9 Haunted Halloween Road Trip Destinations

Every town has a ghost story or two, but some places seem to attract more ghostly activity than others.

Salem Haunted HappeningsThe following four destinations are perfect choices for a spooky Halloween road trip this month.

Salem, Massachusetts

There is nowhere in the U.S. like Salem on Halloween! It’s got it all: fabulous fall foliage, New England charm, a horrifying history, and tons of Halloween events and activities.

This town was made famous by its witchcraft trials in 1692, where twenty innocent people were executed on charges of witchcraft. Salem pays tribute year-round to the history of the town with benches commemorating the dead and historic sites detailing the trials and events leading up to them.

Salem goes all out—there are haunted houses, special events at the Witch Museum, the House of Seven Gables, and the Witch House, street performers (often dressed as witches), parades, costume balls—so much is going on.

With most of the revelers dressed up in costumes, every inch of the town decorated for the holiday, and great themed events, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in Halloween Land! It truly is the most Halloween-themed of all of the Halloween destinations out there.

Tombstone, Arizona

Although Tombstone drips of tourism, there are ghost stories to be found.
Tombstone still looks the part of the Wild West when you walk down the old dirt road. Though the town shuts down early, you may be able to see where ‘the Swamper’ lived if you just ask.

The Swamper was a man in Tombstone who dug a tunnel through his living quarters into the mines to find silver. He was eventually caught and murdered.
In addition to the Swamper’s trail, visit the Bird Cage Theatre for a ghostly experience.

Sante Fe, New Mexico

There have been reports of Julia Staab descending this stairway dressed in black
There have been reports of Julia Staab descending this stairway dressed in black.

Santa Fe is full of ghosts. Some you hear about and some you don’t. One of the most famous is Julia Staab, who lives in, or more correctly, haunts the upscale hotel, La Posada. The beautiful Julia was the wife of wealthy Santa Fe merchant, Abraham Staab.

The Staabs were prosperous and abundant. They had seven children. Things went downhill when the eighth child, a son, died soon after his birth.

Reportedly, Julia went into a severe depression and may have even lost her sanity. Her hair is said to have turned white overnight. After several subsequent unsuccessful pregnancies, she took to her room and died in 1896 at the age of 52.

Julia is said to have loved her magnificent home and if you believe the stories, she is still there roaming the halls. Julia is a playful ghost and has been known to turn the faucets on in the bathrooms and move glasses around in the bar.

To read about our Ghost Walking Tour of Santa Fe, click here.

Galveston, Texas

Ashton Villa
Ashton Villa was built by James Moreau Brown, beginning in 1859. The family occupied the house by 1861. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston is full of ghosts, but the best place to get a good dose of them is at the amazing Ashton Villa mansion. Built in the 1860s by James Brown, the 6,000 square foot home is one of the few historical buildings to have survived the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Even so, the Brown family watched as the water rose up to the tenth step of the grand staircase and flowed through the house like a river. Later it served as a Confederate hospital.

Sounds attributed to the ghost of Jame’s daughter Bettie are a frequent occurrence. Sometimes visitors on tour will hear her playing the piano. Beds will unmake themselves and chests will randomly lock and unlock. Some people claim to have witnessed ghost soldiers marching through the house. A caretaker once reported waking up in the night and witnessing a conversation from the past about marriage from two ghosts, and furniture will sometimes move.

Note: Ashton Villa is now home to the Galveston Island Visitor Information Center

More Haunted Destinations

Here are five additional spooky Halloween holiday destinations.

LanternResvFormLogoIn Decatur, Illinois, the ghosts of bootleggers and theater stagehands haunt buildings throughout the city.

In Athens, Ohio, a former mental hospital is packed with the ghosts of disgruntled patients.

And in Paulding, Michigan, locals report a mysterious phenomenon called the Paulding Light.

The religious separatist community of Zoar, Ohio, disbanded in the late 1800s—but resident spirits remain, at least according to guides with Lantern Tour of the Ghosts of Zoar, who lead haunted walks through town on Fridays and Saturdays through November 1.

Add some extra chills to an already thrilling zipline experience at ZipZone Canopy Tours near Columbus, Ohio. Freaky Flight Nights run Tuesday through Friday, October 28-31, at ZipZone, located at Camp Mary Orton near Worthington.

There is a cursed locale somewhere near you. So, pull out your costume , dust off your GPS, and grab a bag of fun-size candy bars for the road—it’s time for a haunted Halloween road trip!

Be safe and responsible during Halloween fun and travels.

Worth Pondering…

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
—William Shakespeare

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Fall Camping Is Fall Foliage, Pumpkin Patches & Much More

It’s that time of year again and fall means pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and hay rides.

Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia.
Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course one of the most compelling reasons to camp in fall is the burst of color on the trees as the leaves change to their autumn hues. Depending on the latitude and elevation, fall foliage is usually most stunning from September through October, but can linger into November. The reds, yellows, and oranges of the fall foliage will amaze you.

With the hot muggy days of summer behind us, camping takes on a new life. Chilly mornings, perfect hiking weather, and warm comfort food all come together to make fall camping a must-do for all camping enthusiasts.

The autumn season has always been a great time for camping. Few to no mosquitoes, cooler temperatures, beautiful colors, and quieter campgrounds all make it ideal. Winter will be calling before you know it so get out there this weekend and enjoy before the snowflakes start to fall. Many campgrounds close around Thanksgiving but many also have extended seasons so you can take advantage as long as possible.

In most areas of the country beautiful colors reign supreme during the fall season, which makes it a picturesque time to go camping. Though the northeast is known for its array of seasonal hues, there are a number of places from east to west and from north to south to go for an autumn camping trip.

If you’re not convinced, here are more good reasons to keep your RV or tent out just a little bit longer.

When camping in the fall, try apple picking, pumpkin picking and carving, attend local harvest festivals like Oktoberfest, Halloween events, and fall fishing derbies.

Cherohala Skyway
Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons especially along the Cherohala Skyway Scenic Byway, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit a farm market or u-pick orchard and discover the country’s harvest bounty.
Get out on a river for a paddling adventure.

Play a round of golf, where the rates, crowds, temperatures and bugs, are all lower.
Hike the backwoods trails and enjoy the quiet tranquility of the season.

Elk, moose, and deer are regulars in the mountains and migrating birds are everywhere.

Take your kids to a corn maze or haunted house.

Enjoy the fall beauty at a public garden or nature center where the autumn colors are in full display.

Take your adventures to the digital level by geocaching for treasures.

Look for roadside attraction such as the World’s Largest Cherry Pie (Traverse City, Michigan), World’s Largest Baseball Bat (Louisville, Kentucky), World’s Largest Pumpkin (Circleville, Ohio), World’s Largest Ham (Smithfield, Virginia), or World’s Largest Jackrabbit (Odessa, Texas).

Attend one of the many fall festivals and events being planned around your state—from art events to harvest celebrations and car shows to historical reenactments—there’s something for everyone.

Farmers market
Visit a farm market or u-pick orchard and discover the country’s harvest bounty. Pictured above a market in Holmes County, Ohio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And don’t forget the pumpkin patch.

To fully enjoy your fall camping trip, plan ahead and prepare a fall camping checklist.

Check the weather before you go: Don’t let the challenges of fall weather spoil your camping plans. Remember that warm weather can quickly turn. Depending on where you go, be prepared for the chance of snow, rain, or other severe weather.

Fall is known for temperature fluctuations, so pack layers of breathable, water-resistant clothing.

Even if the weather is predicted to be warm, pack a winter jacket, extra blankets, boots, and a snow shovel, just in case.

You don’t have to put your camping stuff away just yet.

Pack up the tent or RV, some cozy sleeping bags to keep warm, and hit the road for one of the many campgrounds across the nation.

Pumpkin Patch
And don’t forget the Pumpkin Patch. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons so come on out and enjoy a camping trip and take in some of that fall color.

Start your fall camping experience NOW! Create memories and go camping!

Worth Pondering…

There is magic in the air as September turns into October.

There is a ripening of the season as fruit trees grow heavy with red apples; leaves turn golden to reveal a harvest of pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and peppers in the field; and grape vines hang heavy with clusters of newly turned black and golden grapes.

Enjoy your days and love your life, because life is a journey to be savored.

Grab the keys and let’s go RVing

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Best Fall Foliage, Leaf Peepers & The National Media

Known for its vibrant culture and rich history, Taos, New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway have earned their positions among leaf peepers and national media alike as being one of the top locations in the United States to see an impressive fall landscape dotted with a palette of warm reds, oranges, and gold foliage.

Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest... all unique to north central New Mexico.
Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest… all unique to north central New Mexico.

In the past month alone, Taos and the Enchanted Circle have topped several “best fall trip” lists in the country including in: Huffington Post (“10 Best Fall Foliage Trips In The U.S.”), National Geographic (“10 Best Fall Trips in World”), Los Angeles Times (“New Mexico’s Enchanted Byway Brings Fall Foliage Viewing Full Circle”), and USA Today (“10 Best: Places to see fall colors”), to name a few.

According to US Forest Service officials from the Carson National Forest which encompasses Taos County, elevations above 8,500 are beginning to peak and will reach their height by the first week of October. In the Carson National Forest, several hiking spots allow for prime leaf peeping while hiking. They include: Middle Fork Trail 24 (25 miles south of Taos on NM 518 in Peñasco); Devisadero Trail, once used by the Taos Pueblo Indians standing guard against raiding Apaches (three miles east of Taos along US 64); and Williams Lake Trail (near Taos Ski Valley).

Taos sits at an elevation of just under 7,000 feet, while villages along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway range in elevation from 7,392 in Questa to 8,650 feet in Red River.

The 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway Loop can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to half a day, depending on stops. The highest peak in New Mexico—Wheeler Peak at 13,167 feet—is visible along the route, or can become a diversion along the route through the scenic Taos Ski Valley.

The Byway loop begins in the original art colony of Taos and meanders through the Hondo Valley where famous author D.H. Lawrence once lived. The D.H. Lawrence Ranch was recently reopened to the public through the end of October. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Leaf peepers will notice Wheeler Peak along the windy road to Questa which is just half an hour north of Taos. The Wild Rivers area is where the Red River behind the town joins the Rio Grande in its deep and dramatic gorge. From Questa, the steep ascent into Red River is unusually scenic, offering stirring vistas of spruce and aspen.

Eagle Nest
Known as the Gateway to the picturesque Enchanted Circle in North Central New Mexico, Eagle Nest is conveniently located near Angel Fire Ski Resort and Red River ski area, Eagle Nest Lake, Cimarron Canyon, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Parks. (Source: iredriver.com)

Eagle Nest, just south of Red River, has a beautiful 2,400 acre lake stocked with trout and kokanee salmon and a chance to see wildlife such as elk, deer, bear, and eagles. The drive culminates with a stop at Angel Fire where the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park stands. Built by one family as a shrine to their fallen son, the site is one of unusual emotion and presence. The drive returns to Taos along Highway 64.

Expect to see aspens changing to a vibrant gold along the drive in addition to Gambel Oak which transforms into a rusty red hue in fall. Golden cottonwoods along the Rio Grande River should also be visible in Taos.

Alternate directions (east to west) along the Enchanted Circle from Taos are: turn east on NM 585 (Paseo del Cañon), which dead ends at US 64, turn right. US 64 continues to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. From Eagle Nest, turn north on NM 38 to Red River and into Questa. In Questa, turn south (left) on NM 522 which returns to Taos.

Another option for visitors seeking an eye-full is the “High Road,” which totals over 100 miles roundtrip, but offers awe-inspiring scenery and remote mountain villages that cling to their Spanish colonial roots.

Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist's palette.
Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist’s palette.

Along with a multi-hued feast for the eyes, Taos has many colorful cultural offerings in late September and early October including the 40th annual Fall Arts Festival and Taos Wool Festival, to name a few.

The oldest art festival in Taos—Taos Fall Arts Festival—features nine days of art events including The Paseo on September 26 which will feature outdoor art installations, performances, and visual projections. Taos Selects, Distinguished Achievement Awards, Memorial Wall, Pecha Kucha Night, and many more special events are intertwined within this amazing festival which takes place September 26–October 5. Visit taosfallarts.com for details.

One of Taos’ signature events—the 31st Wool Festival at Taos—will be held on October 4 and 5 and includes juried fiber arts creations; critters corner with live animals; demonstrations; silent auction; kid’s hands on section; contests; food vendors and more. Visit taoswoolfestival.org to learn more about the free event.

For complete information about Taos including more about the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway drive, visit taos.org.

Worth Pondering…

I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Fall RV Camping: 3 Colorful Destinations

As summer comes to a close, the bright blues and greens that characterize the season are replaced by a deeper, more vibrant palette. As the trees start to don their bright fall colors, the best time of year for viewing the foliage is just ahead.

beauty of Shenandoah National Park
Fall is everyone’s favorite season to visit Shenandoah. The renowned and spectacular Skyline Drive offers a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and gold. The endless rolling ridges of brightly colored trees never fails to excite. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing says “family camping” like fall in the air. There’s a crisp crackle outside and a coolness that feels like sweater weather. Fall camping can be just as much fun as summer camping, so this season take the family out for a few more camping trips before you prepare your RV for the winter.

Visiting national parks tops the list of reasons why many of us chose the RV lifestyleGreat Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the National Park System and home to the largest stands of old growth forests in the Eastern U.S. Varying hues of gold, amber, reds, and even purples are mixed in with the dwindling greens of maples, beech, oaks, and the other hardwood species that make the season so colorful.

The twisting, scenic mountain road that leads out of the eastern edge of Great Smoky—the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway—is a destination unto itself. The north end of this vista-filled parkway ends in Virginia’s 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.

Fall is everyone’s favorite season to visit Shenandoah. The renowned and spectacular Skyline Drive offers a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and gold each year from about mid-October to mid-November. The endless rolling ridges of brightly colored trees never fails to excite.

The rule of thumb is that colors generally peak in Shenandoah during the last half of October.

Sedona and Red Rock Country
Sedona and Red Rock Country, a vacation hotspot, has appeal for every member of the family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Autumn is also a great time to visit Sedona, renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests. The explosion of brilliant fall colors signals the best time to take a scenic drive up and down Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon. Autumn in Sedona usually begins in early October and crescendos into the full brilliance of reds, yellows, and golden hues from the middle to end of October. The show is usually over by mid-November.

Other points of interests in the area include Montezuma Castle National Monument including Montezuma Well, a detached unit of the park, and Tuzigoot National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua.

Kentucky’s vast expanses of forested terrain make it one of the best places in the U.S. to enjoy nature’s spectacular display of fall color. About 12 million acres—47 percent of Kentucky’s land area—are forested, and some 175 tree species grow wild in the state. Kentucky is rich in hardwood forests populated by trees known for their bright fall colors.

Kentucky Welcome Center
Kentucky Welcome Center, I-65, Exit 114 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a scenic drive in Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky. At the northern end, explore the Red River Gorge and Zilpo Scenic Byways, while the southern end boasts the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway.

Among the most scenic routes in western Kentucky is the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway in Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. In central Kentucky, fall is an ideal time to take the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour, which winds past horse farms with their wooden and stone fences underneath a canopy of many-colored leaves.
You won’t find a better venue than Bernheim Forest near Clermont from which to admire the sculptural grace of mature trees in a natural setting. Stroll the paths or hike the trails and take in colorful fall displays that include maples, dogwoods, magnolias, conifers, cypresses, hollies, beeches, and buckeyes.

The color changes usually begin as early as September in the higher elevations of the eastern mountains and gradually progress to the west during October and into early November.

For information about RV parks and campgrounds, check out Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory.

Worth Pondering…

Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads.
—John Denver

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2013 Fall Foliage Forecast

The harvest moon made its appearance last week ushering in the autumnal equinox and the official first day of autumn on September 22.

2013 Fall foliage outlook (Source: AccuWeather.com)
2013 Fall foliage outlook (Source: AccuWeather.com)

This is the time of year where the landscape explodes with vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. What a perfect opportunity to camp in your RV and take in the full beauty of Mother Nature!

This year’s most vibrant display of foliage will occur across the mid-Atlantic, according to a recent AccuWeather.com report.

Meanwhile, surrounding regions may be hindered by flooding rain and unseasonable temperatures.

“Most important is really what happens at the end of September and beginning of October into the middle of October,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology at Penn State University.

“That’s really the crucial period.”

Abrams began observing how weather conditions affect fall foliage more than 25 years ago.

The AccuWeather.com 2013 Fall Forecast predicts near-normal temperatures and precipitation for the mid-Atlantic region, allowing bright, colorful leaves.

Typical peaks in fall foliage color across the U.S.

Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway (North Carolina and Tennessee) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway (North Carolina and Tennessee) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, those farther north may be somewhat disappointed. The Northeast is forecast to remain warmer than normal this fall.

Through September and October, temperatures will average two to three degrees above normal in upstate New York and New England, said Paul Pastelok Lead Long-Range Forecaster for AccuWeather.com.

Cold isn’t anticipated to return until sometime during November.

“That’s going to be problematic. It’s going to delay the peak coloration, and normally when we have warm falls the peak coloration is not the best,” Abrams said.

“Those cold temperatures are really, really important late September, early October.”

Cold temperatures will not be in short supply for the Midwest, where an early frost/freeze is forecast in October.

A hard freeze while leaves are still green will transition the leaf straight to brown, rather than allowing multiple colors to come out. It may also delay the peak of the season, Abrams said.

A frost, on the other hand, could be beneficial for the region.

“A frost helps to bring out the color. What happens is that the chlorophyll—which causes the green color of leaves—starts to break down. This basically exposes the other pigments like red and orange,” Abrams said.

Leaves in the Southeast will struggle to change color this year, as the region continues to be hammered by flooding rains into the fall.

A deluge will help the leaves stay green. A mild drought in late September and early October would have been more conducive, helping to move the leaves into senescence, Abrams said. Extreme drought can thwart fall colors, however, impacting the leaf size, vigor, and physiology. Much of the western half of the nation continues to be gripped by moderate to exceptional drought, particularly along the Rocky Mountains, the primary color-producing area of the West.

Details

AccuWeather, Inc.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AccuWeather, established in 1962, is the World’s Weather Authority.

AccuWeather provides local forecasts for everywhere in the United States and over two million locations worldwide.

They also provide their products and services to more than 175,000 paying customers in media, business, government, and institutions.

AccuWeather headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania, is home to the greatest number of forecast meteorologists in one location anywhere in the world.

AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, Inc., an AccuWeather company, specializes in weather-risk management consulting and state-of-the-art weather forecasting and services to utility, transportation, manufacturing, educational, and governmental clients throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the whether,
Whether we like it or not
—Anon

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2012 National Parks Fall Foliage Guide

As summer comes to a close, the bright blues and greens that characterize the sunshiny season are replaced by a deeper, more vibrant palette.

But there are so many destinations to choose from, each with their own unique rainbow of fall colors.

The National Park Foundation (NPF) wants you to get outdoors and enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular seasons in your national parks.

In announcing the 2012 National Parks Fall Foliage Guide the NPF says, “These parks boast exceptional fall colors, however they represent only a few of the national park sites where foliage lovers can enjoy the spectacular spectrum of the season’s palette.”

The list below includes information on region-specific flora as well as estimated timing on the peak of their colors:

Nez Perce National Historical Park (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)

Peak foliage times range across the rivers, canyons, prairies, and mountains of this park which overlaps four states. The short-grass prairies of White Bird Battlefield (ID) and Spalding (ID) peak around mid to late October.  The plains and plateaus of the sagebrush steppe eco-region include a site called Buffalo Eddy (WA) where fall foliage also peaks around mid to late October.

Steamtown National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Board one of Steamtown National Historic Site’s special fall excursion runs through this brilliant countryside and you can feast your eyes on the colors of the season in the comfort of a coach. (Source: NPS)

Take a ride back in time on a 1920s era passenger car, with either a 1917-built steam or historic diesel-powered locomotive, to combine a view of the autumn scenery with the history of railroading. Peak is estimated to be October 7-20.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (New York)

Visit the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s home around mid-October to see the changing colors of oak-tulip tree, hickory, and copper beech. Sagamore Hill Day, a Fall Family Festival giving tribute to the agricultural heritage of the site, is conveniently planned for October 20 which is also Theodore Roosevelt’s 154th birthday!

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (Wisconsin, Minnesota)

The St. Croix and Namekagon rivers create a 255-mile corridor with a variety of color from one end to the other, including maple, aspen, oak, and birch trees. Visit this park soon, as leaves are changing quickly, with peak colors from now through mid-October.

Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky) 

Foliage at this park includes the changing colors of black gum, poison ivy, and dogwood, peaking from mid to late October. Join the Friends of Mammoth Cave for a Walk-In-The-Park on October 6, and choose one of three different walks that are sure to suit your interests and abilities while allowing the perfect opportunity to support the park and view a variety of fall colors.

Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi) 

The location of a critical battle in the Civil War, this park has a brief period of fall foliage, usually lasting from mid-October through mid-November. Visitors can see changes in the hickory, pecan, and black walnut trees, among many others. Plan a visit around October 27, and the kids can participate in a “Shape Up, Junior Ranger Owl Discovery Walk.” This 1-mile walk teaches more about the park’s nighttime creatures, and is the perfect chance to test out this year’s Halloween costume.

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (Texas) 

For a fantastic foliage tour, start with a drive through the LBJ Ranch and tour the Texas White House. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the Hill Country of Texas, leaves at this park change from mid-October through the end of November. The sumac, oaks, and haw holly add bursts of fall colors, while the pecans cover the ground and the purple flowers of the gay feather herb enhance the color palette and autumn atmosphere. For a fantastic foliage tour, start with a drive through the LBJ Ranch and tour the Texas White House. Make your way into Johnson City to visit the Boyhood Home and finish out your tour with a walk down the nature trail to the Johnson Settlement and the 1960s cabin and barns.

Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

This national memorial, dedicated to the brave passengers and crew of Flight 93 who fought back against terrorism on September 11, 2001, encompasses 2,200 acres of rolling hills, wild flowers, wetlands, and old-growth and newly planted trees.  Once a coal mine, this location has experienced a breathtaking rebirth as a place of national honor and reflection.  Peak viewing times span early to mid-October, but if you can’t get there in person, you can enjoy the foliage from the park’s live webcam.

Timeless in simplicity and beauty,
like its landscape, both stark and serene,
the Memorial should be quiet in reverence,
yet powerful in form,
a place both solemn and uplifting.
Paul Murdoch, Architect
(Source: NPS)

Several factors affect the intensity of fall shades at each park including moisture, temperature, and length of sunlight exposure. Visitors are strongly encouraged to contact parks directly for specific information on seasonal events and optimal viewing periods.

Details

National Park Foundation (NPF)

You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites—all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks.

NPF works hand in hand with the National Park Service to connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow.

Website: nationalparks.org

Share the Experience

With its breathtaking colors, autumn is also the perfect time to photograph nature’s beauty and the national parks can provide infinite inspiration. Amateur photographers are invited to submit their photos to the 12th annual Share the Experience photography contest for the chance to have their image selected for use on the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Lands Pass.

Share the Experience entries will be accepted through December 31, 2012. For a complete list of rules and prizes as well as submit your photos, check the website below.

Share the Experience is the official photo contest of America’s national parks and federal recreation lands. Sponsored by Active Network, Destination America, Historic Hotels of America, and the National Park Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, the Share the Experience Photo Contest showcases the more than 500 million acres of Federal Lands and draws entries from all across the United States.

Website: sharetheexperience.org

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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Top Fall Color Hotspots in National Forests

Fall colors are about to burst all over the country and the U.S. Forest Service wants you to get outdoors and enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular seasons in your national forests.

“Autumn is a wonderful time of the year to plan a trip to see the beauty of your national forests,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service in an agency news release.

“As tree experts, we have incredible resources on our website to help you plan a great adventure this fall season.”

From coast to coast, state and local economies are boosted because of the fall season and for many rural communities, fall color tourism is a major source of revenue. Hotels, restaurants, and local shops rely on the influx of dollars generated by fall visitors.

For example, the New England area receives an estimated $8 billion in local revenues annually due to fall activities. Throughout the Midwest, millions of visitors hit the road to enjoy the sights. In the West, the mountains provide destinations filled with tourists seeking a glimpse of shimmering gold aspens.

Weather conditions in all areas impact peak viewing dates, so information provided on the Forest Service website and phone hotline will help visitors best plan their trips.

The Forest Service’s Fall Colors 2012 website (see link below) includes clickable maps that link to forest-by-forest fall color information and to state tourism and fall color websites.

The timing of color changes and the onset of falling leaves is primarily regulated by the calendar as nights become longer. (Source: fs.fed.us)

Some of the most popular family friendly features include locations of scenic drives and trails, coloring pages for kids, the science behind the season, and links to a tree database.

Photographs from visitors nationwide will be added to the site.

Following tradition, the Forest Service has turned on its Fall Colors Hotline (see toll-free number below). The hotline provides audio updates on the best places, dates, and routes to take.

Learn the best places on your national forests and grasslands to see the changing hues by calling the hotline then pressing the number of the area nearest you:

  • #1 for Montana, North Dakota and North Idaho
  • #2 for Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Wyoming
  • #3 for Arizona and New Mexico
  • #4 for portions of eastern California, Nevada, southern Idaho, Utah, western Wyoming
  • #5 for California
  • #6 for Oregon and Washington State
  • #7 for Alaska
  • #8 for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia
  • #9 for Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Details

U.S. Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

Forest Service lands contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone.

National Forests in North Carolina (Source: fs.usda.gov)

Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.

The Forest Service offers many activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, camping, birding, using cabins, driving for pleasure, harvesting mushrooms, and gathering firewood. Many of the facilities and services associated with these opportunities are free. Some do require fees or permits to help maintain, manage and improve the amenities that you enjoy.

Address: 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0003

Phone: (800) 832-1355

Fall Colors Hotline: (800) 354-4595

Website: fs.fed.us

Fall Colors Website: fs.fed.us/fallcolors/2012

Fall Colors Audio: Fall colors, and why the change starts when it does

Worth Pondering…

Millions of Americans each year use our national forests to go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and canoeing.

—Ric Keller

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Great National Parks for Fall Foliage

With the autumn season in full swing, the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, announced the 2011 “Great National Parks for Fall Foliage” list. This year’s list includes some iconic parks and a few lesser-known treasures.

Let's Go RVing to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each national park location, however, offers unique ways in which visitors can view the colorful foliage. Whether by water, foot, bicycle, car, or recreational vehicle, these dramatic colors of the season are not to be missed.

Many factors impact the timing of peak fall colors viewing; therefore, foliage seekers are encouraged to contact specific parks for the inside scoop on their unique foliage timing.

This year’s list, and the optimal times for foliage viewing, includes:

California: Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Peak colors expected middle to end of October. On October 18, a hiking event to Whiskeytown Falls offers a perfect way to view the foliage during the peak season.

Colorado: Curecanti National Recreational Area

Peak colors begin in late September and continue through the end of October.

Mississippi: Natchez Trace Parkway

In middle to late October, the maple, hickory, oak, and other hardwood trees begin to change colors.

Let's Go RVing to Zion National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montana: Glacier National Park

The bright yellow and gold colors on the aspen and larch trees run through mid-October covering the trails around the park, but particularly along Summit Trail.

Pennsylvania: Flight 93 National Memorial

The trees across the Flight 93 National Memorial begin to turn around mid-October. Check out honorflight93.org/webcam to find instant inspiration for a trip to the site or to take a virtual fall foliage tour.

Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains boast over 130 different tree species, many of which produce breathtaking autumnal colors. Peak foliage viewing depends greatly on the various levels of elevation found within the park, but overall, the Smoky’s foliage show runs from late September through October.

Utah: Zion National Park

Peak foliage colors appear at the end of October and into November.

Virginia: Shenandoah National Park

Peak colors in the upper elevations begin early to mid-October with lower elevations peaking at the end of October into November.

Vermont: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Rich with sugar maples and 400-year-old hemlocks, this site boasts outstanding fall foliage each year. This year’s prime viewing is expected from mid-October through early November.

Let's Go RVing to Shenendoah National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wisconsin: Apostles Islands National Lakeshore

Peak foliage viewing varies depending on inland or coastal location; however, the foliage show runs from late September through October. Also, many bird species migrate through the park providing foliage seekers with an extra show from Mother Nature.

Details

National Park Foundation

You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites—all protected in America’s national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks.

Website: nationalparks.org

National Park Service

The National Park Service website contains contact information and special event listings for all 395 national park units.

Website: 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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Five Things You Need to Know Today: October 7

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. Thank You, Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is listed by the U.S. Patent Office as the inventor on 317 patents. Many of them are the basic concepts that have changed the way we listen to, watch, read and share content. (Credit: apple.com)

We were shocked and saddened by Steve Jobs’ sudden passing Wednesday (October 5) at the young age of 56 due to pancreatic cancer complications. We lost one of the greatest innovators and influencers of our time, and he will be missed.

Steve Jobs has brought so much life and passion into the world that it’s really hard to imagine what it will be like without him. No one has ever put more energy into creating products that people care about.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all that you’ve done. Not just for creating all those products that we love, but also for sharing your infinite passion with us.

Our hearts go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Steve.

2. Early Driver’s License Renewal Option for Snowbirds

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services Division (DVS) reminds Minnesotans travelling south for the winter to check the expiration date on their driver’s licenses before leaving the state.

Drivers whose licenses expire before May 31, 2012 may renew prior to the expiration date without losing a year on the renewal cycle. The new license will expire four full years from the expiration date on the license, rather than four years from the actual renewal date.

Renewing early ensures that a driver’s license displays a current photo and a current permanent address, and taking care of renewal before leaving of Minnesota gives each driver peace of mind and a valid license in possession while away from home. The early renewal service is also available to identification card holders.

3. Low Speed Vehicle Usage on the Rise

A true senior's RV. (Original source unknown)

Snowbirds flying south for the winter aren’t the only things on the rise this year in Florida. The state’s use of alternative vehicles is burgeoning in a new type of transportation, according to a recent Road Rat Motors news release.

Registered low-speed vehicles in Palm Beach County and Broward Beach County in South Florida increased 19 percent and 31 percent from 2009, respectively, with more than 300 vehicles in these areas. On a state level, there were more than 6,271 golf carts registered in 2010, according to a recent article on SunSentinel.com.

Families are especially taking to purchasing low-speed electric vehicles and street legal golf carts for quick neighborhood errands or taking their kids to school. With the initial savings from the 10 percent tax credit and the long-term savings of fuel costs and wear and tear, it makes sense in this unsteady economy.

4. Leaf peeping in Connecticut

Just in time for fall foliage viewing, the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) has announced a brand new Connecticut Fall Foliage website that helps residents and visitors determine “when and where the leaves are changing color and where to view them,” reports Patch.com.

The website features, among other things, an interactive foliage map detailing the intensity of color at specific times, scenic views and hiking locations, and fall foliage driving routes.

This year, the peak dates for fall foliage are from October 7 through November 13.

5. Pennsylvania State Parks Suffers Major Storm Damage

Let's Go RVing to Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A one-two punch from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee caused at least $3 million to $4 million in damages to public infrastructure at state parks and forests, with facilities in Northeast Pennsylvania being particularly hard hit, according to Richard Allan, secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The Scranton Times-Tribune reported that Promised Land State Park in Pike County and Worlds End State Park in Sullivan County sustained significant damage to roads and bridges, said Ellen Ferretti, deputy DCNR secretary for parks and forests.

“It was like a one-two punch,” she added.

Damage assessments are continuing.

As part of the public disaster assistance under the presidential major disaster declaration, federal aid will cover 75% of the costs to fix park infrastructure, said Allan.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs

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