A Many-Splendored Only in New Mexico Thing

The recently designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is a many-splendored, only in New Mexico thing.

The Organ Mountains, east of the city of Las Cruces, are characterized by steep, angular, barren rock outcroppings.
The Organ Mountains, east of the city of Las Cruces, are characterized by steep, angular, barren rock outcroppings. (Photo Credit: Michael Richie/New Mexico Magazine)

Established on May 21, 2014, by Presidential Proclamation, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument includes 496,330 acres.

The Monument recognizes and protects southern New Mexico’s stunning landscapes, significant geologic wonders, diverse ecological communities, and pristine Native American rock art.

The National Monument includes four distinct areas: the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains.

The Organ Mountains, east of the city of Las Cruces, are characterized by steep, angular, barren rock outcroppings. They rise to nearly 9,000 feet in elevation and extend for 20 miles, running generally north and south.

On the northwest side of Las Cruces are the mountain ranges and peaks of the Robledo and Doña Ana Mountains and Sierra de las Uvas, which make up the Desert Peaks area. These desert landscapes are characterized by numerous mesas and buttes interspersed with deep canyons and arroyos.

To the southwest side of Las Cruces are the Potrillo Mountains. These mountains are a series of cinder cones with volcanic craters and basalt lava flows in an open desert landscape.

The well-maintained Soledad Canyon loop trail is only 15 minutes from Las Cruces.
The well-maintained Soledad Canyon loop trail is only 15 minutes from Las Cruces. (Photo Credit: Michael Richie/New Mexico Magazine)

The monument’s diverse ecological communities include Upper Chihuahuan Desert grasslands and savannas, riparian corridors, sky-island pygmy forests, and even a subalpine zone in the Organ Mountains.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are a popular recreation area with multiple hiking trails (including four designated National Recreation Trails), a popular campground, the Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater National Natural Landmark, and opportunities for hunting, mountain biking, and other dispersed recreation.

The Monument has been a homeland for diverse Native American peoples, a place of exploration for 17th Century Spaniards, a hideout for one of the American West’s most notorious outlaws, and a training ground for World War II airmen and Apollo astronauts.
Abundant cultural sites dating back 10,000-12,000 years dot the landscape including evidence of Mogollon, Mimbres, and Jornada peoples.

Prolific, well-preserved rock art is one of the monument’s defining qualities. BLM estimates include up to 8,000 archaeological sites, from large pueblos to ceramic scatters. A few notable sites, like the huge outdoor exhibition at Apache Flats, comprising over 250 panels, are quite accessible.

Five hikes based out of Las Cruces through the monument’s four areas, offer a cross-section of the abundant recreational opportunities available.

The colorfully layered, 5,900-foot Robledo Mountains’ ridgeline soars 2,000 feet straight above the Río Grande.
The colorfully layered, 5,900-foot Robledo Mountains’ ridgeline soars 2,000 feet straight above the Río Grande. (Photo Credit: Michael Richie/New Mexico Magazine)

Las Cruces’ convenient proximity with its numerous 5-star RV parks serve as a base camp for day trips. Another popular choice for year-round camping is Leasburg Dam State Park located 15 miles north of Las Cruces off I-15.

Valles and Broad Canyons Riparian Corridor Hike 

The Valles Canyon/Broad Canyon corridor features rugged scenery, diverse vegetation, varied wildlife, and well-preserved rock art. Towering north-facing cliffs shelter willows, mesquite trees, ash, desert hawthorns, mature gray oaks, and 750-year-old grandfather junipers. The constant sense of discovery on this three-to-eight-mile open-ended hike makes it difficult to turn around and head back—and it’s just as incredible in reverse.

Soledad Canyon Hike 

This hidden, 6,000-foot-elevation, 10-square-mile natural botanical garden, enclosed by intricately sculpted volcanic peaks and sheer cliffs and pinnacles, is carved into the Organ Mountains’ west slope, where the Needles give way to the gigantic caldera forming the southern part of the range. The well-maintained three-mile loop trail is only 15 minutes from Las Cruces.

Robledo Palisades Hike 

The colorfully layered, 5,900-foot Robledo Mountains’ ridgeline soars 2,000 feet straight above the Río Grande. A dozen hikeable canyons penetrate this five-mile stretch of east-facing white-tuff palisades.

The sprawling Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument is divided into four individually named, discrete sections: the Doña Ana Mountains, the Organ Mountains Area, the Desert Peaks Complex, and the Potrillo Mountains. (Source: New Mexico Magazine)
The sprawling Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument is divided into four individually named, discrete sections: the Doña Ana Mountains, the Organ Mountains Area, the Desert Peaks Complex, and the Potrillo Mountains. (Source: New Mexico Magazine)

Kilbourne Hole Hike 

Twenty-five miles of dusty roads across endless mesquite and creosote brush flats and there’s still no clue that a spectacular, otherworldly crater lies ahead, until you’re standing awestruck on Kilbourne Hole’s precipitous edge. Roughly elliptical in shape, two miles long by more than a mile across and up to 300 feet deep, it is the largest, most perfectly formed volcanic maar (volcanic crater) on earth.

Aden Crater Hike 

The short, gradual walk up to the 4,300-foot-elevation rim suddenly opens out into a circular world of lush green grasses and ocotillo forests bounded by a black lava rim.

Worth Pondering…

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

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Read More

5 Must-See Stops on a Road Trip Across America

Every RVer’s bucket list should include at least one road trip across America.

Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to make it extra memorable? Consider stopping at one—or all—of these must-see places along the way.

The Alamo

One hundred seventy-nine years ago The Alamo was the site of a pivotal moment in the history of the Texas Revolution where 250 or so Texian and Tejano defenders held off an estimated 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days. The Alamo is remembered as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds—a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.

If you travel to San Antonio to take in The Alamo, you’ll almost certainly visit the River Walk. They’re just a couple blocks apart, connected by an “alley” with waterfalls, snazzy shops, and lush gardens.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66

No matter where you decide to go on your road trip, a stop along the historic Route 66 is absolutely mandatory. Nicknamed Main Street of America and the Mother Road, the famous highway holds a special place in American consciousness and evokes images of simpler times, mom and pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road.

Completed in 1938, Route 66, which once served as the main corridor taking drivers from Chicago to Los Angeles, sparks excitement and a feeling of freedom in many travelers who love the open road.

Sedona

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

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece. Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Santa Fe

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter. Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

Alabama Gulf Coast

Mix two parts sugar-white sand with one part crystal blue water. Add a generous helping of Southern hospitality, and you have the key ingredients of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

One of the most charming small towns in America, Fairhope is located on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. A growing arts center with quaint boutiques, specialty shops, bookstores, cafes, and galleries line its quaint downtown streets. From the business district, Fairhope Avenue funnels toward grand homes and parkland down to the Fairhope Pier and Mobile Bay. The pier’s picturesque setting makes it a wonderful place to view gorgeous sunsets.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66!

—Bobby Troup

Read More

RVing Is The Freedom Lifestyle

Home is where you park it.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Freedom is a wonderful thing. The kind of freedom offered by the RVing lifestyle is the ultimate.

The country overflows with awesomeness at every turn, places we find completely captivating.

What a life. Today, it’s Arizona, last month it was California, and before that we were in Oregon. Soon it will be New Mexico.

Whether it’s dry camping in the wilderness or enjoying the comforts of a full-hookup RV park, RV enthusiasts agree—it’s all about the joys of camping.

For some hardy souls, camping means pitching a tent, snuggling in sleeping bags, and cooking on a Coleman stove or a grill balanced on a fire ring. Yes, I’ve been there, done that!

For the rest of us—and some us have left those days behind—we freely admit to enjoying a soft queen-sized bed, a plug-in coffeemaker, home-cooked meal, and hot shower.

The best part of RV camping with all the comforts of home: your own bed, your own shower, and being able to cook whatever you want to eat. Even after six months on the road I’m not ready to come home.

Live it well! Enjoy today! Do something fun! Do your dream! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Live it well!
Enjoy today!
Do something fun!
Do your dream! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter what you see when you look outside your window, you’re at home in your RV.

Yes, home is where you park it in this beautiful country of ours.

Many of us cringe when we see fuel prices climb, but the pleasure of RV camping can be had without driving for days. The “here” can be just as enjoyable as “there.”

So, let me remind you…whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, do it now! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by all too quickly.

So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure about tomorrow!

Life is a gift to you. Make it a fantastic one!

Live it well!

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

Enjoy today!

Do something fun!

Be happy!

Have a great day!

Life is too short to let even one day be frenzied or frazzled or frittered away.

Life is too short not to take time to do the things that will hold the most meaning for you.

So let yourself float like a leaf on a stream, relax with your memories and let yourself dream.

Throw out your list that’s impossibly long, and dance a few steps to a favorite song.

Turn off the news and go find someone real who’ll listen and talk and affirm what you feel.
Life is too short and flies by if you let it, so choose what you want every day—and go and get it.

The distance doesn’t matter. It’s what you see out your window in the morning that counts.

ferry boat returns from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys
It’s the end of a wonderful day as our ferry boat returns from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

What a Wonderful World

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.

—lyrics by George David Weiss, George Douglas, Bob Thield; recorded by Louis Armstrong

Read More

Getaway To New Mexico, Land of Enchantment

Whether you are a nature-lover, photographer, adventurer, or just looking for an amazing experience, a road trip to New Mexico will not disappoint.

Historic Old Town, the heart of Albuquerque, was founded 1706. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Old Town, the heart of Albuquerque, was founded 1706. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like Utah and Arizona, much of New Mexico is saved for all to enjoy as wilderness in state or national park format. Be it petroglyphs or stone dwelling from ancient residents, pictographs, or trails left by religious and mercantile travelers, hiking over huge lava fields or pristine white sand dunes, going subterranean for weird cave formations and bats, or dipping your toes or a paddle in the Rio Grande, there is much to engage the outdoor lover.

The true Southwest awaits you in Albuquerque, a city with a name that is as much fun to spell as it is to say.

On the west edge of Albuquerque, Petroglyphs National Monument is best explored with hiking shoes, a digital camera, and binoculars. Three separate sections of the park showcase different rock art and require various levels of physical fitness. A nice afternoon can be made of exploring all three. Scrambling over rocks to locate the ancient pictures will make you feel like a child exploring for treasure. A zoom lens helps for capturing images on odd rock faces.

Once you are done following the trail of ancient art, head into Albuquerque and immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage, rooted in centuries of history. Soak in the blue skies and sun that shines 310 days a year-perfect for outdoor activities. Breathe in the high desert air scented with sage and piñon, and you’ll understand why Albuquerque is a destination like no other.

Boca Negra Canyon Unit of Petroglyph National Monument provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Boca Negra Canyon Unit of Petroglyph National Monument provides quick and easy access to three partly paved self-guiding trails where you can view 200 petroglyphs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Sandia Mountains looming over Albuquerque provide an impressive backdrop for a city with a good, friendly vibe. Sandia is Spanish for watermelon and you may be fortunate enough to witness a red- and pink-hued sunset that reminds you of this succulent fruit.

Quintessential Adobe brick houses line older neighborhoods, a walkable downtown encourages exploration and the blend of Native American, Latino, and Anglo cultures provides art and cuisine as a feast for the eye and the palette.

New Mexico is home to 22 Native American tribes, including the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, and 19 pueblos. Each tribe is unique and has its own traditional language, customs, values, prayers, songs, ceremonies, traditional attire, and way of life.

The centrally located Albuquerque area is the perfect starting point from which to explore the Native American heritage. A majority of the 19 pueblos are located in northern New Mexico. Reminders of Native American presence are throughout the state: cliff dwellings and pit houses, kivas (underground ceremonial chambers), abandoned cities along ancient trade routes, and symbols etched in rock.

Sandstone bluffs and mesas as viewed from Sandstone Bluff’s Overlook at El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights
Sandstone bluffs and mesas as viewed from Sandstone Bluff’s Overlook at El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque is a valuable resource for visitors interested in learning more about these tribes and Native American traditions in New Mexico. The Cultural Center features a museum, restaurant, gift shop, regular dance performances, and offers information about visiting the pueblos and a calendar of feast days and other events.

Seventy-two miles to the east, El Malpais National Monument intrigues the visitor with vast fields of lava flows. Molten lava spread out over the high desert from dozens of eruptions to create cinder cones, shield volcanos, collapses, trenches, caves, and other eerie formations.

The name El Malpais, or badlands, certainly seems to fit the bill here. It is hard to imagine anyone needing to cross mile after mile of broken, rocky, rough lava, but there is indeed a trail that does so. Better to see each side of the park by driving and checking out the many scenic viewpoints and shorter trails.

Just down the road at El Morro, the massive monolith carved with graffiti from travelers stopping for rest and water will make you ponder those who have passed this way before.

Rising 200 feet above the valley floor, El Morro’s Inscription Rock bears witness to over 700 years of history. Drawn here by its secluded spring–fed water hole, Anasazi/Zuni traders, Spanish Conquistadores, and Anglo cultures marked their passing by carving 2,000 petroglyphs and inscriptions on Inscription Rock, a soft sandstone monolith.

Rising 200 feet above the valley floor, El Morro’s Inscription Rock bears witness to over 700 years of history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rising 200 feet above the valley floor, El Morro’s Inscription Rock bears witness to over 700 years of history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No adventure in New Mexico is complete until you have experienced their cuisine. Unlike any other, it is a blend of flavors from Spanish and Native American cultures that has been perfected over the course of 400 years. At the center of it all is the New Mexican chile, in both red and green varieties, which is used in everything from enchiladas to ice cream.

Whether you are looking for a dining experience that has received a James Beard award or an authentic dive off the beaten path, you will find it here.

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

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Read More

Angel Fire RV Resort Set For May Opening

In previous posts I detailed the planning for and the construction of Angel Fire RV Resort.

Entrace to Angel Fire RV Resort
Entrace to Angel Fire RV Resort

Angel Fire RV Resort is set to open Friday, May 1.

Nestled in the Moreno Valley, this full-service RV Resort is located in scenic Angel Fire with convenient access to the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway and Northern New Mexico.

While staying at Angel Fire RV Resort you have access to Angel Fire Resort’s many activities including skiing and snowboarding, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, sledding, golf, mountain biking, hiking, and zipline adventure tours.

The 35-acre RV Resort features 102 spaces, each with scenic views of the Moreno Valley, paved spaces, and 30/50-amp full hook-ups.

Amenities and facilities include hot tub, fire pits, and laundry facility.

The resort is located near world-class fishing in Cimarron Canyon and Eagle Nest State Park, guided hunting, ATV trails, and snowmobiling. Guests will also have access to Carson National Forest for biking and hiking.

“Angel Fire Resort has been working with the top experts in RV development and resort hospitality to create a luxury RV resort. While we will offer traditional RV amenities, our goal is to go way beyond and create a true mountain haven where guests can come to stay for an extended period of time and enjoy our mountain community,” said Jim Anderson, manager of the resort, in a news release.

Angel Fire Resort overlooking the Moreno Valley
Angel Fire Resort overlooking the Moreno Valley

“We will continue to work on the resort until it exceeds the expectations of today’s passionate RV travelers.”

The luxury resort, constructed on mountain meadowland at the foot of Carson National Forest, initially opens with 102 RV spaces and will expand to 325 spaces in later phases.

The new RV resort includes a well-appointed private clubhouse, paved roads, fully concreted, over-sized spaces with easy pull-through access and 30/50-amp electrical pedestals, DirecTV access, bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities, convenient Wi-Fi access, outdoor fire pits and Jacuzzis, putting green, pickleball courts, bocce ball, shuffleboard, a dog park, and more.

Each RV space will be large enough to handle the slide-outs of today’s biggest recreational vehicles. RV spaces will be available for short- and long-term rentals.

View of Angel Fire RV Resort from the entrance.
View of Angel Fire RV Resort from the entrance.

With frontage access to U.S. Highway 64, the resort provides guests with convenient proximity to the wide array of outdoor recreation amenities in Angel Fire, including golf, horseback riding, cycling, hiking, fine-dining restaurants, fishing, and more.

“Angel Fire Resort has taken huge steps to create a premiere family vacation destination in the Rockies, from building a new country club to extensive renovations to The Lodge at Angel Fire, from adding additional activities on and off the mountain to now the unveiling of the new RV resort,” said Anderson.

“We hope it will bring visitors from all over the country to enjoy this truly scenic village and mountain community.”

Living Designs Group of Taos worked with Angel Fire Resort to oversee the design of the new RV resort. This award-winning design company has worked on such notable New Mexico projects as the 4-star El Monte Sagrado luxury resort, UNM Taos, and the Angel Fire Resort Country Club.

Details

Angel Fire RV Resort

AngelFireResortSome places start with RVs and call it a resort. Angel Fire is starting with the resort and adding the RVs.

Rates: $45 (May 1-June 30; October 18-December 10); $55 (July 1-October 17)

Pet Policy: Pet Friendly; Dog Park on site; 2 pets maximum on a 6-foot leash at all times: do not leave your pets unattended

Location: In Angel Fire, New Mexico in the Northeast corner of the state

Address: 10 Miller Lane, Angel Fire, NM 87710

Directions: From Taos, 24 miles east via US-64 & North Angel Fire Road

Phone: (844) 218-4107

Website: www.angelfireresort.com

Worth Pondering…

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

—Georgia O’Keeffe

Read More

Top 5 Picks for 2015

If Time can  pick a Person of the Year and Good Housekeeping can put its seal of approval all over everything, I figured that it was time to designate a few things of my own.

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I begin with five of America’s most historic places/natural wonders.

Grand Canyon National Park

John Muir saw the Grand Canyon and called it “God’s spectacle.”

A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Unique combinations of geologic color and erosion decorate the canyon that travels 277 river miles from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep.

Nearly five million people see the Grand Canyon each year. Most of them see it from the park’s free shuttle buses or from their car at overlooks along the South Rim. Open all year, the South Rim is the most accessible part of the park.

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim of the park, which lies just 10 miles across the canyon from the South Rim but is a 220 mile by car—all the way around the canyon. Averaging 8000 feet above sea level, rises 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, and because of its remote location, is much less accessible than the South Rim and closed during winter.

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter. Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Acadian Farmstead is situated along the bank of Bayou Teche. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cajun Country

Adventures in culture, food, and music await in Cajun Country where life is on the spicy side.

With quintessential Louisiana flavors such as boudin, crackling, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, and hot sauce, Acadiana has all the makings for a taste-tempting trip. Louisiana’s landscape and history create a culinary tradition unlike any place else—and that makes it the perfect RV getaway for anyone who loves to eat.

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Popular activities include dancing to Cajun and zydeco music, living history tours at Cajun historical villages, and air boat rides. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Grand Circle Tour

RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The American Southwest is famous for incredible scenery, red rock pinnacles and formations, brilliant sunsets and deep canyons. Some of America’s most diverse scenery can be found within the Grand Circle—1,500 miles of the most scenic highways in the country.

You will visit six national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon; three national monuments—Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, and Grand Staircase-Escalante; one Navajo tribal park—Monument Valley; and pass by several state parks and other points of interest. Bold splashes of color, fascinating geologic shapes and the mysterious remnants of cultures await you at every turn.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays as it extends through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Connecting two national parks—Shenandoah in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina—the Blue Ridge Parkway traverses 469 miles through blue-misted Appalachian highlands. Take in forest-blanketed mountain vistas, ripe for fauna (look for bear, deer, and beaver) and flora viewing (interesting factoid: the parkway’s namesake “blue” haze is attributed to the hydrocarbon release from the some 130 tree species).

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. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come in late spring for wildflower blooms (rhododendron, azalea); or, in fall (especially around mid-October) for Technicolor foliage displays.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Read More

Obscure Snowbird Destinations

Every winter thousands of Canadians and Americans from the northern climes head south to the U.S Sunbelt. The snowbird hotspots include vast stretches of the Florida coastline, a variety of popular Arizona desert locations, and Palm Springs, the always fashionable playground of the rich and famous.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine instead going to an undiscovered winter retreat. Like the popular hotspots, you’ll find a variety of shopping, quality restaurants, excellent golfing, bird watching, fishing, outdoor recreation, entertainment, top rate medical facilities, friendly people, and much more.

Following are three obscure snowbird destinations in the U.S sunbelt.

Gold Canyon, Arizona

Gold Canyon is adjacent to the Superstition Mountain Wilderness and at the foothills of Superstition Mountain, which offer thousands of square miles of public land for hiking, off road trails, bike riding, photography, and other outdoor sports. There are five 18-hole championship length golf courses within Gold Canyon and dozens more within a 30 minute drive—something for most every skill level and budget.

Gold Canyon offers a wide variety of activities and attractions: arts events, baseball spring training, the Renaissance Festival, museums, swap meets, state parks, and so much more.

The views of the Superstition Mountain, along with evening sunsets, makes Gold Canyon one of the most picturesque areas in all of Arizona. It is a great place to call your winter home.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Canyon Vista RV Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 9, 9.5*, 9), our home for several weeks last winter—and yes, we would return in a heartbeat.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after a day of safe travel.
Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the fertile Mesilla Valley between the majestic Organ Mountains and the meandering Rio Grande, Las Cruces, New Mexico, is becoming a popular southwestern snowbird destination.

Las Cruces is an ideal central location to explore and experience the best of New Mexico’s past, present, and future. Ideally located at the crossroads of Interstate 10 and 25, “The City of the Crosses” is a blend of culture, museums, historical sites, scenic beauty, and superb weather with 320 days of sunshine per year.

The area offers spectacular year-round golf, unique special events, world-class New Mexico cuisine, and two national monuments—White Sands and Organ Mountain Desert Peaks.

Memorable excursions include historic Old Mesilla, several living ghost towns, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and Spaceport America, home to the world’s first commercial passenger spaceline company, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Hacienda RV & Rally Resort (2014 Good Sam rating: 8.5, 9.5*, 8.5), our home on several occasions.

Alabama Gulf Coast

The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Alabama Gulf Coast. features 32 miles of white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While Alabama’s shoreline may not be the first place that pops to mind when planning a winter getaway, don’t overlook it. With miles of sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand, Snowbirds will find what they’re looking for—and more—along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Our RV travels have taken us through the area on numerous occasions as we drove I-10 from Florida to Texas. Several years ago we decided to check out the Alabama Gulf Coast for ourselves and it did not disappoint.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

Small towns on the Alabama Gulf Coast including Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley, Daphne, and Fairhope welcome RVers and offer outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, canoeing, and birding.

Numerous 5-star RV parks and resorts are located within the immediate area including Lake Osprey RV Country Club (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10), our winter home along the Gulf Coast. Another prime destination park, Bella Terra of Gulf Shores (2014 Good Sam rating: 10,10*, 10) is an upscale Class A motorhome resort community.

With so many great Sunbelt destinations, snowbirds have plenty of options. Visiting several different areas may help you choose the snowbird destination that is best for you.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

Read More

Snowbird Migrate Southward To U.S. Sunbelt

As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds escape winter at home by migrating southward each year.

Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona
Canyon Vistas RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is an actual bird, the common snowbird, or dark-eyed junco, that migrates south from the cold in groups. John James Audubon, the great naturalist and painter, once wrote of the snowbird, “The migration of these birds is performed by night, as they are seen in a district one day and have disappeared the next.”

Then he added, “So gentle and tame does the snowbird become on the least approach of hard weather that it forms, as it were, a companion to every child. Indeed, there is not an individual in the Union who does not know the little snowbird, which, in America, is cherished as the Robin is in Europe.”

Not all of the human variety may be similarly cherished, but they do become companions. As each autumn gives way to winter, most seem to be welcomed back — warmly — to the U.S. Sunbelt.

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road. As we explore North America by RV, natural beauty abounds when least expected, and surprises wait at every turn of the road.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world
Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each journey we take represents a passage, whether it’s an adventure to a new state or province, a day trip to a new attraction, or an outing with friends.

Never driving our motorhome along a pre-arranged route, we vary stops along the way often taking two to three months to reach our southern destinations.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Even though many consider leaving their home constitutes a vacation, this popular lifestyle should really be thought of simply as being able to enjoy life as you relocate your condo-on-wheels to more desirable seasonal locations.

Selecting your balmy Snowbird roost is when all the fun starts. Choice is in rich supply, and for those who like to hop around a bit, a combination of spots can let you sample entire regions and states.

Superstition Mountain Museum
To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue tour the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum, near Apache Junction, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the biggest consideration should be on what kind of environment you’re looking for, as well what kind of activities you’d like to pursue. Do you crave white sandy beaches and tropical temperatures? Or dry air and rustic frontier homesteads? Perhaps a thriving music and arts scene? Or maybe you’re after a balance of big city fun and small-town charm?

Many communities seem tailor made for snowbirds, complete with popular tourism attractions, spectacular national parks and scenery that’s open year-round. Check out the RV shows, farmers markets, swap meets, festivals, sports events,  and other events occurring in your prospective destination.

You’re probably familiar with the snowbird hot spots in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and California. Keep in mind that you can also find great snowbird roosts in places like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Nevada. Great snowbird destinations thrive across the Sun Belt; all you have to do is find the one that’s right for you.

Many Snowbirds are north-south creatures, meaning those from the Northwest tend to settle in Arizona, Nevada and California; those from the Midwest flock to Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana; and those from the Northeast head for Florida.

The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Cajun Palms RV Resort (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana) swimming pool contains a big plastic pirate ship for children to board and a gigantic purple-and-green dragon stretched across the middle of the water. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are you planning on heading directly south from your home location? Or will you cut across the country in a diagonal direction, exploring a whole new longitude?

Regardless of your journey, factor in the drive times and travel expenses. You wouldn’t want your snowbird stay to be cut short by time on the road.

While you’re at it, be sure to account for the changing weather conditions you’ll encounter on your travels. If you haven’t given yourself enough time to avoid the first frost or snow, plan accordingly. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for cold-weather driving, and bring enough warm-weather clothes to get you through the journey.

Carefully plan the stops along the way, and give yourself some time to do some sightseeing on the journey south.

Worth Pondering…

It started out a dream

A simple someday soon

But we worked hard

and made it real

This snow-bird life

behind the wheel.

Read More

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

Read More

3 Places To Go In August

This is it: The last full month of summer.

Don’t start pulling out the sweaters yet. There’s still a full month of summer to enjoy.

Before the cool air starts moving in, these three festival hot spots are great for your late summer escape.

Elvis Week 2014

elvisweek_2014_logoAugust is a special time for Elvis Presley fans and the city of Memphis. Each year, thousands of Elvis fans from around the world descend on the hometown of the late performer to celebrate his life, music, movies, and legacy during the annual Elvis Week.

Graceland is front and center for events celebrating the life of the iconic performer. But Elvis’ Memphis home is just the heart of the activities during Elvis Week. Traditional events such as the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, musical tours around the city of Memphis, special concerts, fan club gatherings, and much more will occur at Graceland and around the city during Elvis Week.

The highlight of the week is the annual Candlelight Vigil, which takes place the night of August 15. Fans walk up the driveway to Elvis’ gravesite and back down carrying a candle in honor of the King, who died in his home on August 16, 1977.

Elvis Week 2014 kicked off Friday, August 8, with the Hard Rock Last Chance Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. It ends more than a week later on Sunday, August 17, with the Elvis Gospel Celebration.

When: August 8-17, 2014

Cost: Ticket prices vary by event

Website: www.graceland.com

Burning Man 2014_theme_caravansaryBurning Man 2014: Caravansary

One of the most famous art and music festivals in the world, this year’s Burning Man theme is Caravansary. Come find yourself in the dust while donning fabulous costumes, gifting things to strangers and new friends alike, and marveling at some of the most impressive artwork out there.

Burning Man is an annual event and a thriving year-round culture. The event takes place the week leading up to and including Labor Day, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

The Burning Man organization creates the infrastructure of Black Rock City, wherein attendees (or “participants”) dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.

As simple as this may seem, trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind. To truly understand this event, one must participate.

When: August 25-September 1, 2014

Cost: Tickets run $380

Website: www.burningman.com

43rd Annual Hatch Valley Chili Festival

Hatch Chii Festival header-140218As summer cools down, the Village of Hatch, New Mexico, heats up. Labor Day weekend heralds the annual Hatch Chile Festival, a two-day celebration of the valley’s world-famous crop. The festival attracts over 30,000 visitors from all over the United States, including such notables as the Food Network and the BBC.

Festival goers can sample famed chile recipes, watch the crowning of the chile festival queen, or toss a horseshoe in celebration of this famous crop. The event also features chile ristra contests, artisan and food booths, red chili cook-off, chili eating contests, a carnival, and live entertainment including bands, mariachis, and children’s folklorico.

The Village of Hatch, the “Chile Capital of the Universe”, is located off Interstate 25, between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences.

The opening of Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, brings the exciting frontier of commercial space travel to the Village. The entrance to Spaceport America is only nine miles south from Hatch, which makes us the Village “New Gateway to Space.”

When: August 30-31, 2014

Cost: $10/vehicle; valid for both days

Website: www.hatchchilefest.com

Worth Pondering…
Much travel is needed before the raw man is ripened.
—Proverb of the Caravan of Dreams

Read More