Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Utah

State 40:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is

Utah

Utah became the 45th state on January 4, 1896. The Capital is Salt Lake City.

As we drove through Utah exploring national and state parks the scenery was spectacular. There were red sandstone cliffs and hoodoos, multicolored striped mesas, white cliffs, red slick rock, arches and balanced rocks, canyons carved by river water, and twisting narrow highways with steep grades.

We had our first views of Utah as we entered the state from the southern border with Arizona.

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Red Canyon

Our first Utah destination was Bryce Canyon National Park. After setting up camp at Ruby’s Inn we headed to Bryce to take an afternoon drive through the park. Just a few overlooks later our drive was cut short as the rain started coming down. By the time we got back to our campsite the rain was coming down in buckets. With better weather the next morning we returned to Bryce for some more views of the red sandstone formations called hoodoos.

As we traveled on scenic Utah Highway 12 from Bryce Canyon to Torrey we stopped for lunch at Kodachrome Basin State Park.

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Henry and Blondie are standing at the base of this hoodoo in Kodachrome Basin State Park
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Kodachrome Basin State Park

After lunch we continued to Torrey. The narrow highway climbed upward with several 8% and a couple of 10% grades. We were both happy when we arrived at Sand Creek RV Park safe and sound. There were no other campers in the park and our site had a great view of red cliffs and mountains.

The next morning we left the camper in the campground to make the 20 mile round trip scenic drive through Capitol Reef National Park.

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Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)
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Capitol Reef Petroglyphs

Traveling on Highway 24 from Torrey to Moab the scenery changed from red cliffs to all white cliffs to grey and gold mesas near a town called Luna Mesa.

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Driving through Luna Mesa on Highway 24 we felt like we were on the moon

Portal RV Park in Moab was our home for a few days while we toured Arches National Park,  Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and enjoyed several  Moab restaurants.

We made several visits to Arches National Park and went on a few short hikes. I have a terrible fear of heights and was hesitant to do the Delicate Arch hike because there is a section where the trail is very narrow and high above ground. I am very happy that I didn’t let my fear keep me from making the hike that was the highlight of our visit to Arches.

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Henry standing under Delicate Arch
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Petroglyphs at the bottom of the Delicate Arch trail

There were many other arches and formations in Arches National Park that we saw as we toured the park and walked on many short trails.

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Three Gossips at Arches National Park
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Balanced Rock at Arches National Park
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Arches National Park
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Double Arch at Arches National Park
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One of the Elephants on Parade at Arches National Park
Arches National Park Landscape Arch
Arches National Park Landscape Arch

Dead Horse Point was a short drive from our campground in Moab. The view from one of the overlooks provided a spectacular view of the Colorado River and the deep canyon.

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Dead Horse Point State Park

We arrived at Canyonlands National Park just as the afternoon storms were rolling in.

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Rain over Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Of all the Utah parks we visited, Zion is my favorite. Maybe it’s because we had this view from our campsite beside the Virgin River in the Watchman Campground. Or maybe it’s because our first night we watched the moon rise over Watchman.

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Moon rising over Watchman in Zion National Park

Or maybe it’s my favorite because of the beauty of the park. To hop on the shuttle for a ride through the canyon all we had to do was take a short walk from our campsite to the Visitor’s Center. One day we took Blondie on a four mile hike on the Pa’Rus trail beside the Virgin River. Another day we took a ranger guided shuttle tour through the canyon in the morning and drove through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel to the East entrance after lunch. The landscape changed on the other side of the mountain and we discovered a herd of Big Horn Sheep.

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Blondie takes a dip in the Virgin River
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Virgin River in Zion National Park
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Zion National Park
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The Narrows in Zion National Park
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Menu Falls at Zion National Park
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Three Patriarchs in Zion National Park
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Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park
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Big Horn Sheep in Zion National Park
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Big Horn Sheep in Zion National Park

Our adventures in Utah continued as we towed our fifth wheel through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel to our next destination, Gouldings Lodge and Campground in Utah near Monument Valley which is in the Navajo Nation Reservation in both Arizona and Utah.

John Wayne's Cabin from "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"
John Wayne’s Cabin at Goulding’s from “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”
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View of Monument Valley from Goulding’s Lodge and Campground

The elemental effects of nature on the earth are evident all over the state. Water and wind created these magnificent formations on the earth.

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina     South Dakota     Tennessee     Texas

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Texas

State 39:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is

Texas

Texas became the 28th state on December 29, 1845. The Capital is Austin.

Texas is the second largest state by area and unless you’ve driven through Texas it is hard to comprehend the size. Our Texas adventures have taken us through the Texas Panhandle, mesquite and cactus covered plains, the green rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country, and the beautiful Texas Gulf Coast. Along the way we camped by beautiful lakes, near the Gulf Coast, in the second largest canyon in the United States, and a quite a few places in between. As we drove around the back roads we saw canyons and creeks, dance halls and wineries, historic sites and ranches, quaint small towns and old homesteads, toured museums, made a few hikes, attended a fiddle fest and chuck wagon races, met wonderful Texans, and saw more wildflowers than I ever imagined.

The lighthouse trail at Palo Duro Canyon, Enchanted Rock, and the Devil’s Waterhole Trail at Inks Lake were some of our favorite hikes.

The official Texas Longhorn herd is divided between a few state parks. At Copper Breaks State Park and Palo Duro Canyon State Park we saw them up close.

We planned a spring trip to Texas so we could see the bluebonnets in bloom. Texas is the only place on earth where some of the bluebonnet varieties bloom naturally. There were also many other wildflowers along the way.

We found some wonderful places to camp. We especially enjoyed camping at many Texas State Parks.

Rain and fog couldn’t keep us from enjoying the three state parks and Padre Island National Seashore along the Texas Gulf Coast.

There are many varieties of birds along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Texas Horned Lizards, Cottontail Rabbits, mule deer, white tailed deer, prairie dogs, and wild turkeys are some of the wildlife I was able to capture.

Being serenaded, attending a fiddle fest, listening to music in a dance hall, touring the Buddy Holly museum, going to Luckenback, and seeing signs about Willie Nelson reminded us of how important music is to the Lone Star State.

For us, no trip to Texas would be complete without sampling some of their fantastic steaks and barbecue, especially the brisket.

In Paris, Texas we stopped to see the Eiffel Tower with a red  cowboy hat and attended chuck wagon races.

There were interesting things to see all around the state.

One of the best things about visiting Texas is meeting native Texans. Without fail, every  Texan we met was proud of their state and eager to share their favorite places to visit or where to find the best brisket. One woman I met had so many good suggestions about places to go I had to get a notebook out of the truck to take notes!

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina     South Dakota     Tennessee

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Tennessee

State 38:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is

Tennessee

Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796. The Capital is Nashville.

Elvis, BBQ, Blues and the Mississippi River in Memphis. Country music, The Grand Ole Opry and camping beside a lake in Nashville. The Tennessee Aquarium and other attractions in Chatanooga. Waterfalls near Crossville. Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Sevierville. Waterfront camping at J. Percy Priest and Normandy Lake. Touring a famous distillery in Lynchville. These are just a few of the things we loved in Tennessee.

Before our RV days, the Opryland Hotel was our home base in  Nashville for a night at the Grand Ole Opry, cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs as they played the Vanderbilt Commodores, and a night at the Wild Horse Saloon.

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Grand Ole Opry
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Atrium at the Opryland Hotel
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Line Dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville

On our way home from our first RV trip out west we spent a couple of days wandering around Memphis. We toured Elvis’ Graceland, ate our fill of ribs at two different restaurants, listened to blues at B. B. King’s BBQ and Blues on Beale Street, and strolled along the scale model of the Mississippi River at Mud Island River Walk.

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Elvis’s grave at Graceland
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Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis
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Elvis Presley’s Pink Cadillac

 

While wandering near Crossville we discovered two waterfalls.

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Fall Creek Falls
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Ozone Falls near Crossville

We enjoyed the campground at Old Stone Fort Archeological State Park and have camped there twice. Both times we hiked beside the Big Duck River to see the waterfalls.

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Campers cross this bridge to get to the campground at Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park
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Waterfalls on the Big Duck River in Old Stone Fort State Park

One November we traveled to Sevierville to take in the beautiful fall colors and scenery of Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A mama bear and her cub were hanging around the picnic area when we stopped for lunch in the park. Mama kept a close eye on her cub as he searched for a bite to eat. When the rangers chased them off the cub scampered up a nearby tree.

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Mama bear watching out for her cub at picnic area in Cades Cove
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Bear cub at picnic area in Cades Cove
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The cub escaped to a tree when the rangers chased them away

Seven Points Corps of Engineers Campground in Nashville is a favorite of ours. Seeing this sunset from our campsite was a great way to end the day.

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Sunset over J. Percy Priest Lake at Seven Points COE Campground

In Chattanooga the Tennessee Aquarium was a highlight of our stay.

We chose a waterfront site at Barton Springs TVA Campground as our home base for taking a tour at the Jack Daniels Distillery in nearby Lynchburg.

Blondie enjoying our site Barton Springs
Blondie enjoying our site Barton Springs
Old time jugs
Old time jugs

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina     South Dakota

Spring at Callaway Gardens

Our latest wandering took us on a short trip that was full of excitement. Our first stop was F. D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park, in Pine Mountain. It was the perfect place for us to use as home base for exploring both Callaway Gardens and F.D.R.’s Little White House in Warm Springs.

After driving in the rain on the winding road through the park we arrived at the Visitor’s Center to check in just after a tornado warning had been lifted. Everything was fine in the campground and we set up camp just before another rain shower began.

“Connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both.” – Callaway Gardens Mission

With the sun shining the next morning we drove about 15 minutes from our campsite to Callaway Gardens.  Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens opened in 1952. Today, there are many different gardens to explore, a lodge, golf course, swimming beach, and even a zip-line adventure.

Our tour of the gardens began with a stop at the Pioneer Log Cabin. From there we strolled along the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Trail with many Georgia native plants.  The Flowering Dogwoods and many other wildflowers displayed their brilliant spring colors.

Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens

Next we walked on the trails to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center for a look at some tropical butterflies. Butterflies of all sizes, shapes and colors fed on the colorful blossoms and sailed by our heads as they flew from flower to flower.

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens

We learned about some of Georgia’s birds of prey at the Discovery Center. As our guide gave a very informative presentation, two different species of owl and a red tailed hawk flew over our heads during the program.

Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Willow the Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show

We must have just missed the Azaleas at their peak because most of the Azaleas on the Overlook Azalea trail had finished blooming. The Flowering Dogwoods and other trees added color to the landscape.

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Callaway Gardens Azalea Trail
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Flowering Dogwoods were in bloom at Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud at Callaway Gardens
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail

Our visit to Callaway Gardens included only a few of the many gardens there. It is a wonderful family destination and bicycles are a popular way to get around the park. There are several restaurants to choose from or you can have a picnic in one of the picnic areas.

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – California

State 5:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride! I will be featuring the states alphabetically and next up is

California

California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The capital is Sacramento. California is the most populous state and the third largest in area.

In 2007 we spent three weeks exploring California. It wasn’t nearly enough time to see the whole state but the Pacific Ocean, giant trees, five national parks, San Diego  and everything else were all spectacular.

Our first views of California were along the Pacific Coast Highway as we drove south from Oregon. Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, Redwood National Park, and the beautiful vineyards were a few of the things we enjoyed in northern California.

Our home base for exploring Yosemite National Park was the Wawona Campground inside the national park. We drove through Yosemite Valley, took a few short hikes, made the  the drive to Glacier Point, had a delicious lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel, and felt small as we walked through the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias.

There were many more of the magnificent giant trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We even spotted a bear in one of the meadows.

After all that sightseeing we decided to take a couple of days to relax in a resort near Palm Springs and spent a day wandering through Joshua Tree National Park.

Our final stop was San Diego where we toured Cabrillo National Monument and the USS Midway. Our Labrador Retriever Blondie was in heaven when we took her to the dog beach near Coronado. As we drove east from  San Diego we passed by the Imperial Sand Dunes and the Chocolate Mountains.

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas