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Category Archives: State Parks

Maverick Ranch RV Park Review In Lajitas, Texas

Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, Texas

When we were exploring the Big Bend National Park area in the lower western tip of Texas, we stayed at the Maverick Ranch RV Park in Lajitas, Texas

First Lajitas, Texas. Lajitas is an unincorporated town located between Big Band National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Yes, I did not know there was also a state park named Big Bend, but there is.

“Welcome To The Other Side Of Nowhere” is the saying down here. Where you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere but sometimes that is exactly what you need. Just to get away from the cities and the noise. To go somewhere were the skies are vast, the views are spectacular and the air is pure. The hiking and off-roading trails are boundless and plentiful, so be sure to bring your Jeep or dirt bike. What you don’t get a lot of here is options. There are a few decent and some what famous restaurants around the area but there are no big grocery stores, just a small corner store where you can get the basics and meet the local mayor, who happens to be a goat. A, dare I say, bigger store is about half an hour away in the town of Study-Butte, TX with a population of a whole 267 people. So you can imagine the size of that store. We were surprised and happy to see that they did carry Blue Bell Ice Cream though.

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

Our Site At The Maverick Ranch RV Park In Lajitas, TX

There are a few RV parks to chose from when you are visiting the Big Bend area. Some are closer to Big Bend National Park and are located right in Study-Butte. However, we chose to stay a little further out at Maverick Ranch RV Park. Maverick Ranch RV Park is part of a luxury resort with a world class golf course (which we don’t play), spa, Equestrian center, Skeet and Clay shooting, Zip lines, restaurants and even an International Airport so you can fly in with your private jet. When you stay at the rv park, you are privy to partake in all of the resort and it’s activities, for an additional fee of course.  

Restaurant At Lajitas Resort

Restaurant At Lajitas Resort

Shops And Rooms At Lajitas Resort

Shops And Rooms At Lajitas Resort

Enjoying A Prickly Pear Margarita While David Plays With Trevor Hickle

Enjoying A Prickly Pear Margarita While David Plays With Trevor Hickle

 

 

 

 

 

David got to play with Trevor Hickle one night in the Thirsty Goat Saloon while I sat and enjoyed a Prickly Pear Margarita, a specialty down there. We had dinner there as well. It was good food but let’s just say that it certainly reflected resort prices and leave it at that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Park had some nice big sites, enough for our 45 foot Motor Coach and Jeep. Some back in spots were shorter but most were plenty long. We were in site 29 and we had no issue leveling our coach. Being right on the end we had a nice grassy corner next to us and the WiFi antenna was right across the way. We are happy to report that their WiFi actually was usable and worked thru out our stay. This was a good thing because the one thing we did not think when we booked this place, about being down in such a remote location, was our Verizon signal. Our phones were on extended network. Even with our cell phone booster, we could only stand in one spot (near the antenna booster) inside our rig to make calls. Our Verizon MiFi box was on roaming. So having the parks WiFi work well was a real big plus in our book. 

The Office At Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

The Office At Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

Maverick Ranch RV Resort In Lajitas, TX

 

The wonderful ladies in the office know all the great things to do in the area. They also have a big community center, laundry facilities and full bathrooms for your convenience. Weekly entertainment can be found in the community center as well as in the lounges and restaurants. 

The Maverick Ranch RV Park was a great jumping off point to our adventures in the area. We set out to explore Big Bend, of course, as well as the towns of Study-Butte and Terlingua, TX.  

National Geographic named highway 170 as a must drive and one of the “True Last Frontiers” to explore. When you make your way into the Big Bend area, you start your journey on this scenic highway, continuing all the way through Lajitas, dubbed River Road, and through to Presidio, TX. All the while traveling along the Rio Grande River

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

River Road Scenic Drive

Mexico is an easy crossing from inside Big Bend National Park or from Presidio. However, once a year in May the (unincorporated) town of Lajitas put on a festival called, “Voices From Both Sides“. It’s a gathering where the communities from both Lajitas, the surrounding towns and the Mexican communities get together and celebrate the coming together of two Nations. They wade across the river, singing and rejoicing at the reunions of old friends, while enjoying festival food, music and good times together. Now that would be a site to see and experience. 

So, would we stay at Maverick Ranch RV Park again? Yes, yes we would. With the understanding that it is a distance from anywhere (but UPS does deliver out there). The people are great and super friendly. The food and entertainment good. The views are boundless. The quietness and peacefulness enveloping.

You know that saying, it’s not about the destination but the journey. Such can be said for this area. So enjoy the drive and the scenery as it passes you by. The quietness of the surrounding hills and canyons. The peacefulness at night walking around underneath the big star filled sky.  For you’ll be in a big city again where the noises and lights will filter inside and you’ll long for those dark skies at night once again.

I will write up more on this area in another post. The things that we explored, our afternoon trip into Mexico and David playing at the famous StarLight Theatre. Until then, enjoy this video of Maverick Ranch RV Park from David.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, Arizona

Traveling Interstate 40 Eastbound Towards Flagstaff, AZ

Traveling Interstate 40 Eastbound Towards Flagstaff, AZ

 

At the beginning of December we spent 6 days in Cottonwood, Arizona at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This was our first time at this park and from what we experienced, it won’t be our last. 

First of all, it was pretty easy to get to with our 45 foot motor home and tow. The sites themselves are very large and well spaced apart and the loop that we stayed in had water and 50 amp electric at every site. A dump station was located towards the entrance to the park. 

 

 

Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

As you can see, we were pretty alone at this park this time of year. The weekend had a few more people but no where near at capacity. Sites are reserved online and the nice thing is if you hover over the site number on the map, it will pop up a window showing you what the site looks like, what accommodations are at the site and what length vehicle it can support. So this really takes the guessing out of booking. Google Maps is also a great tool to get a nice overhead shot of the park and figure out which way you want to face or if there are any trees or such in your way for your satellite dish. 

Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Our site was perfect for us. We were right on an end so only had neighbors on one side of us. And really, that was only for a couple of days as the rest of the time it was empty. We were facing so the sun was behind us, therefore not baking on our windshield and we had the beautiful mountains and city lights view to enjoy our evenings. Speaking of evenings, we were there the first week in December and while not cold during the day (upper 60’s, low 70’s), it did get down right chilly at night, sometimes into the soft freezing temps of the low 30’s. While not as high in elevation as Flagstaff to the north, Cottonwood, AZ does sit at a higher elevation than Phoenix to the south. 

Our View From Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Our View From Our Site At Dead Horse Ranch State Park In Cottonwood, AZ

Great Family Owned Mexican Restaurant In Cottonwood, AZ

Great Family Owned Mexican Restaurant In Cottonwood, AZ

Cottonwood itself is bigger than I was imagining. I was thinking it would be a quaint little town with cute shops and such because of their deep history of mining in the area. Not so. Cottonwood, dare I say, is a bustling town with a Super Walmart, couple other grocery stores, Home Depot, lots of shopping and restaurants. That’s not a bad thing, just not what we expected.

We did go into Cottonwood, just a quick 5 minute drive from the park, to go shopping and we found this lovely family owned and run Mexican restaurant, Concho’s,  that was great! After talking with the guy at the register paying our bill, we had asked if this was his place. He smiled and said, “No, it’s my mother’s”. Come to find out she was in the kitchen with his Aunt cooking and his cousins and sisters were also there helping out. We love finding true family restaurants and hope that they thrive. If you ever find yourself in the area, we highly recommend you check out Concho’s.

Cottonwood, did however make a great jumping off location to visit Jerome and Sedona, which were on our list of must see places. Located between the two towns, Jerome was an easy 20 minute drive one way and Sedona was half an hour in the opposite direction. 

Trying not to make this post too long, I’m going to stop there and talk about Sedona and Jerome, Arizona in the next post.

But if you ever find yourself wanting to explore this entire area, We highly recommend Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood. It’s a great park that’s very quiet, very big rig friendly and centrally located to lots of attractions. We will definitely be back when in this area.

Valley Of Fire State Park, Nevada

On Our Way To Valley Of Fire State Park In Nevada

On Our Way To Valley Of Fire State Park In Nevada

On Our Way To Valley Of Fire State Park In Nevada

On Our Way To Valley Of Fire State Park In Nevada

Valley Of Fire State Park is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, just an hour north of Las Vegas and close to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. A great get away if you find yourself in the area. While we had been to Valley Of Fire State Park before back in 2011, and you can read our previous posts here, here and here, we had to go back. As a matter of fact, it was high on our list of places to visit again. And we are so glad we did. 

First of all, Valley Of Fire State Park does have a great campground for big rigs. The downside is that it is a no reservation, first come, first serve campground. So while you may find yourself in need/want of a campsite, you may be disappointed. We luckily were not and found a great site. 

Site 33 At Valley Of Fire State Park

Site 33 At Valley Of Fire State Park

Site 33 At Valley Of Fire State Park

Site 33 At Valley Of Fire State Park

We arrived on a Wednesday, which I firmly believe helped in the matter of finding an open site, we also arrived before 10am. There is a separate RV only area in the campground that has large sites with water and electric (50amp). So they are not full hook-up, they will do for a while before you have to go to the dump station, which is right at the beginning of the campground road. While all the sites, whether they are in the rv only section or the dry campground area, are well spaced apart, I’d have to say most are not level. The first site that we pulled into, our front tires were up on blocks and we still had a hard time leveling. Spotting a big rig leaving another site that looked nice, and much more level, we decided to move to that site. And boy…are we ever glad we did. It was a great view and more importantly, LEVEL! All sites come with a campfire ring (wood available in the visitor’s center) and shaded tables and a grill. 

So why do we like Valley of Fire State Park so much? Well….look at it! (Remember you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them)

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Red rocks that glow even brighter with the sunset surround you. The campground is a good distance from the main road through the park that you don’t hear anything while out there. At nighttime everyone is generally quiet so it’s very peaceful. And the stars are a plenty. What’s not to like. It would be perfect if it was a full hook-up campground but oh well, you can’t win them all.

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

The colors out here are awe-inspiring. From the reds to the white sandstone to everything in between. Every time we went out for a hike we kept saying how amazing the colors were out there. How interesting the rocks were with their stripes and variations and the many, many layers. You really did feel like you were walking on a Martian surface. 

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

We had great weather while we were out there. Perfect for hiking during the day and relaxing outside in the evening. 

Valley Of Fire State Park

Valley Of Fire State Park

 

 

We just can’t get enough of this park. It’s one of our favorites. It’s a very popular park and campground alike. So if you find yourself in the area and want to spend a few days out amongst the red rocks, while no reservations are taken and you can just show up on a whim, I suggest you arrive early.

When we find ourselves in the area again, we are definitely stopping at this park for a few more days of exploring. 

 

Until then, we’ll have to relive this awesome park through David’s quadcopter video footage. 

 

 

 

 

 

40+ Foot Motorhome Too Big? Our Thoughts On It!

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ/NV

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ/NV

OK…So now that camping season has officially been started, here’s a post that is long in the making. And we will start by jumping to the end…Buy What You Want. Don’t worry about if you will fit.

When you have been traveling as long as we have, you’re bound to get the same questions over and over again. One big question on people’s minds is if they buy a 40+ foot motorhome will they have issues finding places to park it or may fit into our National, State or County parks?

Well…The answer is yes and no as to getting into parks. We started out our travels in a 2008 Gulf Stream Tour Master that was a 43-foot diesel pusher and tow vehicle. Well, you know the saying….Location, Location, Location. It really is going to depend on a few factors like where you may want to go.

First off, remember that our highway system across the US is made for big rigs. As such, you will NOT have an issue traveling on interstates, highways, expressways, nor most roads for that matter. Sure, you can come across a bridge that can be to low, but that will be on side roads, parkways, town roads, etc. We personally have not yet run into any issues with not being able to go somewhere we wanted based on size.  Ok, wait, there was one….State HWY 1 in California. It is a great scenic drive that just will not handle large rigs due to the hairpin turns. If you tried this, you will see that as you tried to come around a corner that your rig will end up crossing into the on coming traffic. Never a good thing. But besides that, for us, we have not been able to reach somewhere we wanted to be one way or another. Heck, we have been all the way to Newfoundland with a 43-foot motorhome and spent 1.5 month traveling all the areas.

Quick suggestion if you are considering a big rig, or if you have one, is to purchase a Motor Carriers Road Atlas and take a look around the country on paper. This is a special atlas that shows what roads are OK for larger rigs. You may also want to look into a GPS that has maps and data points for RV’s or trucks such as the TripMaker RVND 7710. These types of GPS’s are not your normal GPS as they allow for you to put in the size & weight of your motorhome and will map you around items such as low clearance and weight restrictions. (NOTE…ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNS!!! Maps DO NOT know if three new inches of asphalt was put down making a 14 foot tall bridge now 13 feet 9 inches. Not paying attention can make for a very bad day. We also suggest if you see “trucker” routes, take them. After all, you are as big as they are and someone would like you to take that road for some reason. (You do not need to pull into weigh stations unless directed to do so.)

Our National Parks were built before big rigs were even around. No one back then thought that we would have 45-foot motorhomes for “camping”. When you consider how old a park may be, it’s sites may be smaller unless it has it been upgraded to accommodate larger rigs. Based on budgets etc, it is not likely that the government spent such money. In the chance that money was spent to upgraded the sites or add sites to accommodate larger rigs, have the roads? They may be tighter turns and be narrower if the campground was originally set up for smaller rigs. We have come across some campgrounds in National parks where there was no way we would fit, while others we have been to were no issue at all. (It should go without saying…Watch for low tree limbs also.)

A good source to find out if you would fit is, of course, the campgrounds or park service website. They usually always list the maximum size rig they can accommodate. That being said, Google Maps can be your friend in this as well. Just go to Google Maps and look at an overhead shot of the campground. You can see how heavily treed the area is, how close together the sites are and even how tight the turns may be. This will give you a good idea but remember, Google Maps can also be outdated depending on when they took the overhead shot. So if you still have your doubts, call the campground office.

Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon, AZ

Trailer Village Campground, Grand Canyon, AZ

Chimney Rock National Historical Site, Bayard, NE

Chimney Rock National Historical Site, Bayard, NE. This Is A Commercial Campground But Right Outside The Site. What A View!

Most National parks and State parks are going towards an online reservation system. One nice feature about some of these online reservation systems is that they will show you a picture of the actual site you are looking to book. You usually just have to hover over the site on the map and a picture will appear. We really like this feature. It can give you a good sense of whether you indeed can fit in a particular site or not.

When I was looking through our old photos, I came across some places that I felt we had just been to but in actuality we were there years ago. It’s these types of places that really stay with you and being able to stay right on site, at the park, is a great way to really enjoy the full experience.

When we stayed in the Badlands in South Dakota, we were right in the park. They also have a small hotel and restaurant but we kept to ourselves in our rig. The site we had just fit our 43-foot motorhome at the time.

While visiting the Grand Canyon we stayed at Trailer Village (not run by park services) right in the park itself. It is big rig friendly but they do pack you in there. It’s easily maneuverable though if you take your time and know where you are going, there are lots of roads throughout the campground. The picture I have above of the Grand Canyon campground isn’t the greatest as I was focusing on the wildlife that wanders throughout the campground. You can see our current motorhome in the background, the 45 foot 2014 Tiffin Allegro Bus with our tow vehicle. And yes, the Elk you see were THAT CLOSE to the motorhome. Just walking through without a care in the world.

Picacho Peak State Park Near Picacho, AZ

Picacho Peak State Park Near Picacho, AZ

Cherry Creek State Park In Aurora, CO, Just South Of Denver

Cherry Creek State Park In Aurora, CO, Just South Of Denver

 

 

State Parks are also a great way to get away and see the sites. We have found quite a few that can accommodate larger rigs. One of our favorites and one that we like to visit every time we are in the area is Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It’s between Tucson and Phoenix and right off the highway, yet really quiet and peaceful.

While in the Denver area we always stay at Cherry Creek State Park but we have heard from other RVers that Colorado has some wonderful state parks that are big rig friendly.

Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV, Just North Of Las Vegas

Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV, Just North Of Las Vegas

Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA

Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA

 

 

One thing to keep in mind is if a park offers full hook-ups, electric or nothing at all. While Picacho Peak State Park and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has electric (some sites), that is all they have at the sites. They do have potable water and a dump station in the campground so there is that. But you need to be sure you go in prepared for the type of site.

On the other hand, Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, CO as well as Reed Bingham State Park in Georgia do have full hook-up sites. They both are also very big rig friendly and have big pull through sites.

Hoover Met (City) Park, Hoover, AL

Hoover Met (City) Park, Hoover, AL (closed until June 2017 for renovations)

James Island County Park Campground, Charleston, SC

James Island County Park Campground, Charleston, SC

 

 

County and Town run parks are not to be forgotten either. We have found some very lovely county and town parks that rival any state run park.

We always stay at the Hoover Met RV Park (closed for renovations until June 2017) while in the Birmingham, Alabama area and while visiting Charleston, SC we stayed at the James Island County Park Campground. There are a few choices around the Charleston area but we did not want to go to a commercial campground like a KOA. While they do serve a purpose for us (we stay at them while traveling from point A to point B and need hook-ups), we try not to frequent them as we have no kids and we do not wish to partake in any activities, so why pay for something we will not be taking full advantage of.

McFarland (City) Park Campground, Florence, AL

McFarland (City) Park Campground, Florence, AL

Sault Ste Marie, MI Town Park

Sault Ste Marie, MI Town Park

 

 

 

In fact, our very first stop after picking up our new 45-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus was this lovely campground just north of Red Bay, Alabama where the Tiffin plant is. It’s the McFarland Town Park Campground in a town called Florence, AL and is located right on the Tennessee River. It has boat drops and hiking trails and a disc golf course. Right across the river is the Muscle Shoals area where there is lots to do as far as the history of music and recording studios. And in Sault Ste Marie in the UP of Michigan is a great county/town run campground called Aune-Osborn Campground where you can spend your days watching the huge freighters pass through the Soo Locks and travel up and down the great lakes. Which let me tell you, can be very addicting. Who knew?!

These are just some of the places that we have stayed and there are many more out there. We have yet to stay at a COE (Corps of Engineers) Park, which we hear are lovely.

Some things to consider while staying at National, State or County/Town Parks is that you may not have access to Wi-Fi, you may not have full hook-ups if you want them and there may be additional fees such as a one time park fee. The state parks usually have a state park pass; they are usually good for one year. So if you know you will be frequenting one particular state for a while, or coming back to it a few months later but within a year’s time frame, then you would more than likely be better off buying a yearly park pass. It’s good for any of the state parks, not just that particular one that you may be at at the time. In the long run it would be cheaper than paying the additional park fee every time you camp.

Make sure you also look out for discounts. Georgia State Parks have a great RVer program and it’s free! The more you stay at their parks, the more stickers you will earn and you can work your way up to a free night of camping. Not all state parks may participate so just check the website before you book and see. To learn more info about this RVer program, visit this page.

Wow, that was a lot on places we have been. But the point is, they are all places we were able to go without issue even with a 45-foot motorhome. When we were looking for a motorhome, we did not even consider the issue of not fitting into places. Why? Simple, we knew we would be happier with a larger home on wheels. So you see from the above, it is indeed possible to stay in National, State and County/Town parks in a “Big Rig”. We have stayed in more than I thought we had and we will most certainly continue to do so.

If there is a place that you really want to go to and looking at the website of that particular park shows that you can not fit into the campground, remember that there are always campgrounds just outside of the parks that will accommodate you. We here it now and again, “you can not go everywhere with that large rig.” True. However we have yet to find anyplace we wanted to go that we could not go, either staying inside the park or just outside it’s borders. And if we need to drive 30 mins to go see a site…so be it. After all, that is more of the area we are in to see along the way. So while we may not be able to get into “everywhere”, consider that we also may have a much more comfortable time if stuck inside the motorhome for five days as it rains.

Would we by a large motorhome again? Seeing we have already gone from a 43-foot to a 45-foot, the answer seems to be yes. Again, we knew we would be happier with more space. And lets face it, it is all about living like you want to live and what is right for one person, may not be for another. So buy what you want and enjoy your travels!

Not sure if you trust what you just read…Well here…watch a video instead….

Please be so kind to share this post as it seems to be asked often on many community forums.

Picacho Peak State Park: One Of Our Favorite State Parks

 

Our Site At Picacho Peak State Park In Arizona

Our Site At Picacho Peak State Park In Arizona

Our View At Picacho Peak State Park In Arizona

Our View At Picacho Peak State Park In Arizona

One of our favorite state parks is Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It’s the first state park that we stopped at and camped at when we first came out west many years ago. It has a special place in our heart.

It’s located between Tucson and Phoenix. The closest shopping is about 20-30 minutes away. It’s right at the exit so it’s super easy to get to. There is an rv resort, ostrich farm (yes you heard me right), gas/diesel, a souvenir shop, Subway and a Dairy Queen at the exit but not much else.

We actually happened upon this state park by mistake the first time. You see when we stopped at the rv resort to see about staying the night, as we were just passing through, they would not let us in. Come to find out, they are a 55 and older park and we are not of age yet. In hindsight I now know that 55 and older parks do need to let a certain percentage of non-55 years olds into the park. However, we did not know that at the time. And quite honestly, with that attitude, we did not want to stay there.

It ended up being a blessing because the only other place to stay was Picacho Peak State Park. We had never stayed at a state park before so we did not even know if we could fit. Looking online, we were sure we could fit and they had 50 amps at the sites!

Amazed At How Large These Saguaro Cactus Can Get

Amazed At How Large These Saguaro Cactus Can Get

 

 

 

One of the things that still amaze us is how big the Saguaro Cactus‘s (Cacti?) can get. Our coach is over 12.5 feet and these cacti just towered over us. They can live to be over 150-200 years old and can grow up to 40-60 feet in size!

This is one of our fond memories when we first discovered this park. When we drove through these Saguaro’s for the first time, we felt like we were driving through a movie set, because TV and movies is the only place, up to that point, that we had seen such sites.

 

 

 

 

Hiking At Picacho Peak State Park

Hiking At Picacho Peak State Park

Hiking At Picacho Peak State Park

Hiking At Picacho Peak State Park

Hiking Picacho Peak State Park

Hiking Picacho Peak State Park

 

It’s not a very big state park however they have some great hiking trails. The Hunter Trail recently won the “Best of Phoenix” winter hike. From the Picacho Peak State Park website: It’s a four-mile-round-trip butt-kicker, harkening to the likes of Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. Steel cables and planks help nervous hikers overcome the steepest parts, and the 360-degree view at the top of the surrounding desert and nearby mountains is well worth the effort.”

 

We had a nicely overcast day and decided it was a nice day for a hike. We are not quite up for Hunter Trail (well, David could, I could not) so we set off on the Sunset Trail.

Beautiful Views From Sunset Trail

Beautiful Views From Sunset Trail

Beautiful Views From Sunset Trail

Beautiful Views From Sunset Trail

With beautiful views all around, this trail was a great one to try. We hit the trail at around noon and got back to our coach by 4pm. We did not quite make it to the top of Picacho Peak so if you want to attempt this trail; I suggest you start off earlier in the day. We did not want to tempt fate with the overcast skies and the sun starting to go down.

Plus we had slow smoked ribs waiting for us back at the coach. Yes, before we left for the hike, David put a rack of ribs on our cooker. So dinner was done when we got back. Even better!

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

 

 

Another thing we love about this park (and yes, you can get these anywhere out west) are the sunsets. You can see for miles and miles and nothing beats an Arizona sunset. A perfect ending to a perfect day of hiking and ribs.

 

 

 

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

Sunset At Picacho Peak State Park

 

 

So if you find yourself on I-10 and your looking for a nice stop over, I suggest you check out Picacho Peak State Park. They have electric at the sites, potable water and dump station available, bathrooms (although we’ve never used them nor looked in them) sites are really large (we have a 45 foot MH and we fit easily with room to spare) and they come with a picnic table and fire ring. Some are pull-thrus but most are back-ins. You can reserve sites online and view them before you select it. We’ve always had really nice rangers and you never know, we may be your neighbors. (Special “Shout Out” to the two other coaches that recognized us when we were there this time.)

Exploring Vermont – Part Two

View From Abel Mountain Campground

View From Abel Mountain Campground

David Getting Ready To Fly

David Getting Ready To Fly

With close to two weeks in Vermont, I felt we had seen a lot and done a lot. I did not feel rushed nor did I feel deprived of seeing anything.

One of the excursions that was interesting and informative was Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont.

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

Billings Farm And Museum

One of the premier dairy farms in Vermont, it’s been around since the 1800’s. George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurance S. Rockefeller, successive residents of the estate were some of the earliest advocates of land stewardship, conservation and ultimately served to start our National Parks System. If it were not for these individuals, we would not have the great National Parks we all enjoy today.

The grounds are immaculately kept; you can tour the barns where they still house the descendants of the Jersey Cows that Frederick Billings imported centuries ago. Just down the street is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park where you can enjoy more of what these great men left to us. There were lots to see and do on this still working farm and museum.

This still working farm and museum are located in the town of Woodstock, Vermont. Vermont is full of these quaint little towns.

Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont

Randolph, Vermont, Near Abel Mountain Campground

Randolph, Vermont, Near Abel Mountain Campground

We had a great time exploring a bunch of these small towns. Woodstock, Quechee, Stowe, Waterbury, Randolph, just to name a few. All have their own uniqueness and charm.

In Quechee they have the famous Quechee Gorge. Its claim is the little grand canyon of Vermont.

Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge

Well, while it’s no where near the size, awe inspiring hugeness that is the Grand Canyon, but let’s be honest, there really is no comparison, but it was beautiful. It has some nice trails that you can hike. People were down below swimming in the river. But it was just a gorge to me. If we had more time we might have donned our hiking shoes and really dove into the history of the gorge.

But alas, we were on a shopping trip and had a plan. I guess the gorge is one way to get people to go to the shopping area that’s there.

 

But do we really need an excuse to do more shopping? I think not. Especially since they have a sampling room, and therefore we can buy, the Putney Mountain Wine that we have so fallen in love with.

Quechee Gorge Village Shopping Area

Quechee Gorge Village Shopping Area

The Bakery In The Quechee Gorge Village

The Bakery In The Quechee Gorge Village

We also found this awesome mom and pop bakery inside the Quechee Gorge Village. It may not look like your average bakery but let me tell you…

OMG! They had a crumble-topped apple pie that was coming out of the oven in 10 minutes. We bought it before it finished baking. The smells, the pastries, the pies! Oh My!

Best Pie Ever!

And the owner of the bakery was in the kitchen in the back with her helper, making more goodies. A real kitchen, not one of those big commercial sized kitchens. Out of respect for the owner I did not take a picture of her kitchen, as she was embarrassed that it was messy since they were cooking up a storm. I highly recommend that you get a pie if you are in the area.

This Quechee Gorge Village is not a typical place we like to shop. To touristy, but we had to stop for more wine as I mentioned above. We were actually pleasantly surprised by some of the interesting and crafty things we found there. Yes, we did end up buying some gifts other than wine. That we are keeping all to ourselves.

Sorry if I keep going on about this wine but if you are lucky enough to sample some, you will be hooked as well. Sad thing is they don’t ship. So we are savoring what we have.

One of the highlights for the boys on this trip was the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry.  At nearly 600 feet deep they believe it to be the largest operating deep-hole, dimension granite quarry in the world. It is over 2 miles to the other side from where we were standing.

Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry In Barre, Vermont

The piece that you see above that is being hoisted up from the quarry is actually 30 tons of granite! They say there is enough granite in this quarry to mine for the next 20,000 years. So needless to say we will not be running out of granite anytime soon.

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory

The Rock of Ages Granite Factory, right now is producing mausoleums and memorials. After you view the quarry you can watch the workers produce some amazing pieces of work. These crafters are true artists sculpting each piece by hand after the initial cutting and shaping has been done.

After taking this tour and seeing the factory floor, you certainly will not look at a cemetery the same way again.

Van Trapp Family Lodge

Van Trapp Family Lodge

Von Trapp Family Lodge

Von Trapp Family Lodge

No Vermont tour would be complete without a trip to see the Von Trapp Family Lodge. Yes…that Von Trapp family. They made their home here in Stowe, Vermont because the view reminded them of Austria. For some reason when I was exploring this area, I could not get Julie Andrews and “The Hills Are Alive” song out of my head. I can almost see here twirling right there on the hilltop. I dare you to visit this lodge and not think of that.

They have many dining options and packages to stay in the lodge. So if you are looking for something different, other than a campground, you should check this place out. Lots of hiking and biking trails. Skiing, of course, in the winter.

Oh…and while in Stowe, which is another quaint and cute town, you must, must, must visit Laughing Moon Chocolates.

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

Laughing Moon Chocolates In Stowe, Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many chocolate shops in Vermont but I have to say, these were the best. Hand crafted right there in house. You can watch the chocolate makers every day create such wonderfully delicious delicacies. All you have to do is inhale when you walk in and they have you.

And yes!

They do ship.

Oh…that could be dangerous.

Say NoOK….So there’s a lot we loved about Vermont. Now the one thing that really was a negative for us. One place is a “must see and do” on all the lists of Vermont. That is the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury, Vermont. We saved this til the end of our trip because we figured, save the best for last. Everyone says “you have to go”. Well, let me just say, don’t waste your time. (IMHO)

First off, they are a company that does some good things for the community, around the country and the world. They are great charity givers. And lets face it, they do make some good, all be it expensive, ice cream. So the below is only towards the tour.

First, it was super crowded. Ok….it’s Ben and Jerry’s. I get it. Expect crowds. What I did not expect were so many people wandering without a place to sit. They have an ice cream shop there that, of course, was crazy busy, but once you get your ice cream don’t expect to sit down. There are about 7 tables and chairs for the thousands, yes I said thousands, of people that go there every day. Second, the tour was a waste of $4 dollars. There’s really no reason why it could not be a self-guided tour. You watch a 6 minute video that, to be honest, is an old school, 4:3 aspect ratio, looks like it was made for an 80’s after school special type of “movie”. With all the money that they have It really was embarrassing to not put a better foot forward for their customers. We saw a better movie in the Billings Farm and Museum! Heck, even the video, or should I say movie, viewing room was outstanding at Billings Farm.

Then you get led to the “factory”. Really it’s only an overlook and all you really see is the lids going on the pints. Umm….really? I paid $4 bucks for this? Really? That was it? Oh, I am sorry, there is more you get for that $4. So let’s not forget the ice cream sample you get at the end. It’s whatever flavor they are serving that day in a tiny ketchup sized cup that has, by the way, melted because the person serving has to serve 45 samples and therefore the freezer door stays open and all the heat melts the ice cream.

We felt completely ripped off that it cost $4 bucks. Not to mention we had to wait 1.5 hours just to take the tour! We all walked out of there disappointed. So disappointed I didn’t even take a picture of the outside and that is all I could have taken a picture of as you can in the tour. Pictures are not allowed on the tour. With such a good name behind them, they seemed to have gone too corporate (If you did not know, they are owned by Unilever now). I’m sure that if you have kids, they would enjoy it as they have a playground. However, we did not.

Ok, Ok, I am done with that. Again, they do make some good ice cream. And yes, they do some great charity work. But this “Factory Tour” was, for us, a total waist of time. They surely should not be charging for it at all for they surely sell enough ice cream at the walkup windows with a 30 min waiting line to cover it.

Now we have not been ones to frequent chains restaurants and such and this really just reaffirmed it all for us. The lesson we learned is to really give our business to the mom and pop places that need our business and not the corporations. Vermont is certainly not lacking in the mom and pop area.

We truly did love our time in Vermont. We had great friends to explore the state with. We had some down time to relax and we had some good times around the dinner table. Although we only took 12 days to explore Vermont, we felt it was adequate time to see and do everything that we wanted. We can now check Vermont off the list.

Until we run out of that wine! Then another trip may be in order.

In our last post you had seen David’s video on the RV park we stayed at. Well, he was bored and decided to take that footage and, well, add to it. :)