There’s an RV for Every Lifestyle

What is the RV lifestyle? It all depends upon your perspective.

Large and roomy Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes offer the luxuries of a traditional home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Large and roomy Class A Diesel Pusher motorhomes offer the luxuries of a traditional home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What do you want a recreational vehicle to do for you? What type of lifestyle do you anticipate? What are your hobbies and favored activities?

For some the RV is a home—full time or part time. For some it’s an economic family vacation and for others it is a luxury vacation with suitable amenities.

For all RVers, it is a fantastic lifestyle that surpasses expectations and opens the door to numerous opportunities and experiences. Some plan to tour the U.S. and Canada checking off items on their bucket list, camp in the natural surrounds of a national park, state park, and local recreation area, or seasonally locate in a community of like-minded people.

Some pursue activities related to special interests including dancing, visiting historic sites, hiking trails in outdoor recreation areas, birding, golfing, geocaching, boating, or fishing—the list is endless. Still others participate in volunteer activities or workcamping.

The RV lifestyle is what you want it to be!

Rather than purchasing a recreational vehicle, you are purchasing a lifestyle. And the RV you choose should compliment that lifestyle.

Considering the RV lifestyle? Try renting before laying down the cash. Camping in a rental Class C motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Considering the RV lifestyle? Try renting before laying down the cash. Camping in a rental Class C motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you want to leave the RV at a nearby lake for the summer and go fishing on weekends.

Do you plan to camp at a nearby RV park or local recreation area with a strong social or family program?

Do you desire the snowbird lifestyle and migrate to a Sunbelt area during the cold winter months?

Do you want to camp in the woods and enjoy the sound of birds?

Do you plan to travel to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Shenandoah, and other national parks? Tour the Canadian Rockies or Alaska?

Recreational vehicles have suitable sleeping and dining areas; bathroom; cooking facilities with gas stove/oven, microwave, refrigerator/freezer; air conditioners; TV, entertainment center, computer—the list goes on.

Does your physical condition require special consideration or adaptation to the RV?

How many people will occupy the unit? Will you travel with pets?

Do you plan to live in your unit full time or for extended time periods? Where will you park the RV when not in use? Do local bylaws or ordinances restrict the parking of an RV on private property or city streets?

Keystone Cougar Introduces Fifth Wheel With Party Deck
Keystone Cougar Introduces Fifth Wheel With Party Deck

What is your budget?  In addition to the purchase price consider the unit’s operating cost, routine and preventive maintenance, unexpected repairs, taxes, insurance, storage?

If a towable, have you considered the costs of operating the tow vehicle? You will need to match the towing capacity with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of your towable. Is your present tow vehicle up to the task? Proper sizing of the tow vehicle is a critical component of safe RV towing.

If a motorhome, will you tow a car or SUV? Is your current vehicle towable four wheels down?

Do you plan to tow a boat or transport other toys including ATV, dirt bikes, or motorcycle?

Convenience and automation are two popular trends that have recently emerged with RV manufacturers.

Power awnings, power jacks, and outdoor kitchens complete with refrigerators and cabinets are popular options especially with young families since they maximize the time out-of-doors and anything that limits trips back into the RV is being looked at as a positive.

Well designed floor plans provide versatile living quarters with ample storage for everyone’s gear.

Fifth wheels have a split-level floor plan and offer a home-like atmosphere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fifth wheels have a split-level floor plan and offer a home-like atmosphere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The reality is that purchasing a recreational vehicle is largely a personal choice. Depending on a variety of factors including space requirements, budget, driver comfort level, and lifestyle preferences, select the type of RV that best meets your needs. There’s an RV for every taste and budget. And there is a variety of new and pre-owned RV at every price point. Not everyone is looking for all the bells and whistles of a diesel pusher.

Buying an RV is a major decision. But if you have a sense of adventure, a desire to explore, and a willingness to find your own fun and lifestyle, there is an RV for you.

Worth Pondering…

It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.

—Mae Jemison

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Northern Arizona Beyond the Grand Canyon

Although Arizona is synonymous with the Grand Canyon National Park, there is so much more for RVers to explorer and discover.

At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people have heard of the beautiful red rock monoliths of Sedona. But not as many have heard of Jerome, the historic copper mining town perched on the top of a narrow ridge overlooking the Verde Valley. The picturesque town is filled with museums, antique stores as well as art and jewelry stores.

Even lesser known are some of the national monuments that contain some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.

Following is a sampling of some of the more interesting attractions in Northern Arizona.

Jerome

Jerome is high up on the side of a mountain. When I say on the side of a mountain, I literally mean that.

At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. In fact, through the years some of the houses have lost their grip and have slipped down the slope.

During the late ’60s the town began to attract tourists, history buffs, and the counterculture folks.

Today’s permanent population of approximately 600 consists of an eclectic group of artists, musicians, writers, craftspeople, merchants, hermits, bed-and-breakfast owners, and shopkeepers. It’s definitely not your typical Small Town America.

Tuzigoot National Monument

From near the top of the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument looking southward toward Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
From near the top of the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument looking southward toward Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot (pronounced ‘Two-z-goot’) National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. Tuzigoot is an Apache word meaning “crooked water.” The term applies to the nearby Peck’s Lake, which is a runoff from the Verde River.

At its peak in the late 1300s, about 225 people lived within the pueblo, which contained about 86 rooms on the ground floor and 15 or so rooms on a second story. The earliest buildings in the pueblo were constructed more than 1,000 years ago. The monument has more than 22,000 artifacts, with many of them on display in its excellent museum.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle, a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove high above the flood plain of Beaver Creek, isn’t a castle and has nothing to do with Montezuma.

The five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling dates back to approximately 1150 and served as a “high-rise apartment building” for prehistoric Sinagua Indians.

On December 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Montezuma Castle one of the country’s first national monuments, maintaining and protecting the cultural resource.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Located just 12 miles east of Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon was formed by 60 million years of water flowing first as a gentle creek across the plateau, then etching and carving its way through steep passes. Deep gorges formed in the sandstone, limestone, and other ancient desert rock some 20 miles long and 400 feet deep.

Walk in the footsteps of people who lived at Walnut Canyon more than 700 years ago. Peer into their homes, cliff dwellings built deep within canyon walls. The presence of water in a dry land made the canyon rare and valuable to its early human inhabitants.

It remains valuable today as habitat for plants and animals. See for yourself on trails along the canyon rim and into the depths.

Homolovi State Park

Montezuma Castle is a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Montezuma Castle is a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally home to the Hisat’sinom (known to archaeologists as the Anasazi) in the 14th century, Homolovi State Park is now a center of research and preservation of Native American migration periods.

Located in Winslow, Homolovi State Park offers a visitor’s center and museum containing information about the park’s early inhabitants, in addition to various nature trails and a campground with electric and non-electric sites.

Worth Pondering…

When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

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National Trails Day: Let’s Take a Hike

In 1993 the American Hiking Society sponsored the first National Trails Day hike.

Hiking around Swan Lake in Sumter, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking around Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next 20 years the event has grew to more than 2,000 events ranging from guided hikes to paddling excursions and similar outdoor adventures.

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is the country’s largest celebration of trails.

This year’s 22nd annual celebration will be held on Saturday, June 7. Mark your calendar to prepare for this year’s big celebration.

National Trails Day events include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects, and more.

Many national parks, state parks, county parks, USDA Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuges, BLM, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, outdoor learning centers, land trusts, and state trails associations have scheduled special events to mark this special day.

To find an event near you, click here.

In a single day in 2013 on National Trails Day…

2,255 activities took place in all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, engaging more than 134,000 people on trails.

24,300 trail volunteers participated in 528 projects and maintained 2,084 miles of trail, resulting in $2.4 million of sweat equity.

69,000 hikers attended 1,132 hikes and covered a cumulative distance of 313,000 miles.

11,000 bikers attended 140 bike rides and covered a cumulative distance of 172,000 miles.

Hiking the trails at Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6,400 paddlers attended 57 paddling trips and covered a cumulative distance of 38,000 miles.

1,400 equestrians attended 35 horseback riding trips and covered a cumulative distance of 16,000 miles.

Why Celebrate Trails

America’s 200,000 miles of trails allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration, and much more. Trails give us a means to support good physical and mental health; they provide us with a chance to breathe fresh air, get our hearts pumping, and escape from our stresses. All it takes is a willingness to use them.

National Trails Day also aims to highlight the important work thousands of volunteers do each year to take care of America’s trails. Trails do not just magically appear for our enjoyment; their construction and maintenance takes hours of dedicated planning and labor. So give thanks to your local volunteers and consider taking a day to give back to your favorite trail.

National Trails Day evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders, and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind the National Trails Day moniker to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System.

Details

National Trails Day

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is a nationally recognized trail awareness program that occurs annually on the first Saturday of June and inspires the public to discover, learn about, and celebrate trails while participating in outdoor activities, clinics, and trail stewardship projects.

Hiking the trails at Guadalupe River State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Guadalupe River State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Individuals, clubs, and organizations from around the country host National Trails Day events to share their love of trails with friends, family, and their communities.

National Trails Day introduces thousands of Americans to a wide array of trail activities: hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, and bird watching and more.

National Trails Day is a registered trademark of American Hiking Society.

To find an event near you, click here.

American Hiking Society

As the national voice for America’s hikers, American Hiking Society promotes and protects foot trails, their surrounding natural areas, and the hiking experience.

Address: 1422 Fenwick Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Phone: (301) 565-6704

Website: www.americanhiking.org

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

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Top 100 Family-Friendly Fishing & Boating Spots

Getting out on the water to boat and fish is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with your family.

TakeMeFishing
TakeMeFishing

But, finding the time and the right place to fish can be a challenge.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has made planning easy with its recently released list of the top 100 family-friendly fishing and boating spots in the U.S.

The RBFF released its Top 100 list to encourage Americans to get out on the water during National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1-8, 2014.

People are encouraged to visit their local parks and other fishing holes, perhaps one of the Top 100, during this week. Other ways to celebrate follow:

Free Fishing Days: Perfect for those who are new to the sport or who want to mentor others, most states offer free fishing days that allow the public to fish without having to purchase a fishing license.

Special Events: Sites all over the country will host events, such as fishing derbies, regattas, boating demonstrations, and festivals.

Kids Activities: Take Me Fishing Little Lunkers section offers games and information to learn before getting out on the water, and even certificates to commemorate their catch.

The RBFF Take Me Fishing campaign initiated a nationwide vote to provide families and outdoor enthusiasts with a recommended list of the best family-friendly places to experience the joys of boating and fishing as the weather warms up around the country.

“We enlisted the help of state fish and wildlife agencies to identify popular locations, and asked fishing and boating enthusiasts who belong to our communities to vote on their favorite spots that are easily accessible and where the fish are known to bite most often,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson.

The top 10 family-friendly places to boat and fish include state parks from Florida, Texas, California, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

In total, park and recreation areas in 24 states are represented in the Top 100.

NBFWBannerGalveston Island State Park (6th) is accompanied by eight other Lone Star State fishing and boating spots in the Top 100. The states of Florida, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania each are represented six times on the Top 100. Georgia, Illinois, and Wisconsin have five placements in the Top 100. North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington have four park and recreation areas on the Top 100 list.

Criteria for the top family-friendly places to boat and fish have some or all of the following qualities:

  • Within an hour’s drive of a major city or town, so they are easily accessible
  • Have a public body of water that is known for having plenty of common fish species such as bass, crappie, bluegill and trout; often times these public places are stocked with fish for all
  • Part of a park that also offers amenities families need like parking, restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas, or campgrounds
  • Has plenty of places to cast a line, like a fishing pier or has boat ramps to allow you to reach other areas on your boat
  • Is recommended by other anglers

Who Hooked the Top 10 Spots?

The top fishing and boating spots for a memory-making adventure include:

Lake Berryessa, Napa Valley, California

Bahia Honda State Park, BigPine Key, Florida

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park,St. Petersburg, Florida

Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida

Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, Florida

Galveston Island State Park, Galveston, Texas

Lake Chabot Regional Park, Castro Valley, California

Blue Springs State Park, Orange City, Florida

Table Rock State Park, Branson, Missouri

Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania

Details

Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

fishing_littlelunkersThe Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve, and restore this nation’s aquatic natural resources.

RBFF’s centerpiece, TakeMeFishing.org, is the key destination for individuals to learn, plan, and equip for a day on the water.

Address: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone: (703) 519-0013

Website: www.takemefishing.org

Worth Pondering…

Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing.

—Henry David  Thoreau

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State Parks Impact Alabama’s Economy

An earlier story detailed the economic benefits for communities located near national parks and other recreation and scenic hot spots.

Relax and enjoy the beauty of Gulf State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Relax and enjoy the beauty of Gulf State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The National Park Service concluded that, nationwide, the country’s parks contributed more than $14.7 billion to gateway communities in 2012.

A recent study conducted in Alabama concluded the State Park System also makes significant contributions to local economies.

From the beaches of the Gulf Coast to the Appalachian foothills, Alabama’s 22 state parks offer a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities that include hiking, biking, swimming, camping, boating, fishing, horseback riding, lodging options, museums, cave tours, golf, dining, and relaxation.

With an economic impact of $375.2 million, Alabama’s state parks contribute far more than simply locations for outdoor recreation and family vacations.

According to the study in 2011 the statewide network of parks and nature preserves supported 5,340 jobs totaling $140.2 million in earnings adding an estimated visitor spending of $152.4 million.

From 2007 to 2011, the parks had $170.3 million in receipts; $127.5 million was collected at the parks. Expenditures totaled $167.8 million and generated statewide economic and fiscal impacts of $336.1 million in gross business sales, $203.4 million contribution to GDP, $125.6 million in earnings to Alabama households for 4,784 direct and indirect jobs, and $9.5 million in income and sales taxes ($4.7 million state income tax, $2.1 million state sales tax, and $2.7 million local sales tax).

Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail, DeSoto State Park
Talmadge Butler Boardwalk Trail, DeSoto State Park

Economists Samuel Addy and Ahmad Ijaz with the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce conducted the analysis.

The study confirms what anyone working in the system already knows: “State parks are valuable tools to promote the state’s economy,” stated Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director.

“But the study gave us real numbers for state parks’ overall economic impact and the many public and private jobs that depend on them.”

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which commissioned the study, the state parks division recorded more than 4.6 million visits in 2012.

Clearly, the study concludes, state funding for Alabama State Parks is an attractive investment as the parks system generates more in tax revenues, promotes tourism, attracts both in-state and out-of-state visitors, creates jobs, and provides numerous educational, recreational, and environmental benefits that are difficult to quantify.

And in 2014 the Alabama State Park System celebrates a milestone—its 75th anniversary.

Throughout the year, Alabama’s 22 state parks will host a variety of hikes, nature walks and programs, dining and camping specials, and various other events highlighting 75 years of service.

Alabama’s park system began in the 1920s with Cheaha State Park being the longest continually operating facility. There were 11 state parks in Alabama by 1933 including Bromley, Cheaha, Fort Toulouse, Geneva, Little River, Panther Creek, St. Stephens, Sumter, Talladega County, The Lagoons, and Weogufka.

Alabama State Parks
Alabama State Parks

So whether it is hiking or biking (roads or trails); camping (RV or tent); fishing (bank, pier, or in a boat); golfing (six courses across the state); horseback riding (available at several parks); swimming, water skiing, canoeing, or boating; lodging options; museums; cave tours; family friendly activities; restaurants (with fine dining at resort parks); wildlife and nature watching; or simply relaxing; Alabama State Parks have it all. State parks also provide numerous educational, recreational, and environmental benefits that are difficult to quantify.

Details

Alabama State Parks

The Alabama State Parks Division operates and maintains 22 state parks encompassing approximately 48,000 acres of land and water.

These Parks rely on visitor fees and the support of other Partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. Partners Pay the Way.

Visit the website for information about the Alabama State Parks 75th Anniversary Celebration and for lodging, camping, and dining specials and event announcements.

Phone: (800) ALAPARK (252-7275)

Website: alapark.com

Worth Pondering…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Here I come, Alabama

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How to Search for Diamonds?

One of the difficult things about searching for diamonds is the fact the best way to find those sparkly gems is not obvious.

Crater of Diamonds State Park offers several different size shovels and screens from which to rent.
Crater of Diamonds State Park offers several different size shovels and screens from which to rent.

So, as in other things in life, a little knowledge can go a long way to save Crater of Diamonds State Park visitors time and energy and improve their chances of finding a diamond.

Several opportunities to gain that knowledge are offered at the park, according to Park Interpreter Margi Jenks.

“We give several demonstrations a day that each last about 20 minutes. During that time we try to tell our visitors what diamonds look like, what kind of material to look for that has half a chance of containing a diamond, and how to correctly do the three different search methods. We cover these same topics in a 7-minute video, which is located on the wall of the upper patio level of our Diamond Discovery Center,” said Jenks.

“Finally, if you don’t have time for the demonstration or video, we have a display and a brochure, Diamond Hunting Tips, which both go over some of the information about our three different search methods.”

The first thing to consider in choosing a search method is both your group circumstances and the circumstances at the park.

Everyone can and should surface search every step that they take and every second they are out on the search field. Surface searching is the easiest search method and requires no tools. You just walk along, looking for rounded pebbles that are extremely shiny. People using the surface searching method found all six of the over 2 carat diamonds registered in 2013. It is also the way that three of the four diamonds recently registered following a thunderstorm were found.

The circumstances at the park—if it has recently rained—will determine whether you choose the dry or wet sifting search method.

The colors of diamonds found at Crater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow, in that order
The colors of diamonds found at Crater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow, in that order

When the dirt in our search field is wet our volcanic mud is extremely sticky and will fill in all the holes in the 16-inch mesh box screen used for dry sifting.

However, if the search area dirt is dry, using the dry sifting method, a single box screen and a hand trowel is probably the best one for children under the ages of 10-12. Unless the child is tall for his or her age, the water troughs that we have at the washing pavilions for the wet sifting method are too tall for smaller children to reach.

Also, wet sifting is hard work, because it requires hauling the dirt to our washing pavilion. Then, it takes more muscle power to wash the dirt through the wet sifting double screen set. We demonstrate the correct ways to sift using either our dry sifting box screens or our wet sifting double screen set, so that you get the most out of your effort.

With either search method, one way of limiting the amount of energy you expend searching for diamonds is to not dig a hole. In most cases digging a hole is a waste of time and energy.

Diamonds found at the Crater are typically smooth and well rounded. Their shape resembles a polished stone with smooth sides and rounded edges.
Diamonds found at the Crater are typically smooth and well rounded. Their shape resembles a polished stone with smooth sides and rounded edges.

Instead, look for the gravelly areas between the rows or in the ditches and skim off the top half inch. This gravel and dirt will be easier to sift than the deeper clay, which is everywhere under the surface of the search field and will gum up any screens. Also, diamonds are more likely to be found as part of these gravels, because they are slightly heavy for their size.

Finally, the field is rough to walk on, so for anyone who has balance or other walking problems, they will want to be extra careful and either surface search or dry sift. The field is 37.5 acres, which is a large area to cover for small children, people with health conditions, or the very elderly. If any of those circumstances fit your visitor group, you will probably want to make sure that the field is dry when you visit and then choose the dry sifting method over the wet.

All of the equipment—dry sifting box screens and wet sifting double screen sets, as well as buckets and GI or long handled shovels—is available for rent at the Diamond Discovery Center’s tool rental desk. But, you can also bring buckets, shovels, sifting screens, and other tools from home, as long as they are not motorized or battery driven.

Details

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

Search area last plowed: Canary Hill only, last week; Most recent significant rainstorms: Friday, March 28, 2014

Crater of Diamonds Arkansas DiamodnTotal diamonds found in 2014: 85

Total diamonds found in 2013: 368

Operating Hours: Visitor Center/Diamond Discovery Center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., extended summer hours

Admission: Adults $8.00, children ages 6-12, $5

Camping: $12-30

Location: From Murfreesboro, take Arkansas 301 and go 2.5 miles southwest to the park

Address: 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958

Phone: (870) 285-3113

Website: www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com

Worth Pondering…

Angels are like diamonds. They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique.

—Jaclyn Smith

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Georgia DNR Launches Interactive Recreation Map

From the majestic ridges and valleys of northwest Georgia to the marshes of Glynn County on the coast, the state of Georgia is fortunate to have a diversity of natural and cultural resources for residents and visitors to enjoy.

GaOutdoorMap_0The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is charged with the conservation and protection of these resources for current and future generations. Their web site (SEE link below) provides visitors with information on how DNR manages the state’s natural and cultural resources and how the public can enjoy the great outdoors and the state’s rich history.

The DNR unveiled an interactive map that identifies DNR-managed lands and outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Georgia Outdoor Map (SEE link below) includes state parks, wildlife management areas, public fishing areas, boat ramps, and historic sites. Users are able to search by category to find locations where they can camp, hunt, hike, fish or explore history.

“We are proud to offer this new resource to Georgia’s citizens and visitors,” said Governor Nathan Deal.

“We are blessed here in Georgia with a state that is rich in both natural and cultural resources. I want to encourage Georgians to use this interactive tool to find new places to explore.”

Ossabaw Island
Ossabaw Island

The “Georgia Outdoor Map” can be visited using any device with a web browser including desktops, phones, and tablets.

By checking criteria fields, users can find recreational opportunities, directions, handicap accessibility, telephone numbers, and website links for more details.

The tool also offers a “near me” function to help users determine which recreational opportunities are closest to them.

“With this web-based tool, users can easily see what types of outdoor recreation are available in all parts of the state,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.

“The map includes all DNR properties open for public use, from the smallest historic site to the largest wildlife management area. It’s a quick way to find boat ramps, campgrounds, archery ranges and other places for enjoying the great outdoors.”

Details

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County
Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County

Address: 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

Website: www.gadnr.org

Georgia Outdoor Map website: www.georgiaoutdoormap.com

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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Alabama Gulf Coast Named Top Tourism Attraction

Alabama’s Gulf beaches and Gulf State Park are the largest tourism attractions in the state, overwhelmingly so, according to the new attendance figures released last week by the Alabama Tourism Department.

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

The state’s largest stand-alone festival events, located about 20 miles apart, are also located in the Gulf Coast region. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (March 14-16, in 2014) and National Shrimp Festival (October 9-12, in 2014) in Gulf Shores come in at the top two spots among event promotions staged over a single weekend.

The relatively new Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (June 13-14, in 2014), which takes place in between the other two in Foley, is also rising up the state’s annual top 10 festival list.

According to the 2013 annual report, Mobile’s three-week long Mardi Gras celebration draws the largest attendance in the Events category, with 798,312 reported for 2013. The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival turned out 300,000 last year, ahead of the National Shrimp Festival crowds reported at 250,000.

Birmingham’s Pepper Place Saturday Market had total attendance of 285,000 last year, however that event is ongoing from April through December.

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Foley Balloon Festival came in with reported attendance of 65,000 in the latest report, in 8th place of the overall Events category.

The state’s largest Nature attraction is also by far the largest overall visitor destination. The Gulf beaches of Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, recording 2013 total attendance of 5.5 million. Gulf State Park alone had 1,965,000 visitors.

The state’s most popular Paid attraction last year was Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, with more than 580,000 people visiting, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,176 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 530,678. The USS Alabama attraction on the Mobile causeway came in at 4th with nearly 375,000 visitors.

Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

Summary of selected attendance figures follow:

Top 5 Admission Charged Attractions 2013

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville (584,972)
Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham (574,176)
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (530,678)
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile (371,229)
McWane Science Center, Birmingham (316,918)

Top 5 Free Attractions 2013

Birmingham Botanical Gardens (350,000)
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (157,609)
Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery (122,667)
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham (122,345)
U.S. Army Aviation Museum, Fort Rucker (95,030)

Top 5 Events 2013

Mobile Mardi Gras (798,312)
Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival (300,000)
Pepper Place Saturday Market, Birmingham (285,000)
National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores (250,000)
National Peanut Festival, Dothan (182,500)

Top 5 Parks and Natural Destinations 2013

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

Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches (5,500,000)
Gulf State Park (1,965,000)
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, McCalla (541,025)
Railroad Park, Birmingham (488,000)
Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham (433,500)

Worth Pondering…

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,

Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land, where I was born in,
early on one frosty mornin’,
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.

—lyrics by Daniel Decatur Emmett

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Frisch Auf: Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site

Beyond its Czech past, La Grange also holds a rich German and Texan history.

Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site (Credit: tpwd.state.tx.us)
Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site (Credit: tpwd.state.tx.us)

To explore both, we drove 1 mile south of La Grange to Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site.

From the La Grange town square we took State Highway 77 south across the Colorado River, then west 0.4 miles on Spur 92 to the park entrance.

The park sits on a high sandstone bluff above the Colorado River.

The two sites are connected by a scenic nature trail with each telling their own unique story.

Our first stop was Monument Hill, where a tomb holds the remains of 52 Texas heroes who died in the Dawson Massacre of 1842 and the Texan Santa Fe and Mier expeditions.

Soldiers captured by Mexico during the failed Mier Expedition were forced to draw beans. A white bean meant life and a black bean meant execution, making one of the most dramatic stories in Texas history.

On September 18, 1848, the remains were retrieved from their original burial sites and were reinterred in a common tomb with a sandstone vault. Over 1,000 people were present for the ceremony including Sam Houston and other dignitaries.

The history provides an important continuum in the story of Texas Independence along with the Alamo, San Jacinto Monument, Washington on the Brazos, and other state sites.

Ruins of Kreische Brewery (Credit: tpwd.state.tx.us)
Ruins of Kreische Brewery (Credit: tpwd.state.tx.us)

A short hike from the tomb led us to the ruins of the Kreische Brewery where German immigrant Heinrich Ludwig Kreische founded one of the first commercial breweries in Texas.

The Kreische Brewery site consists of the Kreische house, outbuildings, which were built in 1855-1857, and the Kreische Brewery, built in the 1860s.

This site tells of the history of early immigrants to Texas in the period following Texas statehood. Kreische came to Texas in 1846 from Saxony, Germany, purchased 172 acres of land on the bluff in 1849, which included the tomb and began a successful career as a stonemason, brew master, and businessman.

His was a story of early Texas family life, blue-collar work ethic, enterprising spirit, and business acumen that tells of German immigration into Texas. He built a three-story house and, in 1860, began building a brewery.

By 1879, it was the third largest brewing operation in Texas, with its flagship product being Kreische’s Bluff Beer.

Kreische advertised his Kreische’s Bluff Beer with the slogan “Frisch Auf!” After he brewed a fresh batch, he would raise the “Frisch Auf!” banner and ferry townspeople from across the river in La Grange for a daylong party where families picnicked, danced, and held shooting competitions.

Partying aside, Kreische possessed the qualities that made German immigrants such successful homesteaders: He was hardworking, self-disciplined, and resourceful.

On a tour of the brewery ruins, we saw ample evidence of his ingenuity, including an aqueduct system he designed to channel water downhill from a spring to the brewing room.

After the brewery tour, we admired the beautiful three-story stone house that Kreische built for his family—at a time when most settlers were still living in log cabins.

Kreische maintained the tomb for the rest of his life, but the tomb and Kreische Brewery began to deteriorate after his death in 1882. Although the brewery closed in 1884 fell into ruins, his children occupied the house into the 1950s.

The park’s nature trail has a list of more common plant and animal species and is available at the park headquarters.

Currently no fees are charged at this day-use state park.

The trail view of the winding Colorado River is itself a monument to the beauty of Texas. (Source: tpwd.state.tx.u)
The trail view of the winding Colorado River is itself a monument to the beauty of Texas. (Credit: tpwd.state.tx.us)

Details

Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site

Hours: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. every day except Christmas

Location: 414 State Loop 92 off U.S. 77 (on the bluff)

Phone: (979) 968-5658

Website: tpwd.state.tx.us

Please Note: This is Part 4 of a 7-Part series on La Grande, Texas

Part 1: Czeching Out La Grange

Part 2: Vitáme Vás: Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center

Part 3: La Grange: We Gotcha Kolache & Texas BBQ

Part 5: La Grange: The Best Little Quilt Museum in Texas

Part 6: La Petite Gourmet Shoppe: The Best Little Kitchen Shop in Texas

Part 7: La Grande: Fayette County Courthouse & Old County Jail

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Texas is a state of the mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.

—John Steinbeck

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Top 6 Birding Hotspots in Southeastern Arizona

Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all come together.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve is home to 260 species of birds including the vermilion flycatcher. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve is home to 260 species of birds including the vermilion flycatcher. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachucas from the surrounding arid grasslands creates “sky islands” harboring rare species and communities of plants and animals.

If you are a birder, Southeastern Arizona is the place to go. Birding enthusiast are attracted to this unique region with many arriving in recreational vehicles.

The following are our suggestions for where to find the best birding spots. Generally, they are located along streams and rivers or in forested mountain canyons. Some will have nearby RV parks or forestry campgrounds but will require a drive in your toad/tow vehicle.

6. Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve

Between the majestic Santa Rita and beautiful red Patagonia mountains is the rustically charming town of Patagonia. Set among rich foothills and valley grasslands, towering cottonwoods, and the Sonita and Harshaw creeks, Patagonia has been called the “Jewel of the Sonoita Valley” due to its natural beauty and vitality.

Since early days, Patagonia’s oak grasslands, at over 4,000 feet have provided excellent climate and terrain for cattle ranching, and the Patagonia Mountains, filled with rich ore bodies, have attracted miners.

At first glance Patagonia is a town that you pass through on the way to somewhere else. However, a second glance will reveal some surprises about this historical former Spanish land grant. There is a growing community of artists and crafts people that have decided that this is a very desirable area to live and work.

And Patagonia is an internationally renowned bird-watching destination with visitors from around the world stopping here to see over 250 species of rare and exotic birds that migrate from Mexico to this southeastern tip of Arizona.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is 850 acres of cottonwood and willow forests with trees as old as 130 years and as tall as 100 feet. Well-marked trails take visitors along two miles of Creek and into undeveloped flood plains. More than 260 species of birds call the preserve home, including the gray hawk, green kingfisher, vermilion flycatcher, and violet-crowned hummingbird.

In Patagonia, drive north on 4th Avenue; turn left at the “T” onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Preserve closed Mondays and Tuesdays year-round.

5. Paton’s Hummingbirds

Paton’s Birder Haven is home to numerous species of hummingbirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Paton’s Birder Haven is home to numerous species of hummingbirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On your way to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, stop for a visit to Wally and Marion Patons’ home; it’s on the edge of town on your left.

Paton’s Birder Haven had its start in 1974, when Wally and Marion—life-long bird-lovers—began to plant flowers and install water features on their property. They put up hummingbird feeders and had great success, attracting Violet-crowned Hummingbirds along with even rarer species like the Cinnamon Hummingbird and Plain-Capped Starthroat.

When the couple realized birders were crowding outside their fence to get a better view, the Patons opened the gate and welcomed them inside.

Over time the Patons provided a tent for visiting birders, installed benches, and provided bird guides. They placed a chalkboard in the yard so daily sightings could be noted. On the gate, they installed a tin can called the “sugar fund” for donations to help defray the cost feeding their beloved hummers.

In recent years, Wally and Marion both died, creating an uncertain future for this birding landmark as the remaining family has opted to liquidate the property.

That’s when American Bird Conservancy, Tucson Audubon, and Victor Emanuel Nature Tours stepped in to join forces in an effort to purchase the Paton property and together contributed about a third of the purchase amount and entered into a contract with the Paton family.

The remainder of the purchase price—around $200,000—was the goal of the fund-raising effort, which successfully ended October 15 (2013). Thanks to many hundreds of generous birders, the Paton property will now be maintained in perpetuity for birders and birds—in keeping the tradition Wally and Marion Paton began.

The associated groups are scheduled to close on the property in early 2014. Once the sale is complete, Tucson Audubon will assume ownership and management responsibilities of the Paton property, and maintain an office there.

Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular camping and birding site located 12 miles south of town. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular camping and birding site located 12 miles south of town. © Rex Vogel, all rights

4. Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia Lake State Park is a popular camping and birding site located 12 miles south of town.

The park’s campground offers 72 developed sites, 34 sites with hookups, and 12 boat access sites. Other park facilities include a beach, picnic area with Ramadas, tables and grills, a creek trail, boat ramps, marina and camp supply store, restrooms, showers, and a dump station.

Hikers can stroll along the beautiful creek trail and see a variety of birds such as the canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, and elegant trogon.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on Southeastern Arizona Birding Hotspots

Part 2: Top 3 Birding Hotspots in Southeastern Arizona

The journey continues…

A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.

Worth Pondering…
Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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