Michigan 2018
Stafford County Park (we do not recommend) Michigan 2019
Holland State Park Michigan 2019
Young State Park Michigan 2019
Fayette State Park Michigan 2019
Marquette City Park Michigan 2019 (x2), 2020
Porcupine Mountains State Park Michigan 2019
McLain State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wilderness State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Brimley State Park Michigan 2020
Cheboygan State Park Michigan 2020
Orchard Beach State Park Michigan 2020
Hartwick Pines State Park Michigan 2020
Lake Michigan Rustic Campground, Hiawatha Nat’l Forest Michigan 2020
Wells State Park Michigan 2020
Fort Wilkins State Park Michigan 2020
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Michigan 2020
Straits State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wild Cherry Resort, Leelanau Michigan 2021
Warren Dunes State Park Michigan 2021
Grand Haven State Park Michigan 2021
Ludington State Park Michigan 2021
Manistee River Trail, Huron-Manistee Nat’l Forest Michigan 2022
South Higgins Lake State Park Michigan 2022
Port Crescent State Park Michigan 2022
Myre-Big Island State Park Minnesota 2020
Blue Mounds State Park Minnesota 2020
Cloquet/Duluth KOA Journey Minnesota 2020
Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore N. Carolina 2021
Island’s Choice RV Park N. Carolina 2022
Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Frisco Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Eugene Mahoney State Park Nebraska 2021
Ogallala KOA (we do not recommend) Nebraska 2021
Hunter Cove Park Nebraska 2021
East Harbor State Park Ohio 2022
Fox Den Acres Campground Pennsylvania 2021, 2022
James Island County Park S. Carolina 2021
Huntington Beach State Park S. Carolina 2021, 2022
Badlands National Park, Cedar Pass CG S. Dakota 2020
Buffalo Gap National Grassland (USFS) S. Dakota 2020
Whistler Gulch Campground S. Dakota 2020
Custer State Park S. Dakota 2020
Tower Campground, Sioux Falls (we do not recommend) S. Dakota 2020
Clinton/Knoxville North KOA Tennessee 2022
Fredericksburg / Washington DC South KOA Holiday Virginia 2021
Newport News Park Campground Virginia 2022
Misty Mountains Campground Virginia 2022
Goose Island County Park Wisconsin 2020

Looking back on a great summer in Frankfort, MI – June thru Oct 2, 2022

It is currently 5 degrees (-28 degree windchill), the wind is howling, it’s snowing and we are both not feeling well. A post about our fun summer is just what I need right now.  It also fills a huge time gap in this blog.

After returning from our winter trip, we decided to take a break from traveling and to have a more relaxing summer and fall.  We split our time between our “sticks and bricks” in SE Michigan and our “Northern Outpost” in Frankfort, MI. While at home, we took care of the house and other responsibilities and met up with family and friends.

I am posting a lot of photos from the outpost, where we spent 47 nights, this year, camping off-grid in the RV. Highlights were meeting up with many friends we haven’t seen in a long time, hiking, paddling, cycling,  mountain biking, bald eagles, sunsets, great weather, and just enjoying nature.

View of lake Michigan from a favorite local hiking trail. This is one of the trails, where we regularly see bald eagles. We usually see them, on average, every 2 or 3 days. One day, we saw four – two while paddling, another on our way home from paddling and a fourth while hiking on this trail. That was an amazing day! For me, it is always a reminder of freedom, on many levels.
Checking out the weekly live concert in downtown Beulah (photo by Ron S. J.)
Hanging out at the weekly live concert in downtown Beulah. Ron, Johnny, Mary, Dave, Lisa (photo by Ron S. J.)
Watching the sun setting over Crystal Lake, from Beulah Beach (photo by Ron S. J.)
The sun setting over Crystal Lake, from Beulah Beach (photo by Ron S. J.)
View of Frankfort from across Betsie Bay
Boat dock at Beulah Beach
The end of one of our favorite hiking trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Wild strawberries growing along our driveway. There aren’t many and they are very small, but tasty.
After a bonfire with friends, Mark and Suzi, we began to make s’mores on a regular basis. Hanging out with them was really fun, and the new s’more habit was a bonus.
Sunset at the end of our driveway
Bonfire
Sunset at Frankfort Beach
Mountain biking in Thompsonville, MI
We came across a field of sunflowers while mountain biking in Thompsonville, MI
Frankfort Lighthouse at sunset
Dave, cooling off in the shade on our deck, aka ‘observation platform’
The full moon rising over the observation platform at the outpost
Sunset at Frankfort Beach
Sunset at Frankfort Beach
Point Betsie Lighthouse
Point Betsie Lighthouse
Dave and Mary, getting ready for a downwinder from Point Betsie to Frankfort Beach.
Ron, Dave and Mary, heading out for a downwinder from Point Betsie to Frankfort Beach.
Johnny, Ron and Lisa, eating fresh rasberries on Frankfort Beach
Stopping at the beach at Glen Haven, during a bike ride
View of Betsie Bay from the distillery
We have red and black raspberries growing wild at the outpost
An abondoned Indigo Bunting nest. This is one of our favorite birds on our property. It’s definitely the most beautiful. We also have, Eastern Towhees, Cedar waxwings, Black Capped chickadees, Robins, Hawks and more.
Tiny, somewhat secret beach on Crystal Lake
The end of another favorite hiking trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Slushie, chillin’ at camp (he’s always chilling, even when it’s above 80 degrees)
A favorite hiking trail, with views of Lake Michigan and, on a calm day, a ship wreck.
Fourth of July firworks over the Frankfort Lighthouse
Dave’s new water supply system, The Water Buffalo. We are really happy with it.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Checking out the Betsie River
View of Lake Michigan from a local hiking trail
Beulah Beach

 

End-of-season maintenance – 2022

End-of-season maintenance:

-inspected and repacked wheel bearings
-inspected and adjusted trailer brakes
-inspected tires
-inspected and greased suspension
-greased stabilizers
-painted RV frame, springs, and rear bumper, stabilizers
-sanitized fresh water system, flushed and winterized.
-inspected and cleaned roof
-installed new awning
-installed new microwave
-washed, cut, waxed entire exterior
-plugged or re-plugged all mouse entry points

-vacuumed and deep-cleaned entire interior

-cleaned windows

-restrung broken blinds

 

Cost:
-awning $165
-microwave $185
-grease $10
-supplies $40

-labor $0

TOTAL $400

Dave washed, polished and buffed the entire exterior, while I cleaned the windows. He also vacuumed and I deep-cleaned every surface of the interior.
Dave, greasing the bearings.
Dave, working on all of the suspension-related maintenance.
The awning was in pretty rough shape after many years of sun and weather exposure. With a few minutes of assistance from our neighbor (who is taller and stronger than me), we replaced it ourselves.
The string on some of the blinds had almost completely frayed. I restrung them, which was a tedious process, but I saved a lot of money.
After 497 nights of camping, we replaced the original microwave. I can’t wait to use it! It was taking 3 minutes just to reheat a cup of coffee.

 

Frankfort, Higgins Lake and Lake Huron – Oct 1 – 5, 2022

As October approached, we planned for our annual RV maintenence, based on the weather forcast.  The plan was to bring the RV home, to work on it, stopping at some new campgrounds along the way. I was hopeful that this would not be our final trip for the year.

Last days in Frankfort 2022

We headed up to our Northern Outpost in Frankfort, MI for our last two nights of the year there. We did a couple of final short hikes and visited a couple of microbrewries. We packed up or put away everything for winter and closed up the outhouse/tool shed. The only reason leaving for the year wasn’t so bad, was that we were headed to a couple of new locations, on our way home.

South Higgins Lake State Park

We had never been to Higgins lake, so we booked a couple of nights at South Higgins Lake State Park. It was a pretty, 2-hour drive from Frankfort, with the beginning of fall colors near the center of the state. The campground was nearly empty and our site was beautiful. We know it is an absolute circus during peak season, as South Higgins Lake is known to be the “party camground”,  with a boat launch area. The North Higgins Lake campground is supposedly more family-oriented. We hiked at the Mari Lake trails, nearby. We drove around the area, checking out Roscommon and Houghton Lake and had a nice campfire.

Port Crescent State Park

We headed to Port Crescent State Park next. We were a little bummed that the microbrewery in Caseville and a couple of great places on Port Austin were closed because it was mid-week and off-season. When we saw our campsite we did not mind at all. It was a beautiful, calm afternoon, perfect for enjoying some quiet time on the beautiful beach. We happened to notice our neighbors’ bikes looked equipped for touring, with Brooks saddles and panniers, so Dave asked if they did any bike touring. It so happens that they had recently completed the Transamerica trail, just as Dave did when he was 20. The main difference, though, is they were 60! We had a lot of fun talking to them.

The highlight of our time at this park, was running into Skallywag, the German Shepherd and her owners, Bob and Wendy. We first met them at Fort Pickens, last winter, 2021 .  (I wrote about them near the end of this post:  Fort Pickens Area – Gulf Islands National Seashore – Pensacola Beach, FL Feb 25 – Mar 3  ).  They live in Owosso, spend a lot of time in Cheboygan in summer, and enjoy Florida camping in the winter, so we figured we we see them again, somewhere.  I saw the dog, when we were first driving into the park and I thought of them, not realizing it was actually them until we walked around the campground later. It was so great to catch up with them. It was just like when we were at Flagler Beach in spring, and realized were were camping near a couple from Maine, who were also at Fort Pickens at the same time. Bob and Wendy got a kick out of that, as they also remember the people from Maine.

We headed home to start our annual RV maintance after 119 nights of camping, this year. That is a total of 497 nights since we purchased the RV in fall of 2018, with Port Crescent State Park being our 79th camping location.

Sunset at our Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI
Campfire at our Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI
During our last couple of days up north, we had a couple of really good Oktoberfest beers at our two closest breweries.
South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI

South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI

South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI
Marl Lake Trails, Roscommon, MI
Marl Lake Trails, Roscommon, MI
Boat launch area at South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI
South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI
South Higgins Lake State Park, Roscommon, MI
I am a true fan of Bob Ross and was happy to see these signs at the parks. Apparently, the Michigan DNR and Bob Ross Inc. partnered on programming to help raise awareness of tree planting and forest protection efforts in state parks.
Another Bob Ross “Happy Little Trees” sign at Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI
This is what is left of the town of Port Crescent 1841-1888. The town site is now Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI
Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI
Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI
Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI
Skallywag (from Owosso) at Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI. We originally met Skallywag and her owners at Fort Pickens, in the Florida panhandle, in March 2021.

Hiking and camping on The Manistee River Trail and the North Country Trail, Aug & Sep, 2022

This summer, we alternated every other 7 – 10 days between our two Michigan home bases.  While at our “sticks and bricks” in SE Michigan, we took care of the house, yard, laundry, etc. and touched base with family. At our Northern Outpost, near Frankfort, MI, we camped off grid, hiked, cycled, mountain biked, paddled, and caught up with friends. As of today, Sep 25, we have spent 89 days at home and 45 days camping, since we returned from our last big trip in May. We have camped a total of 114 nights this year, so far….

I took a break from writing this blog and I’m still contemplating how I will document the summer. This post will be about the Manistee River Trail and part of the  North Country trails, which form a 20-mile loop.

Day hike

We hike nearly every day, when we are “up north”, often on the 4 trails that are closest to home. We first day-hiked part of the Manistee RiverTrail, looking for some new scenery, and were not disappointed. We planned a quick late morning hike, so did not bring food or water. We were so enamored with the beautiful trail and gorgeous views of the river, that we just kept going.  It was a perfect late August day.

Along the way, we  saw several hikers who were camping overnight or doing multi-day trips. We decided we should dig out our old backpacking gear and return to spend 2 or 3 days backpacking. Our last time backpacking was in 1999, when we camped at Blue Lakes Pass and climbed Mt. Sneffels, in Colorado. (mentioned in my post on Ouray, CO, last September.)   The need for water and lunch made us turn back after about 3 miles. We were definitely going to return.

Backpacking gear

Dave found our gear in the basement, in a bin, where it has been stored since around 2005. I purchased mine in the mid 90’s and did several trips with the Sierra club. Dave purchased his sleeping bag for his cross-country cycling trip in 1986 and his backpack, later, for a trip to Alaska. Dave’s pack was starting to disintegrate and had a broken strap, but was still sufficient to use. Mine, having been completely over-engineered, looked brand new. I think I could drive our HD truck over it several times and it would still look new. Needless to say, it weighs almost 8 lbs, empty (today’s backpacks are less than 2 lbs).

Over several days I soaked everything in the bathtub with oxy detergent and vinegar, which removed about half of the musty rotten plastic smell. The sleeping bags cleaned up nicely by washing them in a large washer at the laundromat.

Dave hesitated to go, knowing my lack of tolerance for any unpleasant odors. I decided it really wasn’t too bad and I really wanted to have a new adventure. I even told him that I didn’t care if I couldn’t sleep.

Backpacking

We drove to the Hodenpyl Dam and  Hydro Power Plant to check out the canoe portage and eat lunch, before parking at the Seaton Creek tailhead and beginning our hike. The backpacking was really fun and the trail was beautiful. There were many beautiful campsites to choose from, since it was mid-week after Labor Day. We caught a perfect weather window. We saw deer, beaver, and many birds. At night I heard coyotes, what was likely 2 racoons fighting, the humming sound from the nearby Hodenpyl Hydro Power Plant  and other interesting noises.

Our only complaints were about the gear. My pack weighed 21 lbs. after loading it and really hurt my shoulders, even after making adjustments. Everything seemed so much heavier than when I was 30 years old, when I carried  25 – 30 lbs.  (The mean pack weight for today’s Appalachian trail hikers is 20 lbs. Many carry only about 10 lbs.)

The 1990’s vintage Thermarest sleeping pads were heavy and nearly useless. My sleeping bag, rated for 30 degrees, was too heavy and too hot, but it was too cold to leave an arm or leg out. I was also already bruised in multiple areas, including huge bruises on both hips, and a sore neck from recent wipeouts on my mountain bike. My small tent is too short for Dave, so he had to sleep on his side or diagonally.

Dave slept little and I slept even less, but I was still glad we went.  Just as we arrived back at the truck on the last day, it began raining very hard. We left the parking area at the Seaton Creek trailhead and headed to a place called Rosie’s Country Cafe, where we had hot coffee and an excellent breakfast.

We plan to return and do a day hike or two and catch some fall colors in October. If we backpack again, we will replace all or most of the gear. We will also rethink what beverages we take, as Dave had lugged several beers on ice (Dave’s brother, Dennis, is the only other person I know who would do such a thing).

Our old backpacking gear

Campsite and Dave’s old tent At Blue Lakes Pass  in September, 1999 – the last time we backpacked (Note: camping is no longer allowed there)
Our first view of the Manistee River from the trail.
Canoe portage at Hodenpyl Dam and  Hydro Power Plant

Bigtooth Aspen leaves are everywhere on these trails

Hanging our food and toothpaste out of any bear’s reach.

Latest list of campgrounds as of July, 2022

Where we have camped since fall 2018, in addition to our own Northern Outpost:

Campground State Year
Rickwood Carverns State Park Alabama 2021
Gulf State Park Alabama 2021
Heaton Bay Campground (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
Redstone Campground  (White River Nat’l Forest) Colorado 2021
James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park, Fruita Colorado 2021
Matterhorn Campground (USFS) Colorado 2021
Ouray Riverside Resort Colorado 2021
Lightner Creek Campground Colorado 2021
Bruce Spruce Ranch Colorado 2021
Antlers Rio Grande Lodge/ Campground Colorado 2021
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Colorado 2021
Big Lagoon State Park Florida 2021
Fort Pickens Area – Gulf Islands National Seashore Florida 2021
Henderson Beach State Park Florida 2021
Dr Julian G. Bruce State Park Florida 2021
Anastasia State Park Florida 2021
Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area Florida 2021, 2022 (x2)
Favor-Dykes State Park Florida 2022
Sebastian Inlet State Park Florida 2022
Fort Clinch State Park Florida 2022
Rodman Campground, Rodman Recreation Area Florida 2022
Rivers End Campground & RV Park, Tybee Island Georgia 2021
Forsyth KOA Journey Georgia 2022
Eagles Roost RV Resort Georgia 2022
Skidaway Island State Park Georgia 2022
Geneseo Campground Illinois 2021
Fisherman’s Corner Illinois 2021
Starved Rock State Park Illinois 2021
Walnut Woods Campground Iowa 2021
Sanilac County Forester Park Michigan 2018
Stafford County Park (we do not recommend) Michigan 2019
Holland State Park Michigan 2019
Young State Park Michigan 2019
Fayette State Park Michigan 2019
Marquette City Park Michigan 2019 (x2), 2020
Porcupine Mountains State Park Michigan 2019
McLain State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wilderness State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Brimley State Park Michigan 2020
Cheboygan State Park Michigan 2020
Orchard Beach State Park Michigan 2020
Hartwick Pines State Park Michigan 2020
Lake Michigan Rustic Campground, Hiawatha Nat’l Forest Michigan 2020
Wells State Park Michigan 2020
Fort Wilkins State Park Michigan 2020
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Michigan 2020
Straits State Park Michigan 2019, 2020
Wild Cherry Resort, Leelanau Michigan 2021
Warren Dunes State Park Michigan 2021
Grand Haven State Park Michigan 2021
Ludington State Park Michigan 2021
Myre-Big Island State Park Minnesota 2020
Blue Mounds State Park Minnesota 2020
Cloquet/Duluth KOA Journey Minnesota 2020
Oregon Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore N. Carolina 2021
Island’s Choice RV Park N. Carolina 2022
Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Frisco Campground, Cape Hatteras Nat’l Seashore N. Carolina 2022
Eugene Mahoney State Park Nebraska 2021
Ogallala KOA Nebraska 2021
Hunter Cove Park Nebraska 2021
East Harbor State Park Ohio 2022
Fox Den Acres Campground Pennsylvania 2021, 2022
James Island County Park S. Carolina 2021
Huntington Beach State Park S. Carolina 2021, 2022
Badlands National Park, Cedar Pass CG S. Dakota 2020
*Buffalo Gap National Grassland (USFS) S. Dakota 2020
Whistler Gulch Campground S. Dakota 2020
Custer State Park S. Dakota 2020
Tower Campground, Sioux Falls S. Dakota 2020
Clinton/Knoxville North KOA Tennessee 2022
Fredericksburg / Washington DC South KOA Holiday Virginia 2021
Newport News Park Campground Virginia 2022
Misty Mountains Campground Virginia 2022
Goose Island County Park Wisconsin 2020

17 states, 74 campgrounds and 1 BLM location

*Techically, Buffalo Gap National Grassland is BLM land and not a campground

Camping off grid at our own Northern Outpost. The quietest and most private campsite of all.

 

Almost home: Fox Den Acres (PA) and East Harbor State Park (OH) – May 12 – 13, 2022

Keeping with our general rule of five-hour maximum drives, we stopped at Fox Den Acres in New Stanton, PA, just a short drive off of I-70. We discovered it last year, on our return trip. It’s nothing special but it’s in a pretty setting and has nice pull-through campsites with full hook-ups. While we weren’t discovering something new, it was nice to know we could expect an easy, quick stop for a night.

Our final camping spot was at East Harbor State Park. It’s located in Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio, about 17 miles from the Cedar Point amusement park in nearby Sandusky, Ohio.

We arrived around 1:30pm. For only the second time, after camping at 75 different campgrounds over the past few years, we were at a park that enforced a 3pm check-in time. The first time was in Taquamennon Falls State Park, which was 100% booked and otherwise overrun with tourists during the height of the pandemic. That day at East Harbor, the park was mostly empty and we walked through to see our site was ready, but were not allowed to drive in until 3pm. We have heard this is a growing trend, at least at Michigan State Parks.

The park has 573 campsites, including electric, full-hook-up and non-electric, group sites, yurts and cabins. It also has a 1,500-foot sand beach on Lake Erie and 10 miles of multi-use trails. The campground seemed especially beautiful because it was still spring. The trees still had new leaves and spring blossoms. We realized that in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, we were experiencing our first spring camping since we bought the RV. I was really appreciating that.

We were there for less than 24 hours, so didn’t get to explore a lot of the park or the nearby lighthouse. We drove to the local marina area, about a mile outside of the campground and had a beer at Crabby Joe’s. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Crow’s Nest. We did our usual walking around the campground and talked with some other campers. On Saturday morning, May 14, we headed home.

I definitely had mixed feelings about returning home. I really love exploring new places, seeing new scenery and meeting people along the way. It’s been a great way for me to deal with the change of no longer working at a high pressure, demanding job for 34 years. It is always nice to return to our home, which feels like a mansion after months in the RV. It’s nice to take long, hot showers, sleep in a king size bed, and use the dishwasher and full-size refrigerator. Our routine shifts to working in the yard, walking, running and riding bikes around home, enjoying our patio and planning our Michigan camping adventures for summer. Best of all, we can spend time off-grid camping at our own Northern Outpost, in Frankfort, MI.

Our 2022 Spring tour was a great mix of exploring new places and returning to some old favorites. It included 18 campgrounds (19 counting 2 times at Gamble Rogers) in 8 states, 4670 Miles, and 69 nights. Since we purchased the RV in fall of 2018, our all-time total campground total is 75, with 378 total nights in the RV (as of May 14).

Decompressing with Slushie at Fox Den Acres Campground, New Stanton, PA. This photo is from last year. We forgot to take one of our campsite this year, but it was basically the same.
Fox Den Acres Campground, New Stanton, PA. We met the owner of a 1974 Opel Manta, one of very few Opel models sold in the US.
View of the marina at Crabby Joe’s, Lakeside Marblehead, OH
View of spring blossoms from the patio at Crow’s Nest, Lakeside Marblehead, OH. Dave still dreams about his smoked meatloaf dinner. My salmon wrap was also amazing.
Our nice pull-thru campsite at East Harbor State Park, Lakeside Marblehead, OH

 

Shenandoah National Park & Afton, VA – May 9 – 11, 2022

Stopping in Virginia, near Shenandoah National Park, was a perfect way to check out a beautiful area, while also avoiding a route through Washington DC.  We drove through there once before, on our way to the Outer Banks and have avoided it ever since.

We found Misty Mountain Camp resort online and had no problem getting a reservation midweek before the summer camping season. We had a nice creekside site with water and electricity. It was about a 10-minute drive to the park entrance, to several breweries and wineries, and to a very nice Harris Teeter grocery store.

Dave realized that he had passed through the area, during his cross-country bike tour on the Transamerica Trail, back in 1986. Read his journal here: http://tuz.net

We were able to find the location of the house where he stayed. It wasn’t difficult to find because “The Cookie Lady” was well-known by cyclists around the world and there are many articles about her in newspapers, magazines and on the internet. The exterior of the house looks mostly the same, but the area has changed significantly. What Dave describes was poor, rural Appalachia, is now mix of old rural houses  and wineries, vinyards, and microbrewries. There is also a mix of vehicles on the roads older vehicles and jacked-up trucks with over-sized wheels and tires and Toyota Prius’ (Prii..??) everywhere.

It was still spring in the park. Many trees still had new, young leaves and there were flowers everywhere. It mad me realize that I had not experienced spring in a couple of years. Last year we were in the southern states until Memorial Day and spring in Michigan had passed by then.

We did some beautiful hikes and went to a local microbrewery and winery, both with beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a perfect finale to our winter tour. Over three days, we only saw a small fraction of the park, so we plan to return sometime soon.

Only two more quick stops before arriving at home.

Our creekside campsite at Misty Mountains Camp Resort, Greenwood, VA

Slushie made friends with some ducks at Misty Mountains Camp Resort, Greenwood, VA
Our favorite brewery in the area is Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA
View from the patio at Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA
Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, VA
Humpback Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park. This trail is part of the Appalachian Trail.
Humpback Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Farm Museum near the trailhead for Humpback Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Humpback Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Spring flowers on the Humpback Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Transamerica Bicycle trail sign in Afton, VA. It was established in 1976, for the Bikecentennial ’76 bicycle tour. Dave rode that route from Virginia to Oregon in 1986.
My first time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park
Dave, riding the TransAmerica Trail in 1986. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park
At “The Cookie Lady’s house”, Afton, VA
At “The Cookie Lady’s house” in 1986
At “The Cookie Lady’s house”, a plaque memorializing June Curry, aka “The Cookie Lady”.
June Curry, aka “The Cookie Lady”, who hosted countless bicycle tourers and fed them cookies for many years. Photo taken by Dave in 1986
View from the Blue ridge Parkway, Virginia
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Dave’s bike. 1986. Today, he still rides the same bike with the same perfectly broken-in Brooks leather saddle.
View of the vinyards and mountains from the patio at Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, Afton, VA
Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, Afton, VA
Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, Afton, VA
One of the patios at Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, Afton, VA
We hiked a small stretch of the Appalachian Trail again on Calvary and Chimney Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Calvary and Chimney Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Calvary and Chimney Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Spring flowers on Calvary and Chimney Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Calvary and Chimney Rocks Trail, Shenandoah National Park
View from Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park

 

Williamsburg, VA – May 8, 2022

The drive out of the Outer Banks was pretty harrowing. Driving through Rodanthe, the sand blowing across the road looked like a blizzard and we experienced 30 mph winds while driving the bridge over Oregon Inlet. It was raining harder and the surf was becoming more and more treacherous. We stopped at the dump station at Oregon Inlet and continued on. Later we would learn that the road on Hatteras Island was closed due to flooding and sand, in Rodanthe. A house was washed into the ocean and many others were in danger. We got out just in time.

Our plan was to spend one night at Newport News Campground, see Colonial Williamsburg and head to Shenandoah National Park. I had never been to either place, so was pretty excited to check them out and experience some nice weather.

The campground was nearly deserted and we could choose our campsite. We chose a spot very close to the clean restrooms and showers, since there is no water hook-up and we wanted a quick departure the next day (avoiding having to dump). The trees in the campground were beautiful. Since I retired I have become somewhat of a tree nerd (as well as very amateur birder, solver of puzzles and student of history – all to help occupy my now empty brain…). I was thrilled to see tulip trees and their flowers, as well as horse chestnut trees.

It was late afternoon on a Sunday, so we quickly set up camp  and headed to town.  All the historic sites were just closing, when we arrived, so we had the chance to walk around and see the town and take pictures with no crowds. A couple of hours was perfect, as it didn’t cause Dave to experience what he refers to as “history overload”. We found a great microbrewery with live music,  had a beer, then headed back to camp. We enjoyed our time there and would like to return one day. We considered this stop on our journey to be a “bonus”, since we had not originally planned to be there.

Campsite at Newport News Campground. The campground is within Newport News Park, a municipal park.
Tulip Tree flowers, Newport News Campground
Tulip Tree leaves, Newport News Campground
Some ladies heading home from work. Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
The Capitol, built in 1753. Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
To quote Dave: “some dusty old wigs”, Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Colonial Williamsburg, VA
A hazy IPA at Precarious Beer Project. Hazy IPAs are the dominant microbrews these days…. Colonial Williamsburg, VA
Morning blue sky reflecting on Lee Hall Reservoir at Newport News Campground

Frisco, NC – May 5 – 7, 2022

The ferry ride to Frisco was uneventful. We were pretty excited about camping at Frisco campground, since we spent an afternoon in the area last year. Like Ocracoke campground, the campsites have no electricity or water. Also, the showers are cold. We would be using our new generator there, also.

Frisco is a very quiet section of the Outer Banks, especially before Memorial Day. The area seems to be mostly very large, ocean-front vacation homes. There are few restaurants and bars, none of which were open air or ocean-front. Most were not open until 5pm during off-season. We opted to cook in the campground and enjoy the outdoors.

We had great weather and spent a couple of afternoons at the beach. The surf and winds were picking up, as a major Atlantic storm was on it’s way. We checked out the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum, which is very small and covers far less ship wreck history than we expected. It was worth seeing, though.

We were watching the weather forcast the entire time and deciding if we would cancel our stay in Nags Head, at Oregon Inlet. We also had reservations at Assateague Island National Seashore, in Maryland. It became clear that the weather was going to be miseralble at both places, so we developed another plan.  The National Park Service issued a warning about coastal flooding, expected the afternoon of May 8. We knew we had to leave Hatteras Island well before noon, or risk being trapped there by flooded roads. With a near 30-degree temperature drop overnight, we hitched up and headed out into the strong wind and rain, away from the coast and bad weather, toward Williamsburg, VA.

(For more on the Outer Banks, check out my posts: Outer Banks, NC – Cape Hatteras National Seashore – April 30 – May 25, 2021, Parts 1 & 2, when we spent almost a month there)

Slushie, enjoying the ferry ride to Frisco
Our campsite at Frisco Campground
Our campsite at Frisco Campground
The long boardwalk between the Frisco campground and the beach. It was here that I saw what appeared to be a 3-4 foot Cottonmouth, coiled up, head up about 6 inches, mouth wide open and looking ready to strike at me. Dave and I scurried around it, staying as far away as we could, while some people behind us stopped with their dog, to take pictures of it. No thanks! I did not return to this area.
Hatteras Light Station, Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The lighthouse was closed while we were there, this year and last year.
Crab cakes and shrimp from South Carolina. We were happy to have our freezer stocked since the fish market in Frisco had no fish. We did score some fresh tuna by showing up at the marina, when a fishing boat had just come in.
Filling the water tank at Frisco Campground
Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, Frisco, NC
Bell from the Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 (LV-71), built in 1897, sunk in 1918 by a German submarine during WWl
The original 1854 Capetteras Lighthouse Fresnel Lens in the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. This was the highlight of our visit to the museum.
Our new Generac 3000i generator. It has a noise rating of 40 db, compared with 70 db (our bigger generator). It weighs only 60 lbs and fits in the bed of our truck, even when towing. It has 3000 starting watts and 2300 running watts, which runs everything we need except A/C. It’s the quietest generator we have come across, while camping. Many people stopped by to ask us about it.

 

Cedar Island & Ocracoke Island – April 29 – May 4

The only way to get to Ocracoke is by ferry. We had a morning reservation for the first ferry of the day on April 30, so we camped one night at Cedar Island. There are two RV parks there, one of which is right next to the ferry dock. We didn’t stay there because the reviews on Campendium said the road inside the campground was in poor condition. We realized the lack of bad reviews forthe campground we chose, were likely because it is pretty small and most people stay at the other. It was fine for a night. If we return, we will likely opt for the campground near the ferry, but make sure we are as far as possible from the riding stables because of the smell.

We were expecting to be on the large ferry pictured below, rather than the smaller one. The RV was literally about 2 inches from the outer wall of the passenger lounge area. Driving on and off was pretty nerve-racking, but we had no issues. Later we would learn that we were lucky to have been able to cross. There have been issues lately with ferries running aground or otherwise breaking down.

The national seashore campground is about 4 miles from the center of town.  The sites have no water or electricity, but there is a place to fill your tanks and generators are allowed. There are restrooms with showers, but no hot water. We recently purchased a small, lightweight, quiet generator, and are accustomed to quick hot showers in our RV, so it was no problem for us.

We arrived at the campground to find that we were unable to maneuver the RV into our reserved site. At that point, we had camped at nearly 100 different campsites over the past couple of years and this was the first time we could not get into our carefully selected site. There was a 2 – 3 -inch drop-off from the cement pad to the ground which could damage tires if we drove off. The angle into the site was too sharp. Worst of all, the camp host was directly across, with a huge storage trailer extending to the limit of their campsite, preventing us from having another couple of feet to drive over. With very weak internet, we managed to go online and find another site. After we set up, the camp host stopped by and pointed out that we couldn’t use a generator in that particular loop. We had to go online again, find another site, hitch up and  move again. It was a long day!

Ocracoke Island is 13 miles long, but the village of Ocracoke itself is just 4 square miles. The island has less than 1000 year-round residents. Most of the houses are vacation homes and most of those are available for rent.  Some areas reminded us of Mackinac Island only with cars and golf carts. Fishing is one of the main attractions. It was off-season when we were there, but on weekends, the charter boats were pretty active. We stopped at Smacnally’s, in the Marina, where you can get diinner and/or drinks and watch the daily catch come in. We saw some fish over 50 lbs being weighed, photographed and then cut up.

We rode our bikes from the campground to town, a couple of times, and explored the area that way.  The museum and lighthouse weren’t open. We also drove to the north end of the island and stopped to see the Ocracoke horses, which used to roam free on the island. Overall, we really enjoyed the island. We probably would not go there during the summer, when the campground is full and the island is crowded.

 

Islands Choice RV park, Cedar Island, NC.
First in line to board the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke Island. The large ferry in the photo is not in use until Memorial Day weekend.
Slushie, enjoying his first ride on a ferry.
Our fifth wheel, just a couple of inches outside the ferry window.
The ferry ride from Cedar Island to Ocracoke was a great opportunity to inspect the roof of our rig.
Our campsite at Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore. We had no immediate neighbors and luckily, no one with a really loud generator near us.
View of Silver Lake from the 2nd floor of Ride the Wind Surf Shop on Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Island is known for the location of Blackbeard’s death
The beach at Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The more than 80-year-old Blanche, a fishing boat handcrafted on Ocracoke Island, is now part of an outdoor exhibit at the Oc­racoke Preservation Society Museum.
It is believed that the “Banker” horses of Ocracoke were left here by shipwrecked explorers in the 16th or 17th century. The horses roamed free until 1957. when they were penned to protect them from freeway traffic and to prevent overgrazing. They are cared for by the National Park Service.
Smacnally’s, located in the marina, is our favorite restaurant/bar on Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke Light, built on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina in 1823

Huntington Beach State Park & Murrells Inlet – April 24 – 28

Huntington Beach State Park, 2500 acres of land, includes a freshwater lagoon, saltmarsh, maritime forest and beach. The park has a nature center a campground, boardwalks, hiking trails, beach and an historic landmark, and Alytalia Castle. It was originally the land and summer home location of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. The “castle”, their home, is open to the public to tour and also for weddings and events.

The campground includes 173 campsites with water and electricity. There is a newer section which is all fully paved sites with full-hook-ups (water, electricity and sewer). Those sites are closer together and that section has a laundry facility. We stayed in the older section at a  spacious, fairly private site.

The park is a popular birding destination , with over 300 bird species that have been seen in the park.  We had five great days at this park. We really enjoyed the beautiful beach, pond, salt marsh, birds, crabs and alligators.

It was great to be at the Marsh Walk with no pandemic restrictions and a little more activity than last year. We also had perfect weather. Next stop – Cedar Island, NC!

(For more photos, see the post for Apr 23-29, 2021)

Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, SC
Inside the Mullet Hut, home of Mullet, the cat. Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk
Mullet, the cat looking for fish scraps at Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk
Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk
Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk (photo taken April 2021)

Savannah & Skidaway Island – April 22 – 23

Skidaway Island State Park is about 15 miles from Savannah. The park has several hiking trails, a visitor center, gift shop and 87 pull-through campsites with water, electric and cable. We spent our first day hiking and checking out the visitor center. We’ve heard that the noseeums can be bad there, but we had no problem in cool, breezy weather.

Our second day, we drove into Savannah. Last year, we  spent 2 days walking  through all 22 squares, the riverfront and Forsyth Park (roughly 10 – 11 miles, since we walked to some areas twice). This year we decided to take a trolley tour, expecting we might learn more about Savannah. Most trolley tours allow you to get on and off the trolleys all day, so it’s a great way to see the entire historic district in one day. We didn’t feel that we learned $40 dollars worth of history, but we did get to see most of the area more quickly.  We walked along the waterfront, listened to some live music and met up with our friend, Linda, who happened to be in the area. It was fun to catch up with our friend from the Detroit standup paddle race days.

It was a great place to spend a couple of days, on our way to Murrells Inlet.

Huge pull-thru campsite at Skidaway Island State Park
HIking at Skidaway Island State Park
HIking at Skidaway Island State Park
Skeleton of a Giant Ground Sloth in the visitor center at Skidaway island state park. These creatures were in North America during the last ice age, which was11,700 years to 2.6 million years ago.
Savannah City Hall. Designed by architect Hyman Witcover, the building was built between 1904 and 1905.
Forsyth Park Fountain
Forsyth Park. The tall statue is the Confederate Monument, which commemorates Savannah’s “Confederate Dead.” The smaller statue is Lafayette McLaws, who was a major general in the Confederate Army. This is one of many confederate monuments in the country, that have been vandalized in recent years. I wonder if some of the stains are a result of the spray paint.
One of hundreds of participants in the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) annual chalk art festival in Forsyth Park
One of hundreds of participants in the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) annual chalk art festival in Forsyth Park
The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. It is the oldest Catholic Church in Georgia
The Waving Girl Statue on the Savannah waterfront. Florence Martus (1868-1943) is remembered by this statue showing her greeting ships as they came in.
The Georgia Queen Riverboat, Savannah
Savannah

Rodman Recreation Area & return to Flagler Beach April 15 – 21, 2022

Near the end of our time on Amelia Island, we were watching the weather forecast of rain for Savannah and Charleston, our next two destinations.  We managed to find an opening back at Flagler Beach, where the forecast looked great. We delayed going to Savannah and canceled Charleston.  We had been to Charleston twice in the past few years and we really weren’t looking forward to the stressful driving in the area or finding parking for our HD truck.
We spent one night at the Rodman recreation area. It was a weekend and there were many large groups of campers, including people fishing. The reservoir is well-known for its trophy largemouth bass. We had a nice site away from where large groups were gathering. It was a great place to be for a day, before our site at Gamble Rogers was available.
It was a great feeling to be back at Flagler Beach, when we expected it to be a year before returning. We had a few more days in our favorite Florida locations.
On our last full day at Flagler Beach, we got to see Palmer, the loggerhead turtle, being released after several months in the turtle hospital. He has 4 transmitters attached and we have been following his progress on his way north.  (https://conserveturtles.org/sea-turtle-tracking-active…/)

What a great finale to our stay there!

Our campsite near the reservoir at Rodman Recreation Area
Rodman Reservoir, aka Lake Ocklawaha at Rodman Recreation Area
View of the Cross Florida Barge Canal from the other campground at Rodman Recreation Area
Slushie watching the sunset at Rodman campground
Palmer, the loggerhead, being relesed into the ocean. Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
Palmer, the loggerhead, heading toward the ocean. Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
Late afternoon selfie at Gamble Rogers State Park
Enjoying bonus time in Flagler Beach at Finns
The Mullet Count at Finns is much higher this year, (as noted last year, this refers to hair style, not fish)
View of Flagler Beach from the rooftop at Finns

Amelia Island/Fort Clinch – April 3-14, 2022

This place is one of our favorites. The past couple of weeks, we have had fabulous weather. Our time on the computer has been focused on booking campsites for next year, on Florida’s new reservation system. It is proving to be very challenging to book a decent site. Otherwise, we are mostly outdoors, walking, running, hanging at the beach or exploring. We will not likely have good internet until around May 8.

Nice campsite at Fort Clinch State Park. The beachside campground is a very short walk to the beach. Nice to hear the ocean from camp.

Fort Clinch, Fernandina Beach FL
Construction of the fort began in 1847. During the Civil War, it was initially under Confederate control, until it was evacuated. Later, it was a critical fort during the Spanish American War and an operations center during WWll.
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach FL
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach FL
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach FL
Beautiful sea shells at Fort Clinch State Park! Most people are looking for fossilized shark teeth. They regularly dredge the channel into the St Mary’s River for the ships and submarines stationed at Kingsbay Naval Submarine base. This is probably why the ancient fossils are easy to find. The three I found are near the quarter in this photo.
Baby alligator (photo taken from inside truck) Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach , FL
Dave, hunting for shark teeth
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach, FL
A submarine being escorted past Fort Clinch. We were so lucky to see one!
The Palace Saloon, Fernandina Beach, FL
It was built in 1878 and was a men’s shoe store until it became an upscale bar in 1903. It is the oldest bar in Florida and was the last American tavern to close during Prohibition. It survived that dry era as an ice cream parlor. It was once a favorite haunt of the Carnegies, the Rockefellers and other socialites.
This shark tooth fossil is likely from a megalodon shark over 5 million years ago. A guy who regularly camps and fishes at Fort Clinch State Park, simply looked down and found this, one morning, a few years ago. He has carried it with him since then. A store in town buys and sells shark teeth. A tooth 30% smaller than this, costs around $600.

Flagler Beach, FL – March 20 – April 2, 2022

We were so happy to leave the bugs at our last campground and return to Gamble Rogers State Park. It is one of our favorites because it has campsites with ocean views. There are two campgrounds. One is right on the ocean, the only downside being the sand/dirt road and sites. It is normally not an issue for us, with the exception of torrential rain, like we are having as I write this.  Currently most of the campground is flooded as the rain continues. I’m feeling bad for some people who are tent camping. At the other campground is across the road, the road is paved and the sites have nice gravel surfaces, with grass and some folliage between them. We have heard that the bugs can be quite annoying in that area, when there is no wind.

We enjoyed talkng with the camp hosts, Tom and Christine, who were here last year. We also got to chat with a couple from Maine, who we met at Fort Pickens – Gulf Islands National Seashore last year. They were quite memorable because on many chilly days he was the only other person on the beach besides us. It’s really fun to see people you know on the road.

We really like the area. It’s a quiet laid-back surf town.  There are no high-rises or big resorts. There are only a few small hotels and inns.  It tends to get busy on weekends, holidays and during bike weeks. In general, it’s popular with bikers and cyclists as A1A is a scenic drive along the ocean.  There are other scenic drives nearby,  through the wetlands.

There are several state parks and nature preserves in the area, where we have spent a lot of time hiking.  We hiked most of the trails at the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park.  The sugar plantation was destroyed in one of the Seminole Wars in 1835. The short trail to the ruins is beautiful. Over all, we rank the trails in this park as some of the nicest in Florida. We hiked at the Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve. We went there last year because it was recommended to us by Dave’s Aunt Faira, who frequently hiked there with Uncle Don, when they lived in St. Augustine. It is a beautiful place.

We always enjoy meeting people, which was not the same last year, during the Covid pandemic. It was great to get out more this time. There is a place very close to the campground called High Tides. I don’t recall if we avoided it last year, due to not being vaccinated yet, or if it was closed. Really, it doesn’t look too special from the road or beach. This time we walked over for a beer and were happy to meet the daytime manager from Detroit. The evening manager’s close college buddy was from Detroit. Needless to say, we felt totally at home. There was a shirt swap, sticker swap and we had some amazing food. It’s right on the beach and windows are open when the wind isn’t ripping off of the ocean. It’s a cool place with a great vibe and fabulous food. We hope we can get a site next year, but the new Florida State Park reservation system will definitely be a challenge.

We scored an ocean front site 2 years in a row. We’ll see about next year…. Gamble Rogers State Park

The beach with the Flagler Beach water tower and Detroit Surf Co flag in the distance. Gamble Rogers State Park
A turkey vulture at the Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve, Flagler Beach, FL
A gopher tortoise in the Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve, Flagler Beach, FL
View of AIA and the fishing pier from the rooftop at Finn’s
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach FL
The ruins at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach FL
Hiking the nature trail at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach FL
Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach, FL
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach, FL
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach, FL
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach FL
Hiking Trail in Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach FL
Ormond Garage Restaurant and Brewery, Ormond Beach, FL. This place used to be a garage in the arly 1900’s. We met a couple of snowbirds at the bar, who work 7 months a year on the The SS Badger, the ferry that runs from Ludington, MI to Wisconsin.
A Tom Parrish board from Hawaii on display at Beachside Brew Pub, Ormond Beach, FL. Great beer, friendly people.
Ocean view from Tortuga’s Kitchen and Bar, Flagler Beach, FL
An enthusiastic Corvette owner was doing a photo shoot at the park. He didn’t mind a former Corvette engineer posing. He asked my name because a woman’s name is on his engine and he thought it could be mine. Hahah! Awesome! Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL
Sunrise at Gamble Rogers State Park, Flagler Beach, FL

Sebastian Inlet State Park – March 11 – 19, 2022

Sebastian Inlet is a man-made cut between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon, in Brevard County, FL. It was cut across a barrier island in the late 1800’s. The state park is located on either side of the inlet on the barrier island. It has three miles of beaches, a swimming area on the inlet, a small campground, two gift shops and couple of museums. The inlet, the lagoon and the piers are very popular fishing spots, as well as photo opportunities for birders. Over 190 bird species have been identified there.

Pelican Island National Wildlife refuge is about 4 miles south of the park. It was the first National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the country. We hiked the trails and boardwalk. There were far more birds at Sebation Inlet, but it was definitely worth visiting the historic location.

We enjoyed time on the beautiful beach, walking and running near the park, and seeing all of the birds and dolphins. The familiar sound of boats in the area made us feel at home, as it was like the sounds near our home in Michigan, during the summer. I also realized I like being around people who are fishing. They tend to be quiet and relaxed and generally in a good mood. It was sunny, hot and humid, with the exception of  a major storm, with 40 mph wind gusts. After leaving, I really regretted not taking my paddleboard out in the lagoon, on the calm days.

The weather was nice. The restrooms and showers were in good shape and very clean. The campsites were pretty well-maintained. The employees and camp hosts were very friendly and seemed happy to be there. The only problem was the no-see-ums. They were as bad as black flies at their peak in Michigan. Every bite was extremely painful for me, so I was covered from head to toe, while in camp, sweating in the 85-degree humid weather. Dave did not feel the bites, so suffered from the itchy aftermath, looking like he had the measles.  We purchased the recommended repellent, but it didn’t help much. We were forced to keep all of the windows closed and leave our noisy air conditioning running because the bugs can fly through window screens. We had reserved two full weeks there, but were happy we could leave early, for an ocean-front site at Gamble Rogers State Park. Though it’s a great park, we will not likely return because of the bugs.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Vero Beach FL
On the fishing pier at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Vero Beach, FL
A Wood Stork eating scraps from a fisherman at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Vero Beach, FL
View of the fishing pier and inlet from the upper deck of Surfside Grill and Adventures, Sebastian Inlet State Park
Walking Tree Brewery, Vero Beach, FL (Walking Tree is another name for Mangrove Tree, which can be seen everywhere in this area)
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach, FL
A Strangler Fig wrapped around a palm tree at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach, FL
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach, FL. The board walk commemorates each National Wildlife Refuge in the country.
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Vero Beach, FL
Slushie enjoying his second favorite holiday. I was happy to finally wear my shirt (pandemic and other obstacles the past few years) – Hell’n Blazes Brewing Company, Melbourne, FL
Hanging with the locals on St Patrick’s Day in Melbourne, FL. Dave’s Maui to Molokai shirt was the perfect color.
Trying to minimize no-see-uhm bites.
Sebastian Inlet State Park, Vero Beach FL
Sebastian Inlet State Park, Vero Beach FL
At Sand on the Beach, Melbourne Beach, FL

 

2022 Spring RV tour – Heading to warmer weather, Mar 6 – 10

 

We left Michigan on Sunday, March 6. The snow was pretty much gone and it was a good travel day. Most of our first few days were planned around avoiding driving in bad weather. Overall, it worked out pretty well. Our last day at Faver-Dykes was really rainy, but we fit in a decent hike, early. We did not feel like going to see anything in St. Augustine, after experiencing the traffic and crowds there, last year. Maybe next time… Our main goal was to get to Sebastian Inlet on 3/11 and to start enjoyng some warm, sunny weather in a new location.

Clinton/Knoxville North KOA Journey, Clinton, TN – We drove further than planned, the first night, to avoid storms. It was worth it! We stayed one night.
Forsyth KOA Journey, Forsyth, GA – one night here.
Fox City Brewing Co, Forsyth, GA – Great microbrewery. Forsyth used to be known as Fox City, likely because of the all-womens college that used to be there. The brewery used to be an ice house and a yarn factory. We also went to a Mexican place that was almost as good as the ones in S Dakota. 
Buc-ee’s BBQ  – The brisket and turkey sandwiches were great. Huge place – lots of food and shopping.
Buc-ee’s BBQ
Eagle’s Roost RV Resort, Lake Park, GA another quick overnight stop. We left quickly in the morning to avoid storms.
Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, FL – stayed two nights, to have a break from travel. Very quiet here. We stayed in the campground, hiked and cooked dinner. I worked on my blog.
Hiking at Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, FL – We hiked about 3.5 miles here.
Hiking at Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, FL

Cross country skiing in Grayling, MI – Feb 25 – Mar 1, 2022

Between Maui and our spring camping trip, I was able to fit in my annual cross country ski trip with my friend, Marcy. We have been friends for 29 years and she is definitely one of my BFFs. We met at GM and started skiing together soon after. We discovered Stokely Creek Lodge in Goulais River, ON a year or 2 later, and that became our only ski destination. We used to go 2 or 3 times a year, but since Dave and I started going to Maui, we’ve gone once a year. I’m pretty sure some people initially thought Marcy and I were a couple. I noticed some surprised looks when I showed up with a ring and started talking about Dave. I guess it wasn’t just at Stokely. Some people in my own family also suspected…Hahaha!

We were not very good skiers for the first few years. In fact, we did not know how to slow down or stop. We simply wiped out to stop. Thankfully,  Chuck, the original owner of the lodge, showed us how to snow-plow, one day, when he was skiing with us and noticed our awkward and painful technique for stopping. This is one of hundreds of great memories of skiing together.  We both love gliding along in the snow, enjoying nature and staying warm while doing it. We both love classic and skate skiing, though we are not very fast. We travel with at least 3 pairs of skis each and  at least 2 types of boots.

This year we decided we didn’t want to deal with crossing the border and having to pass Covid tests. We didn’t want to risk losing our deposit, if one of us tested positive or if something else went wrong. We decided to go to Grayling instead, because we know some avid skiers who skied there last year and liked the trails and grooming. Apparently, last year they had snow when Traverse City did not. We booked Finley’s Riverside cabins because the pictures looked great, the price was reasonable and they had the best cancelation policy.

We had a great time. The cabin was cozy, but still had plenty of space, with 2 double beds, a well-equipped kitchen area and bath. The owners were friendly and left homemade zuchini bread for us. It was very close to the Cross Country Ski Shop, where I could have new ski bindings mounted to my skis, by someone who actually knows about cross country skiing (there is no such place in SE Michigan).  We cooked most of our own food, which was really nice.

We skied at Forbush Corners in Frederic, MI. The trails and grooming were pretty nice. They actually have the ability to make snow on some of the trails, when necessary. It’s owned by a non-profit and run by volunteers.  It was really busy, with a lot of really good skiers. Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling had nice trails and grooming. I prefer that place because there is no freeway noise and there are more miles of trails without really steep hills. At Forbush corner the longest easier trail runs along I-75, though it is still quite pretty. I did have a moment at Forbush where I felt like Jessie Diggins for about 5 minutes. I was flying along with my new bindings on my waxable skiis and just laughing because it was so fun!

Stokely Creek Lodge has many more miles of trails, amazing grooming, tons of lake effect snow, a cozy lodge, fabulous meals and always some familiar faces.  Though we miss it, we really enjoyed Grayling and are happy to know of another much closer alternative to ski, especially for a last minute quick trip. I will be hoping and praying for some early snow this year in November or December.

,

So happy to ski again, after 2 years! Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Grayling, MI

Finley’s Riverside Cabins, Grayling, Mi
Finley’s Riverside Cabins, Grayling, Mi
Nicely groomed trails through the woods. We mostly had the whole place to ourselves! Hanson Hills Recreation Area, Grayling, MI.
Skiing at Stokely Creek Lodge. View of Walker Lake from Evans Lake Trail – one of my favorite trails. (Feb 2019)
Skiing along Stokely Creek (Feb 2019)
Skiing at Stokely Creek Lodge. (Feb 2017)

Maui – Jan 3 – Feb 18, 2022

I may eventually post more on Maui, when I’m not traveling. We have been going there for about 23 years and purchased a condo there about 16 years ago. Over the years we’ve been spending more and more time there, with the exception of 2019 and 2020, due to the pandemic,

This year we decided to spend only 6 weeks there. Since I retired, we can spend as much time as we want to, except for during Dave’s pre-holiday busy season. We had made reservations for a spring southern camping trip, in case the pandemic prevented us from going again. We decided to follow that plan, cutting the maui trip short and recouping some lost rental revenue in Hawaii. Rental rates on Maui are more than double what they have ever been.

We were extremely happy to be there again. Many things have changed. A lot of people have left the island, some have passed away, many happy hours have been discontinued, prices for everything are much higher, places have closed and people have changed jobs. We have gotten used to not going out much and cooking, so we continued that. We had the best winter weather we have ever experienced there, with no rain and very little wind. It was wonderful. We saw more whales than ever, icluding the birth of a baby, all from our condo. We also saw monk seals, turtles and dolphins. We were also happy to see friends again.

Maui morning view of Molokai from our lanai
With our long-time friends Ron and Rhowena in Lahaina. We actually met them through SUP racing in Michigan, but they live in Kihei. We met up with them  this trip, but didn’t take photos. They made some awesome fish tacos for us.  (photo taken April 2017)
Sightseeing northwest Maui
Finally having a beer at Hula Grill with Kawika again! A local musician, he was our first friend on Maui, over 20 years ago, and the first person to know we were engaged. The name Kawika in equivalent to David. Their birthdays are a couple of days apart, so it’s an excuse to celebrate together.
Honolua Bay
Happy hour at the Hula Grill with our friend, Jeffrey. I call him “my twin brother from another mother and another year”, as we have the same birthday. (photo taken April 2018)
Maui sunset view from The Kaanapali Beach Hotel Tiki Bar in 2018. The Tiki Bar is gone and there is a new restaurant where the palm trees are. We miss the casual atmosphere, great live hawaiian music, hula dancing and much aloha from the staff.
Dave with lengendary bartender, Uncle Dale, at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel Tiki Bar, aka “Tiki”. Several days ago, he left this world. RIL, Uncle. You are dearly missed by so many. Your Aloha lives on. (Photo taken March 2018)
Maui sunset view of island Lanai from our lanai

Summary of our 2021 camping adventures

Before I start posting for 2022, I will summarize our travels in 2021.

We took two major tours – a 4-month RV winter trip to the southern US and a 5 1/2-week Colorado trip. We traveled over 13,000 miles through 18 states: AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, PA, MI, IL, NE, CO, IA, OH. KY, TN, MD, IN, KS.

We camped in 12 states:  AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, PA, MI, IL, NE, CO, IA. (We have camped in 15 states, total, in our RV, including WI, MN and SD in 2020.)

We camped 24 nights in Michigan including 4 different campgrounds and 18 nights at our own Northern Outpost. We spent 181 nights in the RV, totalling 309, since we purchased it in August 2018.

Running log of Michigan campgrounds (since we purchased the RV in 2018):

Sanilac County Forester Park
Stafford County Park (we do not recommend)
Holland State Park
Young State Park
Fayette State Park
Marquette City Park
Porcupine Mountains State Park
McLain State Park
Wilderness State Park
Brimley State Park
Cheboygan State Park
Orchard Beach State Park
Hartwick Pines State Park
Lake Michigan Rustic Campground, Hiawatha National Forest
Wells State Park
Fort Wilkins State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Straits State Park
Wild Cherry Resort, Leelanau
Warren Dunes State Park
Grand Haven State Park
Ludington State Park

Our first camping trip with our newly purchased RV. Sanilac County Forester Park October 2018

 

 

 

 

Heading home – Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois – Sept 20 – 23, 2021

Aside from really strong winds, our drive out of Colorado was pretty uneventful. I actually appreciated the scenery of Kansas and Nebraska after the dust clouds and tumble weeds of eastern Colorado. We stopped at Hunter Cove Park in Republican City, NE for one night. It was in the middle of nowhere,  and off-season, so very quiet and uncrowded. It was nice to take a walk and unwind after a day on the road. The next day, we drove to Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines. It was also a nice, quiet place walk and rest.

We had reservations at Indiana dunes State Park, for the following 2 nights. We were watching the weather and they were getting torrential rain. The forcast looked terrible for the next 1 – 2 days, so we canceled our first night (losing about $25) and found a spot at Fisherman’s Corner near Moline, IL. It would allow us to make progress toward home, but still have decent weather. We were unable to tour the John Deer Museum because it was closed, due to the panndemic. We did have a great lunch in town and enjoyed walking and checking out the Mississippi River.

The weather forcast for Indiana Dunes was still terrible, so we booked a site at Starved Rock State Park, where the forcast looked good. It’s a beautiful park with many miles of hiking trails. We had a great day hiking and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather.  We forfeited two nights of camping fees, but in return, we avoided torrential rain, had 2 beautiful weather days and  discovered Starved Rock. It was a great way to wrap up our 38-day adventure.

On September 24, we arrived home, having traveled 4,760 miles. We absolutely loved our time in Colorado and it remains one of our favorite states. We had as much fun as we possibly could, getting there and returning home, discovering some very cool small towns and beautiful parks along the way.  The RV is put away for winter, until March, when we will head south for a spring trip. In the meantime, we plan to head to Maui to enjoy our other favorite place. Aloha!

Driving through Kansas

Hunter Cove Park, Republican City, NE
Harlan County Lake. Hunter Cove Park, Republican City, NE
Walnut Woods State Park, W. Des Moines, IA
Enjoying a Bristol Brewing to-go beer. Walnut Woods State Park, W. Des Moines, IA
Fisherman’s Corner Campground, East Moline, IL
The Mississippi River. Fisherman’s Corner Campground, East Moline, IL
We enjoyed the train passing our campground, since there was only one. Fisherman’s Corner Campground, East Moline, IL
Camping next to the Mississippi River. Fisherman’s Corner Campground, East Moline, IL
Best site in the campground at Starved Rock State Park, IL
View of the lock, dam and the Illinois River at an overlook in Starved Rock State Park, IL
View of the Illinois River at Lover’s Leap in Starved Rock State Park, IL
Hiking in Starved Rock State Park, IL
Hiking in Starved Rock State Park, IL
Last stop before heading back to camp, for our final night of the trip. Tangled Roots Brewing Company, Ottawa, IL

Creede and Colorado Springs – Sept 17 – 19, 2021

Creede

When we arrived in Creede, were were happy to see that we had chosen the best local RV campground. The Antlers is located away from the main highway on the Rio Grande River.  At check-in, we were advised to eat at the Antlers  restaurant because there are few places to eat in the area. We were also advised to buy supplies early, since almost everything closes at 5pm. Also, we should get gas right away, because the local gas station runs out of gas on busy weekends. The sites are very well cared for and have full hook-ups. All of the facilities are nice, including laundry, which we took advantage of. There is a lodge, cabins and restaurant with an outdoor deck and live music, where we had a fabulous dinner. We were fortunate to be there, as it was the last weekend the restaurant would be open, for the season.

We really enjoyed the town, where we had the opportunity to meet some of the locals, as well as a large group from Frankenmuth, MI, who were in town for a wedding. It’s a very small town with a handful of shops, restaurants and a hotel with only 4 guest roooms. We were told the town becomes nearly deserted in the winter. It is quite the bustling place during the daytime in summer, with many Texans owning summer homes in the area and people day-tripping from other towns. We met some wealthy ranchers from Texas at the Antlers restaurant. They told us they come to Creede to cool off in the summer. We toured the underground mining museum and checked out the annual, local car show, Cruisin’ the Canyon. It appeared that the event was the “last hurrah” for the season. We had some great mexican food at Kip’s Grille. Fortunately, the only place open on that fall evening was really good.

Colorado Springs

We stopped in Colorado Springs because it was on the way home and because a long-time customer of Dave’s told him to stop in at the local brewery, if we were in the area.  We managed to book a site at Cheyenne Mountain State Park for one night. The park is located roughly half-way up the mountain and overlooks Colorado Springs. The view is especially beautiful at night. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is located farther up the mountain. We were joking about how the military personnel were watching us with binoculars and checking out Slushie (like they have nothing better to do).

Bristol Brewing company is only 6 miles from the park. Since we were only staying one night, and we had a lot of driving ahead of us,  our only plan for the day was to meet up with Nikos and have a beer. Expecting to meet a friendly bartender at a typical brewery, we were quite blown away by the experience. Nikos is the director of marketing and advertising for a pretty large operation and he gave us the grand tour. Bristol purchased an old school to house their milling, brewing and bottling, as well as multiple tap rooms, restaurants, a coffee shop, distillery, outdoor space and more.  The former art teacher at the school helped decorate the place. The former principal’s office is now the administrative offices. In the old gym, a band was playing and people were dancing. People were playing cornhole outside. We had so much fun talking to Nikos, tasting some great beer, and seeing everything. We even had some excellent Detroit Style Pizza. It was a great final day in Colorado.

We really want to return and see more of Colorado Springs. We would actually go back, just to go to Bristol Brewing Company.

The Antlers, Creede CO
Our full hook-up campsite at The Antlers, Creede, CO
Our view at dinner, of the Rio Grande River, The Antlers, Creede, CO
Creede, CO
Creede Underground Mining Museum
Creede Underground Mining Museum
Cruisin’ the Canyon Car Show – Creede, CO
Tommyknocker Tavern, Creede, CO. It is the locals hangout. It is here that we met the group from Frankenmuth, MI, on the rooftop patio.
Kip’s Grille, Creede, CO. The mexican food is fantastic.
Kip’s Grille, Creede, CO. Notice the washing machines beyond the bar. Kip’s is also the town laundermat.
The old Clay mine, just outside of town in Creede, CO
Our full hoo-up campsite at Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Dave and Nikos, director of marketing and advertising. He gave a tour of Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs
Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs
Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs

Bristol Brewing Company, Colorado Springs
The full moon rising over Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Slushie, enjoying the view and full moon from our campsite. Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Just after sunrise in Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Pagosa Springs – September 13 – 17, 2021

Why we went to Pagosa Springs

We learned about Pagosa Springs from our late friend, Lee, who we met in Maui. He was a happy hour regular at the Hula Grill and Leilani’s. Lee’s long-time girlfriend, Cherie, owned an interval condo (timeshare) at the Whaler and they would spend about a month there every year. Lee was in his early 60’s was a self-employed geologist, working mostly in the western states and spending a lot of time at his condo in Pagosa Springs. He was a very nice, intelligent guy, but almost exclusively spoke about Pagosa. I thought is was so strange for someone to be in paradise, but continually talking about someplace else. We were very curious to learn for ourselves, why the place is so special. Sadly, Lee passed away unexpectedly several years ago, before he could retire and enjoy his favorite place full time. This post is dedicated to Lee.

Bruce Spruce Ranch

As we drove toward Pagosa Springs and then to Bruce Spruce Ranch, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery. There were no snow-covered peaks, but the landscape of mountains, the San Juan River, forests and the cattle ranches was stunning.  We quickly understood why Lee loved the area so much. The ranch is definitely one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have been to. It was easy to overlook the tight spacing of the campsites, as the whole setting was so peaceful and gorgeous. It was nice that we had a day or two with no neighbor. Bruce Spruce is family-owned, has full hook-up campsites, cabins, a shower/bath house and two stocked trout ponds.

Our Pagosa Springs hikes

We did three major hikes in the area, The first  started  at the far end of a barely passable forest service road (about 7 miles in) and offered a pretty rugged trail and beautiful back-country scenery. The second, on the Continental Divide Trail, started at the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. There were deer, great views and some steep drop-offs. We ended that one after about 2.5 miles (over 1,000 feet up) at the top of the local ski area. The 3rd hike was our toughest at over 6 miles and climbing over 2000 feet. We encountered a couple of groups of elk hunters on that trail. I was wishing we had worn some hi-vis colored hats. On these trails we learned the hard way, that cheap hiking boots are not sufficient. Dave was wearing some light hikers and I was wearing some inexpensive boots from Cabelas, one size too big, which I purchased to accomodate a swollen foot. The soles were not sturdy enough and the size was too big for my good foot. Needless to say, our feet were toast and I destroyed a toenail.

Wolf Creek Pass

During our time in Pagosa, we drove over the 10,856-foot altitude Wolf Creek Pass several times.  It’s very steep, with a 7% downhill grade, a hairpin turn and over 200 foot drop-off, heading from east to west.  Fortunately, we would be towing our rig over it from west to east.   Between 2015 and 2019, there were 47 semi-truck crashes on the west side of the pass, incuding three fatalities. There have been many passenger car accidents and fatalities, also. There are many postings all over the internet, warning of the dangers there. “Beware the Wolf!”. Once, while we were driving by, a we saw a vehicle  being lifted from down the cliff. Our neighbor at the campground arrived one day in a class B camper van, with brake failure. She likely destroyed her brake pads, coming down the pass. Throughout our travels we have seen many vehicles with smoking brakes, while heading down a steep grade. Apparently, people from flat states don’t educate themselves on using lower gears in the mountains.

Town and Boss Hoggs

The hot springs resort area is near what appears to be the old historic town center. Clearly, the hot springs are the draw for tourists. There were pleanty of people at the resorts and even swimming in the river, even though it was pretty warm outside. There really was not a lot else in that part of town, except for a couple of shops. Another section of town, which seems was originally residential, is where you can find restaurants and a couple of microbreweries. A little farther out, near some strip malls, is where Boss Hoggs Restaurant and Saloon is located. This was Lee’s favorite place, which he often spoke about in Maui. He loved the prime rib, as he was clearly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Cherie would often be in her condo, preparing a roast, while Lee was at happy hour. Going to Boss Hoggs was a great experience and we ate at the bar, as Lee likely would have. Dave loved the prime rib. I didn’t care much for the salmon, but the bartender had previously worked in Maui and knew some people that we know. We enjoyed the aloha.

While the town isn’t our favorite Colorado town, we did go to some nice places. We absolutly loved the mountains, scenery and hiking trails. I’m pretty sure Lee’s view in heaven looks a lot like the ranch land and mountains around Pagosa Springs. Aloha, Lee. A hui hou kakou.

Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Hot springs formation, Pagosa Springs, CO
Hot springs formation, Pagosa Springs, CO
Overlook at Treasure Falls, Pagosa Springs (the falls were just a trickle, so this was the better photo)
Rainbow Hot Springs Trail, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Wolf Creek Pass Overlook
A deer on the Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area
Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area. This hike was about 5 miles with over 1,000′ elevation gain.
Continental Divide Trail – Wolf Creek Pass to summit of Wolf Creek Ski area
A post-hike refreshment, overlooking the San Juan River, at Riff Raff Brewing Company (Riff Raff on the Rio)
Near the trail head for Windy Pass Trail – our toughest hike of the trip,  over 6 miles round trip and 2,000′ + elevation gain
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Boss Hogg’s Restaurant and Saloon, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, CO

Durango – Sept 11 – 12, 2021

We departed Ouray, taking the longer route, past Telluride and over Lizard Head Pass, to avoid the white-knuckle experience of towing over the Million Dollar Highway (US hwy 550). The summit of the million Dollar Highway is 11,018-foot Red Mountain Pass between Ouray and Silverton. The scenery is magnificent, if you can keep your eyes open. We have driven that route several times in a small rental car and that was scary enough. We certainly were not cheated out of beautiful mountain scenery, taking the tamer route. I recall being very happy as we traveled that day. Mountains, trees, rivers, sunshine……sigh… (can you tell I am getting my annual case of November cabin fever?)

Lightner Creek Campground is a private campground with full hook-up campsites. The photos online looked very inviting.  We wanted to spend a day or two in Durango, since we were in the area and this campground is located about 5 1/2 miles from town.  The area is quite scenic, but the campground is very crowded, with campsites very close together. The creek, located about 20 feet from our campsite, was dry. This might have been a good thing, considering the possibility of mosquitoes or snakes.

I was not comfortable with our neighbors. It’s not that I am judgemental about older RVs, or campers who may not be able to afford someting nice. I was mainly concerned with the fact that it appeared to be in disrepair and they ran their A/C continually. I was concerned about an electrical fire and their very close proximity to our site. We’ve read alot about RV maintainence and it is quite apparent to us, that most people do very little to properly maintain their equipment. Also, they had children and the youngest cried alot.  We set up camp and decided to spend very little time at the campground.

We hiked some local trails and enjoyed a couple of afternoons exploring town. As we always do, we went to the Durango Train Station and were fortunate to catch some photos the train, again. The Historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been continuouosly operated since 1882. The train is used for sightseeing tours between Durango and Silverton. We have never taken the train because neither of us wants to sit on a train all day, but I believe we are missing out on some spectacular sights.

We have been to Durango may times, staying only a day or two. It was actually our first stop on our first Colorado trip, We always wished we had more time, but that was usually as we were about to fly home to return to work. This time, 2 days was enough, as we were heading to  Pagosa Springs and some other new destinations.

Driving over Lizardhead pass (again), on our way to Durango.
View along the Million Dollar Highway (Sept 2017)
View along the Million Dollar Highway (Sept 2017)
View along the Million Dollar Highway (Sept 2017)
Our full hook-up site at Lightner Creek Campground, Durango, CO
Rooftop view of downtown Durango
Durango’s coal-fired, steam-operated locomotive
The Durango train on the Historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Ouray, CO – Sept 8 – 10, 2021

Our first day in Ouray, we arrived at the Ouray Riverside Resort campground early, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the town.  The campground is located about a mile from the center of town and is adjacent to the  Uncompahgre River, a tributary of the Gunnison River.  Though the campground does not have well-spaced sites with grass and trees, it does have full hook-ups, nice views of the surrounding mountains and is very close to town.  We had a riverside site where we could hear the rushing river.

We were especially excited to be in Ouray, because four years prior, we had hiked the Perimeter trail, a very steep, scenic and sometimes scary trail on the mountains surrounding town. On this particular stretch of the trail, there were some very steep drop-offs next to the narrow trail, as well as some bear tracks. I remember thinking about my life insurance policy and not wanting to be too close to Dave on the trail. I kept reminding myself of how much I know he loves me. After seeing the bear tracks I was afraid to be too far from him, but I was terrified on so many levels, especially when we came upon some teenage rock climbers who were climbing above us and could possibly fall and land on us. Yikes! We stopped for a break near a waterfall and met a couple from Ohio. They were retired teachers, but did not even look like they were 50 years old. They had an RV and were spending a month in Ouray. That could be us one day! We talked about that couple many times over the next few years.

We walked into town along a pathway next to the river. We passed the hot springs, but it was too hot to consider checking them out. Just as we walked into town we met a woman who asked about our logo gear. She was from Michigan and her father was a high level executive at GM. She was living in town with her husband for summer and near Torch Lake, MI the rest of the year.  We found an outdoor patio to enjoy a beer. A couple walked up to us and said “The last time we were in Ouray, 4 years ago, we met you at the brewery. We thought it was too strange a coincidence to not mention it.” They recognized our logo gear and had some of our stickers. They were from Glenn Arbor, MI, which is not far from our Northern Outpost.  These encounters made us feel that much more “at home” and glad to be back.

The next day we decided to check out Camp Bird Mine and Yankee Boy Basin. That is a very special place for us, as we back-packed from the mine to Blue Lakes Pass, where we set up camp and and climbed Mount Sneffels on our first Colorado trip in 1999 (camping is no longer allowed). We went up past the mine and found they now have restrooms to accomodate the many 4X4 tours. I was quite thankful! We found a decent place to park and walked up the 4X4 road into the Basin. It was as beautiful as we remembered it, but seemed far steeper. We hiked about 1.5 – 2 miles, climbing 1500 feet or more. How on earth did we hike 4 miles with full packs 22 years ago? There was a lot of 4X4 traffic and even a young couple in a rental car, who partially tore off their front clip, trying to drive over some boulders. They were laughing. We also met a couple of guys who were warming up for the Immogene Pass Run, that would take place two days later.

The drive back was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. This time, the steep drop-off from Camp Bird Road, into the canyon was on my side of the vehicle. The road was only wide enough for one vehicle in many places. I mostly kept my eyes closed and tightly clenched my fists, holding my breath. Dave says the road was greatly improved since 1999. It’s smoother and wider. Camp Bird Mine is now active again and it apprears they have people working on the road every day. Somehow, I don’t even remember the road in 1999. I guess I was really fearless back then.

We really enjoyed the rest of our time there. A highlight was dining at The Outlaw. It was truly the best meal I’ve had in years. The Rocky Mountain Trout and baked potato were cooked to perfection. Dave’s prime rib was just as good. The first few bites actually brought tears to my eyes. It had been so long since I had Rocky Mountain Trout or a good potato or a great meal in a restaurant. We will return to Ouray, just to eat there.

We also enjoyed the roof top patios at the Ouray brewery and the Immogene Hotel. We did some sightseeing, driving partially up U.S. 550, aka the Million Dollar Highway. We only drove part of it, but it helped us to confirm that we would not tow the RV on that road, because of steep grades and treacherous drop-offs. We met a newly retired GM couple from Michigan, who were touring the state in their brand new 5th wheel.

Before we departed Ouray on our last day, We walked into town to watch the start of the Immogene Pass Run. It’s a 17 mile course, starting in Ouray (7810′) and climbing 5304 feet over Immogene Pass (13,114′) (near Camp Bird Mine), ending in Telluride (8750′). It was pretty cool to see athletes of all ages showing up for this pretty extreme race.

Our full hook-up, riverside campsite at Ouray Riverside Resort
Ouray Hot Springs Park
Yankee Boy Basin sign
Yankee Boy Basin
Yankee Boy Basin
Yankee Boy Basin
Yankee Boy Basin
At Blue Lakes Pass 1999. I remember being a bit loopy and stumbling around from the altitude
Yankee Boy Basin 1999
Campsite At Blue Lakes Pass 1999
Yankee Boy Basin 1999
recreating the same photo in Yankee Boy Basin 2021 (or so we thought…)
Camp Bird Road
Camp Bird Road. I was too terrified to try to get good photos.
From the upper deck of the Ouray Brewery
Ouray, CO
The Outlaw, Ouray, CO
Rocky Mountain Trout dinner at The Outlaw, Ouray, CO
Prime Rib dinner at The Outlaw, Ouray, CO
The Outlaw, Ouray, CO
Uncompahgre River, Ouray, CO
View of Ouray from the Perimeter Trail
Ouray Perimeter Trail map
Waterfall on the Perimiter Trail 2017
Hiking the Perimeter Trail 2017
Ouray Lookout Point
The rooftop at The Immogene Hotel
View of town from the rooftop at The Immogene Hotel
The rooftop at The Immogene Hotel
Ouray, CO
Starting line for the Immogene Pass Run, Ouray, CO

Telluride, CO – Sept 1 – 7, 2021

I have been spending extra time on this post, since Telluride has been one of our favorite destinations since we first traveled there in 1999.  We started planning our first trip there, when we were still just friends. We have visited  at least 10 more times, since then. We almost bought a condo there (which would now be worth 10 times what it cost then).  Dave’s wedding ring has the mountains around Telluride engraved in it, a testament to its importance in our lives.

Matterhorn Campground is a US Forest Service campground, located about 10 miles south of the Telluride Ski area.  We planned our trip around this location, making sure we would have power for heat and would return to lower elevations before it snowed. At 8500′, it is our highest altitude campsite. It is one of very few campgrounds without an accurate map or overhead view on Google Maps, to enable selecting the best campsite. We were surprised to find that the campsite spacing was very irregular and that our site was exteremely close to our neighbor’s. While it is in a beautiful setting, and near Telluride, it was not our favorite campground.

The town of Telluride is at an altitude of 8750′.  It’s an historic mining town, which was still somewhat sleepy and quirky when we first visited. Since then, it has grown significantly and real estate is now for the wealthy, only. Surprisingly, it still does not feel too crowded (at least in the fall) and has not lost it’s original appeal to us. The gondola, the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States, runs year-round and provides a quick, free, scenic trip between town and Telluride Mountain Village, the ski area above town.

Our favorite activity there is hiking. There are many hikes that start right in town. This was the first time I could be well-acclimatized before hiking (or even walking around town), which made it a lot more fun for me. Unlike Dave, I definitely feel the affects of altitude. We were happy to hike our old favorites, as well as some new trails.

We were there during the Telluride Film Festival, which I imagine is one of the more low-key or laid-back film festivals. It didn’t really affect our visit too much. That is likely because “filmies” don’t seem to be into hiking. We had no trouble getting a table at our favorite restaurant, Esperanza’s (best Mexican food anywhere!) or a seat at the Last Dollar Saloon. The Historic New Sheridan Bar (est. 1885) is a bit more upscale, so we went there after the “filmies” left town.

We had a great time and hated to leave, but had many more fun destinations on our itinerary. Next stop, Ouray!

Matterhorn Campground, Ophir CO
Matterhorn Campground, Ophir CO
Matterhorn Campground, Ophir CO  This photo taken after our neighbor left. She was less than 10 feet to the right.. We had one of the worst two full-hook-up campsites here. Too close together! The next set of neighbors made a lot of unwelcome noise.

View of the campground from Galloping Goose trail

Taking the gondola from the Telluride Mountain Village, into town. It was the best way to find parking while the film festival was underway
The Jud Wiebe Trail is one of our all-time favorites. It’s a 3.1 mile loop, gaining 1,200 feet. Our AllTrails app counted about 4 miles total, including the walk through town and partway up Tomboy Road (also steep), where the trail begins. It’s rated as “moderate”, but the altitude of 9950′, can make it more challenging.
Jud Wiebe Trail, Telluride, CO
Jud Wiebe Trail, Telluride, CO
Jud Wiebe Trail, Telluride, CO
Jud Wiebe Trail, Telluride, CO
Telluride, CO
The Last Dollar Saloon rooftop
Ophir, CO Yes, this is the entire town.
View of Dallas Dive from Last Dollar Road. This is one of our favorite photo spots, especially with fall colors and snow in the mountains. (photo taken Sept. 2017)
Bridal Veil falls are the tallest free-falling falls in Colorado, at 365 feet in height, The hike is roughly 4 miles round trip on on a jeep road, with an elevation gain of 1360′. (photo taken Sept 2017)
View from the hike to Bridal Veil Falls (photo taken Sept 2017)
View of Telliuride from the gondola (photo taken Sept 2017)
Last Dollar Saloon, Telluride (photo taken Sept. 2017)
Hiking the Bear Creek Trail. The trail head is in town. It’s 4.6 miles (round trip), with a 1,140-ft. elevation gain. (Note: There are at least 2 different  Bear Creek trails in the area)
Bear Creek Falls, from the Bear Creek Trail, Telluride (Note: There are at least 2 different Bear Creek Falls and 2 Bear Creak trails in the area)
Lizard Head Trail, starting at Lizard Head Pass, altitude 10,222′
Lizard Head Trail, with Trout Lake in the background.
Walking the Idarado Legacy Trail, which runs between town and the Pandora Mill Site
Enjoying one last beer in town, at the Stronghouse Brew Pub

 

Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO – Aug 31, 2021

We reserved one night at the state park near, Colorado National Monument. The temperature was in the mid 90s that day, so we were happy to have a scenic drive rather than hike. We spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful park. Driving toward the park, you would never expect to see such amazing views. The road was a bit scary at times. Driving through, I kept wondering, “Who ever came up with the idea to build a road up here…???” It is quite the civil engineering wonder.  It would have been nice to have a little more time, but we made the most of it. We had a great day there and it was definitely worth the visit.

Late afternoon, we went to the town of Fruita (pronounced froo tuh) to have a cold beer and get some dinner.  It was really too hot to cook and we were tired from traveling and touring the park.  The town was pretty quiet, but friendly. People actually said “hello” when they passed us on the sidewalk. Dave had been dreaming of Hot Tomato Pizza for months and it did not disappoint.

The campground was very quiet and well maintained. We had booked our site when the reservation window opened, six months prior to our arrival. That allowed us to score one of the full hook-up, pull-through sites, which is always great for a one-night stay. We would definitely camp there again, if in the area.

Our full hook-up campsite at James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park Campground, Fruita, CO
Our full hook-up campsite at James M. Robb – Colorado River State Park Campground, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
No! Don’t do it!!! Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO
Hot Tomato Pizza, Fruita, CO

Redstone, Marble and Carbondale, CO Aug 27-30, 2021

While we were staying at Heaton Bay, we scouted a section of I-70 over Vail Pass, since we knew it was very steep. We decided to avoid towing through that section of highway get to Redstone, because the road was under construction, with a bumpy surface , a lane closed and a high speed limit. The alternate route was less steep, still very scenic and took us over Tennessee pass.  We didn’t know what to expect in the Redstone area, as we knew there had been rockslides and mudslides recently. There were crews in the area, cleaning up and working on repairs, but it wasn’t a problem for us.

Redstone Campground is located in the White River National Forest, about 15 miles from the nearest main highway.  Our site had water and electric. There is no dump station, but there is a station at a nearby water treatment facilty. The sites are well-spaced and ours felt really private. Each site included a “bear box” to store all food and items with any scent, for campers in tents or pop-ups.  The Crystal River, great for swimming and fishing, runs along the edge of the campground.

There is a mile-long hiking trail from the campground to the historic town site of Redstone. We walked it the first day and explored the town and the Redstone Inn. There are a couple of stores, a church, a small hotel, and some very cute houses. There is also a bar advertising Detroit Style pizza  (another Detroit connection), owned by a Grand Rapids company.

Following the recommendation of the friendly campground hosts, we drove to Marble,  one day, to get some excellent barbeque.   The Crystal River Valley area is very popular with OHV and ATV enthusiasts. The parking lot in town was full of people with trucks and trailers, unloading their ATVs and heading out for the day.  Since we arrived before Slow Groovin Barbeque was open, we decided to walk around town. The town is even smaller than Redstone, but we stumbled upon Marble Mill Site Park, where a trail leads through the town’s historic marble mill site. Marble from this location was used for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Lincoln Memorial, the Denver Post Office, the Montana State Capitol building and more. We made it to the barbeque place, to buy a couple of pounds of brisket and smoked salmon before the ATV lunch rush. Later that day, we had excellnt brisket and salmon tacos and stocked our freezer.

The remainder of our four days there, we went for a scenic drive, enjoyed a quiet afternoon at our campsite, did some hiking, and spent a day in Carbondale.  In Carbondale, we did laundry and went to a microbrewery, where we met a couple from Telluride. She was originally from Dearborn, MI. The waitress was also from the Detroit area. It was a Sunday and hardly anything was open in town.  We were surprised as we were expecting it to be a lively, fun town.

Overall, we loved the Redstone and Marble area and really appreciated being away from traffic and noisy highways.

Crossing the continental Divide at Tenessee Pass, formerly a World War II training ground for United States Army troops of the 10th Mountain Division. It’s now the location of a memorial to them.

Our beautiful, private campsite at Redstone Campground, White River National Forest
Our scenic, private campsite at Redstone Campground, White River National Forest
Marble Mill Site Park, Marble, CO
Marble Mill Site Park, Marble, CO
Marble Mill Site Park, Marble, CO
Redstone Historic District
Redstone Inn
Redstone Historic District
Redstone Coke Oven Historic District
Cat tails in the mountains – hiking the Coal Basin Ranch Mountain Bike Trails. We found the trails, while looking for a place to hike, and didn’t have our bikes with us.
The Crystal River at Redstone Campground, White River National Forest

Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge and Vail – Aug 21 – 26, 2021

We planned  6 nights at Heaton Bay Campground in Silverthorn, CO, because it was located near Frisco, Dillon, Breckenridge and Vail.  There is a lot to do and see in the area. We were thrilled to see our campsite, the prettiest in the campground, and knew it would likely rank as one of our all-time top 5 most scenic campsites.  There was a little distant road noise from I-70 and Dillon Dam road, but it was more quiet at night.

We were exhausted from the long drive on bumpy I-80, but forced ourselves to check out Dillon, our first night. We enjoyed part of a reggae concert in town and had a beer at Pug Ryan’s brewery. The two bar tenders that night, were from Detroit. We exchanged stickers and discussed our favorite places. One of the guys was talking about his upcoming wedding. I am mentioning this detail because a couple of days later, we were in Breckenridge, at the Gold Pan Saloon and we ran into the same guy, who was there having a pre-wedding meeting with his fiance, which would be taking place at the Gold Pan. Coincidentally, a friend of theirs started talking to us and he used to live in Maui and knows many of the same people we know. It’s a small world.

We hiked every day, except for the day we rode our bikes. It was really nice to slowly acclimatize and start with easier hikes and work our way up. Unlike Dave, who is completely unaffected by altitude, it takes me about a week to adjust to it. In the past we visited Colorado for 5 – 7 days and Dave would insist on some epic hike within the first 24 hours, sometimes climbing a 14,000-foot peak. Sometimes I could do it and other times I could not.

We visited many of the nearby towns. We really liked Frisco, which is a small, walkable, scenic town, though we didn’t care for the  road construction and traffic heading into town. Breckenridge is no longer the small mountain town it was when we first visited. It now seems to be over-developed. You can no longer see the mountains from any place in town and it is crowded with traffic and people. We enjoyed Vail Mountain Village on previous trips, when it was a fairly casual place. It has become far more upscale, with high end jewelry stores, spas and upscale restaurants.

The highlights here were the campsite, hiking trails, bike paths, Frisco and meeting people from Detroit and Maui.

Note: I was planning to post as we traveled, but had little internet and cell service after leaving Heaton Bay.

Colorado!
Heaton Bay Campground
Slushie, enjoying the view at Heaton Bay Campground
Heaton Bay Campground
Meadow Loop trail, Dillon, CO. Our first of almost daily hikes in Colorado
Loveland Pass, CO
Dillon Reservoir, aka Lake Dillon
Gold Pan Saloon, Breckenridge, CO. We have been here many times. Dave’s first beer here was when he rode his bike across the country in college. Breckenridge has changed drastically since then and even since our first visit together about 15 years ago. Thankfully, the Gold Pan remains the same.
Dead pine trees, killed by the pine beetle
Masontown trail, Frisco, CO. We saw this moose, resting about 10 – 15 yards from the trail.
Masontown Trail, Frisco, CO
Gore Creek, Vail, CO
Lion Square Lodge, where we stayed on 2 previous trips to Vail. They have amazing free coffee 24/7 in the lobby and you can hear the rushing Gore Creek from all of the rooms.
Lilypad Lake hike,Frisco, CO
Lilitypad Lake hike, Frisco, CO
Chilling on the rooft top at The Uptown on Main, in Frisco, CO.
We rode the beautiful paved bike path that runs between Dillon and Frisco, with a detour on a dirt path to another campground

Our route to Colorado – August 17 – 20, 2021

Our first stop on this epic tour was at Warren Dunes State Park. Initially Dave wanted to drive straight through to the next stop, but he changed his mind. So glad he did! We loved the park and the drive from there to Geneseo, IL was pretty brutal, with construction and bad road conditions on I-80. It would have been a nightmare to add 3 1/2 more hours to that drive. We had a great hike on the trail over the dune, to the beach and then a short trip to Greenbush Brewing Company. It was a pretty fun day.

We went to the small town of Geneseo, IL because it was on the route, was a good point to stop and the town had two microbreweries. We loved the quiet campground and the cute small town, where we enjoyed dinner on the patio at Geneseo Brewing Company.

Eugene Mahoney State Park in Nebraska is pretty large, with  multiple small lakes, a marina, trails, fishing, tennis, a theater, a disc golf course and an adventure ropes course. It was a great stop to do some walking and relaxing after a day on the road.

The only camping we could find between Mahoney SP and our first stop in Colorado was a KOA right off of I-80 in Ogallala.  Though it is a bit noisy, it is a full hook-up, allowing us to shower and use as much water as we want. The owners are very friendly people . The sites are gravel and very flat. Some have patios, barbeque grills and small fenced in pet pens with fake grass. There was nothing that interested us nearby, except the Safeway grocery store, so we stocked up on supplies and I worked on this blog post.

For the Colorado tour, I plan to try to post periodically, as we travel,, but more quickly and with mostly photos.  I want to enjoy every moment. I can always update the post later.

Our pretty campsite at Warren Dunes State Park. It may be the only site our rig would fit in.
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Greenbush Brewing Company. Sawyer MI. It reminded us of being at Paddle Hard Brewing in Grayling exactly one year ago , our first stop on the Badlands Freedom Tour.
Warren Dunes State Park. They have a LOT of rules here! There was an “Alchohol Prohibited” sign about every ten feet on every park road. No big parties in this campground.
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Geneseo Campground, Geneseo, IL
Walking the Hennepin Canal trail, which boarders the Geneseo Campground
The old locks on the Hennepin Canal
The old locks on the Hennepin Canal, now a waterfall
Geneseo Campground, Geneseo IL
We had a great dinner on the patio at Geneseo Brewing Company
The cornfield next to the Geneseo campground. I expected some baseball players to appear, but it didn’t happen.
Slushie enjoying his first trip to Illinois and seeing his first corn field!
Beautiful campsite at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
Campsite at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
An owl watching us at our campsite, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
One of the lakes at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Our site at the KOA in Ogallala. We were literally right next to I-80. I guess we can say we camped next to a freeway one time….

Road testing the new truck – Frankfort & Leland – July 19 – 28, 2021

We were fortunate that our new Silverado 3500HD was built, even during the chip shortage. We were able to pick it up at the dealership just in time to allow for the 500-mile “break-in” period (500 miles of city dring under 55 mph, no towing), before our trial run towing the RV.  Our trial run was to our property in Frankfort, MI, (aka The Northern Outpost), a short trip to the Lelenau Penninisula, to meet up with friends, back to the Northern outpost, then home. It was a great way to try out the new truck and hitch before our next major road trip.  Colorado is one of our favorite states, and we have been planning a tour their since early winter.

We purchased the new truck, as the lease on our light duty Silverado is running out, and we want the flexibility to add more weight and to tow in the mountains. Though the trailer pin weight is significatly lower that the maximum, for the truck, the total weight was near the maximum towing weight.  This deterred us from towing over any steep grades and forced us to be very weight-conscious when packing for a trip. We plan to have this truck for the next 10 years, or more. We also purchased the Curt A16 5th wheel trailer hitch, which was specifically designed for our truck and is an upgrade from our old hitch. We were thrilled to find that the HD truck ride is just as smooth as the light duty truck, if not better.

As soon as we hitched up and hit the road, it was apparent that the new truck and hitch were both major improvements.  The hitch is far more solid and sturdy, no creaking or clunking when turning or going over bumps.  The ride in the truck felt nearly the same as it does when not towing. It was awesome!

This would be our final summer stay on our property, before fall, so we made an effort to see and do as much as we could. My foot is still recovering, so I did not join Dave for the usual daily hiking. We went to our favorite local microbreweries, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor, Manistee, the local beaches, Beulah, downtown Frankfort and Arcadia.  Last year, during the first summer of the pandemic, people began flocking to the area in droves. Some of the small, usually quiet towns, including Frankfort, were jammed with people. This year, it was just as busy. The Sleeping Bear Dunes area had been closed last year, but this year was jammed with people, even on a Wednesday. We managed to avoid the crowds and have fun.

For the first time, we planned a camping meet-up with friends. We purchased our fifth wheel from Lynn and Brian, when they were upgrading to a larger rig, to accommodate their growing family. Their old rig was adequate until the kids were fully grown and son-in-law,  grandchildren and a second large dog were added to the family. They were spending a week at the Wild Cherry Resort, with plans for two of their grown daughters (with boyfriends) to join them at times during the week.

We spent two nights at the campground. Our site was probably the prettiest on the property and was next to our friends’ site. We had a great time exploring Sutton’s Bay, Fishtown and visiting a couple of wineries with Lynn, Brian and their daughter Kayla. We found that the Lelenau penninsula is not too crowded, with the exception of Fishtown in Leland. The wineries that we went to were low-key and without tour busses.

We spent one last night at the Northern Outpost. We packed everything up, for the winter, in case the weather is bad in the fall and we don’t return.  We are now at home, packing up for our next big adventure, leaving tomorrow. Colorado, here we come!

Brand new Silverado 3500 HD
Our Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI
View from our driveway, Frankfort, MI
Arcadia Scenic Turnout, Arcadia, MI
View of Crystal Lake from Beulah Beach
Wild rasberries at the Northern Outpost
Frankfort Beach
Full moon over the Northern Outpost
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive,
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Microbrews at St Ambrose Cellars/ Brose Brewing, Beulah, MI
Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort, MI
Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, Frankfort MI
View of Frankfort from the lighthouse
Our campsite next to Brian & Lynn’s at Wild Cherry Resort, Lake Lelenau, MI. Their first time camping in their new rig, next to their old rig, which they sold to us.
Enjoying a fun afternoon with friends Lynn, Brian & Kayla (who took this photo) in Fishtown. Leland, MI.
45 North Vinyard and Winery, Lake Lelenau, MI – named after the 45th Parallel, which runs through their vinyard. Peaceful setting, great wine and only 4 miles from the campground!
Bel Lago Vinyards and winery, Cedar Michigan. This one has been on my bucket list for many years and is my current favorite (wine, view, lack of crowds, beautiful patio and tasting room)
Dinner at the Outpost – northern Michigan sweet corn!
Our last night of the summer at the Northern Outpost. Hoping the weather allows for fall camping.

 

RV Touring during a Pandemic

We had the unique experience of having our first long tour during a pandemic, from January 27 to May 27. We had already experienced shorter trips, since COVID hit the world, last year, so we knew generally what was in store for us. Of course, we assumed that by March or April, it would nearly be behind us and were wrong. By the time we were in St. Augustine, FL, in early April, Michigan had become the new COVID  epicenter in the US. I realized that was possibly the reason people were keeping a very large distance from me, while out walking or running and wearing my Detroit logo gear. We began telling everyone we happened to be talking to, that we had been in FL all winter, so they would not be afraid we would contaminate them.

Lockdown was tough for full-time RV’rs

The pandemic made us quite aware of issues that might arise for someone RVing full-time. Fortunately, all of the campgrounds had reopened by the time we headed out for the tour, but we know of people who literally had no place to go when all of the campgrounds were shut down.  In those cases they had to stay with friends or relatives, aka mooch-docking. We have not considered RVing full time, but knowing this further ensures we will not.

Getting vaccinated in another state

Throughout our winter tour I had been working on a strategy for us to get COVID vaccines. It was challenging, as many states, including Georgia and Florida only allowed vaccines for residents of their states.  Proof of residency was required. We met many snow birds along the way who had either flown to their home state or had driven many hours to get a vaccine (to no avail). I knew that South Carolina did not have a residency requirement, so our “plan A” was to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (single dose, only), if it was available. That was the quickest way to be fully vaccinated. When safety issues were raised for that vaccine I started searching for a place that had Pfizer or Moderna. By the time we had an appointment for the Moderna vaccine at Walmart in SC, I learned that North Carolina no longer had a residency requirement, allowing us to plan our 2nd dose there. The plan worked out well and we are happy that Walmart recently sent us a digital vaccine record. We may need it to fly to Maui this coming winter.

What we missed out on

The greatest drawback to traveling during a pandemic was not doing or seeing  everything we normally would have. Mask mandates were looser or nonexistant in most states we traveled through and few people wore masks. We didn’t go indoors anywhere that was not open air (windows and doors open) or that seemed crowded.  On bad weather days windows, doors and outdoor patios were closed and people were crowded indoors. There were countless times that we went to a  restaurant or microbrewery and just turned around and left.  A rainy, cold day would normally be a good day for a museum, a long leisurely dinner out or even a movie theater, but not during a pandemic. I think we quickly went through a couple of visitor centers, but otherwise, no museums, historic homes or indoor dining.

Crowded campgrounds 

The pandemic also resulted in many people camping, who otherwise would not. Our impression of the normal snowbirds, who migrate south annually, is that they are experienced campers with no small children and who usually have some awareness of campground etiquette. Typically, there are campsite vacancies that allow for some people to maintain a  less defined schedule. This year all of the campgrounds were fully booked. There were many large families who were presumably homeschooling and either “working from home” or not working. There were also vacationers who were camping rather than going on cruises or resort vacations. We believe this generally resulted in a less peaceful, quiet experience.

Still worth it, for us

The benefits to RV touring during a pandemic outweighed the drawbacks. We got to see something new almost every day and we made a point to do so. We walked and cycled every trail and every section of each park that we could. We regularly took walks around the campgrounds, checking out the multitude of rigs and camping styles and talking to countless interesting, cool people from all across the country. We saw and met so many cute traveling dogs and cats. We checked out as many hiking trails, cute towns, beaches and ocean front tiki bars as possible. We found all the best local fish markets and became skilled at cooking in our RV, as it was usually too dark, windy and/or rainy to cook outside).. None of these experiences would have been possible if we had stayed home and stuck to our pandemic lockdown routine.

Reposting some of my favorite pictures of uncrowded places:

The deck at the Pink Pony, on the deserted beach
Sharkey’s first time flying since the Badlands
Cycling on the deserted beach at Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park
Morning walk on the beach at Huntington Beach State Park
Bodie Island Light Station, Very close to Oregon Inlet Campground and Coquina Beach
My turn to fly Sharky on Old Lighthouse Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore

 

Heading Home – Virginia & Pennsylvania – May 26 & 27, 2021

OBX to Fredericksburg

The first day of our return trip was uneventful. We had replanned our route to avoid Washington DC traffic, based on advice from the man we met in Frisco. We knew, in advance, that we would have to pull off and turn off the propane (for the refrigerator) before entering the tunnel at Chesapeake Bay. We were bringing some tuna and shrimp with us, and wanted to keep it frozen, as well as not waste some other groceries. We chose the perfect place to pull off to turn it back on, allowing us to bypass a major accident on I-64.

When we arrived at the Fredericksburg KOA, we were told that we had the best campsite in the campground. It was a full hook-up and large enough that we did not have to unhitch. We have friends in the area, but we planned the stop at the last minute, for a quick one-night rest. We had just enough time to decompress a little, eat dinner and go to bed early, for an early start the next day. It was about 95 degrees and very humid in the campground, so we were thankful to have electricity. It was a nice campground and it would be fun to return, sometime, to explore the area and meet up with our friends (sorry we didn’t see you this time, Annalee!).

During our travels, we have met many campers who like to “wing it” and stay at truck stops or Walmart parking lots, which are free. We met a couple at a Michigan State park who owned a beautiful, new class A motorcoach. They once took a one-week trip to the Badlands and only stayed at Walmarts. We recognize that everyone has different priorities when they travel. Even for these quick stops, we prefer to be able to have electricity and relax in a peaceful setting.

Fredericksburg to New Stanton

The next day we headed to Fox Den Acres Campground in New Stanton, Pensylvania, which was just off of I-76, on our route home.  We were assigned a large pull-thru site with water, electricity and even cable TV. We did not have to unhitch, again.  It was Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend and the campground was starting to fill up, with large groups of campers gathering. The weather was beautiful, though storms were forcast for the entire weekend. They had a very large tent set up, probably because the rain was coming. There certainly was no sign that anyone was concerned about the pandemic. It was a very well-maintained and updated campground, with friendly owners.

We really enjoyed the scenery over the 2-day drive home. We started discussing Virginia and Pennsylvania as possible destinations for a future shorter, closer adventure. For the first time on the entire trip, we had to drive through torrential rain and heavy winds on the very last day, between Pennsylvania and our home in Macomb County, MI.

On May 28, after 4 months – 120 nights in the RV, 14 campgrounds, camping in 7 different states, driving 6,400 miles (including towing and exploring), we finally arrived home.

Though our RV is quite nice, with plenty of space, a queen size bed and the tank capacity for adequate showers, our house seemed to be absolutely enormous. My first long, hot shower (with aromatherapy oils misting) seemed like a spa experience. Over the first few days, we would take multiple showers, just because we could! We slept like babies in our huge, king size bed. I was so happy to use the dishwasher!

I had a minor surgery to repair my foot. I’m recovering and planning to fix the other foot soon, to avoid trouble during a future adventure.

Reflections on our journey

Looking back on the winter, we are both so glad we made the journey.  It was a great alternative to being trapped in our house and routine during the pandemic. We were able to ride our bikes, walk, hike and spend most of our time outdoors. We enjoyed some new, very beautiful places (e.g. Fort Pickens, St George Isand, Flagler Beach) and we learned that some places were not what we expected (e.g. Destin, St. Augustine). We can now confirm that as beautiful as these places were, they are not more beautiful than Lake Michigan. Maui and Colorado are still our favorite destinations.  We also learned a lot about what the winter weather and wind can be like in the panhandle and on the Atlantic coast.

We learned how to cook seafood  and that yellowfin tuna is as good as Ahi tuna from Hawaii (maybe better). We are certain that there is no shrimp in the world that is better than fresh Florida shrimp. After many experiences with bland vegetarian or seafood burritos or tacos, we now know how to make them ourselves. (The fact that I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean that I don’t care about flavor!)

We learned that we can still have fun together, even in tight quarters and under less than ideal conditions. We never planned to live in the RV full time, and are even more certain about that now. Four months is tolerable, but 3 months would be better and two months would be ideal. Next year we have plans for a trip to Maui, a little time for skiing, then a 2-month trip on the Atlantic, including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Our deluxe campsite at the Fredericksburg, VA KOA

Our deluxe campsite at the Fredericksburg, VA KOA
Nice pull-thru site at Fox Den Acres Campground, New Stanton, PA.
Another section of the campground.
Fox Den Acres Campground, New Stanton, PA.
Decompressing with Slushie at Fox Den Acres Campground, New Stanton, PA.
Home sweet home

Part 2: Outer Banks, NC – Cape Hatteras National Seashore – April 30 – May 25, 2021

As the days passed in the Outer Banks, the weather continued to be sunny, very windy and cool on most days. Most days, the easterly wind off the ocean, made a 75-degree day feel more like 55, if we were near the ocean. There seemed to be a continual rolling forcast, with 80-degree temperatures just a few days away.

Cape Hatteras and Pea Island

We continued to find as many new places to walk or hike as my foot could tolerate.  We walked at the Pea Island National Wildlife refuge a couple of times. We also went to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a couple of times, hiked on a trail there and enjoyed the beach. The lighthouse was not open for climbing, due to an interior paint removal project, but it was great to see it again. Seeing it, in person, really adds perspective to the history of the moving of the light house 2900 feet, from it’s original location, back in 1999.

Fish Heads

Since we were in the south end of Nags Head, we only about 6 1/2 miles from the Nags Head Fishing Pier, home of Fish Heads Bar & Grill, one of our favorite ocean front tiki bars in the continental US. It’s a casual, laid-back atmosphere with a very friendly staff, an enormous draft beer selection and great food, including their happy hour shrimp. We first met two of the owners when discovered it, back in July of 2015,  Since then, the pier has had some close calls with hurricanes, but has survived. We were happy to see the owners again and the restaurant and bar still thriving after the pandemic.  We enjoyed a few visits there, when we were able to find an outdoor table and it wasn’t raining.

Life in the Campground

Half the fun of campground life is checking out all the campsites and rigs, seeing all of the cute dogs and cats and meeting people who enjoy camping.  During our 3 1/2 weeks at one campground we had the opportunity to meet many campers and see the entire spectrum of rigs and camping styles including tents, vans, classic airstreams, pop-ups, mini trailers, large trailers, class A motorcoaches, a full-size 5th wheel pulled by a semi, and everything in between.

The rig that we will not forget is a not-so-great looking converted school bus occupied by what appeared to be a home-schooling family of 8. Like many other campers who did not reserve in advance, they changed campsites every 1 – 3 days over a period of 3 weeks, packing up multiple bicycles, kids and camping gear only to move a few sites away. We were fortunate to not have them as neighbors, as there was often a baby crying or other kid-related commotion at their campsite. I will add that the young 20- or 30-something parents always looked extremely happy.

Our favorite neighbors were a couple from Virginia. He was a retired Capitol Police officer. Their German shephard, Justice, was a recently retired police dog. He was only 3 years old but had to retire early because his specialty was marajuana detection, and that became legal in Virginia.  He was extremely intelligent and never let his owner out of his sight. We also met two guys who were visiting for a fishing charter, which was canceled due to high winds and rough seas. They had an extremely quiet generator, which they are very happy with. We may be buying one soon.  This was one of many occasions on which we learned something useful from our fellow campers. Overall, most of the people were friendly and considerate of other campers.

Wanchese, NC

One day, we went exploring in Wanchese, a  fishing village and residential area. We drove along a road near the town’s large harbor, and stopped at a commerial fishing business called Fresh Catch. The place was located right in the harbor, with large conveyors for hauling in seafood from the fishing boats. We found a walk-up window with a small sign above it that said “retail”.  We ordered some shrimp and tuna, than watched the guy cutting our tuna from the morning catch. That’s as fresh is it gets! Needless to say, it was the best.

Frisco, NC

During our last week there, we finally had a wind-free, 80-degree day. We drove to Hatteras Island, past Cape Hatteras, to Frisco. We had packed a lunch and planned to stay for a couple of hours, then return to the campground It was so beautiful and peaceful and the weather was so perfect, that we decided to sty all day.  When Dave went out to buy some cold beer, I met a sweet poodle who was walking with his owner, a retired aviation engineer.  We chatted about the benefits of early retirement, how wonderful Colorado is and how Sudoko is a great way to relax. By the time Dave returned, we were discussing our route home. We learned from him, that our plan to avoid heavy Washington DC area traffic was not a good one, so we changed our planned route. We enjoyed the rest of the day on the beach and went to a Wings store for some OBX t-shirts. We really like the area, as it is mostly residential, with very light traffic. We will definitely spend more time there on our next trip.

On May 26, after 118 nights on the road, countless new experiences and our 2nd dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine completed, it was finally time to start heading toward home. We enjoyed our time in the Outer Banks, but were looking forward to being home.

Cape Hatteras Light Station, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton North Carolina

Cape Hatteras Light Station, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton North Carolina
My turn to fly Sharky on Old Lighthouse Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Heading in to Fish Heads on the Outer Banks Fishing Pier
Fishheads Bar and Grill on the Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina
Outer Banks Fishing Pier
Outer Banks Fishing Pier, Nags Head, North Carolina
A wrecked boat on the beach at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe, North Carolina
Walking the deserted beach at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe, North Carolina
View from the observation deck at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe, NC
View from the observation deck at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe, NC
View from the trail at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Rodanthe, NC
Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Wrecked fishing boat near Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The beach at Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The beach at Oregon Inlet Campground
Our favorite beach day of the entire trip. Frisco Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Our favorite beach day of the entire trip. Frisco Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
My favorite Atlantic Coast wild flower, Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) can be found growing in the sand. We saw these in the Carolinas and Florida, as well as on Lake Michigan during summer
Sharky flying over Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Collecting more shells. Oregon Inlet Campground
Relaxing at camp with colored pencils, Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The sun setting at Oregon Inlet

Part 1: Outer Banks, NC – Cape Hatteras National Seashore – April 30 – May 25, 2021

We spent 3 1/2 weeks at this campground and exploring the area. We saw and did so much in the Outer Banks, so I will write 2 blog posts to cover this. This is Part 1. I added some headings to make it easier to skip over sections that may not be of interest to everyone.

Why 3 1/2 weeks in Outer Banks?

While we planned our winter itinerary around our stay at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area,  the Outer Banks, NC was to be the crowning finish of the tour.  Dave camped there numerous times as a kid, with his family and he has always loved it. They had great times catching crabs, cooking over campfires, visiting the lighthouses and playing in the waves all day. Later, Dave and I spent a couple of summer vacations there, when my job required me to take a week of vacation over the July 4th holiday. Simililar to our vacations in South Carolina, we rented a condo on the beach for a week. The high temperatures were in the 95 – 100 range in July. In the mornings, after drinking coffee and watching the sun rise, I would go for a nice long run, while Dave surfed. We would then spend late morning under an umbrella on the beach, head in for lunch and an air-conditioned nap, then head off to our favorite tiki bar for happy hour beers and shrimp.  It was the perfect vacation from a demanding job. We planned to have a similar routine during this trip, only for 3 1/2 weeks in cooler weather, based in our campground and less frequent tiki bar visits.

Campground and campsite

Oregon Inlet Campground is located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in Nags Head, NC. It is part of the US National Park system. It’s located south of the more quiet residential area of Nags Head. Driving is allowed on the beach, with on ORV permit,  in the National Seashore area. There are numerous vehicle access points or “ramps”. On the weekends many of the beaches were pretty busy with people fishing. We chose not to drive on the beach, since deflating the tires is required. We did not want to risk any tire issues before the trip home.

We were happy to see that we had selected one of the best campsites. There was a nice amount of space between our site and our neighbors on either side. We also had a view of the dunes behind us. There is a hiking trail, about 1/4 mile long starting next to our site and ending at the beach. It was too long of a hike, over sand dunes to carry  11-foot boards, so we would have to find alternative access to water for paddling or surfing. The showers were pretty rudimentary, activated by pulling a chain. There was no hot water. We would spend the last 3 1/2 weeks having our usual “quickie showers” in the RV.  We had purchased a portable wastewater holding tank, aka “poop trolley” so we would be able to periodically empty our tanks without moving the RV.

Surprise meet-up with friends

A highlight of our winter tour, occurred in the first few days at Oregon Inlet. Our friends, Lindy and Todd happened to be camping in the same campground. We met Lindy years ago, when she was a rep for a surf board and paddleboard company. We attended many stand-up paddleboard races together. Lindy and Todd recently made the leap to full-time RV’ing, splitting their time between a class A motorcoach and an Airstream trailor. It was so fun to spend time with like-minded friends and catch up, after over a year of being isolated from people we know, with few exceptions. Todd prepared a fabulous dinner of venison  bratwurst and grilled Alaskan Salmon (caught by his friend in Alaska). It was a fun time, with two very cool, adventurous people.

When you want to go home, but can’t

On May 7, we learned about the Colonial pipeline being shut down. We topped off the gas tank and planned to minimize any driving for awhile. Within a couple of days, there was no gas in the Nags Head area. Meanwhile, the weather was cold, windy and rainy for many days in a row.  We had tolerated similar weather off and on all winter, but we were getting a bit tired of it.

My foot issues (bone spurs and stiff great toe causing severe, sharp pain) seemed to be getting worse. Every day that was not rainy, I woke up with a knot in my stomach wondering if a hike would have to be cut short due to the pain. I wanted to get to the foot doctor ASAP. I was having upper back, neck and shoulder pain, likely partially due to my worry about my foot being destroyed for life.  A long, hot shower would have been great. There was also a very difficult and sad family situation, which I will leave out of this post, due to the seriousness of it. I only mention it because it contributed greatly to my feeling bad and also to make the point that life goes on, even when you are away from it.  One chilly, rainy day, we were doing laundry at the worst laudromat we had ever been to (broken machines, no baskets, people begging for money, children running around maskless and coughing) and, for the first time on our journey, we both really wanted to go home.  The gas stations were empty, so we had to stay.

The pipeline eventually started running and within a few days we could get gas. At that point, we were getting ready for our scheduled second dose of the Moderna COVID vaccine at the local Walmart. We really wanted to have that as soon as possible. Also, the forcast was looking promising, with sunny, 80-degree weather coming in a few days. We decided to stay.

Bodie Lighthouse and Coquina Beach

The Bodie lighthouse is about 2.5 miles north of the campground. We really enjoyed being able to see the lighthouse multiple times a day, from locations around the campground, and being able to visit it more than once, since we had so much time.  There is a boardwalk behind the lighthouse, with beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Coquina beach is located across from the entrance to the lighthouse. It became our favorite local beach, as it was a  short drive from the campground, a short walk from the parking lot, there were no vehicles allowed on that beach and very few people used it.  It would have provided perfect access to the ocean for surfing or paddling, if the conditions had been decent.

Wright Brothers Museaum

The Wright Brothers Museum is my favorite National Park Service museum.  Its a great experience to learn about the Wright brothers, their planes and first flights.  There you can see the first succssful launching and landing points and replicas of the planes.  Everyone visiting the Outer Banks, should go to this museum.

Duck, NC

We had attempted to visit Duck, during a previous July 4th vacation, but never made it there due to an intolerable traffic jam. On a cool, windy weekday in May, the traffic was no problem.  Duck is a fairly small community, with a boardwalk connecting the many shopping areas, restaurants, and town park. There were few visitors the day we were there, so we felt comfortable checking out a few galleries and shops, including Kitty Hawk Kites. We walked the entire boardwalk and  stopped at a nice place for a microbrew on an outdoor deck, with views of Currituck Sound.

Manteo, NC and Elizabethan Gardens

Much to my surprise one morning, Dave suggested going to visit the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, There are hiking trails in the area, but my foot was not able to hike that day. The gardens were an easy alternative for a slow walk and some new scenery. The gardens  were created as a living memorial to the time when Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost colonists, about 155 of them, lived there over 400 years ago, in 1587.  It was the first English settlement on the continent.  The governor of the colony went to England for supplies, and when he returned  3 years later, the people were gone. No one knows what became of them.  The gardens are adjacent to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. The fort is not much more than a mound of dirt, so I don’t have photos.  It was nice that we nearly had the place to ourselves, as it was off season.  The down side of visiting in May, is that few flowers were blooming, yet, and the butterfly house had no butterflies.

Manteo is located on Roanoke Island.   It’s a very cute town, with a harbor area, and was a little more crowded than the gardens. We plan to spend more time there next year, when there is no pandemic.

 

Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Walking on the beach at Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Oregon Inlet Fishing center near Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Oregon Inlet Fishing center near Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Bodie Island Light Station, very close to Oregon Inlet Campground and Coquina Beach
Bodie Island Light Station, very close to Oregon Inlet Campground and Coquina Beach
Slushie enjoying one of many rainy days at Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Walking on the beach on a chilly morning at Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
A rare hot day at Coquina Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore (wind was from the west and blocked by the dunes!)
A photogenic crab at Coquina Beach, Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Enjoying a beer on the boardwalk in Duck, NC
Walking the boardwalk in Duck, NC
We attempted to hit every hiking trail in the area. Roanoke Island Marshes Game Land
Best shrimp burrito I ever had! We made them ourselves with fresh, local shrimp.
Elizabethan Gardens at the
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo, NC
Elizabethan Gardens at the
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo, NC
Statue of Virginia Dare, first English baby born on the continent in 1587. She was part of the Roanoke Colony, also known as “The Lost Colony”, as there is no record of where they disappeared to. Elizabethan Gardens at the
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo, NC
Japanese Camellia (Camellia Japonica), the most prevalent flower in the garden, as most others were not yet blooming. Elizabethan Gardens at the
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo, NC
This ancient oak is believed to be more than 600 years old, based on tree borings. It would have been alive when the “Lost Colony” lived on Roanoke Island in the mid 1500’s. Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, NC

Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina – April 23 – 29, 2021

Murrell’s inlet is one of our favorite areas. For that reason, this post is a bit longer, with more photos. We like it because it isn’t too crowded, there is a lot to see and do, it’s scenic and there are countless really good, casual  restuarants.

Huntington Beach State Park, 2500 acres of land, includes a freshwater lagoon, saltmarsh, maritime forest and beach. The park has a nature center a campground, boardwalks, hiking trails, beach and an historic landmark, and Alytalia Castle. It was originally the land and summer home location of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. The “castle”, their home, is open to the public to tour and also for weddings and events.

The campground includes 173 campsites with water and electricity. There is a newer section which is all fully paved sites with full-hook-ups (water, electricity and sewer). Those sites are closer together and that section has a laundry facility. We stayed in the older section at a  spacious, fairly private site.

The park is a popular birding destination , with over 300 bird species that have been seen in the park. We saw people walking around everywhere with binoculars and very expensive cameras. I am just an amature, beginner birder, but was thrilled to see a swallow-tailed kite and a painted bunting, the most colorful bird I have ever seen in nature (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Painted_Bunting/id).  There is other wildlife in the park, including alligators, jelly fish, turtles, oysters, many types of crabs and shrimp.

The day after we arrived, we went to the local Walmart for our first Moderna COVID vaccine. It was the nicest Walmart we had ever been to and the vaccine was painless. We felt great except for a slightly sore arm for a couple of days. It was such a relief to have that taken care of.

One afternoon we drove to Georgetown, SC, about 30 minutes south and west.  It is a very cute, historic town with restaurants, shops, museums  and harborwalk. It is a popular stop for people traveling by sail boat. We really enjoyed walking around town on a warm, sunny day. We did not enter any shops or museums, since we were not fully vaccinated, yet. We did stop at an open air microbrewery, with views of the harbor.

We explored the park every day, toured the “castle”, walked on the boardwalks and the beach. Sitting on the beach required wearing a jacket (for me) but it was beautiful and we had the place to ourselves.

We visited the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk on a couple of weekdays. When we had visited in July of 2017 it was about 98 degrees with 90% humidity. This time it was 65 – 70 degrees and breezy. We walked around, listened to some live music and had a beer or 2. We reminisced about the local crab cakes and she-crab soup at the restaurants, but continued our routine of cooking and dining at the campground to avoid the risk of getting sick. We were able to find some fresh local fish and crab cakes, so it was not too disappointing.

We already have reservations for next year, when we return on a shorter snowbird trip.

 

Our campsite at Huntington Beach State Park
Our campsite at Huntington Beach State Park. Note the large tree to the left. An Eastern Mocking bird lived in the tree. We had the misfortune of learning that the males sometimes choose to sing all night, trying to attract a mate, in spring. During the day, their song is very beautiful.
Boardwalk to the beach at Huntington Beach State Park