50 Magnificent RV Trips

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

Late afternoon shadows enhance the beauty of Joshua Tree. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Late afternoon shadows enhance the beauty of Joshua Tree. © 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:

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park encompasses one of the most interesting and diverse patches of desert in the U.S. Its namesake species, the spiky, dramatically crooked Joshua tree, is also considered by many to be the defining characteristic of the Mojave Desert.

But this huge desert park actually lies at the meeting point of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. The park’s eastern and southern areas, with sub 3,000-foot elevation and plants such as “jumping” cholla cactus and spidery ocotillo, is Sonoran in character; its western areas are higher, cooler, wetter, and quite densely forested with the park’s namesake tree.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

You only live once, so Vegas is a must. The Strip is fun, even for those who don’t like to throw away their money—err—I mean gamble. Scores of free shows and nightly programs drop the collective jaw of be-dazzled viewers. Nearly a hundred casinos light up the Nevada sky to woo penny pinchers and high rollers alike. Area tours, desert beauty and some of the country’s best golf courses make Vegas far more than just a gamer’s paradise.

Memphis, Tennessee

Put on your blue suede shoes and drop on in. Whether it is the strains of the Blues, the smell of old fashioned Southern barbecue, or the myriad sights that catch your eye, there is something unique about the city of Memphis.

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

Birthplace of rock ‘n roll and the blues, Memphis lays greater claim to shaping the music of the 20th century than any other city in the nation. Memphis is home to blues notables such as B.B. King and the late W.C. Handy, as well as rock ’n roll pioneer Elvis Presley.

No visit to Memphis would be complete without a visit to Graceland, the home of the late Elvis Presley, otherwise known as “The King.”

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

More than a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national park devoted to preserving the works of man — Mesa Verde. Here, approximately 1,400 years ago, the Pueblo Indians lived in what we now call cliff dwellings.

Although the majority of these domiciles are relatively small, the largest, known as the Cliff Palace, contained 150 rooms. The park has more than 4,000 known archaeological sites, with many open for ranger-guided tours.

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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona & Utah

Sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires rise majestically from the desert floor. Monument Valley offers the Western backdrop made famous in movies directed by John Ford.

An unpaved, and at times rough, road loops through the park. Several overlooks offer spectacular views of the wonders of Monument Valley.

Some of the most striking and recognizable landscapes of sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires in the entire Southwest are found in Monument Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Some of the most striking and recognizable landscapes of sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires in the entire Southwest are found in Monument Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the grandest—and most photographed—landmarks in the United States, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a sprawling, sandy preserve that straddles the border of northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah.

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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S. spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. The most popular destination for visitors to Mount Rainier is Paradise located on the south slope at approximately 5,400 feet.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

South Dakota’s Black Hills provide the backdrop for Mount Rushmore, the world’s greatest mountain carving. These 60-foot high faces, 500 feet up, look out over a setting of pine, spruce, birch, and aspen in the clear western air.

The sculpture was carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. This epic sculpture features the heads of four exalted American presidents (from left to right): George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Please Note: This is Part 5 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

The West is color. Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness.

—Jessamyn West

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Mount Rainier National Park to Reopen

Mount Rainier National Park is reopening to the public tomorrow (January 7), following the tragic fatal shooting of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, according to a National Park Service (NPS) news release.

The park, which offers miles of wooded trails and spectacular vistas from which to see 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, draws between 1.5 million and 2 million visitors each year.

The park family is using the time to begin the recovery process in the aftermath of the horrific events leading up to and following the loss of Ranger Anderson. All services with the exception of snow play will be available this weekend.

Plans for a memorial service next week are underway with the date to be determined. The family is requesting donations to the Margaret Anderson Fund at Key Bank in lieu of flowers. Donations should be sent to:

KeyBank

P.O. Box 159

Eatonville, WA 98328

Checks should be made out to Margaret Anderson Donation Account.

Please direct all condolences, offers of assistance and inquiry e-mails to MountRainierInfo@gmail.com.

On the morning of January 1 Park Ranger Margaret Anderson set up a traffic block to intercept a vehicle that failed to stop at a chain-up checkpoint. The driver opened fire on Ranger Anderson, killing her, and then fled on foot into the woods.

Margaret Anderson, 34, worked at Mount Rainier for three years. She is survived by her husband Eric, also a ranger in the park, and two young children.

Mount Rainier National Park closed during the hunt for the gunman, with the park evacuating park visitors to get them out of potential danger. There were 125 visitors in lock down at the Paradise Visitor Center from Sunday noon until 3:30 a.m. Monday. They were escorted out of the park in small groups of five vehicles, escorted by law enforcement officers. There were also 25 visitors at the National Park Inn at Longmire who were evacuated out of the park. Visitors had been held at these locations for their own safety.

The intensive search came to an end on Monday, January 2. An aircraft spotted a body lying face down in the vicinity of Narada Falls. Searchers on the ground traversed challenging terrain to reach the subject and confirmed his identity as Benjamin Colton Barnes, the suspect in the shooting. A handgun and rifle were found nearby. Officials confirm that Barnes was found dead.

Flags fly at half-staff in honor of Mount Rainer National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson at a fire station. (Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

An autopsy showed he had hypothermia and drowned.

Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran, was involved in a custody dispute in Tacoma in July, during which the toddler’s mother sought a temporary restraining order against him, according to court documents.

In an affidavit, the woman wrote that he was suicidal and possibly suffered from PTSD after deploying to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. She said he gets easily irritated, angry, and depressed and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home.

Police say Barnes, had been involved in an earlier shooting at a party early on New Year’s Day in Skyway, south of Seattle.

An investigation into the incident is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with Park Rangers and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department assisting.

The NPS Western Incident Management Team is assisting the park with planning a memorial service for Ranger Anderson and with ongoing park needs.

The first rays of morning sun on Mount Rainier, as seen from Sunrise. (Credit: NPS)

Approximately 250 personnel were involved in search operations. Agencies participating in the search effort include Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tacoma Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Customs & Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Forest Service, Pierce County Fire Districts, Lewis County Sheriff’s Department, Enumclaw PD, Portland PD, Seattle PD, Snohomish PD, National Park Service rangers, and law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions as well. Resources included K-9 Units, armored vehicles, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft.

Worth Pondering…

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

—Maya Angelou

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