Wandering Around America One State at a Time – West Virginia

State 43:

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

West Virginia

West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863. The Capital is Charleston.

Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue ridge mountain, Shenandoah river,
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

– from “Country Roads, Take Me Home” by John Denver

West Virginia is in my blood. My father grew up in a farm house high up in the southern part of the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains during the depression. Way back in the 1700’s my ancestors settled in the part of Virginia that later became West Virginia. Every year of my childhood my brothers and I climbed in the back seat of our family station wagon to travel up the narrow, winding roads up the mountain to spend a week at my grandparent’s house where my father grew up.

I’ve only traveled to West Virginia a few times in my adult life. Over 20 years ago Henry and I traveled to Pence Springs to attend a family reunion. The beautiful old Pence Springs Grand Hotel was our home for the reunion. Through the years the building has been a girl’s school, a resort, and a women’s prison. Since our stay there it has reverted back to a girl’s school.

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Pence Springs Grand Hotel
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Pence Springs Grand Hotel

The campground at Pipestem Resort State Park was our home for several days of exploring southern West Virginia. Located on the east rim of the Bluestone River Gorge, this scenic park was perfectly located for day trips all around the area.

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An aerial tramway takes visitors to the bottom of the 1,200 foot Bluestone Gorge in Pipestem State Park
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It’s a long way down to the Bluestone River

One of my ancestors,  Col. James Graham built this home in 1772. One of the oldest and most historic homes in West Virginia, The Graham House Preservation Society maintains the house and tours are available.

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Graham House, Summers County
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Graham House, Summers County

The New River is one of the oldest rivers on the continent and is one of the few that flows north. Biking trails, hiking trails, and white water rafting are popular activities in The New River Gorge National River. The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world. We stopped at a few of the overlooks in the park for spectacular views of the river.

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The New River flows north
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Bridges over the New River
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Sandstone Falls on the New River
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New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world

We enjoyed walking around historic Hinton and took a drive to the Bluestone Dam.

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Bluestone Dam
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Bluestone Dam
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Hinton, WV Courthouse
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John Henry Statue, Talcott, West Virginia

After leaving Pipestem State Park our travels took us through Charleston where we passed by the state capitol on the way through the city.

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State capital in Charleston, West Virginia

In another part of West Virginia we toured parts of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. We were camped at the Harpers Ferry / Civil War Battlefields KOA and took a ranger guided tour of the battlefield at Murphy Farm where Confederate Soldiers captured over 12,000 Union soldiers in September, 1862.

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Confederate soldiers climbed up this bank with cannons of the Shenandoah River at the Murphy Farm

Next we strolled around the historic buildings in the town of Harpers Ferry. John Brown’s raid took place here in 1859 and the town changed hands about 8 times during the Civil War. The town is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.  These days it is a popular place for tubing, kayaking and fishing.

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, West Virginia
John Brown’s Fort at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, West Virginia
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Harpers Ferry
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The Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry is a popular place for tubing an kayaking
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Harpers Ferry

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     Utah     Virginia   Washington

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Washington

State 42:

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

Washington

Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. The Capital is Olympia.

Our first journey through the state of Washington began when we crossed the state line from Idaho heading west. After a quick night in Spokane we drove across the plains of south east and central Washington. On both sides of the highway were fields of sweet corn, alfalfa, potatoes and spearmint. Later in the day the flat land changed to rolling hills.  We stopped at the Columbia River Gorge for a look before crossing the river.

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Columbia River Gorge
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Columbia River Gorge

After another quick stay at a campground outside of Seattle, we drove through Olympia and began our journey on Hwy 101 to the Olympic Peninsula. For many miles we traveled along the Hood Canal before arriving in Port Angeles to explore Olympic National Park.

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Hood Canal beside Hwy 101

A drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge was the first thing on our agenda. It was sunny when we started the ascent up the winding road but it wasn’t long before the snow started coming down. When we arrived at the top the snow was deep and there were snow boarders and cross country skiiers enjoying the snow. The view of the mountains was spectacular.

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Driving through snow on the road to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
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Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park
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Deer beside the road on the way to Hurricane Ridge
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On the way back down we stopped for a view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with Canada on the other side

Another day we drove by Crescent Lake on the way to the Hoh Rain Forest. When we arrived at the National Park entrance we were disappointed to find it closed. After making a few purchases at a small store a few miles from the entrance we found out there was a trail head just outside the park so off we went to explore the trail. There had been a big storm the previous year and there were many trees down.

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Crescent Lake
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Hiking in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park
Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington

After our hike, we passed by a field with Roosevelt Elk on the drive back to the campground.

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Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park
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Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park

Dungeness Harbor was nearby so one night we went for dinner at the Three Crabs (the restaurant is now closed). There was a great view of the New Dungeness Lighthouse and were able to watch the sun go down.

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New Dungeness Lighthouse
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Sunset at Dungeness Harbor

Leaving Port Angeles in our rear view mirror we continued our journey through Washington on Hwy 101. As we drove south along the coast we caught our first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Hoping to find a parking space big enough for our truck and fifth wheel, we turned off the highway into a parking area at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Success! It was a little tight but there was space to park and turn around to get back to the highway. After going down a short path to the beach we enjoyed our first walk beside the Pacific Ocean.

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Our first view of the Pacific Ocean was Ruby Beach
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Ruby Beach
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Ruby Beach

We continued down the coast to our next stop, Cape Disappointment Sate Park on the Long Beach Peninsula. It quickly became one of our all time favorite state park campgrounds. Our site was spacious with with a path behind the site. Inside the state park there were trails to explore, beautiful beaches, two lighthouses, magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean from high atop cliffs, and a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The first order of business to walk down the path and we were thrilled to step out onto a beautiful beach with a view of the North Head Lighthouse.

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I loved this view of the North Head Lighthouse as we walked out on the beach from the trail behind our campsite
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A short trail behind our campsite at Cape Disappointment State Park led us to this beautiful beach
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Sunset at Cape Disappointment State Park
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High above the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment State Park
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Boat washed up on the beach at Cape Disappointment State Park

Lewis and Clark first spotted the Pacific Ocean while is the area and there is evidence of the their presence in and out of the state park. We learned a lot about their journey at the excellent Interpretive Center in the state park.

We explored some of the nearby towns and beaches on the Long Beach Peninsula. We ate our fill of local seafood at some of the restaurants in the area. Blondie loved running on the dog friendly beaches.

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Blondie loved the dog friendly beach at Long Beach

We loved the two lighthouses at Cape Disappointment State Park.

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North Head Light
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Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Our first Washington adventure ended when we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. Several years later we returned to Washington on our return trip from Alaska. After a couple of nights in Orroville just south of the border from British Columbia our route took us past more beautiful scenery and the Grand Coulee Dam.

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Driving along in northern Washington after our trip to Alaska in 2013
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Near the Grand Coulee Dam
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Grand Coulee Dam

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     Utah     Virginia

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Virginia

State 41:

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. We have not visited Vermont so the next state in my series is

Virginia

Virginia became the 10th state on June 25, 1788. The Capital is Richmond.

Scenic mountain drives, a Sunday jam session at Floyd Country Store, Claytor Lake State Park, Natural Bridge, and a movie location are a few of the places we have visited in Virginia in recent years.

There are many spectacular views along the Skyline Drive which runs through the entire length of Shenandoah National Park.

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Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia has some magnificent views and interesting rock formations.

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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
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Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
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Butterfly and wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Rocky Knob picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter's Center
Blue Ridge Parkway from overlook at Rocky Knob Visiter’s Center

The movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed at Mountain Lake Lodge.

Mountain Lake Lodge, Virginia
Mountain Lake Lodge, Virginia

Before we had our fifth wheel we drove through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

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Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Listening to the Appalachian music and watching the flatfoot dancers at the Sunday oldtime music  jam session at Floyd Country Store was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

The Floyd Country Store
Floyd Country Store in Floyd, VA
Sunday Jam Session at the Floyd Country Store
Sunday Jam Session at the Floyd Country Store
Sunday Jam Session at Floyd Country Store
These guys could really play!

Claytor Lake State Park has been a frequent camping destination since we have been RV’ing and is one of our favorite state parks with a beautiful lake, trails, and wildlife.

Trail at Claytor Lake State Park
Trail at Claytor Lake State Park
Deer visited the campground on our last morning at Claytor Lake
Deer in the campground at Claytor Lake

Seeing the Natural Bridge requires either a walk down many steps to a paved path or taking a shuttle drive down the hill to the beginning of the path. Either way it is worth it to see this amazing natural formation.

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Natural Bridge, Virginia
Small waterfall beside the trail at Natural Bridge, Virginia
Small waterfall beside the trail at Natural Bridge, Virginia

 

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     Utah

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