Mid-coast Maine offers beautiful scenery and ample recreational opportunities. We usually come here from Mid-August through September when the weather is better and there are fewer bugs! This year was more humid and buggy than previous years but still a wonderful place to spend the time. We stay on the Pemaquid Penninsula where there are two RV parks: Pemaquid Point Campground and Sherwood Forest Campground. Other areas like Booth Bay, or further north near Camden and Rockland, also have RV parks.

There are many places for hiking and kayaking. I got to kayak twice with George’s son, Scott and daughter-in-law, Ariel. Once was kayaking from Monhegan Island to Manana Island, and the other on the Pemaquid River. Manana Island is home to a herd of goats and sheep, the old Sound Signal Station and a hermit! We also hiked on Monhegan plus on several of the trails on Pemaquid Peninsula. You can use this site – Maine Trail Finder – plus each of the preserves in Lincoln County (including Pemaquid Peninsula) have maps at each trailhead. If you have your own kayak, keep an eye on the local papers for trips. Rentals can also be found in the area. We rented kayaks in both places.

August and September in Maine is time for fairs. We attended the Union Fair, our favorite. There are several sites which list events. This is the official tourism office website.

If you are on the coast, you’ll find a lot of different cruises out into the ocean or bays. We’ve done a schooner cruise out of Rockland and Camden. (Most of the short day cruises are found in Camden; going out for more than one night are usually found in Rockland.) This year we took a cruise on the Damariscotta River where the focus was on oystering. Seven farms are located on the river, which we were able to see as the captain explained how the industry worked. Fascinating! And, we could purchase oysters from six of the farms, each having a slightly different flavor. We split a sampler platter. Most of the farms use cages to raise oysters because the survival rate is much higher. However, it is more labor-intensive than “planting them” on the floor of the river.

And we were treated to lovely sunrises, sunsets and a full moon!

Maine is a wonderful place to spend extended time. August and September are good ones because fewer bugs, humidity might be lower, and blueberries and other produce is in season. Don’t miss lobsters and other seafood if you are on the coast. As you can see, there are many choices for keeping busy and enjoying what makes Maine unique! Jaimie Bruzenak

October 22, 2018
Categories : RV travels, Uncategorized

Find a touch of Bavaria in the Eastern Cascades in the small town of Leavenworth. Once a thriving lumber and railroad town, the economy died when the railroad moved its line. In the 1960s, searching for a way to revitalize the economy, townspeople took a look at Solvang – the Danish town in California – and recognized how much like the alps their setting was and transformed their town. Now Swiss-German type buildings line the highway and Commercial Street. Festivals like the Autumn Leaf Festival and Oktober Fest bring more than a million tourists each year.

George and I are included in the Hamilton sibling annual vacation because my sister is married to one. We had to cancel out this year after committing but luckily for me, at the last minute I was able to go for a few days. I flew into Seattle on September 27 and drove east on Interstate 90 through the Cascade Mountains. The Cascades are a rugged chain and leaves were changing colors. It was stunning. I then wound north on Highway 97 to Highway 2 with more beautiful scenery.

The weekend I was there was the annual Washington Autumn Leaf Festival. My sister and I wandered in and out of shops as the parade marched down Commercial. A typical small town parade, after the Grand Marshall came the Royal Leaf Lady plus several cars with former Leaf Ladies. Bands followed and floats from festivals all over the state of Washington with their royalty – I’m sure hoping to entice visitors to attend their next festival too. Several solemn moments passed as sign bearers carried the pictures and names of Washington’s fallen heroes from 2006 to present day. A group of senior women formed a baton twirling group, though they mostly marched swinging their batons as they walked – possibly a good thing for the crowds gathered along the sidewalk. Bringing up the rear was the town’s fire truck.

Typical shops and eateries lined the street, attracting tourists. We almost skipped The Nutcracker Museum and are so glad we didn’t! The museum houses more than 6,000 nutcrackers! Admission is very reasonable; $5 adults and $3.50 for seniors with discounts for children and military.

It wouldn’t be a fun visit for me to any place without hiking. We hiked both up (almost) to Icicle Ridge with wonderful views and then the next day along Icicle Creek. Leavenworth also has a waterfront park along the Wenatchee River in town, which provides nice walking trails. My granddaughter and husband from Seattle were able to come up for one night and just before crossing from the Enchantment Park section to Blackbird Island, we saw three bears on the other side of a small pond; a mama and two cubs. They beat a rather hasty retreat. That circled glob is a bear! I think you’ll have to take my word for it that it is a cub scrambling up a downed log. After a one of our hikes, at one of the houses the family rented, was a deer nestled down right alongside the house. We almost didn’t see her! She did not move when Lois and Tim went in the house. Later they saw her three fawns. This house was on a busy road and we saw quite a few deer munching on plants in yards. It’s a wonder there aren’t more deer fatalities. Our four ambled safely across the road later in the afternoon.

There are two commercial campgrounds in Leavenworth plus some US Forest Service campgrounds nearby, including one on Icicle Creek. Check with the US Forest Service for information on their camping areas and dispersed camping in the area. Festival time is not a good time to be passing through on Highway 2 or trying to find a hotel or camping spot. (Make reservations WAY in advance and expect to pay premium prices.) The place is packed and traffic was halted for the parade! Check the town calendar. Highway 2, by the way, is an alternate route back to Seattle or on to Spokane. Fall is a wonderful time to visit the area. Temperatures were quite pleasant and the changing leaves and rugged mountains made this a gorgeous place to visit in autumn. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

October 14, 2018
Categories : RV travels

I have taken each grandchild on a trip (or financially supported one) and, this summer, took the last grandkid on her trip. Shannon’s heart desire was to see Pompeii in Italy. While many people are taken with Italy, it was not on my bucket list. However – Icelandic Air has a stopover deal where you can fly to Europe and stop off in Iceland for up to five days. Iceland would be for me!

We chose a self-drive tour through Another Iceland. The trip included a rental car, hotel stays each night  with breakfast included and a tablet that had our itinerary, interactive maps as well as a separate GPS device. We saw lots of RVs, from vans to larger ones. With only four nights, we had time to do the “Golden Circle” plus drive along Ring Road that circles the entire island, driving as far east as Skaftafell National Park. It would be a lot of driving but we saw so many wonderful natural sights. Here is a map of our route (upper part of the Golden Circle and Ring Road to Skaftafell National Park, then return by way of Ring Road and the lower Golden Circle to Reykjavik.

Traffic thinned out the further we got from Reykjavik. Below are a selection of photos from a few of our stops. The scenery was gorgeous. Lots of sheep but I just didn’t get the right photo that showed how plump and cute they were. I wish we’d had more time. If/when I go back, I would seriously consider renting an RV. Iceland is expensive, though, but you would save on food if you could cook most of your own meals. They drive on the “right” side of the road. Our tablet with maps worked beautifully, however, the additional GPS was not much help. In Reykjavik, I wanted to find a post office. Though I knew about where one was from the hotel clerk, I had a difficult time discerning which one it was in the GPS since it uses the local Norwegian language and spelling, of course. And, the unit I had gave me inadequate warning for the turns. I finally got in the vicinity, parked, then kept asking people until I found it. Parking in Reykavik was a challenge. I would not have wanted to try to find a spot for an RV. But still, I’d go back in a heartbeat! Jaimie Bruzenak

 

October 13, 2018
Categories : RV travels, Uncategorized

My goal in Santa Fe was to get a hug from Amma. She is a spiritual leader from India whose “religion” (if you had to call it that) is love. It was wonderful. If you want to know more go to her website. Sheryle, on the other hand, wanted to explore the plaza area and visit some museums. We were both able to get into the New Mexico History Museum. Sheryle had visited earlier in the day so pointed out a few exhibits. The Acoma Pueblo is believed to be the oldest continuously occupied pueblo. The Harvey House is special to me because I love going to La Posada in Winslow, AZ, designed by Mary Coulter and my late husband and I worked at Mojave National Preserve where they finally have opened Kelso Depot, another Harvey House.It was an interesting exhibit that told more about the family than I previously knew. Camel Rock was along the highway as I returned to Santa Fe from my hug.

For our drive home the following day, we identified two more stops from Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips. The first was Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, operated by the BLM. It is about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe. I had never heard of it before reading Rick Quinn’s book but it was an amazing place. It is quite away off I-25 with almost no traffic so we thought we might have the place to ourselves. Wrong! It was packed! But the loop trail wasn’t too bad. Even the slot canyon trail was fun, waiting your turn to squeeze through a narrow area. It’s famous for its scenic cone-shaped formations, composed of pumice, ash, and tuff deposits from volcanic eruptions 6–7 million years ago. Our first glimpse of one of the “tents” was peaking out over the top of the canyon wall, looking very much like ET! The tents that don’t get eroded completely away have a harder rock as a cap.

We also stopped in Los Cerrillos, the northern point of the Turquoise Trail. Not much is left but we did see a necklace that used the distinctive turquoise from the area. It is a more pale blue so not my favorite. You may not be aware that the turquoise stone does come in many different shades and colors. The Native American woman who had made the jewelry showed us a stone before it was cut. No way you could tell it was so beautiful inside. You definitely have to know what you are looking for. Madrid, the next town south, had much more of interest but no parking. Sunday was not the best day to visit, especially at lunch time.

On the way to Gallup, where we spent the night, we drove the western part of El Malpais on Highway 53. I glanced through a copy of Anne Hillerman’s Cave of Bones in a bookstore and discovered that the setting for the vision quest and “mystery” was set at the trailhead of the Zuni-Acoma trail that crosses the central lava flow. We had hiked part of the El Calderon Loop with lava tubes, sink holes and a bat cave so took photos from the parking lot. It was another hike to get into the lava field and it was getting late and we were “hiked out.” If you do google “photos lava tubes El Malpais” you’ll find some amazing lava tubes – one is 17 miles long- and caves. We’d need a lot more time for that kind of exploring.

We considered driving to Basti Badlands the next morning but ended up deciding against it. It was two hours north of Gallup and there are no trails. It is easy to get lost there. If we had felt uncomfortable walking in very far then we would have driven four hours for just that. I want to be better prepared with a GPS app that can track my path in and back out before I venture there- plus be better prepared with hiking boots and plenty of water and food. So that will wait until another day. Instead, we returned via the Zuni Pueblo, stopping at the visitor center and the museum.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a day-use area only. BLM is understaffed so the Veteran’s Overlook was closed and parking is limited. Best to drive the tow or towed vehicle and not a large RV. I would also not advise going on a weekend if you have a choice since it is in easy reach of Albuquerque and Santa Fe and attracts a lot of people. There are a several RV parks in and around Santa Fe. Only identifiable service dogs are permitted and one side of the loop is handicapped accessible. While good to get home, it was so enjoyable seeing these special areas. Our country has such beauty. I hope you make time to get off the interstate highways and see it! Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

 

Having looked though my copy of Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips by Rick Quinn, I had identified a number of places to  explore. My original trip with George didn’t pan out but there was an event in Santa Fe, NM I wanted to attend so I figured I could stop at some of these interesting places on the way up and back. My Tucson neighbor, who also has a park model in Pinetop-:Lakeside, agree to come.

Originally I had thought we’d see Bisti Badlands on the way. Instead, we left Lakeside on Hwy 60 to our first stop – Pie Town. It turns out Sheryle’s family ranched in that area and her great-grandmother was the first (the family story says) or one of the first to make apple pies and sell them in town. There were three places to purchase pies – large full-size pies, small pies or slices. We ate at The Gathering Place and bought a small pie each to go. The people in Pie-O-Neer were quite anxious to hear Sheryle’s story. We would have purchased our pie there but they had no apple pie. Pie Town has branched out in the varieties of pies they sell!

The road from Pie Town to El Malpais National Monument (NPS) and El Malpais National Conservation Area (BLM) was not recommended so we backtracked to Quemado and took Hwy 117 north. The drive through the Narrows was especially beautiful and we could see where the lava flows came up almost to the road and cliffs. We ended up going to the BLM visitor center since it was still open, then backtracked to Sandstone Bluffs Overlook for views of the valley where the lava flowed. Then we drove back south to La Ventana Natural Arch and took the short walk to the arch.

There is only one campground in the National Conservation Area and none in the national monument. The Joe Skeen Campground is free, has 10 spaces and some pull-through sites can accommodate RVs and their tow/towed vehicle up to 50 feet in length. Other public campground possibilities are mentioned on that webpage. Grants is the nearest town with services.

El Malpais means “badlands or bad country.”There are five major lava flows.The oldest is the El Calderon flow which is about 115,000 years old, while the youngest is McCarty’s which is only between 2,000 and 3,000 years old. Much of the lava flow is quite jagged and sharp, making it difficult to cross. The lava has formed tubes and caves.One lava tube/cave system is 17 miles long! Native Americans crossed the lava flow and signs of their presence can be found. I googled “lava flow El Malpais photos” and found amazing features in the interior, including ice caves. You can get a caving permit to enter some of the caves formed from the flow. There are also cinder cones, isolated forests – it is a magical place. We did stop again on the other side on the way back to AZ – but more about that in the return trip blog entry.

We didn’t arrive in Santa Fe until quite late but taking our time in Pie Town and El Malpais was well worth it. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

We got a fairly early start, driving around to the ski area at the end of Lee Canyon Road where you’ll find Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort. Our goal for today was the Bristlecone Loop. Base Camp Las Vegas suggested we park at lower parking lot, walk up the road to the upper parking lot near the ski area and then hike the loop back to our car. It meant getting a steep part out of the way early, though most hikers seemed to prefer going the other direction. This hike was at elevation, starting around 8400+ and going up to around 8900+. It was a workout though the ascent up the trail was mostly gradual. The road was the steepest part in this direction.

We had wonderful views of Mt. Charleston with snow and out to the desert to the east. Bristlecone pine trees grew along with other pines, spruce and firs. A fair amount of wildflowers were blooming too. The drawback to this popular trail is mountain bikers who tend to come flying down the hills and can suddenly be upon you as you round a corner. Horses are also permitted, though the only horses we saw were wild horse and one burro grazing on a grassy area along Lee Canyon Road. The books and trail maps indicated that this was a 6.3 mile loop. We think they weren’t counting the road portion of one mile. For the day, counting walking to dinner in Laughlin on our return, we racked up more than 20,000 steps.

People living in Las Vegas are lucky the Spring Mountain Recreation Area is so close to them. It did make for more crowded trails, especially since this was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It’s beautiful country and I recommend scheduling a stop if you are coming through Las Vegas, especially when desert temps warm up. If you stay in Las Vegas it is an easy drive with your tow or towed vehicle, or camp in one of the campgrounds in the recreation area. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

I found a photo from our next day’s hike in Hualapai Mountain Park near Kingman, AZ. Another Sky Island- Potato Patch loop is a little over 4 miles long and mostly shaded. My sister and I have done this now three years in a row because it is such a pretty hike with views out towards the Grand Canyon and how pleasant it is – especially compared to Laughlin temperatures!

Hualapai Mountain Park – The Three Gossips

Memorial Day weekend is golf weekend for George and for my sister’s husband and his CA siblings. And, it’s in Laughlin, Nevada! Fine for someone who likes gambling or playing on the Colorado River, but my sister, Georgia, and I don’t care for either. So each year we try to find hiking or adventures where it is cooler. Though it was only in the 90s this weekend, it’s far too hot to hike past about 6 or 7 a.m.

This year we decided to do a one-night getaway in the Spring Mountains, the mountain range where Mt. Charleston is, west of Las Vegas. On the way, we stopped off at Searchlight, NV. Driving through the town on Highway 95 doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the town is all about, except for a sign that you turn off here to reach Lake Mojave on the Colorado River.  Discovery of gold and silver is what brought people here. There are different theories about how it got its name but none involved a searchlight. At one point it was larger than Las Vegas and almost became the county seat. The mining boom reached its peak in 1907. The Searchlight Historic Museum is located with other town buildings off Cottonwood Cove Road east of Highway 95. A number of mining implements are located outside. Inside is more about the town and some of the notable people who have made Searchlight their home, including retired U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Edith Head, Clara Box and Rex Bell. Clara and Rex owned Walking Box Ranch, a few miles out of town, which is now managed by BLM and offers tours periodically.

We continued on to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA), west of Las Vegas, that is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Mt. Charleston is its highest peak at 11,916 feet and still has patches of snow. After stopping at the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway and wondering if we should buy a sweatshirt for the cool temperatures and bitter wind, we checked into the Resort on Mt. Charleston then headed to Fletcher Canyon to hike. We didn’t want to get too high or the temperatures might drop, but the afternoon was nice and the canyon blocked the wind. It was a pleasant hike that ended with tall canyon walls looming above. You could go a little ways beyond but it meant scrambling over rock so it was the end of the trail for us. It was still fairly early so we decided to hike to Mary Jane Falls. The gradual incline turned into a series of switchbacks and it seemed much longer than the 1.3 miles each way that the guides indicated so we turned back to have time to shower before dinner.

The resort is not fancy but adequate, though, due to a change in ownership that was in process (we were told), wifi did not work most of the time. And maybe they also changed chefs because we got one delicious dinner and one awful dinner. But if you are not camping, it is a good base.

There is camping in SMNRA, both tent and RV sites with hookups. It’s only about a 30 minute drive to Las Vegas so you are close to other services. We used Base Camp Las Vegas as a hiking guide plus got information at the Visitor Gateway. More tomorrow! Jaimie Bruzenak

Last weekend – which included St Patrick’s Day, George was the host of a paint out for the Sonoran Plein Air Painters. Plein air painting is painting that is done on the scene rather than in the studio. As host, George collected names and took photos and painted. We stayed at the Bisbee Inn/Hotel La More, an older hotel in operation since 1912, that is included in the ghost tour of Bisbee. 

We took the back way down via Highways 83 to 82 to 90. We stopped at the The San Pedro House on the way. On the way back we went north on 90 to Hwy 82, stopping off at the town site of Fairbank, also in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (NCA).

Bisbee was founded in 1880 as a gold, silver and copper mining town. It’s had its ups and downs – it practically died, then was discovered by hippies, now property values are quite high compared to many other places in southern AZ. In the photo of the High Desert Market and Cafe, George was told that the house right about it- with boards on the windows and access only by climbing stairs – sold recently for $55,000! Now there are many shops, galleries, eateries and a brewery. One big event is the annual Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb, held annually in October, which is a five-kilometer run through the city that traverses 1,034 stairs. It felt like I climbed quite a few of them over the course of our stay! And, if possible, I would recommend a visit on a weekday. Quieter and less crowded!

The Iron Man statute up near the county buildings has an interesting background. The sculpture is concrete covered with copper plating and is a tribute to miners. On the street that goes past the brewery, I found another little free library. Sad to say, it was leaning against a mural at the back of a lot. The shopkeeper next door said another shop owner had taken it off his wall near the sidewalk and put it there, however, people still exchange books. It needs to be moved to where it is straight so water doesn’t damage the books. I have found these small free libraries all over!

Painting is a hobby you could do on the road. If you are a plein air painter or want to meet up with other painters, google plein air painting to find groups. Especially for watercolors, there are small travel kits that don’t take much room and it is a fun way to journal about your travels or paint postcards or greeting cards to send to friends and relatives. One of the painters from Tucson came down in her Class C. She stayed at the Queen Mine RV Park that night.

The Queen Mine RV Park is in town, with a couple of others a little further away but with Bisbee addresses. If you don’t want to stay overnight, park somewhere out of the historic section and drive your tow or towed car to visit. Parking is at a premium – especially on weekends- and the streets are narrow. And, definitely don’t go up any side streets! You may find you have a long way to back up! And, if you stay in the area, Tombstone and Douglas are other interesting places to see. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

AZ & NM 25 Scenic Side TripsAre you ready for a roadtrip? If you are in or passing through Arizona or New Mexico, grab a copy of RoadTrip America’s Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips by Rick Quinn, published by Imbrifex Books. Whether you have a few hours to get off the beaten path or have more time to explore, this guide will show you what these two states have to offer. If history appeals to you, several side trips will take you to ancient and contemporary Native American sites. Arizona, in particular, has diverse geology and geography, ranging from the lush Sonoran Desert to tall mountains, red rock formations, deep canyons, remnants of volcanic activity and more.

Each side trip is a loop off one of three main interstates in the two states: I-10 and I-40 (east/west) and I-25 and I-17 (north/south). An easy-to-read map starts out each side trip with highlights of the route marked. What follows is a short description of the various attractions with its history and significance along with color photos. A useful piece of information for each side trip is the amount of extra time the route will take compared to sticking to the interstate and how you might extend it if you have more time. Restaurants and places to stay are recommended as well. If you are traveling in the other direction, work your way backwards.

As an experienced roadtripper, Quinn has gone beyond the usual in this travel guide, providing important information before you head out, such as when the road turns to dirt or when taking an RV is not advised. Alternate routes are then suggested, if possible. Sidebars give listings and contact information of the route’s highlights and some give additional background information. And don’t ignore important safety information about traveling in the desert and rugged back country.

For an RVer spending time in the state, you’ll probably want to park your RV and take your tow or towed vehicle. But even if passing through, take your RV and spend a few days to explore the many things these two states have to offer. You won’t be sorry!

I have spent most of the past 15 years in Arizona and explored quite a bit of the state and a good part of New Mexico. Reading this has shown me how many more fascinating and beautiful places I have yet to see. I can’t recommend this too highly. Now my only quandary—which roadtrip to do first! Jaimie Bruzenak

Note: I received an early copy of Arizona and New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips in exchange for an honest review. It will be available in early April, 2018.

 

February 23, 2018
Categories : RV travels

We stayed at Faywood Hot Springs – midway between Deming on I-10 and Silver City. City of Rocks was only a couple of miles down the road. Coming in from NM HIghway 61, it looked like a clump, but close up, incredible volcanic rock formations became visible; large, sculptured rock columns, or pinnacles formed over 34 million years ago. Tucked in to the columns were RV and camping spots. I’m sorry we never stayed there in our RV.

You can find information on camping at their website. Put it on your list! It’s an awesome place and could be a good base for exploring the area.

February 19, 2018
Categories : RV travels