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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4 Best National Parks For RVers

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

Big Bend National Park, Texas

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

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

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

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

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

Zion National Park, Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death Valley National Park, California

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Joseph Wood Krutch

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4 Great National Parks For RVers

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

Joshua Tree National Park, California

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

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

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

Arches National Park, Utah

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

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

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

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

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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

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

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

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

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Pondering…

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

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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Explore The Diversity Of New Mexico National Parks

From rugged mountaintops to grassy plains to lowland desert, New Mexico is indeed a true Land of Enchantment.

Aztec Ruins National Monument  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Aztec Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Encompassing six of the world’s seven life zones, the state’s landscapes exude diversity. Offering unlimited of unique opportunities, the Land of Enchantment attracts millions of visitors who seek out its scenic beauty and countless outdoor recreation activities.

Enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, birdwatching, picnicking, photography, stargazing and much more. You can do all this and more for bargain prices in the national parks of the Land of Enchantment.

In an earlier post Vogel Talks RVing discussed the unlimited opportunities available for outdoor recreation and camping at New Mexico’s 35 state parks—24 having ponds, streams, rivers, or lakes.

Vogel Talks RVing also discussed New Mexico State Museums and Historical Sites worthy of a visit this summer.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a weekend getaway or summer vacation, also consider coordinating visits to national parks in the area.

There are 19 national parks, national monuments, and national historical trails within the borders of New Mexico.

Aztec Ruins National Monument: Aztec ruins, built and occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan people over a 200-mile period, preserves an extended and planned community of a variety of structures. Included are several large, multi-story public buildings (“great houses”), many smaller residential pueblos, ceremonial kivas, remnants of linear “roads,” and earthen berms.

Bandelier National Monument: Thirteenth-century pueblo-style dwellings dot the rugged, canyon-slashed slopes and bottoms of the Pajarito Plateau. The Bandelier terrain is challenging, the scenery spectacular, with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet, and lush, narrow canyons that alternate with sweeping mesa-top vistas.

El Malpais National Monument  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capulin Volcano National Monument: Capulin Volcano, a nearly perfectly-shaped cinder cone, stands more than 1,200 feet above the surrounding high plains of northeastern New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park: Established to preserve Carlsbad Caverns and numerous other caves within a Permian-age fossil reef, this park contains more than 100 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave—the nation’s deepest limestone cave, at 1,567 feet, and the third longest. The Big Room is one of the world’s largest and most accessible underground chambers.

Chaco Culture National Historic Park: Chaco Culture preserves one of America’s most significant and fascinating cultural and historic areas. Chaco Canyon was a major center of Ancestral Puebloan culture between AD 850 and 1250. It was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area—unlike anything before or since.

El Malpais National Monument: Although el malpais means “the badlands,” this unique area holds many surprises. Lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges, complex lava tube systems, and other volcanic features dominate the mysterious El Malpais landscape.

El Morro National Monument  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

El Morro National MonumentEl Morro’s Inscription rock in northwest New Mexico bears silent witness to more than 700 years of history. Drawn here by its secluded water hole, Anasazi, Spanish, and Anglo cultures marked their passing by carving 2,000 petroglyphs and inscriptions on this sandstone bluff. Inscription Rock is a soft sandstone monolith, rising 200 feet above the valley floor.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument offers a glimpse into the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollon culture, who lived in the Gila Wilderness from the 1280 through the early 1300s. The monument is surrounded by the Gila National Forest, and lies at the edge of the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first designated wilderness area.

Petroglyph National Monument: Petroglyph protects a variety of cultural and natural resources, including five volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 images carved in rock by native people and early Spanish settlers.

Petroglyph National Monument  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Monument: This site contains a large portion of the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. Here, glistening white dunes rise 60 feet high, and cover 275 square miles. Driven by strong southwest winds, sand slowly but relentlessly covers everything in its path. Surprisingly, many small animals and plants have adapted to this harsh environment.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on the Public Lands Of New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

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Hopewell Furnace: Early American Iron Plantation

In the woods of southeastern Pennsylvania, a community of men, women, and children worked to supply iron for the growing nation during the 18th and 19th centuries. They created a village called Hopewell that was built around an iron-making furnace.

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is the best preserved iron plantation in North America.

Hopewell Furnace consists of a mansion (the big house), spring and smoke houses, blacksmith shop, office store, charcoal house, and a schoolhouse.

From 1771 to 1883, Hopewell Furnace manufactured iron goods to fill the demands of growing eastern cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. While the most profitable items were stoves, the furnace cast many other objects such as kettles, machinery, grates, and cannon shot and shells for patriot forces during the Revolutionary War.

As technology progressed, the furnace eventually became outdated. In 1883, it closed, and the furnace workers and their families left to make their living elsewhere. They left behind their homes, work buildings, tools, and other evidence of the iron-making community that once thrived.

The 15-minute introductory film shown in the visitors center focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The 15-minute introductory film shown in the visitors center focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today the remains of Hopewell Furnace represent an important time in America’s maturation as a nation. The production of iron in hundreds of small furnaces like Hopewell provided the key ingredient in America’s industrial revolution, enabling the United States to become an economic and technological leader worldwide.

Located on top of a hill the modern Visitor Center overlooks the colonial and early-1800s iron plantation that used slave and free labor.

The 15-minute introductory film focuses on many topics including how Ironmaster Mark Bird (a colonel and quartermaster in the Continental Army) supported Washington’s forces with cannon, shot, shell, and even flour. The furnace produced 115 big guns for the Continental Navy. Other items once produced at the site included plowshares, pots, stoves, and scale weights.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the National Register of Historic Places, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history.

Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The impressive blast furnace and 30-foot water wheel, ironmaster’s mansion, workers’ quarters, a living farm, charcoal maker’s hut (otherwise known as a collier’s hut), and other structures illustrate the historic infrastructure typical of the charcoal-iron making process.

What today’s visitors will not find are the noise, heat, and pollution that were ever-present in the community during the heyday of iron production.

Hopewell Furnace lies at the center of 848-acre French Creek State Park and consists of 14 restored structures as well as the paths, fields, and meadows of the one-time working village. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster’s mansion, and auxiliary structures.

Today, the site is an interesting visit for the hikers, backpackers, and campers who are spending time at French Creek State Park. Bird-watchers and nature photographers as well as history buffs enjoy the tours, and picnics are encouraged.

Did You Know?

Cold blast charcoal-fired iron furnaces like Hopewell Furnace were in operation in Pennsylvania as early as 1720. Between 1832 and 1840, 32 such furnaces were built in the state. The U.S. census of 1840 recorded 212 charcoal-fired furnaces operating in Pennsylvania that year.

The park's museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site's history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The park’s museum contains nearly 300,000 artifacts and archival items related to the site’s history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Directions: 5 miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off of Route 345

Address: 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA 19520

Phone: (610) 582-8773

Website: www.nps.gov/hofu

Entrance Fees: Free Admittance

Worth Pondering…

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

—Freya Stark

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Redding For An Outdoor Adventure

With mountains all around, miles of hiking and biking trails, a river running through it, and national parks nearby, Redding is an outdoor paradise for all ages.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cradled by Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, Redding has 300+ sunny days per year. It’s a great place to escape the chill of spring and the gray days of winter, too.

Redding is also home to the famous Sundial Bridge, world-class fishing, and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails for all abilities. Head out on a day-trip to see the bubbling mud pots and boiling lakes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, or get refreshed by the waterfall at McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. This 129-foot gusher is considered one of the most beautiful in the state.

Redding, an old train town named for a California & Oregon Railroad land agent, is the largest city in the Shasta Cascade region of Northern California. Redding has built a national reputation as an outdoors destination around it trail system, so much so that the National Trails Association is headquartered here. The Sacramento River Trail is paved along both sides of California’s largest waterway and the Sacramento River Rail Trail follows a course that was touted as “the road of a thousand wonders” when it was built in 1888.

Redding brags that it’s the “Second Sunniest City in the U.S.,” with 300-plus clear days a year. From the end of May to early September, families can cool off at WaterWorks Park with a trio of waterslides, action rides, and a lazy river.

Sacramento River looking west from the Sundial Bridge toward Klamath Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sacramento River looking west from the Sundial Bridge toward Klamath Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area’s wealth of outdoor activities include Turtle Bay Exploration Park with the renown Sundial Bridge, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Shasta Lake, and Lake Shasta Caverns.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a 300-acre campus along the banks of the Sacramento River.

Gateway to the city’s 220-mile trail system , the Park features a botanical garden, natural history and science museum, and exploration center in the guise of a traditional forest camp. The 300-acre complex is tied together by Redding’s jewel, the Sundial Bridge that was the first American project by celebrated Spanish bridge architect Santiago Calatrava. The supporting pylon and curving, translucent deck perform as the world’s largest sundial.

Eight miles west of Redding, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located at the juncture of the Klamath Mountain range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley, making it home to a special collection of plant and animal life, and year-round beauty. The park features Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Bally mountain (6,209 feet), and numerous waterfalls, providing outdoor enthusiasts opportunities for water recreation, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Lake-based recreation is popular.

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake near the Northwesr Entrance Station. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Redding is the jumping off point for the spectacular lunar landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park boasts incredible mountain scenery reminiscent of Yosemite as well as fascinating thermal wonders similar to Yellowstone with just a small fraction of the visitors. Lassen features three of the four different types of geothermal features including steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs; all four types of volcanoes (shield, plug dome, cinder cone, and composite); and all types of naturally occurring lakes.

The focal point of the park is 10,457-foot Mt. Lassen, one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes and the southern-most peak in the Cascade range. Most of the park’s major attractions are along the 29-mile link in State Route 89 that encircles the peak’s east side.

Planning a visit? Surrounded by pristine mountains, lakes, and rivers, Redding offers a wide range of RV parks and campgrounds including Green Acres RV Park, Marina RV Park, Premier RV Park, Redding RV Park, and Win-River Resort.

Our site at JGW RV Park backed onto the Sacramento River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Our site at JGW RV Park backed onto the Sacramento River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our home base while touring the Redding area was JGW RV Park, a big-rig friendly resort located 9 miles south of Redding on the Sacramento River. This is a beautiful 5-star RV park with water, sewer, and 30/50-amp electric service centrally located. The majority of pull-through sites are back-to-back and side-to side.

There was no cable TV; however, we were able to obtain a satellite signal between trees and pick up numerous local stations on the antenna. Our site backed onto the Sacramento River. Interior roads are paved and in good condition with concrete pads. Strength of the Wi-Fi signal varied throughout the park during our stay in November 2014. It was inconsistent and at times inadequate from our river front site.

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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The Great American Road Trip

Ah, the great American road trip.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights
Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights

It’s a rite of passage, a combination of nostalgia, discovery, and misadventure ideally set against an ever changing landscape, iconic sights, and weird and wonderful oddities.

The beauty of the road trip lies in its simplicity: Little more is needed beyond a recreational vehicle, road maps, and a trusty campground directory for a Kerouac-worthy journey.

Vogel Talks RVing has boiled the planning down to several essential considerations.

The Route

How much time? Desert or forest? Seaside or lake? Mountains or canyons? Big cities, country routes, or a bit of both?

Guides abound for trips along the classic U.S. routes—California’s Coastal Highway, Route 66, Blue Ridge Parkway, Grand Circle Tour, New England Fall Foliage Tour.

If you want a unique itinerary, there are plenty of resources to help design a journey that leaves room for unexpected adventure while taking in sights you don’t want to miss.

Paisano Pete, the giant roadrunner sculpture in Fort Stockton, a true Texas icon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve
Paisano Pete, the giant roadrunner sculpture in Fort Stockton, a true Texas icon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Or, if you prefer a data-driven route, Randy Olson—a graduate student in the Computer Science Program at Michigan State and the guy who mastered the art of searching for Waldo—has planned the ideal U.S. road trip. His 13,699-mile-route is the shortest way to visit a national park, national monument, historic site, or natural landmark in each of the lower 48 states. As with so many things in life, the joy of finding Waldo is in the journey, not the destination.

Any itinerary should leave room to sample America’s rich and nutty menu of roadside attractions.

We’ve broken the route into two helpful categories: the classics and oddities.

The Classics

Some of the U.S.’s most iconic sights are road trip staples. Grand Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Yosemite National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Acadia National Park. And if they’re not classics yet, they should be.

The Oddities

Hidalgo (Texas) is the "Killer Bee Capital of the World" and proud of it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve
Hidalgo (Texas) is the “Killer Bee Capital of the World” and proud of it. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The highways are lined with examples of weird and wonderful oddities.

The town of Winslow, Arizona parked a flatbed Ford on a corner of the old U.S. Route 66, in homage to the song “Take it Easy”, made famous by The Eagles.

The World’s Tallest Thermometer (Baker, California), World’s Largest Roadrunner (subject of intense rivalry between Fort Stockton, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico), World’s Largest Killer Bee (Hidalgo, Texas), and World’s Largest Bottle of Ketchup (Collinsville, Illinois) all prove that where it counts, America’s roadside attractions are number one.

Some sights of roadside America defy classification, the handiwork of eccentrics with a singular vision, land to spare, and a knack for self-promotion.

There’s The Thing, an attraction of indescribable weirdness preceded by a miles-long billboard campaign that all but forces cars off Arizona’s Interstate 10.

Also The Mystery Spot of Santa Cruz, California; Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas; Carhenge of Alliance, Nebraska.

The Wigwam Village Motel stands adjacent to Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona, and draws a lot of business from nostalgia buffs.

Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Antique cars parked along Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Salvation Mountain, a religious sculpture made from adobe, straw, numerous fascinating and colorful objects, and thousands of gallons of paint covers a hill in the southern California desert. This unique masterpiece is located at The Slabs, a former U.S. Marine training base that attracts eccentrics and snowbirds for off-grid camping.

These places often leave you with more questions than answers. Why is this here? Doesn’t matter. The best attractions prove what another American classic put so well: If you build it, they will come.

Worth Pondering…

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— John Muir

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Top National Parks of British Columbia

The license plates say it all—“Beautiful British Columbia.”

Glacier National Park (Photo Credit: Parks Canada)
Glacier National Park (Photo Credit: Parks Canada)

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province is a land of lush forests, massive mountains, picturesque coastlines, and fertile valleys.

British Columbia is one of Canada’s most popular outdoor retreats. This vast province offers more natural wonders than any other part of Canada and, much like the American West, is an absolute haven for campers and RVers.

The origin of Canada’s National Parks lies in the mountain parks of Western Canada. Some of the first national parks are located in British Columbia. Yoho and Glacier national parks were among the first to be established. Later, Mount Revelstoke and the Kootenay national parks were founded. Today, the province of British Columbia features six national parks in total.

Glacier National Park 

Carved from the rugged Selkirk and Purcell Mountains by glaciers, Glacier National Park is bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway. This mountainous wilderness is named for its more than 400 permanent  glaciers. Today you will find rugged mountain landscape, narrow valleys, icefields, and glaciers. Many avalanche slopes, caused by heavy snowfall can be seen.

Kootenay National Park

Kootenay National Park (Photo credit: Parks Canada)
Kootenay National Park (Photo credit: Parks Canada)

Kootenay National Park showcases a diverse landscape of impressive range of mountains, lush meadows, crystal clear lakes, canyons, dense forests, and hot springs. Wildlife is abundant, with mountain goat, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, black and grizzly bear.

Marble Canyon is a 2,000-foot canyon carved out by the meandering Tokkum Creek. Today the walls of the canyon are so polished after centuries of wind and rain that the limestone walls resemble marble (hence the name). The Paint Pots is a series of pools formed by river minerals, compliments of the Vermilion River that flows nearby.

Mount Revelstoke National Park

Mount Revelstoke National Park (Photo credit: Summit Post)
Mount Revelstoke National Park (Photo credit: Summit Post)

Located near the community of Revelstoke, Mount Revelstoke National Park is bounded by the Trans Canada Highway to the southeast. The contrasting landscape ranges from dense rain forests and lush alpine meadows to rocky ridges and glaciers. Red cedars, more than 1,000 years of age, can be discovered on the Giant Cedars hiking trail.

Drive the 16-mile Meadows in the Sky Parkway as it winds up the side of Mount Revelstoke and its 6,388-foot summit. During the summer months, the meadows near the summit are a dazzling display of wildflowers.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino (Photo credit: Tofino Accommodation)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino (Photo credit: Tofino Accommodation)

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Its magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes divide into three geographically distinct park units: Long Beach (the most accessible), Broken Group Islands (about 100 islands in Barkley Sound), and the challenging 45-mile West Coast Trail.

The Long Beach Unit is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty.

One of the best-known and most challenging hikes in North America, the West Coast Trail follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park (Photo credit: (Matthew Timmins)
Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park (Photo credit: (Matthew Timmins)

Named for a Cree expression of ‘awe and wonder’, a trip to Yoho is truly awesome. The park offers a diverse landscape of towering mountain peaks, sparkling lakes, expansive glaciers, thundering waterfalls, and spectacular alpine landscape.

These same features were the curse of railway engineers and inspired the construction of the Spiral Tunnels, an engineering marvel. Although many of its highlights are accessible by road, Yoho is also a hiker’s dream. Discover half a billion-year old fossils on a guided hike to the restricted Burgess Shale fossil beds or take an afternoon stroll around Emerald Lake or to Wapta Falls.

For more information on the national parks of Super, Natural British Columbia, visit www.hellobc.com.

Worth Pondering…

Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Camping & National Parks: Best RV Destinations

Families across the country are planning their summer vacations and taking their RV out of winter storage.

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada’s network of national parks offers must-see destinations for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. As the summer camping season quickly approaches, Parks Canada prepares to welcome campers to national parks across the country.

Some of the best RV destinations where campers can escape from the city and connect with nature at found at Canada’s national parks. Full-service camping with water, electric, and sewer hookups are available at the following national parks:

Banff National Park (Alberta)

UNESCO World Heritage Site and Canada’s first national park (1885), Banff National Park is a not-to-be missed symbol of Canada. Valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows, and rivers make Banff National Park one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. The campsite is located 10 minutes from the village of Banff. Tunnel Mountain Campground offers 321 sites.

Who doesn’t dream of seeing the turquoise waters of Lake Louise. Big-rig friendly Lake Louise Campground offers RV 184 sites with water and electric service. Sani dump available nearby.

Jasper National Park (Alberta)

Jasper National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access
Jasper National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access and less crowded conditions than Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

UNESCO World Heritage Site and Dark Sky Preserve, Jasper National Park , the grandiose, icy jewel of the Rockies offers unlimited hiking trails, incomparable wilderness, and the second most extensive dark sky preserve on the planet. Whistlers Campground (781 sites) is located on the Icefields Parkway, a short distance south of the town site of Jasper.

Waterton Lakes National Park – Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (Alberta)

At Waterton Lakes National Park, the term “majestic” makes perfect sense. The prairie grassland quickly gives way to the windswept, steep mountains. Several different ecological areas coexist in a landscape shaped by wind, fire, and water where all kinds of plants and animals can be found. Townsite Campground offers 90 camping sites.

Kootenay National Park (British Columbia)

UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kootenay National Park features a varied landscape and ecological environment that not only includes glacier-topped peaks along the Continental Divide, but also semi-arid open grassland forests in the Rocky Mountain Trench where you can find cacti, and hot springs. Located a short distance from the hot springs, Redstreak Campground offers 242 sites.

The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Nova Scotia)

Breathtaking landscapes welcome you as they shape Cape Breton Highlands National Park. High, steep cliffs and deep river valleys dissect the forest-covered plateau bordering the Atlantic Ocean. One-third of the famous Cabot Trail runs through the Park along the coast and dominates the Highlands. Located near the charming village of Ingonish, the 74-site Broad Cove Campground is in a forest bordered by a long sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

Prince Edward Island National Park (Prince Edward Island)

Surrounded by landscapes where dunes, archipelagos, sand spits, beaches, red sandstone cliffs, and forests endlessly follow each other, dive into the history of the people who lived there, whether Aboriginal, French, or Acadian. Offering 73 sites the Cavendish Campground is located next to a secluded patrolled white sandy beach.

Fundy National Park (New Brunswick)

The spectacular force of the tides in Fundy National Park, is a marvel in itself. Hike the magnificent trails lined with river valleys, lakes, coastal forests and beaches, and relax and admire the wonders of star clusters at night. The 248-site Chignecto North Campground is located on a large wooded lot, 10 minutes by car from the Bay of Fundy; un-serviced and fully serviced are available.

Rocky Mountain Sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Sheep in Jasper National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Riding Mountain National Park (Manitoba)

Visiting Riding Mountain National Park is the first step in the discovery of extended hills and valleys extending eastward from a dramatic rise known as the Manitoba Escarpment. The 86-site Wasagaming Campground provides access to the main beach, restaurants, golf course, hiking and cycling paths, a horse-riding trail and many other services.

Prince Albert National Park (Saskatchewan)

Discover a preserved northern evergreen forest, home to abundant wildlife including one of the few populations of wild plains bison. Magnificent scenic routes criss-cross the Park. The 161-site Red Deer Campground is located a short walk from hiking trails, a beach and a wide range of services.

Worth Pondering…

I always thought of this as God’s country.
—Jack Granatstein

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RVing, National Parks & The “Wow” Factor

The United States maintains more than 6,000 federally-protected sites, spanning over 1 million square miles and totaling roughly 27 percent of America’s entire land area.

High deserts are known for causing dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke, and dry skin. Drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen. Pictured above Arches National Park.
High deserts are known for causing dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke, and dry skin. Drink plenty of water and apply sunscreen. Pictured above Arches National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s National Parks are the great outdoors, the wide open spaces, and the wild places where families escape to marvel at a wonderful playground of caverns and canyons, grasslands and badlands, geysers and waterfalls, mountains and glaciers, waterfalls and wild rivers, volcanoes and lava fields, and historic and archeological sites.

Attracting millions of visitors worldwide, the national park system contains many of America’s most treasured landscapes and offers visitors incredible variety from the lush Everglades, to windswept Death Valley, to the grandaddy of national parks, the Grand Canyon.

Stories of America’s diverse places and people are everywhere. They’re found across the landscapes of the nation in the National Parks and National Heritage Areas, along historic trails and waterways, and in every city and neighborhood.

National Parks preserve American history in all its diversity, from ancient archeological places to the homes of poets and Presidents to battlefields and industrial sites.

Why National Parks?

Pinnacles National Park: Rocks, Caves & Condors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pinnacles National Park: Rocks, Caves & Condors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Park Service helps preserve the beautiful landscapes and historic sites in America. National parks are open to the public to give visitors the opportunity to enjoy these sights and understand why they’re essential to preserve for future generations. For RVers, this provides us with an unique opportunity to travel to the national parks of our choice and camp there, too.

National Parks Are Popular RV Destinations

While the majority of Americans never step foot in a national park, RVers continue to take advantage of everything they have to offer. From east to west and north to south, you’ll find national parks that provide facilities for RVers to camp and enjoy the beauty, history, and ecosystems they protect. This is why national parks should be a high priority to visit for RVers.

What Can You Do at National Parks?

Whether you delight in the challenge of a strenuous hike or prefer to sit quietly and enjoy a sunrise or sunset, national parks offer a great diversity of activities for you and your family to enjoy.

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

Depending on the national park chosen, you can do everything from camping, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, nature walks, and much more. Each national park has a variety of activities related to the unique features of the park that you can take part in by yourself or as a family.

With so many adventures to choose from, you’ll have some tough decisions to make.

RVing to National Parks

Many national parks provide visitor services for RVers including campgrounds that provide parking sites, flush toilets, and shower facilities. RVers can reserve camping sites and enjoy the park in a different way than day visitors.

Most national parks that offer camping facilities recommend you make reservations up to six months in advance.

As the peak summer season approaches and national parks become a more popular destination for RVers, it becomes increasingly more difficult to obtain a camping site without advance reservations. As an alternative, private campgrounds and RV parks are often located within easy driving distance of popular national parks. Again, reservations are recommended.

Choosing the Right National Park

Choosing the park that’s right for you is as simple as choosing how you want to play, for the parks offer a nearly endless range of activities to explore.

When selecting a national park for your next RV vacation, consider your family’s interests.

National Parks are perfect for kids. Most of the larger parks run Junior Ranger Programs, allowing kids to participate in fun activities while learning about the area’s natural habitat and historic significance. Other parks offer nature walks and wildlife talks specifically geared towards children, to demonstrate to them that nature has much to offer.

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

Upon entrance to a national park make your fist stop the Visitors Center. The friendly park rangers will recommend guided hikes, nature walks, other available family activities as well as provide the latest information about safety hazards, closures, weather, and wildlife notices.

Regardless of the park you choose, you’ll find numerous options and delights; keep your mind open to the possibilities and your soul open to the experiences.

Worth Pondering…

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

—Aristotle

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