15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste.

Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground.

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

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

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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America’s Best Campgrounds & RV Parks For Family Fun

RV camping can fill our lives with great memories of outdoor adventures.

A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We all want our camping trips and RV travels to be enjoyable and fun for the entire family.

Numerous factors can determine the outcome of a camping trip. Factors that we can control include campground choice, route we take to get there, and when to travel.

A key factor in planning any vacation is the RV park or campgrounds. Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together. But not all RV parks and campgrounds are created equal and no park is perfect for everyone.

Before leaving on your RV vacation, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Citing GuestRated as the source, Wicked Good Travel Tips notes that only 34 of an estimated 4,000 campgrounds and RV parks earned an ‘A’ rating in 2014—less than one in 100 parks.

GuestRated.com surveys guest satisfaction using an online process for RVers to review and rate their camping experiences and provide feedback available to other campers and park owners. Of those campgrounds and RV parks, eight emerged as super-stars by earning an ‘A’ rating for 6 years or more.

What we like and prefer in an RV park may totally different from what your family desires. Given different personalities and wants and needs of RVers, no one park can be all things to all people, but many can fulfill the majority of wants and needs.

While social media has a meaningful role to play in assisting campers select the “perfect camping site” a less subjective, opinion-based rating scale is still a key determinant of quality RV parks and campgrounds.

A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Our go-to resource in selecting RV parks and resorts, the Good Sam Campground Directory uses a three-number rating that assesses the park’s amenities, cleanliness, and environment with each rating category measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

Less than 1 percent of parks or campgrounds receive a 10/10*/10 rating which indicates superior facilities that are well maintained, clean, well-appointed restrooms, and a highly appealing appearance. Campgrounds are inspected annually by RVers for RVers.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the GuestRated eight superstar RV parks and campgrounds along with a comparative rating from Good Sam:

Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Maryland: The closest RV and Camping Park near the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/10*/9.5)

Lake George RV Park, Lake George, New York: A beautiful resort in New York’s Lake George Adirondack Region. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: An easy drive from the George Washington Bridge in New York, and has a beautiful Pocono Mountain location close to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all
A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: The largest campground on the East Coast and enjoys one mile of oceanfront beach. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Pioneer Campground, Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania: The campground has 80 mountain top acres at a 2,000 ft elevation offering scenic outlooks in a wooded setting. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/9*/9.5)

Red Apple Campground, Kennebunkport, Maine

This campsite enjoys a grassy, well manicured setting with lovely flower gardens. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

Sunny Brook RV Resort, South Haven, Michigan: Just minutes from Lake Michigan, the Sunny Brook RV Resort has 65 acres along the sandy shore of a 5+ acre lake. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, Grapevine, Texas: Located along the shores of Grapevine Lake, the Vineyards Campground offers both lakefront and forest views. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/8.5*/10)

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams

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From Modern-day Ark To Futuristic Helicopter: 5 Cool Trailers To Love

Mobility and living on the move are important themes in today’s fast-moving world.

Fun, creative, and futuristic, here are five revolutionary RV models that are sure to turn heads.

Blue Eye Noah

Blue Eye Noah exterior
Blue Eye Noah exterior

This revolutionary RV model is considered as a modern-day Ark constructed for those “Blue-eyed Noahs” with full protections and best facilities, it’s an ultimate sanctuary more than the pleasure road trips in leisure days.

An innovative design for multiple uses—recreational mobile home for fun, safety, and survival. Optional packages will give this RV multi-function adaptability to serve as a boat house, ice-fishing house, snowmobile house, and even to meet other challenging landscapes.

Innovan 

The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper
The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper

The efficient and flexible Innovan slide-on truck camper and the Innovan XC off-road trailer caravan are really quite different from anything else on the market.

The Innovan can be fully setup including awning is less than 30 seconds. It opens out like a Swiss Army Knife. When configured for travel, the aerodynamic shape of the camper minimizes wind drag and the cross-wind problems usually associated with campers and vans. Its light weight means that when attached to a four wheel drive, it can go just about anywhere.

This space-efficient caravan is designed to seamlessly slide onto the back of a truck and comes with a whopping 13 storage compartments for all your outdoor gear. It weighs 1,100 pounds and boasts a queen-size bed, pull-out dining area, and air conditioning, among a slew of other sweet features.

SylvanSport GO

Lightweight and easy to manage, the SylvanSport GO can be pulled by even the smallest of cars.
Lightweight and easy to manage, the SylvanSport GO can be pulled by even the smallest of cars.

Billed as “Mobile Adventure Gear” rather than a trailer, the Sylvan Sport Go is an 840-pound pop-up trailer that can carry extra gear and outdoor equipment such as canoes and trailers and can be towed by a small car.

To complement its GO trailer line, SylvanSport has recently introduced the GO-Easy adventure trailer.

Bufalino

Bufalino Camper
Bufalino Camper

German industrial designer Cornelius Comanns has converted the existing Piaggio APE 50 three-wheeled delivery vehicle, a cheap, and fuel efficient platform, into a small camper, called the Bufalino.

It is a small camper which is equipped to meet the basic needs of one person. The concept behind the project is to offer absolute flexibility during periods of travel.

Bufalino encourages users to explore the surrounding off beaten tracks. Meanwhile the furnished interior consisting of a bed, two seating units, a cooking zone, a basin, storage space, a water tank, and a refrigerator offers the comforts of a home.

Monopod 660

Out of this world: the Monopod 660 is the first ever caravan from IH Leisure
Out of this world: the Monopod 660 is the first ever caravan from IH Leisure

Is it a spaceship on wheels? Is it a futuristic helicopter?

A wildly futuristic space-age vehicle, the Monopod 660 is a high-end luxury caravan with an extraordinary striking look. The name derives from the one piece monocoque body shell, a design technique taken from the automotive industry which allows stresses and strains on the vehicle to be carried by the outer skin.

The front section is reminiscent of a helicopter with its slanted separate windows and curved front, while the design allows for a pure shape with few visible joins.

Inside, the Monopod 660 feels like stepping into a boutique hotel from another age, with warm contrasting tones and rich woods. The Truma blown air heating system is used throughout, while the lounge area is large and well appointed with comfortable foam back rests.

Worth Pondering…

The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.

—Frank Lloyd Wright

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4 Best National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. In an earlier post, Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers. Following are the four best national parks for RVers.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Far West Texas, along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park, there’s a magical place with a great deal of silence, beauty, and space—creating an ideal habitat for the turkeys, javelinas, roadrunners, and coyotes.

The 801,000-acre park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and two Mexican states. But the park touts more than a famous river: In the middle of Big Bend there’s a grand series of peaks known as the Chisos, accessible by dinghy and small RVs along a narrow and curved access road. Ponderosa and pinyon pine carpet the cool flanks of these hills, providing a haven for black bears and cougars. The park bisects one of North America’s most significant deserts, the Chihuahuan, creating an abundance of variety.

Big Bend has four campgrounds: Rio Grande Village RV Campground (25 full hookup sites), Rio Grande Village Campground (100 non-hookup sites), Chisos Basin Campground (60 non-hookup sites), and Cottonwood Campground (24 non-hookup sites).

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites.

But for an intimate look at the kivas and actual living accommodations take the 15-minute hike from the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum to Spruce Tree House. If you would like to explore Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House guided by a ranger, stop by the Far View Visitor Center for information and tour tickets.

Mesa Verde offers great camping just 4 miles inside the park at Morefield Campground. Because there are 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space. The campground rarely fills. But if you want one of the 15 full-hookup sites, reservations are a must.

Zion National Park, Utah

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow the paths where ancient native people and Mormon pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.

Catch a shuttle for Zion Canyon, the only vehicular means by which you can access this gorgeous area in the summer. And as you progress, soak up the splendor offered by the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava with their secluded hiking trails.

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. South Campground (127 non-hookup sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites, 95 with electric hookups; reservations recommended) are near the south entrance at Springdale.

Situated at 7,890 feet above sea level, the Lava Point Campground (6 primitive sites) is off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles (45 minutes) north of the town of Virgin. It takes approximately one hour and 20 minutes to drive to the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.

There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Private RV parks are also available near the park’s entrances.

Death Valley National Park, California

Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.

Death Valley offers six campgrounds suitable for most RVs: Furnace Creek (136 sites, a few full hookups), Stovepipe Wells Village (190 sites; 19 full hookups), Sunset (270 non-hookup sites), Texas Spring (92 non-hookup sites), Mesquite Spring (30 non-hookup sites), and Widrose (23 non-hookup sites). A high-clearance vehicle is required to access Thorndike (6 non-hookup sites; 7,400-foot elevation) and Mahogany Flat (10 non-hookup sites; 8,200-foot elevation).

Worth Pondering…

Not to have known…either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self.

—Joseph Wood Krutch

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Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Edisto Island, a sea island in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, lies only about an hour south of bustling Charleston as the pelican flies.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Edisto, part of a chain of more than 100 tidal and barrier islands along the Atlantic coast between the mouths of the Santee River in South Carolina and St. Johns River in Florida. is a world apart.

This is a rustic world of majestic live oaks that are thickly draped with light-as-air beards of Spanish moss, salt marshes, meandering creeks, and historic plantations.

RVers and other visitors to Edisto Island choose to come here—they don’t come by accident. And so it was with us.

Using New Green Acres RV Park in Walterboro as our home base, we spent an enjoyable week exploring the Lowcountry. Known as The Front Porch of the Low Country, Walterboro, county seat of Colleton County, is situated just off of I-95 and is a popular stop for RVers.

It was pleasant 75-degree day in early December that we toured Edisto Island: Edisto Island State Park, the beach, and driving/walking tour of Botany Bay Plantation.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto River, named for the Edisto Indians (original inhabitants of the area), is the longest and largest river system completely within the state. It rises from springs 260 miles north, splits into North and South branches to flow around diamond-shaped Edisto Island (which is actually made up of numerous islands) and into the Atlantic.

ACE Basin, an acronym for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and South Edisto rivers that arc through it, spans 350,000 acres, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the East Coast. These many acres of diverse habitat include protected uplands and wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and beaches, and a host of wildlife.

The North and South Edisto branches flow into the ocean a little more than a dozen miles apart and roughly half way between the two is Botany Bay and Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area, a near-wilderness that makes up nearly a fourth of Edisto Island.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Edisto River is one of the most unique waterways in the world. It is the longest undammed or free flowing “black water” river, and takes up twelve counties in the state. It is the longest and the largest river completely within the borders of South Carolina.
The most interesting part of the Edisto River comes to fruition near Edisto Island. The consistent yet peaceful current makes it perfect for wildlife and for paddling enthusiasts. Floating the Edisto River will show you banks filled with ancient live oaks, Spanish moss, and many forms of wildlife.

Our first stop, Edisto Island State Park, includes an interpretive center and two campgrounds that offer 112 standard sites with water and electric hookups—ocean-side and near the salt marsh. 49 of the standard campsites offer 20/30/50 amp electrical service. Several sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet. Each campground is convenient to restrooms with hot showers. Reservations are recommended.

Following our island drive with stops at several locations along the extensive beach, we toured Botany Bay Plantation, a South Carolina state historic site and wildlife management area, located off SC Highway 174 about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. You’ll follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends and turn left at the gate and into the property.

Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pure bliss. That’s the only way to describe Botany Bay Plantation.

The 4,630-acre plantation on Edisto Island was a gift from the Margaret Pepper family. It was given to the state in 1977 by Mr. Pepper, but was only able to be used after his wife passed away so she would have the opportunity to continue her years on the land she loved.
The land itself is full of nature’s rich beauty—from the sunflower fields to the salt marsh and fresh water ponds to the Spanish moss draped oaks to the miles of private beach; it is emblematic of Lowcountry’s unique environment and appeal.

The clearly marked driving tour showcases the features of the plantation including the archaeological structures of historical significance. Take a walk down any of the trails and absorb the unique beauty of this unspoiled land.

Touring Edisto Island and Botany Bay Plantation provided us with a chance to step back in time and fall in love with the beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham

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4 Great National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. From these Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.

With 8 different campgrounds offering about 500 developed campsites, Joshua Tree offers a variety of options for RVers. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Joshua Tree. Black Rock (99 sites) and Cottonwood (62 sites) have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations. At Hidden Valley (44 sites) and White Tank (15 sites) RVs may not exceed a combined maximum length of 25 feet. Additional campgrounds include Belle (18 sites), Indian Cove (101 sites), Jumbo Rocks (124 sites), and Ryan (31 sites).

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit Arches and discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Devils Garden Campground is located eighteen miles from the park entrance and is open year-round. There are 50 individual camping sites. Facilities include potable water, picnic tables, grills, and both pit-style and flush toilets. There are no showers or RV dump/fill stations.

All sites are usually reserved in advance during the busy season (March through October). As an alternative numerous private campgrounds are available in nearby Moab.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia may be the nation’s most compelling hikers’ park despite the fact that most hikes begin by either an ascent or descent.

The two-lane Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and it is important for campers who want to begin their explorations of Shenandoah by simply driving. Along the road dozens of pullovers provide views of such spectacles as Old Rag Mountain which contains some of the nation’s oldest rocks. All trails lead to attractions, such as the park’s 15-some waterfalls including 93-foot-high Overall Run Falls, its highest. Or it might lead to Hawksbill, the park’s highest mountain at 4,051 feet.

There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park; three campgrounds will accommodate large RVs. Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, and Loft Mountain all have pull-through and deep back-in sites which can handle an RV with a tow vehicle. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Shenandoah but potable water and dump stations are available with the exception of Lewis Mountain.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. Archaeologists believe that people have lived here for more than 5,000 years making it the longest continuously inhabited area on the Colorado Plateau. Ancient ruins are tucked along its cliffs, as are centuries-old pictographs.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo.

Cottonwood Campground is located in a shallow valley less than ¼-mile from the visitor center. The campground is large with approximately 100 spacious campsites, plus a large group camping area. During our visit we had no difficulty in finding a suitable site for our 40-foot motorhome.

Worth Pondering…

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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4 Of The Best States for RV Travel & Camping

There are many great camping and outdoors destinations across the US―camping is abundant at national parks, state parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each state has a unique appeal, but four stand out from the rest as great RV travel and camping destinations: New Mexico, Utah, South Carolina, and Georgia.

New Mexico

Artists Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe once made the landscapes of New Mexico famous, but New Mexico isn’t just for artists―there are great camping, recreational, and sightseeing opportunities.

New Mexico is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, numerous state parks, and historical parks. You can drive the historic US Route 66 or one of 25 scenic byways. In New Mexico, camping road trip possibilities are aplenty.

The camping possibilities are endless and quiet. The locals love their solitude and there is plenty of it. Famous for its beautiful skies, desserts, mountains, and grasslands, New Mexico offers an abundance of outdoor activities. You can hike, bike, ride ATVs and horses, hunt, fish, climb, and cave; in New Mexico, there is an outdoor adventure for everybody.

Utah

Arches National Park contains the world's largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its diverse landscapes, geology, and recreational opportunities, Utah is an intriguing destination. Home to five national parks and seven national monuments, Utah is a paradise for RVers who love the outdoors.  Elevations rise and fall dramatically in the shape of mountains, buttes, and plateaus, the highest reaching over 13,000 feet.

Camp in the comfort of your RV and explore the awe-inspiring geology of Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef national parks. A geological wonderland, Arches is one of Utah’s most accessible national parks. Towering spires, fins, petrified dunes, massive sandstone buttes, and balanced rocks complement the arches.

Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. A journey like no other, this exceptional 124-mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys.

South Carolina

Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Reedy River and Falls Park, Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the Lowcountry to lakes and blackwater rivers to Upcountry whitewater and waterfalls, you’ll find an endless selection of places to RV in South Carolina. From the foothills of The Upcountry to the fun activities of Myrtle Beach and The Grand Strand, unlimited camping opportunities await the RV traveler.

A land of rugged forested mountains, scenic lakes, rushing whitewater rapids, and cascading waterfalls, the Upcountry is a favorite outdoor adventure and family vacation destination.

Each year millions enjoy Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand vacations—drawn here for the swimming, sun bathing, boating, shelling, incredible seafood, and golfing.

With fun family beaches, over 100 championship golf courses, outlet malls, specialty shops, live musical theatre, nightclubs, and a variety of family attractions, Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand is a the ultimate RV destination.

Georgia

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

Georgia offers RVers unlimited travel options from stunning mountain vistas to rushing rivers and waterfalls, charming towns to bustling cities and unspoiled Atlantic beaches. A variety of RV adventures can be experienced throughout the state.

Stunning vistas amid Northeast Georgia’s mountains make this region a natural paradise for RVers. Outdoor activities include boating, fishing, and hiking. At an elevation of 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest mountain. The re-creation of a Bavarian village complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers, Helen offers shopping, restaurants, mountain scenery, Oktoberfest, Alpenfest, and other seasonal festivals.

The Coast offers miles of shoreline, windswept dunes, and historic ports and towns. Savannah’s stunning architecture, 21 historic squares, and Low Country landscape make the city a top RV destination. Nestled along the coast are the city of Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons, Sea, Little St. Simons, and Jekyll. A ferry ride from St. Mary’s transports travelers to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Worth Pondering…

What a life. Today, it’s New Mexico, yesterday it was Utah, and shortly before that we were in South Carolina. Soon it will be Georgia.

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Cool Trailers: From Vistabule To Ecco

In a day where many recreational vehicles can easily cost six-figures and measure 40-feet or more, some customers are looking for alternatives to the mass-produced recreational vehicles.

Life on the road can be enjoyed in a distinctly different, fun, and creative trailer in one of five ways:

Vistabule

Vistabule Introduces ‘Cab Forward’ Teardrop Trailer
Vistabule is a popular ‘Cab Forward’ teardrop trailer

Streamlined and weighing just 1,220 pounds, the Vistabule teardrop trailer can be towed behind nearly any small car.

Oversized windows and a cab-forward design set the Vistabule apart by offering panoramic views that no other teardrop trailer offers. You’re oriented to the front where all the action is. The huge window affords a view to the world as well as the sky.

The queen sized bed converts in seconds into a delightful sitting space with a fold up table and the smartly fitted kitchen allows people to prepare meals while protected from rain and sun.

Colim

The Colim Caravan Concept
The Colim Caravan Concept

Facing the dilemma of whether to buy a new motorhome and toad, truck and fifth wheel trailer, or SUV and travel trailer or caravan?

The brain child of German designer Christian Susana, the futuristic looking Colim (an acronym meaning Colors of Life in Motion) is an attractive combination of car and a caravan camper—the perfect example of an intelligent motorhome design. The Colim motorhome allows drivers to detach the cockpit so they can drive around the resort more efficiently. The vehicle has a top speed of 90mph.

Lil Snoozy

Lil’ Snoozy Goes Camping
Lil’ Snoozy Goes Camping

A fiberglass trailer with an ultra-aerodynamic shape and clean flowing curves, Lil Snoozy is available directly from the manufacturer.

Customers love the Lil Snoozy because Lil’ is only 17 feet, 3 inches in length; 7 feet, 11 inches in width; and 7 feet, 5 inches high. The interior space is 14 feet, 6 inches by 6 feet, 6 inches. There’s a bathroom with shower across from a kitchen area (with sink, refrigerator, and microwave), a couch in front of an entertainment center, and a queen bed.

Within a unique two piece fiberglass unit modern coring materials and state of the art manufacturing processes have been incorporated, adding strength and insulating properties, while tremendously reducing weight.

DoubleBack

DoubleBack Ultimate Camper Van
DoubleBack Ultimate Camper Van

Looking for the freedom and mobility offered by a mid-to-full-size recreational vehicle, but want the practicality and fuel efficiency of a camper van too? The DoubleBack may just be the ultimate camper van that you’ve been looking for.

What makes the DoubleBack unique is just how much space it actually has, and how easily you can expand or contract its size to fit your recreational needs.

Need more room? Use the electric slide-out rear pod to extend the vehicle’s rear. You can even expand the roof and walk around the camper van’s kitchen and lounge.

Ecco

Functions: 1-2, Van opens; 3, electric power hook-up; 4, air intake; 5, windscreen; 6, solar power panel; 6-7 Softtop opening roof; 8, fold out stairs. (Credit: arch.nau.coop)
Functions: 1-2, Van opens; 3, electric power hook-up; 4, air intake; 5, windscreen; 6, solar power panel; 6-7 Softtop opening roof; 8, fold out stairs. (Credit: arch.nau.coop)

The Ecco is set to revolutionize the humble camper van with space-age design that includes collapsible walls and a flip-top upper deck.

A futuristic camper van, the Ecco doubles in size by flipping open “like a Swiss Army knife.”

Since space is the main theme, in design and concept, passengers enter the 15-foot-long electric vehicle from the rear through a huge stairway that folds into the ceiling. The space is then transformed with a flip-out top deck, expandable walls, and fold-down seats for extra room.

The eco-friendly camper van can sleep a family of five and boasts a kitchen, bathroom, and lounge area.

Worth Pondering…

The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.

—Victor Papane

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Mining, Ranching, Birding & More In Patagonia, Arizona

Our narrative begins about 60 miles southeast of Tucson in a small historic mining town that still holds claim to a huge treasure—the birding kind.

On the road to Patagonia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
On the road to Patagonia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At an elevation of over 4,000 feet between the Santa Rita Mountains and the Patagonia Mountains, you arrive in the town of Patagonia. Here, the South Pacific Railroad once hummed with cattle ranchers and prospectors who worked the nearby silver mine. Ranches still dot the hills and historic ghost towns have replaced thriving mining outposts.

At first glance Patagonia is a town that you pass through on the way to somewhere else. However, a second glance will reveal some surprises about this historical former Spanish land grant. There is a growing community of artists and crafts people that have decided that this is a very desirable area to live and work.

Although the rail tracks were abandoned by 1970, the depot is now restored and adjoins a park in the center of town. McKeown Avenue is Patagonia’s authentic but small main street, housing the local saloon and shops.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Patagonia is home to several arts and multicultural festivals throughout the year and also has numerous galleries here you can browse local pottery and paintings as well as other contemporary and traditional arts.

Chances are you’re here for Patagonia’s other side—the one that draws thousands of birders each year. Look closely, because this is the time of year when butterflies linger and more than 300 bird species migrate, nest, and live in Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, managed by the Nature Conservancy since 1966. Bird enthusiasts come thousands of miles to catch a glimpse of some of them. Of particular interest are the gray hawk, vermilion flycatcher, violet-crowned hummingbird, thick-billed kingbird, zone-tailed hawk, green kingfisher, white-throated sparrows (in winter), and black-bellied whistling duck.

You’re in luck: Now through September draws the greatest diversity of birds to what the Nature Conservancy dubs “the richest of the remaining riparian (or streamside) habitats in the region.”

Swimming and picnic area at Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights
Swimming and picnic area at Patagonia State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights

The 850-acre sanctuary is where a cottonwood-willow canopy follows the ribbon of gentle Sonoita Creek, which runs year-long. You can opt for a guided tour of the preserve or you can head to the open-air ramada visitor center to study maps, peruse a list of the latest bird sightings, and get suggestions from the ranger to shape your own visit.

Three miles of easy walking trails take you along Sonoita Creek and through rare, 140-year old cottonwood willow forest.

A trip to Patagonia would not be complete without a visit to the Paton Center for Hummingbirds. Wally and Marion Paton first began inviting birders into their yard shortly after moving to Patagonia in 1973. They eventually put up a canopy and set out benches, bird books, and a chalkboard for people to record their sightings. The Patons had a special vision for supporting their backyard birds with an array of feeding stations—and supporting the wider birding community by sharing the riches of their yard. After Wally passed away in 2001 and Marion in 2009, the birding community was left with an inspiring legacy upon which to build.

212 bird species have been reported for this cozy home lot on the outskirts of the town of Patagonia, including violet-crowned hummingbirds, thick-billed kingbirds, gray hawks, and varied buntings. This amazing diversity results from its location in an ecologically rich and healthy corner of the state. Surrounding the Paton Center you will find: The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, the Patagonia Mountains (one of Arizona’s newly declared Important Bird Areas), the San Rafael Grasslands, and the Sonoita Plain.

Sonoita Creek Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights
Sonoita Creek Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights

Continuing south on Arizona Highway 82 is Patagonia Lake State Park, a small paradise for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts. Fishermen and beachcombers enjoy a man-made lake more than two miles in length. At an elevation of 3,750 feet and adjacent to the Sonoita Creek Natural Area, the park becomes a year-round haven with 105 campsites with a picnic table, a fire ring/grill, water, and 20/30/50-amp electric service; select sites also have a ramada. A dump station is centrally located in the park.

Patagonia Lake offers a 0.5-mile hiking trail that leads to Sonoita Creek, a popular birding area. Additional trails can be accessed through Sonoita Creek Natural Area.

Worth Pondering…
I only went for a walk, and finally concluded to stay till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
—John Muir

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Junction: Texas Hill Country Hospitality Starts Here

Watch some birds, take a leisurely stroll, tube down the river, enjoy a sunset—and relax.

Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Junction boasts first-class outdoor recreation, a big-rig friendly RV park with true Texas hospitality, and all the mouth-watering Texas BBQ you can eat.

I expected the fresh air and open sky. After all, Junction is located on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, elevation ranging around 2,000 feet. The abundance of outdoor activities was no surprise, either—the town is named for the junction of the north and south forks of the Llano River. Junction is ideal for fishing, tubing, and related activities, and there are scores of low-traffic roads for biking and a sprawling state park and wildlife management area checkered with hiking and biking trails.

What I hadn’t planned on was great Texas BBQ. Junction is a good place to work up an appetite, and, as it turns out, to satisfy it, too.

Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we exited I-10 (Exit 465) for Junction North Llano River RV Park my heart skipped a beat as it jumped for joy! There to the back of a large parking lot was a huge BBQ pit surrounded by many, many, many cords of firewood piled higher than a man’s head like fortress walls. And an outdoor area with picnic tables under the spread of an enormous oak.

The food gods were really smiling on me. Heading west to Arizona with limited time and no hope of seeking out Texas BBQ, I lucked upon Cooper’s. Yes, Cooper’s Bar-B-Q & Grill is a happy accident food-wise on any road trip.

The Cooper family opened its original barbecue joint in Mason in the early 1950s, and Cooper sons later took the tradition to Llano—a location eventually sold outside the family—and here. Roy and Sheila Cooper, their son Mark and daughter-in-law Kim and their children all work at the restaurant, which has been in its current location for 16 years.

Texas Hill Country is the Lone Star State’s prime outdoor destination. But it’s not mountaintops and dramatic views that make this a vacation mecca—it’s water. More than 800 freshwater springs percolate to the surface in crystalline rivers and lakes, and the spot where the North and South Llano rivers meet spawned the town of Junction in 1876. One of the town’s first civic projects was a dam for power and irrigation, and Junction eventually became the commercial hub of Kimble County, named for an Alamo defender, George Kimble. But that has never meant many more than 2,500 people enjoying life in the county seat. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are the most popular ways to pass a day in Junction these days.

The dawn of another day along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The dawn of another day along the North Llano River at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rolling hills and open spaces still define Junction. Wild turkeys also are a big part of the landscape. The largest concentration of Rio Grande Turkeys in the American Southwest gather in South Llano River State Park south of town. The gregarious birds winter in large flocks around the cottonwood riparian areas growing by the river. Turkeys can be spotted year-round, especially along the scrubby brush and open grasslands of the Fawn Trail that loops up open slopes for three miles.

The 524-acre park and adjacent 2,155-acre wildlife management area were donated to the state by cattle rancher Walter Buck Jr. Two miles of park front the river, but most folks congregate around the bridge near the entrance.

Activities include camping, picnicking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching, and nature study.

The park offers approximately 20 miles of hiking/biking trails—15 of them prime for mountain biking—58 campsites with water and 30-amp electric service, six walk-in tent sites, and five hike-in primitive campsites.

Rest at one of the park’s top-notch bird blinds. These comfy shelters overlook water and feeding stations frequented by birds pretty much all day, although morning and evening are prime times. Common sightings are flycatchers, swallows, wrens, warblers, hawks, and hummingbirds.

Big-rig friendly North Llano River RV Park at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big-rig friendly North Llano River RV Park at Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next door, the Walter Buck State Wildlife Area is a destination to hike, watch birds, and polish wildlife photography skills.

Planning a Visit? Experience true Texas hospitality with welcoming smiles at Junction North Llano River RV Park. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a clean, spacious site nestled in a natural pecan grove along the banks of the North Llano River. Big rig sites over 80-feet in length are available; spacious full hookup sites with 50/30-amp electric service, free cable, and Wi-Fi.

There’s something for everyone whether you’re staying for one night, a week, or more—water sports, birding, fishing, hunting, scenic hill country drives, restaurants, golf, shopping, and good Texas BBQ! We’d be back in a Texas minute!

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

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