Sunday, April 23, 2017

Windwhistle Campground in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area of Southeastern Utah

         The name was enough to lure me to this desert campground.  That, and its remote red rock location.

         Although visitation is increasing, this campground—about 35 miles south of over-crowded Moab—is still worth a visit.  The Bureau of Land Management administers this land, which includes a picnic area at the overlook into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and another primitive campground and overlook at the end of an unimproved dirt road.

Our tent is nestled in the Junipers at Windwhistle Campground.

Evening shadows in our campsite.

         On our fall trip Tim and I took advantage of cool morning and evening temperatures.  Our first evening in camp we walked a half mile nature trail in the shadows of towering rock alcoves.

Towering sandstone cliffs.

Along the nature trail in Windwhistle campground.

         The following morning we rode our tandem bicycle from the campground to the Needles Overlook, a 32 mile round-trip ride on a paved road.

Needles Overlook at the end of the road.

Standing at the edge.  It's a 1000 foot drop-off into the canyon
on the other side of this fence.

         That evening our treats included s'mores around the campfire and a creamy white milky way spilling from horizon to horizon.   After crawling into the tent a Great-Horned Owl serenaded us to sleep with his soothing deep-toned hoots.

Ready for s'mores as darkness falls.

         Did we hear the wind whistling through the Juniper trees surrounding our site during this visit?  No.  Our calm clear days and nights prevented us from experiencing the reason for this campground's alluring name.
         That discovery will have to wait for the next visit.  

The campground is located on Needles Outpost road, about half-way down this map.
The first blue arrow shows the approximate location of Windwhistle CG.

The only thing missing from this open campsite in Windwhistle campground is you!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Enduring Architecture of the Ancients

         Imagine your home, still standing 900 years from now and being visited by fascinated tourists from 30th Century America.  Can't picture it?  Neither can I.

Montezuma's Castle, part of a cliffside village containing a 5-story
apartment-like building which was once home to several thousand people.

         The architectural wonders of Montezuma's Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments however, have endured since the 12th century in the Verde River Valley south of Flagstaff, Arizona.  These Puebloan multistoried adobe structures adorn hillsides and cliff alcoves and were home to the Southern Sinagua people.

         Don't feel dismayed if you haven't heard of the Southern Sinagua.  I hadn't heard of them either until a few weeks ago when I toured Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Castle and learned that contemporary Hopi tribes trace their ancestry to immigrants from the Sinagua culture.

         The Sinagua lived and farmed in the Verde River Valley for over 300 years—longer than the United States has been a country—and then disappeared.  Why did they leave?  It's a mystery, but archeologists speculate any number of reasons ranging from overpopulation and resource depletion to disease or conflict within groups.

Tuzigoot National Monument.  This hillside pueblo once contained
100 rooms.  Many artifacts were discovered here.

         When the Sinagua left their villages they didn't take much with them.   The structures themselves are impressive, but even more incredible was the array of artifacts found within.
         While unearthing the rooms of Tuzigoot, archeologists discovered a treasure-trove of everyday household items—carved tools and needles, decorated pottery, storage containers, ornaments of shell and turquoise for personal wear.
         But what really brought these homes to life for me was the discovery of tiny carved animals and bowls, believed to be children's toys.
         How on earth did the Sinagua persuade their children to leave their toys behind?

Antique's Roadshow, eat your heart out!
These carved stone toys are all miniatures, no
larger than a few inches.
No way could anyone have pried these tiny
stone animals from my five-year-old hands!

         I highly recommend a visit to these two ancient archeological sites.  You'll walk away in awe of the Sinagua people and their resilience and ingenuity.   And you may wonder what of any significance will endure from our culture.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Discoveries During a March Day in Tennessee

         Several years ago while touring Tennessee I experienced a series of serendipitous discoveries that kept me smiling all day long.

        My day began at the Highland Place Bed & Breakfast in Jackson where my less-than-enthusiastic hosts didn’t exude the graciousness I had come to expect in Tennessee. 
        Does southern hospitality end in Jackson? 

        A few minutes after leaving the B&B I made the first of my four “Best Ever” discoveries for the day.  Here’s the list:

1)  If you’re a Catfish Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Restaurant.
2)  If you’re a Chocolate Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Candy Store.
3)  If you’re a Horse Lover (and who isn’t?) I found the Best-Ever Campground.
4)  If you’re a Fast Food Lover (and I found the Best-Ever McDonald’s.

It's Back to the Future at this busy McDonald's in Jackson.

         First, the McDonald’s on Highland Drive in Jackson.  I never stop at McDonald’s but this one was different.  The gleaming white building, shining golden arches and parking lot full of cars—they called to me.  I pulled in.
        This McDonald’s was abuzz with business.  Cars pulled into and out of the parking lot; customers filed into and out of the doors.  A friendly patron held the door open for me and greeted me with a hello.
        Inside I noticed a cross-section of Jacksonites—black and white, young and old, fat and thin—all there and all smiling.  
        I stepped up to the counter.  The employee greeted me with an ear-to-ear grin and said:
       “Welcome to McDonald’s!  How can I help you?”  She literally beamed as I ordered my coffee to go.
        Wow, maybe southern hospitality doesn’t end in Jackson.  
         I grabbed my coffee, joined the line of people parading out of the establishment and was on my way, smiling.  

        This could have been a scene from 1955 when McDonald’s was brand new, when fast food was a novelty and not a disgrace—decades before Fast Food Nation soured me on the McDonald’s experience.  
        As I left I noticed the drive-through lanes, also filled with lines of cars. 
        Across the street sat a sad old Wendy’s with one car in the parking lot.  I felt almost sorry for it. 


         I traveled east on Interstate 40, my hot cup of McDonald’s coffee nestled in the cup holder.  Twenty minutes later I saw an exit for Natchez Trace State Park.  This led to my second best-ever find of the day—Wrangler’s Campground.

       Wrangler’s is a campground designed exclusively for equestrians.  Every site was filled with horses and their people.  People currying, saddling and riding their steeds, tying bags of hay from tree branches, shoveling manure.  Horse trailers parked alongside tents and recreational vehicles.  I’d never seen anything like it.   
        Imagine a campground with horses whinnying and nickering instead of ATV engines revving (as is the case in many Utah state park campgrounds).  I left the carefree campground and passed a sign proclaiming:  “Happy Trails!”  

Contented horses at The Wrangler's Campground.


        I returned to I-40 and exited at the town of Paris for my third best-ever find of the day—Sally Lane’s Candy Farm.
        I entered the old building with its peeling pink paint, unsure of what I’d find. But oh, the confections within!  Every sort of chocolate bar and candy you could imagine, including Sally’s original pink and green mints.  
       Sally Lane’s was started in 1958 and has had several owners since then.  New owner Rob Freeman and his sister Pam greeted me, ready to hand out samples and answer my candy questions.
       Rob makes all the bar candy, his Mom handles the hard-to-make confections like frogs and bunnies and filled-chocolates, and his niece creates specialty items like chocolate-dipped Twinkies.  I bought one of those tantalizing Twinkies.
       A specialty item like a chocolate-dipped Twinkie deserves a special setting and I found it at Boswell Landing Campground in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.  I chose an unoccupied campsite and watched whitecaps form on blue-green Kentucky Lake while enjoying the delectable Twinkie.

"I need some candy over here—STAT!"

       From the Land Between the Lakes I continued on to my destination of Clarksville which led to my fourth and final best-ever find of the day—dinner at The Catfish House.
       The Catfish House however, with its heart attack inducing menu, should come with this warning:  “If you suspect your arteries of being even a teensy bit blocked, DO NOT EAT HERE!”  
       My dinner began with fried okra, instead of traditional rolls.  And it was good.  Then I ordered the fried catfish platter which came with fried hush puppies and two sides.  I chose white beans (not fried), and fried corn-on-the-cob.  Yes, you heard me.  Fried. Corn. On. The. Cob.  Here’s how it’s made:  An ear of corn is cooked, then rolled in egg and flour and deep-fried.  And guess what?  It was good.  Oh, and how was the fried catfish?  Tender, flaky, outstanding.
       After that, time for dessert.  I chose the homemade chocolate chiffon pie.  My slice of pie came to the table with a foot of meringue on top.  I kid you not.  And it was great. 
       I rolled out of The Catfish House, vowing not to eat anything for a week.  I broke that vow the very next day.    
       But as for this day?  It was the Best Ever!  

Warning:  Dining here could damage your arteries, and your waistline,
and your blood sugar levels, and...
(But the food?  Um, um good.)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Roadside Pullout Ahead: Winter Wildlife Viewing in Yellowstone

          Yellowstone National Park has five entrances and 251 miles of roadways, but only one stretch of highway is plowed and open to vehicles from November until May—the 52 miles between the Montana towns of Gardiner and Cooke City.
          While traveling this road you may notice several vehicles parked in the plowed pull-out areas.  If you also see people outside in temperatures barely topping zero degrees, gazing through spotting scopes and long-lens cameras—pull over!  You're guaranteed to catch sight of amazing wildlife nearby.

Wildlife alert!  What did these people see?
Two wolves and a mountain lion on the far hillside.
We saw them too, through our spotting scope.
          Roadside pullouts are the places for photographing wildlife during the winter months in Yellowstone.  On a frigid January day Tim and I pulled into one of these parking spots near the Lamar River where we observed and photographed the following species.
          Click on any photo to enlarge.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.  Notice how well
he blends in with the rock and snow.

This coyote was on her way to feast on a dead animal carcass,
uphill to the left.

Cow Moose browsing willows on the river bank.

This pair of Barrow's Goldeneye ducks is enjoying
their swim in the Lamar River.

As we drove away from the pullout we noticed
a badger following in bison tracks near the road.

         And the reward for getting up early and braving the cold by dressing in layers of long underwear, fleece tops and pants, neck warmers, wool gloves and wind-stopper parkas?
         A stop at 'The Bistro' in Cooke City for steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

The Bistro, on left, serves bone-warming hot chocolate.

         View more photos of Yellowstone's winter wildlife by visiting this previous post:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Cross-country Travel Opportunity with Cotopaxi, the 'Gear for Good' Company

Can you see yourself traveling this open road?
If so the job opportunity (below) might be for you!

"Get Your Kicks...on Route 66." 
"See the USA in Your Chevrolet."
          These slogans from the mid-20th century represent America's love affair with the open road.

          Road trips are synonymous with independence, discovery and adventure.  Because of my blog's focus on adventure travel and exploration in the United States, I was encouraged by the Cotopaxi online community to share their "Road Warrior" position.

          Who is Cotopaxi?  Founded in 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cotopaxi designs, makes and sells outdoor gear, like these travel backpacks. Their stated goal is to make great gear, and to help alleviate poverty in the developing world by donating 2% of their revenue to promote health, education, and job skills training.

          A brief description of the employment opportunity:

          We’re on a mission to hire someone for the open road. He or she will travel around the country and visit every major U.S. city, living the ultimate adventure from coast to coast all while sharing their experience. They’ll travel around the country, encouraging people to find adventure and do good.
          Wow.  At one point in my life I would have jumped at the chance to apply for this job.  Which is why I agreed to write this post and spread the word about this exciting cross-country travel opportunity.


          Readers, are you interesting in applying for the Field Marketing Specialist job below?  And if not, do you know of friends or family who are looking for a unique position with a dynamic, socially conscious outdoor gear company?  If so, please forward the following information to them.

If you, a friend or family member are interested in applying for this position visit and click on Field Marketing Specialist under "Current Openings".

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Scenes from the Big Island of Hawaii

          I love winter.  Really, I do. 

          Right this minute, from where I sit behind my computer in the living room I count: 

14 snowmen figurines
  6 “Let It Snow” signs
  3 cross-country skier/snowflake throws
  2  “Let It Snow” votive candle lamps
  2 stuffed moose on skis  
 1 stuffed bear on skis
 1 wooden snowman on skis and,
 1 snowman pillow.

          All strategically and lovingly placed atop a mantel, a desk, a glider, and several bookcases.

          But... I just spent an hour shoveling snow and chiseling ice from around my chicken coop and so, as a distraction from winter’s many pleasures, I present these photos from a November snorkeling adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii.


Tim takes the fish photos.  Here he's holding his
camera, flash and snorkel fins.

Ornate Butterflyfish

School of Raccoon Butterflyfish

Left to Right:  Yellowtail Coris, Blackspot Sergeant, Moorish Idols

Yellowtail Coris (top), Lagoon Triggerfish (bottom).

School of Yellow Tang

Achilles Tang

Four-spot Butterflyfish


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Walking in a Winter Wonderland—Lake City, Colorado

Obsessing over planning a holiday menu to appease your vegan brother-in-law?  Wondering how to keep the egg nog away from Uncle Bill?  Fretting about picking the perfect gift for your spoiled niece?


Grab a pair of snowshoes and a companion—furry or otherwise—and head for the hills.
It's the perfect antidote for those holiday headaches.

Wishing you joy and wonder this holiday season!

Merry Christmas from Annie, Rita and Tim.