Where Next? #12

When we arrived at Cape Lookout National Seashore in early November 2017 we thought that staying in one place for almost 5 months sounded awfully long. It would be our longest stay to date. Yet here we are with only two weeks left. Time has flown and we’ll be on the road soon. Our feet are beginning to itch with the travel bug.

Our plans have changed several times but (We hope) this is our route from the seashore of eastern North Carolina to the shores of Lake Superior and our summer volunteer job at Grand Portage National Monument. We’ll travel for about 5.5 weeks seeing family and friends, adding 2 new states and seeing several National Park sites. Our arrival in Minnesota will be the second week in May.

Here’s the Google Map of our route.


Total Eclipse 2017

Never To Old To Be A Junior Ranger

Our Facebook friends have already seen our eclipse photos but we wanted to add a post to the blog about our Nat Geo experience of seeing the total eclipse while camping on BLM land in Idaho this summer. We experienced the event with millions of others in total solitude!

We had worked at our volunteer job at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho all day on the 20th of August. We were scheduled to work on Monday the 21st but our supervisor was able to get coverage for us. So we headed about an hour and a half south to BLM land. We arrived with just enough time to set up our tent and eat dinner. The valley was filled with smoke from numerous forest fires in Idaho and Montana. Oh, please don’t let it ruin the Eclipse!

Hazy Skies On August 21, 2017

This was one of our Once in a Lifetime events. We’d bought new cameras and a 100-400mm zoom lens just to photograph the eclipse. We’d read an e-book on shooting an eclipse. We’d bought special filter material and with a bit of ingenuity we made our own filters. We were READY!

Eclipse Morning Sunrise

After a night of sliding downhill in our sleeping bags due to poor siting of the tent, we awoke to a glorious sunrise peeking over the mountains. We were in place with a tarp strung out from the truck to act as a sun shield by 10AM. Shortly thereafter the magic began. Ever so slowly at first the moon nibbled away at the upper right corner of the sun. As it progressed the world grew dimmer. Then the temperature started to drop. A breeze started. We reached for our jackets and guessed the air was twenty degrees cooler. We tried to remember to look up and just enjoy the event as well as take the long anticipated diamond ring and totality shots.

Eclipse Day Camp

Our Photo Shelter

Losing The Light

It’s Starting!

Diamond Ring










Composite Of The Eclipse

And then the world began to lighten and warm as the moon moved on to the left. The eclipse was over but would be replayed in our hearts and memories for years. We may have a chance to experience another one but we will always remember this, our first total eclipse.

Summer 2017 And The River Of No Return

Our four months in central Idaho are coming to a close so it is time to get a post up on our wonderful summer. We’d been in most other areas of Idaho but never the center of the state. When we saw a volunteer position for the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho we applied and were accepted for Summer 2017. Not only was this a gorgeous area but a stop along the Lewis and Clark Trail, a favorite subject of ours. If you like mountains, small western towns and free running rivers then the Lemhi Valley is for you. The town of Salmon has a population of about 3,000. Community pride and a high percentage of resident involvement is reflected by volunteerism and community participation. The major businesses are cattle ranching and ecotourism. Salmon is located at the confluence of the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers. In the past it was an area of mining and timber harvesting so it is rich in history as well. Today a large percentage of the valley is either land managed by BLM or the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The valley is surrounded to the east by the Beaverhead Mountains, to the south by the Lost River Range, to the north and west by the Bitterroot Mountains. Also to the west is the the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.

The Sacajawea Center was built through the cooperation of federal, state and local groups for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration in 2004-2006. Then it was turned over to the City of Salmon and is run by the city today. The Lemhi Valley is the traditional homeland of the Agaidika (Lemhi Shoshone), Sacajawea’s people. Agaidika, in the Shoshone language, means “salmon eaters” and refers to one of their main food sources. The Interpretive Center where we worked tells the story of Sacajawea from living in the valley to her capture by the Hidatsa,  her role with the Corps of Discovery, after the expedition and the removal of the Shoshone to the Fort Hall Reservation. The valley is referred to by the Lemhi Shoshone as Agai Pah. We researched and developed Discovery Center talks: (Steve) Mapping the West and The Language Chain, (Chari) Medicine Along The Lewis and Clark Trail and a Trivia Quiz. We erected a traditional tipi, worked in the native plant and community garden and did light maintenance. One of our projects was a slideshow for the Interpretive Center. It runs about 26 minutes but you can forward through the sections for a shorter time. This captured the feel of the area and many of the sights we enjoyed so we are posting it here for you to view in lieu of still photos. As with most videos it is a good idea to let it load at least 3/4 of the film before viewing so you will have a smooth playback. That may take some time so please be patient (or it may just be our wifi connection).

We were asked by the Sacajawea manager to film our Discovery Center talks as tutorials for future volunteers. We include them here so that if you have interest in the topics you can watch. Chari’s talk runs about 30 minutes. Steve’s talk involved more technical material about using navigational equipment and required more detail. His talk runs about an hour and is split into two parts.

We haven’t had time to do a video for our out of Lemhi County trips so it is back to still photos. The star of our days off trips was the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. We packed up our tent and what seemed a ridiculous amount of other stuff for two wonderful trips there. After all, we are at the age where comfort is primary! The mountains, lakes/rivers and wildflowers were breathtaking! We took the Custer Motorway on the way back home locating both tent and RV camping spots and seeing the Custer and Bonanza ghost towns.

A Favorite Sawtooth Scene

Along The Custer Motorway

Reflection of The Sawtooths

For our wedding anniversary this year (that’s number 8), we took a rafting trip with Rawhide Outfitters. This was a 3 hour trip with a short gold mine stop and BBQ lunch. The day use stretch of the Salmon River has up to Class 3 rapids. We had a wonderful guide and enjoyed ourselves. I don’t know if I can work up courage to do the multi-day trip with level 4 and 5 rapids through the Frank Church Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the river. I’m ready to go. What are you waiting for? That’s why the Salmon River is called The River of No Return. Until the invention of jet boats and powerful gasoline engines the Salmon River current was too strong for men to paddle or row back upstream. Traffic could only go downstream. 

Floating On The Salmon River

Steve “Riding The Bull”












Anniversary Rafting Trip

Another favorite area was the Spar Canyon Road south of Challis, Idaho, nearby Herd Lake and oddly named Road Creek Road. On our first trip here we found a new to us plant. It took me a long time to identify it. Now we know it is called Sobol, a member of the agave group and in the asparagus family. This is BLM land and great for rockhounding. We returned here for the Eclipse 2017 and had no crowds. Steve has written an account of this which we’ll post separately. To say it was a National Geographic moment is an understatement! Also in the area and worth a mention is Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. The park is devoted to mining history of the area and a visit to the Bayhorse Ghost Town in the park is a must.

Driving Spar Canyon Road

The Many Colors Found In Spar Canyon











Sobol Growing In Spar Canyon

We attended two festivals: Bannack Days at Bannack State Park (old mining ghost town) and Logger Days in Darby, MT. We’d been to Bannack in 2014 but it was fun to see the town “come alive” through living history. They had everything from pack mules to an old mining stamp machine and a “shoot out”.  Steve spent a long time talking to a surveyor about historical instruments and was able to use this information in his talk.

Bannack Scene

Living History Brings Town To Life

The Dentist














The Shoot Out

The Darby, Montana Logger Festival was the first of its type that we had attended. Just as a rodeo is a competition based on skills a cowboy uses, the Logger Festival uses a chainsaw and skills loggers need. There were several events but our three favorites were the Cookie Stack, the Obstacle Pole and one we call the Climb and Cut.

In the Cookie Stack a beer mug of water is placed on an upright log. Then the logger cuts several slices aka cookies. The stack is then picked up on the chainsaw blade and moved to an adjacent log. Lastly the chainsaw is removed. All of this without spilling the mug! The gal who won was amazing. She placed in every event.

After Cutting The Cookies

Moving The Stack










Removing The Saw




The Obstacle Pole starts when the logger picks up the saw and runs around the obstacle. Then he/she runs up an angled log to the end. They balance on the end, start the saw and then lean over the end and cut off a section. Lastly they turn and run down the log to the ground.

Off And Running








Start Your Saw






Starting To Cut















Don’t Fall Now!


Turn And Run!

We don’t know the official name of this event but it involves making an axe cut about 4′ off the ground and inserting a board. Then the logger jumps up on the board and repeats the process. Standing on the second board and bouncing a lot the logger chops thru the top log. The man shown here was a former World Champion Logger. While he didn’t win, he did place well… at age 75! No more excuses! You rest… you rust.


Strong At 75


Up On The First Board


Now On The Second Board


Chopping Away At The Top


Lest we forget to mention our visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument. We’d made a quick visit in 2011 but always wanted to spend more time and see wildflowers growing in the lava. A great photo opportunity. The plants are all low growing so some shots required us to sprawl on our tummies. Bet that was a curious sight to other visitors!

June Wildflowers At Craters of the Moon

Nature As Sculptor


Time as usual has gone all too fast. We will miss the wonderful staff at the Sacajawea Center and the local volunteers who devote so much time year after year. We explored only some of the backroads. Of course, it is our stomachs that will miss 80 mile bread from Odd Fellows Bakery, free range eggs bought roadside on the honor system, Sacajawea Stout from Bertram’s Brewery and the huge ice cream cones at the Baker Country Store.

Now on to new adventures!

Evening Blues On The Salmon River




Where To Next? #11

Four months seemed like a long time to be in one place when we arrived at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho last May. In the blink of an eye, here we are in mid August and it is time to plan our next journey.  All but one of these stops is new to us. We will be returning to Bandits Roost in NC where we visited often while waiting for our house to sell in 2012. We’ll be heading back east to volunteer at Cape Lookout National Seashore and in February 2018 celebrate Steve’s Mom’s 90th birthday. Although I spent 20 years in North Carolina, I never visited the southern part of the Outer Banks. Now we’ll have 5 months to play and explore. Along the way we’ll spend time in Cody, Wyoming and meet up with RV friends in Yellowstone NP, see the Black Hills of SD for the third time but in the Spearfish area, stop to see Steve’s brother in Wisconsin, visit 8 National Park Service sites, eat in 3 Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, take a steamboat cruise for Ocktoberfest and continue Seeing America Through A Bug Splattered Windshield.

From Salmon, ID To Cape Lookout NS, NC

Our Best Campgrounds From September 2016-May 2017

It is that time of year again when we select the best campgrounds we used over the past year. In the past we have limited it to the top 10. This year we travelled more miles and used more campgrounds so we have over 25 to recommend. We also are color coding them. GREEN means new location we recommend, YELLOW means a previous selection we used again and still recommend (Our Hall of Fame) and RED means not recommended for big rigs like ours (40′ 5th wheel). For easier reading, bring the picture zoom in 3-4 times.

Over the past 5 years we have stayed in over 150 campgrounds and approximately half of these have made it to the annual list. For past recommendations refer to posts in July of each year.

Happy Camping Everyone!

Our Top Campgrounds For Sept. 2016- May 2017


Out And About In Arkansas

During our stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas we needed service work done on the RV several times. This meant leaving the trailer at the repair shop. Since we had to find temporary housing it was a great opportunity for some short “vacations”.

Our first trip was to Fort Smith, AR on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. We visited the Fort Smith National Historic site. Originally built as an Army fort on the far western frontier to protect settlers from Indian attacks and outlaws in 1817, it later became a federal courthouse and prison until it closed in 1896. There are exhibits on the U.S. Marshals, outlaws,  Judge Parker and the Trail of Tears. We’d hoped to return to participate in one of the trial re-enactments they hold there but didn’t make it. Fort Smith has one of the most unique Visitor Centers we’ve seen. It is in a former brothel. We thought we’d just stop in for a moment and look around. This is a slow time of year and the docent asked if we’d like a tour. So for the next 45 minutes we were entertained by the story of  “Miss Laura”, her girls and their gentlemen callers as well as the details of the house and how it became the Visitor Center.  Last on our list of places to visit was the home and museum of General William O. Darby who formed the special WWII unit eventually called the Army Rangers. This is privately run and hours very. When we were there the docent was one of the founders. Sensing an interested audience talked for almost two hours and displayed items in their collection not normally on display. We had to graciously depart or we would have been there a lot longer. We can’t find our pictures so these are from the internet.

Fort Smith NHS

“Miss Laura’s” As The Fort Smith VCB

Renovated To Its Former Style

“Gentleman” Waiting At Miss Laura’s










General Wm. O. Darby

Boyhood Home Of General Darby

The second trip took us to the north central part of the state near Harrison and the Buffalo River National Scenic Riverway. We rented a dog friendly cabin through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) at the same price as a motel room. We visited the Buffalo River National River, a NPS site although it was too chilly for on the water activities. We did a few short hikes and enjoyed the area. We are saying “when we come back” as it would be a fabulous place to paddle. Yes there are shuttles available if you like us have only one car. We also drove to the Mountain Home area to visit one of Steve’s uncles.

Buffalo River View

Imagine Paddling Here













Trip number three was at the end of our stay and we headed to Petit Jean SP. This was Arkansas’ first state park. Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service was consulted and you can see his influence in the lodge. It looks like a smaller version of the great park lodges of the west. The CCC did a lot of work here in the 1930s from building cabins (like the one we used), to a stone water tower, to furniture still in use at the lodge today.  For those who can do a strenuous hike there is a beautiful waterfall. We plan to return some day and use the excellent campground. The story of Petit Jean, a young woman who stole aboard ship to be near her beloved but pretended to be the cabin boy.  A favorite of the crew “he” was nicknamed Petit John. Not until “he” became ill was it discover she was a female. She died and is buried at the park overlooking the Arkansas River.

A Beautiful Place To Hike

Overlooking The Arkansas River At Petit Jean SP










Steve and Opal At PJSP


Our Cabin

Exploring A Cave











Some day trips took us to Mt. Magazine SP, the highest point in Arkansas. This park also has a beautiful lodge and some of the cabins come with hot tubs! We are very impressed by the state parks we have seen in Arkansas. On our way there we stopped at Hickory Nut Overlook for a great view of Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest. Another trip took us to the Lum & Abner Museum. I don’t remember this radio program but a friend of mine does who was raised in Arkansas. They were local “class clowns” who entered a local station’s talent contest making up the characters of Lum and Abner from Pine Ridge on their way there. Like Andy Griffith they used their home town area and people they knew in the routine. They became regulars and later went on to be syndicated. The store they featured in the program is now the museum. It is full of L&A artifacts and implements from early years in the Ozarks.

Lum And Abner Store And Museum

Lum And Abner In Real Life And In Character









Museum Inside



Ozark Women Wore Corn Husk Hats To Work Outside











Heading south we visited Hope, AR, and the NPS site, boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. Arkansas loves Bill Clinton. Hot Springs is where he graduated from High School. There is a big sign letting you know it. Apparently, another claim to fame for this small town was the world’s largest watermelon. Now although surpassed several times, the sign still brags about the event. I had to stop and take a photo of a bit of roadside humor photography at a local grocery. The name of the town is Hope for a reason as it has seen better days and is hoping for a recovery.

Bill Clinton’s Birthplace

On A Ranger Led Tour











A Town Named Hope

They’re Proud Of That Melon

Make You Hungry?

We made several day trips to Little Rock to visit Heifer International Headquarters, The McArthur Museum, eat at Cotham’s Mercantile, tour the Arkansas Capitol and return to Central High NHS since we’d missed the ranger led tour when we were there in 2014. Steve’s Mom has been donating to Heifer International in lieu of giving Christmas gifts for the past several years. We were very impressed with both the philosophy of the organization and its totally green headquarters. For history buffs the Mc Arthur Museum is a treasure. This is where General Douglas McArthur was born. Right next door is the Arkansas Art Museum where we viewed early works by Ansel Adams. If you are going for lunch at the original Cotham’s Mercantile (there is a new one in town), do get there early. It gets busy by noon. They’re famous for the Hubcap Hamburger. Free tours of the Capitol give you an overview of state history and government. It is the only state that let’s you enter the vault and hold on to a big pile of cash. They do insist you give it back though! For anyone wanting to have an “in the moment” experience of what Civil Rights in the 1960s was all about should take the ranger led tour at Central High NHS. Since Central High is still used as a high school the tours  inside are available only when school is in session and very restricted hours. You need to call ahead and claim a spot but the tour is free.

Heifer International Museum

Heifer International Green Headquarters










Mc Arthur Museum

Korean War Memorial










Arkansas State Capitol

Stained Glass At The Capitol

Show Me The Money!












Inside Cotham’s Mercantile












Would You Eat Here?

We had a wonderful and busy three months in Arkansas and still didn’t see everything we wanted to see or do. So as we like to say… “When we come back…”

A Cajun Christmas In New Orleans

NOLA Panorama

NOLA Panorama

We’ve been wanting to spend time time in New Orleans ever since we hit the road. This year (2016) we finally got here. Another sticker for the RV map. That only leaves 3 states in the lower 48 we haven’t camped in West VA, Ohio and Connecticut). We chose Bayou Segnette SP on what is referred to as the westbank area. Good choice as it has large sites, free wifi, free laundry and is only a 10 minute drive to the Algiers Point ferry to downtown New Orleans. The parking for all day was $5 and senior rate on the ferry is $1 each way. If you are lucky you might even get serenaded by the calliope from the Steamboat Natchez.

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

We spent the first day with friend and fellow volunteer from Red Rock Lakes, Marilyn, touring two of the six sites that are part of Jean Lafitte NHP. The first was Chalmette Battlefield (site of the 1814 Battle of New Orleans) and the other in Thibodaux, LA at the Acadian Culture Center. We arrived in Thibodaux just in time for a Ranger led walking tour of town covering history and architecture of the area. If you enjoy discovering the small towns and hidden gems of our country, don’t miss this walk. We saw original Acadian homes, Victorian homes, Art & Craft homes, Beau Arts buildings and even one of only two Second French Empire homes in Louisiana. We also learned about the Louisiana seal which depicts a pelican with 3 chicks ripping her own flesh to feed them. This was created based upon what the first governor thinks he saw. Truth, per the Ranger, is that pelicans never have more than two chicks and usually only one survives, no bird would rip itself to feed young and that until the late 20th century the seal also showed blood droplets. The Center hosts free events such as a Cajun music night and a local dialect of French discussion group to preserve the language. At one time it was illegal to speak the Acadian language. We ended the day with a meal at Fremin’s, once a pharmacy cum restaurant. Oh, those smoked oysters and gumbo!

Seal Of Louisiana

Seal Of Louisiana

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Malus-Beauregard House

Malus-Beauregard House










Victorian Home In Thibodeaux

Victorian Home In Thibodaux

Second Empire French Home

Second Empire French Home










Thibodeaux Cemetery

Thibodaux Cemetery

Day two was a walking marathon through the French Quarter. We started at the Old Mint, the only mint to have coined currency for both the US and the Confederacy. Currently it is also being used as the Visitor Center for the New Orleans Jazz NHP. Then we walked and photographed ourselves silly on the fabulous architecture and seasonal decorations. We returned to the Jazz park for a Ranger led walk on music and cuisine. If America is the melting pot of the world then surely New Orleans is the epicenter. We knew about the Spanish, the French, the Acadians, the Caribbean influence but Canary Island Islenos … we had no idea. We were still able to catch half of the free jazz concert by the NPS Arrowhead band too. Starving we stopped for a muffuletta and jambalaya.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

The French Market

The French Market

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

The Cornstalk Hotel

The Cornstalk Hotel

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony









Landmark Eatery

OMG! The Food!

OMG! The Food!








New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans Architecture

French Quarter Scene

French Quarter Scene

All That Jazz!

All That Jazz!


New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

Being in a vibrant city at holiday time is special. We loved the decorations, the lights at The Oaks and most of all the Cajun custom of guiding Papa Noel with bonfires along the levees. Steve has put together a video of these events and our visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!