Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other

Scenic wonders are visible in all directions from Scenic Byway 12, a 121-mile-long All American Road, as it winds and climbs.

Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled between two national parks—Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon—Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth

Mile for mile, few of America’s national scenic byways can compete with the diverse scenery and number of natural attractions along Highway 12 Scenic Byway. Recognized as one of the most beautiful drives in America, the byway showcases some of Utah’s uniquely scenic landscape.

Scenic Byway 12 takes visitors through memorable landscapes, ranging from the remains of ancient sea beds to one of the world’s highest alpine forests, and from astonishing pink and russet stone turrets to open sagebrush flats. The history and culture of the area blend together, making Scenic Byway 12 a journey like no other.

Scenic Byway 12 has two entry points. The southwestern gateway is from US 89, seven miles south of the city of Panguitch. The northeastern gateway is from Highway 24 in the town of Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Other major attractions include Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Hell’s Backbone, Hole-in-the-Rock, Cottonwood Canyon, Burr Trail, and Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area.

Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, there are nine communities along Byway 12, each with a character all its own. Settled by Mormon families who established homes and ranches in the area, the towns proudly display their unique heritage and invite you to visit.

Winding south from Torrey, Scenic Byway 12 follows the edge of Boulder Mountain, reaching elevations of almost 9,400 feet, passing viewpoints that overlook Capitol Reef National Park. The highway then drops down into rugged Escalante Canyons, where it crosses deep chasms and climbs steep-sided plateaus. One section follows The Hogsback, a narrow ridge barely wider than the two-lane roadway, with cliffs falling away on either side.

The western approach is gentler—the roadway is not as sharp or narrow. The entire highway is paved, well maintained, and kept open year-round.

Settled in 1889, Boulder was America’s last town to receive mail by mule (until 1972). The town’s main attraction, the Anasazi State Park Museum, encompasses the ancient ruins of the Coombs archaelogical site. Excavated in 1959, the site’s ruins and exhibits provide an interesting  look into how the Anasazi or ancient ones lived almost a thousand years ago.

Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Boulder the road meanders southwest across the expansive Kaiparowits Plateau and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

About 20 miles south of Boulder, the Hole-in-the-Rock Scenic Byway dirt road cuts south into the Escalante Canyons where you’ll find dozens of arches, ancient Native Indian rock art, and the mind-boggling rock formations of Devils Garden.

Back on Highway 12, about two miles northwest of the town of Escalante is Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. A series of short hiking trails leads to groupings of petrified logs, thousand-year-old petroglyphs, and dinosaur bones dating from the Jurassic period. In the center of the park, the Wide Hollow Reservoir offers great canoeing and bass fishing.

Escalante is often called the “Heart of Scenic Byway 12” as it is nestled between the elevated meadows of the Aquarius and Kaiparowits Plateaus and the low desert country surrounding the Escalante Canyons in the middle of the byway.

Thirty miles west of Escalante, you’ll come to the small town of Cannonville and the Highway 400 turnoff to Kodachrome Basin State Park. The changing warm light on the park’s towering sandstone chimneys prompted the National Geographic Society to name the park Kodachrome in 1949.

Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12: A Journey Like No Other © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The last stop along Highway 12 is one of America’s iconic attractions, Bryce Canyon National Park. Established in 1924, the park is world famous for its towering eroding-sandstone pillars called hoodoos. The breathtaking three-mile-wide amphitheater is especially colorful at sunrise and sunset from Bryce and Inspiration points.

Worth Pondering…
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

—Rachel Carson

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7 Family Summer Destinations in Southwestern Utah

In previous stories on Vogel Talks RVing, 10 Family Summer Destinations in Moab and 6 Family Summer Destinations in Southeast Utah (Bluff) we covered locations in southeastern Utah that are beautiful, fun, and kid-friendly.

Bryce Canyon National Park along the Navajo Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon National Park along the Navajo Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this list we cover destinations in southwestern Utah that lie west of the Colorado River. Like the previous locations, these are easily accessible and enjoyable for all sorts of families and centered around towns that offer inexpensive camping.

No matter which of these amazing places you choose to visit, don’t miss getting to know some of the local residents, guides, rangers, and fellow travelers around you. You’ll gain wonderful insight and friendships that are sure to make your vacation even more memorable.

Bryce Canyon National Park – Visitor Center and Campground

The Bryce Canyon Visitor Center has some interesting educational displays on the formation of Bryce and the area’s wildlife.

Ruby’s Inn Campground offers 250 shady and open campsites for RVs. All sites have electric and water, or full hook-ups as well as a large pull-through area for the driver’s ease and comfort.

Bryce Canyon National Park – Rim Trail

Bryce Canyon from the rim trail may not offer a lot of solitude but the views are breathtaking.
You can do a great job of imitating a professional photographer at dusk or dawn from either Sunset or Sunrise Points respectively. Now that is some logical location naming.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park – Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail

One of the best ways to get the most of Bryce Canyon is to get down into the rocks by combining the first leg of the Navajo Loop Trail and the Queens Garden Trail. This relatively moderate three-mile combination loop starts at Sunset Point and ends at Sunrise Point, which are quite close to each other. Whatever you do, take the time to walk down to Wall Street. The trail down may look intimidating but the number of switchbacks makes it pretty easy.

Cedar Breaks National Monument 

At an elevation of 10,350 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the highest national park in Utah. This park is renowned for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin.

Park facilities include 30 campsites, a five-mile scenic drive, picnic areas, and hiking trails. The visitor center which stands next to the amphitheater is open from Memorial Day to mid-October.

ion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The scenic drive has four pullouts for gazing deep into its interior. North View overlook faces south. Chessman Ridge and Sunset View overlooks both have views to the west, and Point Supreme has the only viewpoint that looks due north.

Zion National Park – Visitors Center

Zion National Park is full of easy options to take in some beautiful nature. Zion is so striking and unique it’s fun to just be in the canyon and look—everywhere.
After learning a bit about the park, develop a plan of attack at the Visitor Center and then take the shuttle bus into the park. There are suitable kids’ trails at nearly every stop.
Plan your camping well in advance. The two campgrounds in the park fill up fast.
Zion National Park – Emerald Pools Trails

The Emerald Pools Trails are perfect for kids—not too long, not too steep with a fun playful payoff at your destination.
The vegetation surrounding the sparkling pools and glistening waterfalls is almost tropical it’s so lush. It also stays pretty cool on a hot day. You’ll have fun hopping rocks to cross the stream and pool edges.

The trailhead is across the highway from Zion Lodge

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Zion National Park Kolob Canyons © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park – Kolob Canyons

Heading north from St. George on Interstate 15 take exit 40 and drive the short Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway to the picturesque Kolob Canyons. The short scenic drive ascends 1,100 feet, showcasing deep reddish-orange cliffs, protruding abruptly from the ground. The road terminates at Timber Creek Overlook. Stop at the Visitor Center and pick up a brochure that explains the 14 numbered stops along the drive. The best time to view the canyons is early morning.

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.
—Eric Hansen

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The Great American Road Trip With 4 Great Stops

Summer is here and there’s no better way to spend this long awaited season than on an RV road trip.

If you're traveling through southern Utah, you'll want to visit this land of the hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
If you’re traveling through southern Utah, you’ll want to visit this land of the hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America is brimming with beautiful and diverse routes from the glittering waters of the Pacific to the majestic Rocky Mountains and down to the mysterious swamps of the South. And what’s a great road trip without great stops along the way. Possibly, the following four iconic destinations will whet your appetite as you embark on the Great American Road Trip.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who ranched in the area described the canyon that bears his name as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”. But the rest of the world knows the canyon as a vast wonderland of brilliant-colored spires, rising like sentinels into the clear sky above.

Hiking is the best way to experience the stunning mazes. The park has over 50 miles of hiking trails with a range of distances and elevation change. Most of the park’s trails range from half a mile to 11 miles and take less than a day to complete.

Most trails descend into the canyon and wind around the oddly shaped formations. In just a few hours on the trail, you can experience Bryce Canyon’s spectacular scenery.

But if hiking isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the landscape from the overlooks on the main park road, which heads 18 miles along a winding corridor through forests and meadows to the park’s southern end.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Massachusetts

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on Boston’s waterfront at Columbia Point, the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is set on a ten acre park landscaped with pine trees, shrubs, and wild roses reminiscent of the landscape of Cape Cod familiar to President Kennedy.

Experience the Museum through three theaters, period settings, and 25 dramatic multimedia exhibits, and enter the recreated world of the Kennedy Presidency for a “first-hand” experience of John F. Kennedy’s life, legacy, and leadership.

This unique tour re-creates the JFK-era White House by using President Kennedy’s voice to tell his story during a self-guided tour of the exhibits. Step back into the middle of the Cold War and the civil rights movement.

Walk along the Boston Harborwalk or picnic on the beautiful grounds at the Harbor’s edge.

During the summer President Kennedy’s 26-foot sail boat Victura is on display on the museum grounds at the edge of Boston Harbor.

Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire—and in the Northeast—and is therefore a very popular attraction for RVers and other sightseers and hikers.

The beauty of the mountains and the thrill of ascending the Northeast’s highest peak are just as enchanting today as they were in 1869, when Sylvester Marsh opened the world’s first mountain-climbing railroad on Mount Washington.

Nearly 150 years later, the Mount Washington Cog Railway continues to provide a sense of adventure and history as it carries passengers up a 3-mile-long trestle and the steepest railroad tracks in North America to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. There, visitors can take in the spectacular panoramic view, spanning the mountains and valleys of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, north into Canada, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.

Saratoga National Historic Park, New York

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

Here in the autumn of 1777, American forces met, defeated, and forced a major British army to surrender. This crucial American victory in the Battle of Saratoga renewed patriots’ hopes for independence, secured essential foreign recognition and support, and forever changed the face of the world.

Tours of the Battlefield are self-guiding, using information in the park brochure, optional audio tour CD, optional cell phone of MP3 tour, smart phone/tablet Mobile Web App, and interpretive stations along the way.

Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, an afternoon at the this beautifully scenic park is a trip worth taking.

Worth Pondering…

What will you begin today?

Yesterday is gone.

Tomorrow has not yet come.

We have only today.

Let us begin.

—Mother Teresa

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Land of the Hoodoos: Bryce Canyon National Park

Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who ranched in the area described the canyon that bears his name as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”.

Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the rest of the world knows the canyon as a vast wonderland of brilliant-colored spires, rising like sentinels into the clear sky above.

An immigrant from Scotland, Ebenezer Bryce established a homestead in the Paria Valley in 1875. Bryce was sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because his skill as a carpenter would be useful in settling the area. Locals started calling the canyon with the strange rock formations near his home “Bryce’s Canyon.”

Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah.

The Navajo Loop descends between narrow 200-foot canyon cliffs as it passes two 500- to 700-year-old Douglas firs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Navajo Loop descends between narrow 200-foot canyon cliffs as it passes two 500- to 700-year-old Douglas firs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of nature-chiseled spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes. Collectively called “hoodoos”, these unique formations are whimsically arranged and tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name.

Bryce Canyon’s warm days and cold nights result in more than 200 days a year in which accumulated rainwater completes a freeze-thaw cycle. During the day, water seeps into cracks in the rocks, and then at night, it freezes and expands. As this process repeats, it breaks apart weak rock, and over time, chisels the unusual formations.

The rim of the canyon is between 8,000 to 9,100 feet above sea level. In summer, daytime temperatures are in the 80s but fall to the 40s by night.

If you’re traveling through southern Utah, you’ll want to visit this land of the hoodoos.

The only access to Bryce Canyon is via Scenic Byway 12 (an All-American Road), which is a winding road that climbs to high elevations in spots. The entire highway is paved, well maintained, and kept open year-round.

The best place to begin a tour of the park is at the visitor center. Located just 1.5 miles inside the park, the visitor center provides maps and directions, plus information regarding weather, ranger activities, and the Junior Ranger program. There’s also a 20-minute orientation film and a museum with exhibits that display facets of the park’s geology, flora, fauna, and history.

Bryce is a compact park—just 56 square miles—which makes it easier to explore than many national parks in the West.

Hiking is the best way to experience the stunning mazes. The park has over 50 miles of hiking trails with a range of distances and elevation change. Most of the park’s trails range from half a mile to 11 miles and take less than a day to complete.

Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of nature-chiseled spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of nature-chiseled spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most trails descend into the canyon and wind around the oddly shaped formations. In just a few hours on the trail, you can experience Bryce Canyon’s spectacular scenery.

But a word of caution: Many trails that descend to the bottom are moderate to steep, making the return part of the hike—which is uphill—the most strenuous. Bryce’s high elevation requires extra exertion, so assess your ability and know your limits. Wear hiking boots with good tread and ankle support and carry plenty of drinking water to avoid dehydration.

A prime viewpoint, Bryce Amphitheater is one of the most spectacular viewing areas in the national park system. Bryce Amphitheater is the park’s largest amphitheater and can be viewed from several points—Bryce, Inspiration, Sunset, and Sunrise points.

Sunset Point begins the trailhead for the popular 1.3-mile Navajo Loop which descends through Wall Street. There, hikers travel between the narrow 200-foot canyon cliffs, and along the way pass by a miracle of nature—two 500- to 700-year-old Douglas firs that have managed to grow from the narrow slot canyon floor to reach the sliver of sunlight at the top.

If you're traveling through southern Utah, you'll want to visit this land of the hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
If you’re traveling through southern Utah, you’ll want to visit this land of the hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A popular activity is photography. The shutters work overtime at Bryce Canyon and for good reason. While many photos are taken during mid-day hours, the most dramatic images are captured during the early morning and late afternoon.

The late afternoon sun penetrates the narrow gorges, making scenery along the trails come alive. As sunset approaches, colors become muted.

To darken the sky and saturate colors use a polarizing filter.

Worth Pondering…

…a strange world of colossal shafts and buttes of rock, magnificently sculptured, standing isolated and aloof, dark, weird, lonely.

—Zane Grey

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National Parks Impact Local Economies

National park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a peer-reviewed report.

salt flats at Badwarwe Basin
Walk onto the crusted salt flats at Badwarwe Basin (Death Valley National Park) for a short distance to enjoy the expansive views up and down the valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, in a news release.

“While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural, and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs.”

National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.

Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.

“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” Jarvis said. “Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System.”

Just when you think you’ve seen as much color and sculptured rock for­mations Mother Nature can create, you enter Bryce Canyon for yet anoth­er brilliant and stunning display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Just when you think you’ve seen as much color and sculptured rock for­mations Mother Nature can create, you enter Bryce Canyon for yet anoth­er brilliant and stunning display. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jarvis said visitation so far this year indicates a rebound from 2013 and he expects a steady increase as excitement grows in advance of the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.

The annual report, 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and by state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending, and other statistics.

According to the 2013 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent), and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent).

The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

Total recreation visits and total visitor spending ($000s) in selected National Park Service sites follow:

Arches National Park, Utah: 1,082,866; $120,171.7

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: 1,311,875; $105,705.8

Carlsbad Canyon National Park, New Mexico: 388,565; $23,589.7

Death Valley National Park, California: 951,973; $75,255.1

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah: 1,991,925; $115,593.6

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 4,564,841; $476,194.8

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee: 9,354,695; $734,086.6

Joshua Tree National Park, California: 1,383,341; $62,929.9

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

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona and Nevada: 6,344,714; $260,500.1

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: 460,237; $45,089.8

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas: 515,381; $20,967.0

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Texas: 521,705; $28,576.1

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:1,136,505; $72,402.6

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: 3,188,030; $381,762.7

Yosemite National Park, California: 3,691,192; $373,269.8

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

Zion National Park, Utah: 2,807,387; $147,501.9

Details

National Park Service

Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, the park service is proud to safeguard these special places and to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Website: www.nps.gov

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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50 Spectacular RV Trips

You might have read it or flipped through it or seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virginia

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway and All-American Road noted for its scenic beauty.

Meandering 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Parkway follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It runs through the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains.

Brenham Creamery Company, Texas

Blue Bell ice cream is an icon in Texas. I consider ice cream to be a food group—and there’s no better ice cream available than Blue Bell.

In 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company opened its doors to sell butter. By 1911, they had put together milk, cream, eggs, and fruit fresh from local farmers and were making a gallon or two of ice cream daily, packing it in a large wooden tub with ice and salt, and delivering it by horse and wagon to neighbors. By 1930, Blue Bell Creameries had been born, and today their ice cream is a true Texas favorite.

What makes an exceptionally good thing good? For the answer, visit “the little creamery” in Brenham—I think you’ll find out.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon’s limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park is actually less of a canyon than it is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.”

Millions of years of wind, water, and geologic forces have shaped and etched the surreal landscape. The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Bryce is an unforgettable experience. The 37-mile scenic drive will also get you to key overlooks and vistas, such as Sunrise, Sunset, Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Inspiration Point.

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sheer 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 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.

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park covers a vast area of rock wilderness in southeastern Utah. Over millions of years, the rivers and their small tributaries have carved the flat sandstone rock layers into many amazing forms with a wide range of colors.

The 530 square miles of the park contain countless canyons, arches, spires, buttes, mesas, and a myriad of other spectacular rock formations.

The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands is a wide high plateau with commanding views across many miles of deep canyons in all directions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sheer unbridgeable canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers divide Canyonlands into three distinct sections—Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze—which differ in the types of landscape found there, the number of visitors and the available facilities.

Continue reading →

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod juts out from Massachusetts, extending 70 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer miles of glorious ocean beaches, quaint villages, art galleries, outdoor recreation including biking, hiking, and golf. Lighthouses, grassy dunes, whales, salt marshes, seafood, cottages, resorts, shopping, restaurants, clam bakes, pubs, galleries and, oh, yes, a little nature and history.

Each island town has its own personality, but they all share a relaxed way of living, clean saltwater air, and a sense that you’ve discovered a place where time might occasionally truly stand still.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the places and moments that take our breath away.
—George Carlin

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Utah: The Ultimate Road Trip

Utah is a place of unfathomable natural beauty—with its unique natural formations, colorful history, and culture, and exciting recreation opportunities—it is a state that contains the best elements of the great Mountain West and the Desert Southwest, from red rock splendor to mountain peaks with The Greatest Snow on Earth®, Utah is a four-season world-class travel destination.

Home to five national parks, Utah is the perfect place for your next family road trip.

The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The majesty that is Zion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s five spectacular national parks stretch across the southern half of the state. Each park offers the traveler unique, world-class scenic vistas, and geological phenomena. In fact, Utah’s National Parks feature some of the most astonishing landscapes in the world.

Each park shows off a completely different scenic view of the state’s natural beauty.

These national parks are perfect for camping, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, rafting, kayaking, and even golf.

Before you start packing the RV and inflating the mountain bike tires, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect at each of Utah’s breathtaking national parks.

Zion National Park
The soaring towers and massive monoliths of Zion offer a spectacular grandeur. Recently celebrating its 101st year as a national park, it is also Utah’s most popular park, welcoming nearly 2.6 million visitors in 2010.

A multi-passenger shuttle system is the only motorized transportation allowed in the main canyon during peak season. The open-air shuttles allow visitors to enjoy Zion’s lofty formations such as the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock. It also includes a “town loop” that stops in the town of Springdale at the park’s south entrance.

Visitors can still use private vehicles to tour the park on Utah Highway 9, but RV and other over-sized vehicles are subject to restrictions and a fee charged for escort through a mountain tunnel.

Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking and photography are two favorite activities at Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous easy, self-guided trails in Zion, including Gateway to the Narrows, which is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. More adventurous or strenuous hikes are also found in the park such as The Subway, Angels Landing, and The Narrows.

Two entrances to Zion are 33 miles east of I-15 or 12 miles west of U.S. Highway 89, both on Utah Highway 9. The northern Kolob Canyons section is accessible off I-15, 18 miles south of Cedar City.

Visitor centers, campgrounds, and the historic Zion Lodge are open year-round.

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Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is actually less of a canyon than it is a series of natural amphitheaters sunk into pink cliffs and filled with delicate red rock “hoodoos.”

Millions of years of wind, water, and geologic forces have shaped and etched the surreal landscape. The most brilliant hues of the park come alive with the rising and setting of the sun. Bryce is an unforgettable experience.

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bryce Canyon’s limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located 24 miles southeast of the town of Panguitch, the park is open year-round and the area is popular with the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing crowd in the winter months. Summertime offers a myriad of walking and hiking trails along the rim and toward the bottom of the canyon. Many visitors think it’s even better seen from horseback.

The 37-mile scenic drive will also get you to key overlooks and vistas, such as Sunrise, Sunset, Rainbow, Yovimpa, and Inspiration Points.

The visitor center is open year-round. Bryce Canyon Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, is open April through November.

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Come visit Utah. Come and live Life Elevated®! 

Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series

Part 2: Utah: Five Spectacular National Parks

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.”
—Walt Whitman, Song for the Open Road

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Two Iconic Symbols Merge: Vintage Airstreams & Drive-In Theater

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream and RV Park is the marriage of two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream Hotel features eight custom-designed Airstreams as luxury accommodations. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

Nestled between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, Utah Scenic Byway 12 is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This All-American Road which winds its way 124 miles from Panguitch to Torrey has dozens of natural attractions from alpine forests and ancient sea beds to pink rock turrets.

But this awe-inspiring scenic byway also boasts a relatively new man-made curiosity—The Shooting Star Drive-In.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort that combines Airstream travel trailers and vintage convertible cars with a drive-in movie theater, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

Owner Mark Gudenas, a Chicago native, opened the resort about a year ago on 25 acres just west of Escalante.

The main attraction is the eight restored vintage Airstream trailers that guests can rent starting at $149 a night. There are seven vintage convertibles where travelers can sit and watch an old-time movie on a large outdoor screen.

The resort also has its own full-service RV Park.

Indy's Retreat offers a respite from the action that Harrison Ford faced while shooting Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

A movie buff for as long as he can remember, Gudenas decorated the Airstreams in a manner he thinks John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, or Robert Redford would have liked when they were filming on location in Utah.

Each trailer has a kitchen, a tiny bathroom, beds, satellite radio and television as well as a wooden deck with Adirondack chairs and a propane grill. Gudenas even sells ready-to-cook packs of steak, salmon, chicken, brats, or hamburgers so his guests don’t have to hunt for the grocery store.

Gudenas is easy to spot: He wears 1950s-type bowling shirts—a style he adopted long before Charlie Sheen made them famous on “Two and a Half Men”—and a straw porkpie hat. He delivers dinner and breakfast on a vintage 1966 bright yellow electric golf cart.

Gudenas, who operates the facility with his son, said one of his first memories as a child was watching “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in the backseat of his parents’ Ford Fairlane at a double drive-in movie theater.

Shooting Star Drive-In Retreat. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

During his youth, he returned to the drive-in many times: He hopped the fence and pulled the speaker off the post before he was shooed away. He also remembers going in his first car, a 1966 Mustang, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

About eight years ago, Gudenas began collecting Airstream trailers—as well as the vintage convertibles—from all over the country.

The Shooting Star Drive-In is the marriage of “two iconic symbols of freedom and adventure on American highways,” he said.

“Then there was the fun and unique adventure of a drive-in movie theater. So I built all of them and put them together.”

He searched all over southern Utah for the right place to build the resort, looking in Springdale, Kanab, Moab, and Panguitch and eventually settling on an RV park in Escalante.

“It had to be just right,” he said. The town of Escalante is almost exactly in the middle of the 124-mile stretch of Highway 12, making it a good home base to explore the recreational areas in either direction.

It took him nine months to build the resort, doing most of the renovations himself.

Details

Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest.

It’s a one-of-a-kind resort along Utah’s Highway 12 where travelers can stay in restored Airstream travel trailers and sit in vintage convertible cars while they watch a drive-in movie.

There you’ll find 18 long, pull-through sites with 20/30/50-amp power, water, and picnic tables. Nine sites have a sewer connection and an easily accessible dump station is also available.

The Shooting Star Drive-In Airstream & RV Park features 360-degree views of the Grand Staircase, the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest. (Source: shootingstardrive-in.com)

The 2,400-seat Pavilion in the Oaks is furnished with tables and seating for 36. The Pavilion is illuminated and great for Rally dining and gatherings.

When the sun goes down, enjoy a campfire in the river rock fire ring, or stroll west to the Shooting Star Drive-In and enjoy the evening’s entertainment up on the big screen.

The Resort Store features a wide assortment of food, beverages, and sundries. Located indoors, adjacent to the store, is a full bath and shower for guests. A wash and fold laundry service is also available.

Trailer Rental: Airstream trailers can be rented starting at $149 per night

RV Rental: Full hook-up sites, $40; power/water sites, $30

Address: 2020 West Highway 12, Post Office Box 290, Escalante, UT 84726

Phone: (435) 826-4440

Website: shootingstardrive-in.com

Worth Pondering…

Airstream trailer history

The distinctive-looking Airstream trailer dates to 1929, when Wally Byam purchased a Model T Ford chassis, built a platform on it and then erected a tent on it. His wife, Marion, refused to go camping without a kitchen, so he built a teardrop-shaped shelter that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove. He published an article on “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars” and sold 15,000 detailed instruction plans. After several friends asked him to make them trailers in his backyard, the Airstream Trailer Company went into full production in 1932. Airstream is credited with the first holding tank, ladder frame, pressurized water system and, in 1957, the first fully self-contained travel trailer.

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National Park Summer Escapes

Memorial Day is but a memory, the summer travel season is upon us, and many RVers are planning their annual getaway. For more than a few, that will mean a summertime visit to one of America’s national parks, which continue to be favorite destinations with RVers everywhere.

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Parks are natural treasures and are cared for by the National Park Service. If you have not traveled to iconic places like Bryce, Arches, Zion, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, and Carlsbad Caverns perhaps you should consider these “wonders” for this summer’s vacation.

Bryce is truly one of the most spectacular scenic wonders of the world. The formations within Bryce Canyon National Park, called hoodoos, are the creation of wind and water erosion over eons of time. Iron oxidizing within the rock causes the natural orange and red hues that color these formations.

Arches National Park is a geological wonderland and one of Utah’s most accessible parks. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures that is unlike any other in the world. An awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations dot its landscape.

Zion National Park is known for its majestic towering rock mountains which rise to awe-inspiring heights. Zion is a lush green oasis, surrounded by startling sentinels of stone. With sheer, milky-white cliffs and pristine waterfalls, Zion is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

There are approximately 600 cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unique in the park system, Mesa Verde is the first and only park created for the protection and preservation of archaeological resources and is the only World Heritage Site in Colorado. Conde Nast Traveler chose it as the top historic monument in the world, and National Geographic Traveler chose it as one of the “50 places of a Lifetime— the World’s 50 Greatest Destinations”, in a class with the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China.

July is National Park and Recreation Month

Since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. This year’s theme is “Rock Your Park!” National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and its new initiative, America’s Backyard, encourage you to show the country how parks and recreation make your life extraordinary!

Take the 5 in July Park Pledge

There are five weekends in July 2011—five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays!  Create a healthy weekend habit by getting out to a national park, state park, hiking trail, local playground or park, historic site or park, wildlife refuge, natural area, or other public recreation area every weekend.

Make your personal commitment to get outdoors by signing NRPA’s 5 in July Park Pledge.

All individuals who sign the pledge will be eligible to win a free 8GB iPod Touch by random drawing. The winner will be announced on August 12, 2011.

“According to recent studies, about one-third of Americans struggle with inactivity, obesity, and associated health challenges,” said NRPA CEO Barbara Tulipane. “Now is time for change. Through Park and Recreation Month, we’re encouraging Americans to get out, get active, and get healthy. By signing our Five in July Park Pledge, citizens can become a real part of the movement toward wellness.”

“Rock Your Park” Flash Mob Contest

To spread the word and demonstrate the power of parks and recreation, NRPA is hosting a national “Rock Your Park” Flash Mob Contest. Citizens are encouraged to put together a group of people and show the power of parks together in Flash Mob form.

A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, and perform an unusual act for a brief time, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire. First attempted in 2003, Flash Mobs have become an internet phenomenon.

July Social Media Project

Also, NRPA is hosting its second annual July Social Media Project. Individuals are encouraged to take photos with the official “Rock Your Park” social media sign and post them on their favorite social media sites.

Details

National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation, and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 20,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy lifestyles, recreation initiatives, and conservation of natural and cultural resources.

America’s Backyard

Take the Five in July Pledge

“Rock Your Park” Flash Mob Contest

Worth Pondering…
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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Hell of a place to lose a cow: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

As you near the rim for the first time, the view is dramatic and overwhelming. Numerous pines veil the grandeur of the amphitheater until you reach the edge. Then, abruptly, the land falls away and looking down you see hundreds of delicately carved spires and hoodoos come alive in pastel colors.

Bryce Canyon's limestone has eroded into rock fins and spectacularly-shaped spires called hoodoos. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just when you think you’ve seen as much color and sculptured rock for­mations Mother Nature can create, you enter Bryce Canyon for yet anoth­er brilliant and stunning display.

Bryce Canyon National Park isn’t really a canyon. Rather it is a “break” or series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah.

Erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes. Collectively called “hoodoos”, these unique formations are whimsically arranged and tinted with colors too numerous and subtle to name.

The native Paiutes provided the best description of Bryce, calling it “Unka timpe-wa-wince-pock-ich”, or red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shape canyon.

Years later when pioneer Ebenezer Bryce built a ranch at the bottom of the canyon, he described the area as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”.

Fir trees grow amid towering rock walls at Bryce. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon is named after Ebenezer Bryce, an immigrant from Scotland, who established a homestead in the Paria Valley in 1875. Bryce was sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because his skill as a carpenter would be useful in settling the area. Locals started calling the canyon with the strange rock formations near his home “Bryce’s Canyon.”

The rim of the canyon is between 8,000 to 9,100 feet above sea level. In summer, daytime temperatures are in the 80s but fall to the 40s by night.

Bryce is a compact park—just 56 square miles—which makes it easier to explore than many national parks in the West.

Drive the park’s 18-mile rim road near sunrise or sunset when the light is most dramatic and the hoodoos, stained by minerals, glow fiery red, burnt orange and delicate pink in the slanting rays of sun. Fourteen viewpoints along the rim road look down hundreds of feet into the natural amphitheaters where the hoodoos cluster.

Bryce Canyon National Park is 24 miles southeast of Panguitch on Highway 63; east of the junction of Highways 12 and 89.

Hiking

A hike into the hoodoos puts one in another world. The park has over 50 miles of hiking trails with a range of distances and elevation change. Most trails descend into the canyon and wind around the oddly shaped formations.

In just a few of hours on the trail, you can experience Bryce Canyon’s spectacular scenery.

But a word of caution: Many trails that descend to the bottom are moderate to steep, making the return part of the hike—which is uphill—the most strenuous. Bryce’s high elevation requires extra exertion, so assess your ability and know your limits. Wear hiking boots with good tread and ankle support and carry plenty of water.

Photo tips

Towering sandstone spires turned fiery by late afternoon sunlight. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Light affects the saturation and intensity of color. Lighting conditions vary during the day and are also affected by weather and the seasons.

In general, morning and late afternoon are the best times for photographing the canyon from the viewpoints along the rim. In the morning, the hoodoos glow orange with the rising sun; the light is rich and warm, and shadows bring out texture and form. Details become flatter as the sun rises and light becomes harsher. The late afternoon sun penetrates the narrow gorges, making scenery along the trails come alive. As sunset approaches, colors become muted.

To darken the sky and saturate colors use a polarizing filter.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Details

Elevation: 8,000-9,100 feet

Operating hours: Open year-round, 24 hours a day; temporary road closures during and shortly after winter snow storms may occur until plowing is completed and conditions are safe for visitor traffic

Location: 4.5 miles south of the intersection of Highways 12 and 63

Admission: $25/vehicle (good for 7 days); all federal lands passes accepted

Camping: $15/night

North Campground: 13 RV (no electricity) campsites available by reservation during certain times of the year, and 86 other tent or RV campsites that are available on a first come-first serve basis; for reservation, click here

Sunset Campground: 100 sites in 3 loops; 20 Tent Sites are available for reservation during certain times of the year in Loop B; for reservation, click here

Pets: Not allowed on any hiking trails or viewpoints

Contact: (435) 834-5322

Address: PO Box 640201, Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201

Worth Pondering…
For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to parts of the earth; and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.

—Alan Gussow

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