Featured

Quick Stop: Zion Episcopal Church

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Where in the world is it?

Zion Episcopal Church is in Charles Town, West Virginia. The town was settled by Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of George Washington, around 1780. At the time, Charles Town was in Virginia, as West Virginia did not become a state until 1863. Charles Town is the county seat of Jefferson County, West Virginia, and lies in the Shenandoah Valley.

About Zion Episcopal Church

The original building was constructed around 1815, but another larger church was built on the site and was completed in 1848. Tragically, the second church building burned. The third church building was dedicated in 1851 and is the building that exists today, though the steeple wasn’t added until the 1890s. Perhaps most significant is the church cemetery. Approximately 70 of George Washington’s relatives are buried here, many of whom were born at Mount Vernon. Resting beside the Washington family members are other prominent historic figures and townspeople. According to the church history, approximately 85 to 90 Confederate soldiers and two Revolutionary War officers are also buried here.

 

We were able to walk through the cemetery and read many of the grave markers. Some of them are so old, however, that the words on them have been erased by time.

We identified the markers of quite a few members of the Washington family, and we were surprised by how many were named George

During the Civil War, the church was seized by Union soldiers for use as a barracks and later as a hospital. The soldiers did so much damage to the interior that it had to be completely renovated after the war.

One last view of Zion Episcopal Church surrounded by its cemetery

And now you know.

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2021

Featured

Annapolis, Maryland and The United States Naval Academy

The Maryland State House in Annapolis

We strolled a few streets of Annapolis, and went to the City Dock which was great – we ate some good barbecue there – but parking came at a premium and there were lots and lots of people. Being Covid-conscious, although we’ve been vaccinated, we weren’t real keen on big crowds. It was fun, though, and we would go back in a heartbeat to see more of the city.

A shot from City Dock. Luckily, we were able to park after feeding a meter our credit card, and we were just steps from the pedestrian entrance to the Academy and visitor center.

We went to Annapolis because it is the capital of Maryland, but our primary goal was to see the US Naval Academy. Now we wish we would have allowed more time to visit there. Honestly, we could’ve spent days touring the Academy.

Prestigious homes on Porter Road, sometimes called Captain’s Row. These beautiful houses, built in 1905, are for higher ranked essential personnel to live in while stationed at the Academy.
The Chapel, dedicated in 1908. John Paul Jones’ remains were entombed here in 1913. His remains had been returned to the US in 1905 after being found buried in a cemetery in France where he had lain for 113 years. Seeing the Chapel was the highlight of our visit.
Mahan Hall Clock Tower framed by stunning crepe myrtles
Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the US, is home away from home to some 4,000 midshipmen. The building has 1700 rooms, 33 acres of floor space, and almost five miles of hallways/corridors. Noon meal formations are held in front of this building during the academic year.
Tamanend, Chief of the Delaware Indians. Chief Tamanend, now called Tecumseh sits in Tecumseh Court (T-Court to the midshipmen) in front of Bancroft Hall where the noon meal formations take place. The original of this sculpture was the figurehead of the USS Delaware which was burned during the Civil War. The figurehead was saved, however, and ended up at the Academy in 1866. This bronze, cast from the original wooden carving, was completed in 1930.

If you plan to visit the Academy, be prepared to go through a security process similar to ones at airports, and you will be asked to show a valid photo ID. No weapons of any kind are allowed to be carried onto the campus. Self-guided and guided tours are available.

As we said, we could have spent days here, and maybe someday we will return, as the Academy was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. For more information about the United States Naval Academy and its history, click here: https://www.usna.edu/homepage.php then click on the “About” tab.

And for some interesting tidbits about the navy, click here: https://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-u-s-navy

We’re going to leave you with the navy mascot, Bill the Goat:

Thanks so much for joining us on our journey! Please join us again soon. We really appreciate comments, likes, and follows. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road (or at a national park!) 

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2021

 

Featured

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Williamsport, Maryland

The C & O Canal runs for 184.5 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD

The first idea for a canal was introduced as a bill submitted in 1774 to the Virginia governing body of the time by George Washington. His plan was to use the Potomac River as a means to move cargo, however, there were parts of the river that would be too dangerous for boats. He proposed to build a canal system that would enable navigation around those treacherous areas. After the Revolutionary War, his plans were set in motion and the Potowmack Canal Company was established with Washington at its helm. The canal was completed in 1802, three years after Washington’s death. It operated until 1828 when the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company took over Potowmack Canal Company and devised a plan to build a better canal system which would connect the Ohio River to the Chesapeake Bay. Under the new C & O plan, the canal would run next to the Potomac, but boats would not have to navigate the river. The construction period ran from 1828 to 1850, but the canal never made it to the Ohio River, mainly because the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad got there first. Moving cargo via the railroad was faster and more efficient. The canal was utilized from 1831 to 1924, and in its last years was used primarily for moving coal from the Allegheny Mountains to Washington, DC.

In 1938, the government purchased the canal with plans to turn it into a recreational area. President Eisenhower declared a portion of the canal a national monument in 1961. Ten years later, President Nixon signed a bill into law creating the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.

Cushwa’s historic warehouse in Williamsport, MD, one of the three current visitor centers for the park

We chose to visit the Williamsport, MD portion of the park because it was the closest to our next destination. Our initial plans did not include this stop, but we are so glad we were able make the last minute change. Williamsport is the future home of the park’s headquarters. The National Park Service is currently refurbishing the site of a former lumber company that sits across the street from Cushwa’s.

This portion of the park sits at the confluence of the Potomac River (background) and Conococheague Creek (foreground). What a serene and beautiful place we found this to be on a lazy September morning. By the way, those trees on in the background are in West Virginia. Here the Potomac forms the border between West Virginia and Maryland.
The canal as it flows over the recently restored (in 2019) Conococheague Aqueduct
The 1879 Bollman bridge over the canal is one of the oldest standing iron railroad bridges in the US. Here you can see the towpath where mules would walk as they towed boats up and down the canal. Now, the towpath is used for a walking and biking trail. Trivia: the C & O Canal towpath at Harper’s Ferry, WV is part of the Appalachian Trail.

Wendell Bollman, a self-taught engineer who began his career at the age of 15, designed a specific type of truss, now called the Bollman Truss, that was used for many bridges built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B & O) including the one shown above. Trivia: the B & O Railroad is the same one that sits between Illinois and Atlantic Avenues as depicted on the classic Monopoly game board.

Built in 1923, this strange-looking contraption is the only one of it’s kind on the C & O Canal. It is a railroad lift bridge that operated like an elevator to lower the tracks enabling trains loaded with coal to cross the canal. It is now a pedestrian bridge.
A view of the railroad lift bridge from underneath
A different view of the Bollman bridge with railroad tracks on the ground next to the canal. These tracks (along with the railroad lift bridge seen in the previous photos) would have been for the trains delivering coal to the power plant, part of which can be seen in the top right-hand corner of the picture.

For more information about this historic park, click here: https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm

We are going to end our trip to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park here, but we will leave you with one more look at the canal and towpath. Imagine warm sunshine, no breeze, the smells of the earth, and complete solitude with nothing to disturb you except the summery drone of an occasional cicada. This is that place.

Thank you so much for stopping by our blog! Please come back soon for another road trip, quick stop, or travel tip. We love hearing from our readers, so feel free to leave a comment, and be sure to “like” us, too. Become a follower so you never miss one of our posts. We will not share or sell your information

Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2021

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Peek a boo, I see you

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First stop: Old Brazos River Bridge

Where in the world is it?

The Brazos River Bridge is located on the old Highway 380 near Newcastle, Young County, in North Central Texas. The five section truss bridge was closed when the new Highway 380 bridge was built over the Brazos River in 1988. In 2018, the old bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Above is a view of the old bridge from the new bridge with the muddy Brazos River flowing underneath.

Second stop: Anson, Texas

Where in the world is it?

Anson is located approximately 25 miles northwest of Abilene in Jones County.

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Above is the Jones County Courthouse, the centerpiece of downtown Anson. The statue underneath the flags is of Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas. The town and the county are named in his honor.

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The Palace Theater sign in downtown Anson. Like much of downtown Anson, the theater is long defunct, but the sign remains. The town boasts an Opera House that was built in 1907, though, it is now in disrepair and no longer used. Anson’s Opera House was once the largest between Fort Worth and El Paso.

It’s a fact, Jack!

There ain’t no dancin’ allowed in Anson! In 1933, all dancing was outlawed in Anson, except during the annual Cowboys’ Christmas Ball which has been being held the weekend before Christmas since 1885 and is still held today. After bickering between citizens for and citizens (mainly church leaders) against made national headlines in 1987, dancing was once again allowed in Anson – with restrictions. Some believe that the film “Footloose” was based on Anson’s refusal to allow dancing in the town. Trivia: Jeannie C. Riley, who sang the 1968 country hit, “Harper Valley PTA” is from Anson. And now you know…

That’s all for this post. Thank you for joining us on our latest quick stops. We invite you to return to our site again for another great adventure on the road. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Camping in Texas: Lake Mackenzie

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Lake Mackenzie is a municipal water district reservoir located about seventy miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas. The water district manages campgrounds and recreation areas around the lake. RV with electric and water hook ups and tent camping are available here. (Campers, the campgrounds were nice and clean, but the bathrooms/showers were very dirty.) Currently, speed boats and skiing are prohibited due to low water levels, however, pontoons, kayaks, and motorized fishing boats, as well as jet skis are permitted. We suggest checking with the lake regarding water levels and boating regulations prior to arrival. Lake Mackenzie is a popular fishing lake. There are two beaches for swimming, picnic areas, miles of ATV trails, and group facilities. This is definitely a place to kick back and relax.

For information and fees, here’s a link to the website: Lake Mackenzie

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Interesting West Texas history

We enjoyed camping at Lake Mackenzie. The relaxing atmosphere was perfect for a weekend trip. During our stay, we saw several deer, a raccoon, a fox, and many different birds.

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This mama and baby mule deer pair walked right through our campsite

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This beauty got up early to watch the sunrise with us. You would think we had never seen a deer before, but it’s still a thrill to see them in their habitat. We love their curiosity…and their big ears!

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Four Canada geese and their early morning reflections on the lake

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Side trip: Caprock Canyons State Park is about forty minutes southeast of Lake Mackenzie. (Link to our Caprock Canyons post here: Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway.) Caprock Canyons is home to the Texas State Bison Herd and is a can’t-miss state park. Go not only for the beauty of the red cliffs and canyons, go to see the bison. There is a wonderful scenic drive and miles of hiking trails, too.

When we camp, we love to get up early for the sunrise, and the Lake Mackenzie sunrises did not disappoint. Neither did the sunsets. We were also treated to two brilliant harvest moons, but unfortunately those didn’t photograph well. Here is our favorite sunrise shot:IMG_5563And, our favorite sunset shot:IMG_6823

The scenery is breathtaking as you enter the canyon on approach to Lake Mackenzie from the south. It reminded us a little of the area around Moab, Utah, specifically Canyonlands National Park, with its red rock fins, buttes and hoodoos. Y’all know how we love red rocks!IMG_5569IMG_6754IMG_5566

Here are a few more shots of the lake:

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Pontoons on a sunset cruise

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Cloudy reflections near the beach

That’s going to do it for this weekend trip. We hope you enjoyed Lake Mackenzie as much as we did. Please join us next time for another adventure, tip or trick. You are the reason we post our trips. Become a follower so you never miss a post, and follow us on Facebook, too. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2019

 

 

 

 

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Ouray, Colorado

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Sometimes called the Switzerland of America, Ouray (pronounced, your-ay) is one of the prettiest mountain towns in Colorado, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of them! Located on US Highway 550, aka The San Juan Skyway, which runs from Montrose, Colorado, via Silverton and Durango, Colorado, then 550 continues down to Bernalillo, New Mexico. The portion of the road from Ouray to Silverton is called the Million Dollar Highway, and is one of the most scenic drives in the United States.

Getting There

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The closest major airport city to Ouray is Grand Junction, Colorado, so that is where our trip will begin.

*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn.

From Grand Junction, take US Highway 50 south toward Delta, then to Montrose. Continue south through Montrose on US Highway 550 to Ouray. This route follows the Uncompahgre River to Ouray. Drive time between Grand Junction and Ouray: 1.75 hours.

Bonus stop: Ridgway State Park. Located just north of Ouray, this park offers numerous camping options, including yurts. Boating, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, and birding are some of the activities found at this park. Plus the scenery here is spectacular! Here’s a link: Ridgway State Park.

Destination: Ouray, Colorado

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Here is a website link for information about lodging, food, and things to do: Ouray, Colorado

Our first stop in Ouray is Box Cañon Falls Park. Admission: $4.00 per adult and $2.00 per child. Take a nice, easy trail from the entrance to the falls. You will hear the falls before you see them – they roar! Most of the water cascades behind the walls of this slot canyon, but you will catch glimpses of the falls through gaps in the rock and at the bottom. At times, the rushing water seems to appear out of nowhere. This stop is well worth the admission price. We will let the pictures below speak for themselves.

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In addition to the easy trail to the falls, there is another trail to the top of the falls that is a little more strenuous (quite a few stairs), but the views are worth the hike.IMG_3564

Upon entering the park, you may notice pipes and sprayers arranged on the rocks along the side of the road. These are used to make ice in the winter. Ouray has become an acclaimed ice climbing destination, and the town hosts the Ouray Ice Festival every January.

Our next stop is for a short hike at Cascade Falls. Although it is only about a quarter mile to the falls, this is a moderately strenuous, steep, uphill hike. However, the waterfall is worth a little panting, and there is a nice covered area with benches at a viewpoint.

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While visiting Ouray, take a few minutes to learn about the town’s namesake: the great Ute Chief Ouray, and his wife, Chipeta. Their former farm, located on the Uncompahgre River south of Montrose, is now the site of the Ute Indian Museum. Another home, a cabin, stood near where the Ouray Hot Springs Pool is today in Ouray. By the way, the pool, which has recently been renovated, will delight the entire family! Here’s a link: Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

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Eight square blocks of the original town of Ouray are a National Historic District. We would encourage anyone visiting the town to take a walking tour along Main Street. Stop in at the Ouray County Museum for a history lesson and pick up a walking tour map, then take in the many historic sites, as well as the shops and restaurants along the way.

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The scenery is breathtaking, and just getting to spend a few hours or days in the peaceful solitude of this town makes it well worth the trip. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by a large screw embedded in our tire.

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We hope our overview of Ouray, Colorado was informative and that we’ve inspired your wanderlust. As we always say, “Just get in the car!” With a little planning, there’s nothing more fun than a road trip, especially when you get to see scenery like this! Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2019

 

 

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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  • Website Link: Carlsbad Caverns
  • Basic Entrance Fee: $12.00 per person. Kids 15 and under are admitted free. (Baby strollers are not allowed.)
  • Parts of the Big Room Trail are wheelchair accessible.
  • Ranger guided tours are available for additional fees.
  • Tours of other caves are available for additional fees, and reservations may be required.
  • Hours vary depending on the season. Check the above website for information.
  • Cafeteria available in visitor center. Snack bar located in the cavern.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
  • RV/tent camping available in White’s City, the city of Carlsbad, and on BLM lands near the park. Backcountry camping requires a permit. Check the website for additional information.
  • When to go: anytime.

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Located 75 stories beneath the New Mexico desert, lies a dark and magical place like no other. Stalagmites, stalactites, domes, totems, mirror-like pools, and even chandeliers make for breathtaking sights (and exceptional photo ops) on your journey through the caverns. Walk in to the cavern via the natural entrance if you are up for the challenge, or take the speedy new elevator to the entrance of the Big Room. The Big Room Trail is a little over a mile long, and it is definitely worth every step. Plan to spend at least two hours enjoying the trail.

Travel tip: the temperature in the cave is a constant 56 degrees, so a light jacket is recommended, along with sturdy walking shoes with non-slip soles. For those who tend to be claustrophobic, don’t worry – this place is huge!

Getting There

IMG_4570 (1)Carlsbad Caverns National Park is approximately:

150 miles from El Paso, Texas200 miles from Lubbock, Texas300 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Paso is the closest city with a major airport so our trip will start from there.

From El Paso, take US Highway 62/180 East toward Carlsbad, New Mexico. Drive time between El Paso and Carlsbad Caverns: 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours to the city of Carlsbad.

Travel tip: fill up with gas, use the restroom, and stock a few drinks and snacks before leaving El Paso. Services are very minimal along this road. Watch for the salt flats and beautiful mountain peaks of Guadalupe Mountains National Park along the way.

*Recommended campground in Carlsbad: Carlsbad KOA Holiday, located north of town, and approximately 40 minutes from the park.

*Recommended hotel in Carlsbad: Holiday Inn Express.

Destination: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Below are some of the sights along the Big Room Trail. We will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Bacon!

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Massive beauty

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Chinese Theater

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Mirror Lake

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Doll’s Theater

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Popcorn!

 

IMG_4463 (1)Most people visit Carlsbad Caverns to see the caves, but the park offers so much more, such as:

  • an amphitheater from which to watch thousands of bats come out at night during the months of May through October.
  • a scenic desert drive.
  • ranger led cave tours and night sky programs.
  • picnic areas.
  • hiking trails.
  • shopping, exhibits, and a nature walk at the visitor center.

About five miles south of White’s City, there is a turn off on Highway 418 to a separate little sliver of the park called Rattlesnake Springs. This is a day use area, mainly for picnicking. Along the same road, there is a BLM property called Cottonwood Picnic Area. This is a great place to stop for lunch, and just east of the picnic area there is a short nature trail that leads to the Black River. We were thrilled to find this hidden gem.

Travel tip: Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in a desert. Spring, summer, and fall temperatures can be high, and the air is usually dry. Always prepare for the weather and bring along plenty of water.

IMG_4370 (1)Other things to do in the area include:

  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Here’s a link: Living Desert. (Carlsbad)
  • Brantley Lake State Park. Water sports, RV and tent camping. Here’s a link: Brantley Lake. (Carlsbad)
  • Lake Carlsbad Beach Park. Water sports, playground, swimming, fishing, just to name a few, in addition to miles of walker-friendly sidewalks! (Carlsbad)
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park. One hour south of Carlsbad, and 30 minutes south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
  • Sitting Bull Falls. One hour southwest of Carlsbad in the Lincoln National Forest.

We hope that our overview of Carlsbad Caverns National Park inspires you to grab your camera, hop in the car, and head that way. The caverns are certainly more beautiful than the pictures portray, and this is another park that we think everyone should get to see at least once. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

 

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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  • Website link: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per vehicle
  • Campgrounds available in the park.
  • Hiking, climbing, rafting, scenic drives, and fishing available in the park.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in Montrose, Colorado, 20 minutes west, via Highway 50.
  • When to go: Anytime. We recommend May through September. Some park roads close during the winter months.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is probably one of the least crowded national parks we have visited so far, and we don’t know why. We were in awe of the park’s extraordinary features, especially the depth and beauty of the canyon itself. This is a wonderful park! As with all of our national parks, it definitely deserves a visit.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is approximately:

228 miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado250 miles from Denver, Colorado73 miles from Grand Junction, Colorado

This trip is going to start from Grand Junction, Colorado. The city does not have a major airport, but it does have a regional airport that is served by several national and regional carriers.

*Recommended hotels in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Grand Junction: El Tapatio – 1145 North Ave. – fantastic Mexican food.

Now, we’re off to Black Canyon of the Gunnison! Grab a backpack and your hiking shoes. Get ready for fabulous scenery, dizzying heights, and a bonus destination that is going to knock your socks off. Let’s go!

Getting There

From Grand Junction, take Highway 50 south to Montrose, Colorado. Continue east on Highway 50 to Highway 92 north to the park entrance and South Rim Drive.

*Recommended hotel in Montrose: Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Montrose: Camp Robber – 1515 Ogden Rd.

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Colorado Sunrise

 

For those traveling from Gunnison, Colorado, take Highway 50 west via Curecanti National Recreation Area to Highway 92 north to the park entrance.

Destination: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Stop at the visitor center to get information about the park and to access the trail to the Gunnison Point overlook. Spectacular views and unlimited photo ops. Then take South Rim Drive for more spectacular scenery. Travel tip: there are other ways to see the canyon and the park besides from South Rim Drive. Click the website above for details about the North Rim, the East Portal, and hiking trails.

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The Gunnison River and Black Canyon as seen from Gunnison Point

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Canyon View

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Painted Wall

Bonus Destination: Curecanti National Recreation Area – Morrow Point

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From Montrose, Colorado or Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, take Highway 50 east to Curecanti National Recreation Area. At mile marker 130 take the Pine Creek turnoff and proceed to the parking lot. Drive time between Montrose and Curecanti NRA: 1 hour.

We’re taking a boat tour on Morrow Point Resevoir in the Black Canyon! But first we have to get there. Get ready for a fantastic hike.

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Travel tips:

  • Bring a picnic lunch, snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen, sturdy hiking shoes, and a hat. Dress for the weather.
  • Allow one hour to hike the trail to the boat dock. There are 232 steps leading down to the trail, and then another (easy) mile to the dock.
  • The park ranger-guided tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours.
  • Advance reservations needed.
  • Campgrounds available at Curecanti National Recreation Area.
  • Here’s a link to the website: Curecanti NRA.

Below are a few of our favorite shots.

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Chipeta Falls

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Stunning Scenery on Still Water

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Rocky Reflection

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There is a lot to see and do in Western Colorado. Curecanti NRA has plenty of campsites available, and we hear that the trout and salmon fishing is great in its three lakes. At left is a shot of Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Dillon Pinnacles.

After you have enjoyed your time at these parks, head back to Montrose, and take Highway 550 south to the scenic town of Ouray. Continue on south to Silverton and then Durango via the San Juan Skyway, one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. Or, head north from Montrose back to Grand Junction, and check out Colorado National Monument.

That is our trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Morrow Point Boat Tour. We enjoyed sharing our trip with you. Our hope is that our trip gives you some ideas on how to plan your own vacation adventure in Western Colorado. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Butte, Montana

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Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth. The town was established as a mine site in the mid-1800s. Gold, silver, and most of all copper, has been mined at Butte. Mining operations attracted workers from all over the world. At one time, the population of Butte was close to 100,000 people, so they claim, but today the population is a little over 36,000. Famous in the past for its rather notorious Red Light District, Butte today is famous for the Berkeley Pit, which is part of the largest environmental cleanup in U.S. history. With an interesting and storied past, Butte, Montana is great for a short visit or a longer stay.

Butte is:

  • A gateway to Helena, the Capital of Montana.
  • A good place to stop over when traveling to Glacier National Park.
  • The home of Montana Tech University.
  • Rich in copper mining history.

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Beautiful 9/11 Tribute in Butte

Butte is approximately:

118 miles from Missoula, Montana155 miles from Great Falls, Montana226 miles from Billings Montana147 miles from West Yellowstone, Montana

Our trip is going to start in Missoula, Montana. Missoula has an international airport that is served by several national carriers. Drive time between Missoula and Butte: 1.75 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Missoula: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

Getting There

From Missoula, Montana, take I-90 east to Butte via Deer Lodge. Bonus stop: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Tour the historic buildings. Learn about ranching in Montana at this working cattle ranch. Admission: free. Here’s a link: Grant-Kors Ranch National Historic Site. Drive time between Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS and Butte, Montana: 30 minutes.

Destination: Butte, Montana

*Recommended hotel in Butte: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended restaurant in Butte: The Montana Club – 3540 Harrison Ave.

*Recommended time to go to Butte: spring through fall.

Below are some of the things we enjoyed doing and seeing while we were in Butte.

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Trolley Ride. We started at the Butte Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and booked our ride to familiarize ourselves with the city. The driver gave an excellent overview of the history of Butte.

Our Lady of the Rockies. We read about her and then stopped to take a picture along the highway. Did you know that Our Lady of the Rockies is the fourth tallest statue in the U.S.? Created in the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she was dedicated as a tribute to women worldwide.

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Buildings as Billboards. We became enthralled by the old painted signs on many of the buildings in downtown Butte. Below is a slideshow of a few of them.

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Headframes. These are the contraptions that lowered (and raised) men, equipment, and even animals (mainly mules, which went down but not up – once they were down in the mines, they spent the rest of their lives there) into and out of the mines. Most importantly,  headframes were used to raise ore from the mines. Supposedly there are 10,000 miles of mines under the city of Butte. It is said that all of the underground mines were filled with water during the environmental cleanup of the Superfund Site at Butte.

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One of the historic headframes that still dot the landscape in Butte, Montana today

The Berkeley Pit. Of course, we wanted to pay $2.00 per person to see some toxic waste! Doesn’t everyone? There’s even a gift shop! Interestingly enough, the history of the mine and the fact that it is now an EPA Superfund Site, makes for a great tourist stop in Butte. The water in this huge pit supposedly has the toxicity of battery acid. Loud horns go off every few minutes to scare away birds. If they land on this “lake” they will die. A small mine still operates next to the Berkeley Pit today.

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Beautiful reflections in the toxic water of the Berkeley Pit

Side Trip to Helena, Montana. Drive time between Butte and Helena: 1 hour. Helena is the beautiful capital city of Montana. The Montana Historical Society, located across the street from the capitol building, is in the top three most interesting museums we have ever visited. We also visited the Cathedral of Saint Helena, which opened in 1908.

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Cathedral of Saint Helena

Side Trip to Missouri Headwaters State Park. This beautiful state park is located at Three Forks, Montana, where the confluence of three rivers: Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison create the headwaters of the Missouri River. We went for the scenery, a picnic, and the learning experience. Lewis and Clark camped here. Boating, fishing, hiking, biking and camping are just a few of the popular activities at this park. Here’s a link: Missouri Headwaters State Park. Drive time between Missouri Headwaters State Park and Butte, Montana: 1 hour.

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Headwaters of the Missouri River

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This is one of the few buildings that remain of what was once the town of Second Gallatin City, Montana, located near the entrance of Missouri Headwaters State Park.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Butte, and we recommend a stop for anyone who happens to be in the area. Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite places. We would love to hear from you! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Canyon National Park

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  • Website link: Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Cost: $35.00 per car
  • Accommodations in the park: Lodges at the north and south rims. Campgrounds at the north and south rims.
  • Backcountry camping available.
  • Mule trips available at both rims.
  • Day hiking and many longer trails available.
  • Commercial and non-commercial river rafting trips available.
  • Restaurants, deli’s, stores available at both rims.
  • When to go: South Rim – anytime. North Rim is closed during the winter months.

For years, we shied away from Grand Canyon National Park. “Who wants to look at a big hole?” we would say, but then while on another trip, we decided to go. We arrived at the South Rim and were terribly disappointed when our first view was of…nothing! Zip, zilch, nada – no big hole at all! Turns out the canyon was experiencing a fairly rare weather phenomenon called an inversion. The entire canyon was full of gray clouds, which is kind of great now that we know we have witnessed a rare phenomenon, but it was disappointing at the time.

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Yep, this ↑ was our first ever view of the Grand Canyon. And to make matters worse, we were not prepared for high wind and torrential rain! (We are much better prepared travelers now, thankfully.) Finally, the storm blew past, the sun came out, and our trip was saved. Once we saw the breathtaking scenery, we couldn’t believe that we had been so stubborn about going. The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Everyone should see this park.

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Getting There

Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) is approximately:

230 miles from Phoenix, Arizona280 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada410 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

We are starting our trip in Phoenix, Arizona. Stock up on your road snacks, and let’s get going!

*Recommended hotels in Phoenix: Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn.

From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff.

Bonus stop: Sedona, Arizona. Beautiful red rock scenery, lots to see and do. Great city to visit! (See our post about Sedona.)

At Flagstaff, take US Highway 180 to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north to Grand Canyon National Park. Drive time between Phoenix, Arizona and Grand Canyon National Park: 3.75 hours.

⇒Alternate route: take a two hour and fifteen minute train from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim. The train leaves Williams daily at 9:30 am.

Destination: Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)

All of the roads on the south rim can be driven in your own vehicle, however, it is so much better for you (and for the park) to take the free hop-on hop-off shuttles. There is so much to see and do in this part of the park, you could stay for days and never see it all. With that said, we are only going to to be able to give you a taste of what you will see at the south rim.

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Hopi House at Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). Originally a workshop for making and selling Native American arts and crafts. Built in 1905.

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Historic El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). Wonderful food in the dining room here. Opened in 1905 as a Harvey House, and is now a National Historic Landmark.

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View of the Colorado River meandering through the Grand Canyon

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Desert View Watchtower (South Rim)

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Ceiling Artwork In Desert View Watchtower

While visiting (or before you go), you may want to learn about Mary Colter. She is the architect who designed many of the historic buildings at the South Rim, including Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower, among others. Her story is extremely inspirational, especially for young women and girls, as Mary Colter was a woman who was decades ahead of her time. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of The Harvey Girls – Women Who Opened the West, a wonderful book by Lesley Poling-Kempes. The book tells the story of the women who for years catered to travelers in many historic locations, including El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park. Very interesting read.

Now, let’s go to the the North Rim!

Getting There

The North Rim is approximately:

123 miles from Page, Arizona210 miles from the South Rim265 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada

We will start this trip from Page, Arizona since it is the closest city with an airport, though it is a small municipal airport with mainly tour and commuter type services.

*Recommended hotel in Page: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended restaurant in Page: El Tapatio – 25 S Lake Powell Blvd.

Campgrounds available in and around Page.

Travel tip: While in Page, check out the many activities this area has to offer, including Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, or take a side trip to Monument Valley.

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Bison near the North Rim entrance

From Page, take US Highway 89 south for 2 miles. Bonus stop: Horseshoe Bend. Hike to the scenic viewpoint above the Colorado River for a breathtaking view. Be prepared for parking issues, large crowds, and high heat. Take water and good hiking shoes/boots.

Continue on US Highway 89 for 39 miles to Navajo Bridge. This is a very scenic drive to Marble Canyon, Navajo Bridge, and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Bonus stop: Navajo Bridge/Marble Canyon. Stop at the interpretive center for information about the area. The original Navajo Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. Look for rare California condors along the Colorado River in beautiful Marble Canyon.

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Navajo Bridge and Vermillion Cliffs

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Marble Canyon view of the Colorado River from Navajo Bridge

Continue on US Highway 89 to Highway 67. Turn south at Jacob Lake, Arizona to Grand Canyon National Park. Drive time between Page, Arizona and North Rim: 2.5 hours. Drive time between Jacob Lake, Arizona and North Rim: 1 hour.

  • North Rim Website link: North Rim Grand Canyon.
  • Cost: $35.00 per car.
  • Accommodations: Grand Canyon Lodge and one campground located inside park.
  • Alternative camping available outside the park
  • Dining services available in the park.
  • North Rim has fewer crowds than South Rim.
  • When to go: May through October.

Destination: Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim)

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Stop at the visitor center for information about the park, then head to the patio at the Grand Canyon Lodge for exceptional views of the canyon. You might even get up close and personal with a cute little chipmunk, but remember: it is illegal to feed any wildlife.

Hike the trail to Bright Angel Point for the spectacular views. Or, drive the park roads to the other viewpoints at the North Rim. See the park map at the website link above.

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North Rim View

 

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View from Point Imperial (North Rim)

With everything there is to do and see at Grand Canyon National Park, it is easy to see why more than five million people visit the park annually. If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, we hope that you are now inspired to go see this amazing park. (Don’t be like we were and keep putting it off.) This is a fantastic vacation destination for the entire family! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye  

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018