The Best Way to Enjoy Colorado’s Scenic Drives? In a Porsche!

Back in June 2017, we took our RV into the Colorado Rockies and unexpectedly met up with a special friend of mine from high school the day she was hosting a rally for the Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Club. Before we knew it, Mark and I had each hopped into a cute little roadster.

Heading out in a Porsche 356

We arrived in Colorado just in time to participate in a Porsche 356 rally.

We started in Georgetown, Colorado, and once the group of twelve colorful vintage sports cars had gathered, we were off on a beautiful day of driving west of Denver through some of Colorado’s best mountain scenery.

Rally for the Colorado Rocky Mountains Porsche 356 Club

Colorful little roadsters ready for a ride!

Porsche rally in Georgetown Colorado

We did a big loop through some of Colorado’s most breathtaking scenery, starting in Georgetown.

Our planned route would take us over four of Colorado’s big mountain passes: Loveland Pass, Vail Pass, Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass. Almost as soon as we hit the highway, the snowcapped mountain peaks began to frame every view.

Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

Happy drivers take their vintage Porsches for a ride.

Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 rally in Colorado

Beautiful scenery!

The Porsche 356 is a sweet little car that was made from 1948 to 1965. It has two seats up front and a tiny seat in the back. We switched our seating around a few times, and my favorite spot was that little back seat where I had a view of the mountains in every direction.

View from back seat of Porsche 356 convertible in Colorado

I had a great view in all directions from the back seat.

Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

In June the mountains were still covered in snow.

The best view was out the back, and I just snapped away with the camera while Mark rode in another car and talked with the driver about all things Porsche for a very happy few hours.

Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in the Colorado Rockies

What a place for a Saturday drive!

It was a glorious late June day and the snow glistened in the bright, warm sun. We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the gorgeous roads and mountains scenery. A cyclist crested Loveland Pass just as we did.

Cyclist on the top of Loveland Pass Colorado

It was a lot easier to get to the top of this pass in a Porsche!

The snow was still surprisingly thick on the mountains, and at one point we even saw skiers zooming downhill at a ski resort. It was a blast to sit in the back seat and watch the line of Porsches snaking around all the curves behind us.

Scenic drive Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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At one point we all parked and got out to stretch our legs and enjoy the views. The mountains were lovely, but I got a kick out of seeing the back sides of all the Porshce 356s lined up in the parking area!!

Colorado Porsche 356 Rally

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Colorado Porsche 356 Rally

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When we got back out on the road again, I was reminded of some of the really fun experiences we’ve had with sports cars out on the open road during our RV travels.

One of the best was the Idaho’s Sun Valley Road Rally, which takes place around the third weekend in July each year. We were fortunate to see the second edition of the Sun Valley Road Rally in 2009 when four members of a family each raced the family Porsche down a straight stretch of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, achieving higher and higher speeds. The son won the day with a top speed of 188 mph.

We saw it again in 2014 when a fleet of Bugatti Veyrons entered the race. One hit a top speed of 246 mph! A cute 81 year old woman raced her Corvette too, reaching a peak speed of 166 while the loudspeakers played “Little Old Lady of Pasadena.” When she hopped out of her Corvette after she finished, she turned around and her T-shirt said, “Go Granny Go!”

Rally for Porsche 356 Club in Colorado

This fun Porsche rally brought back memories of other exotic car events on the open road.

Porsche roadsters in the Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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At one point our group of Porsche 356s had to stop and refuel.

Gas stop on Colorado Porsche 356 rally

How fun to see all the Porsches taking turns at the gas station.

But soon we were out on the road again, winding our way through majestic mountain views.

Yellow Porsche Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

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A few years ago, we saw the amazing Nevada Open Road Challenge which is held each May. Sports car enthusiasts from all over brought some of the most exotic looking racing cars to Ely, Nevada, to race against the clock on 90 miles of back roads to Las Vegas.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters in Colorado

Big mountains. Little Porsche!

Just like the Sun Valley Road Rally, spectators are allowed to mingle with the drivers in the Nevada Open Road Challenge. What a thrill it was to see the drivers get suited up and take off in that race.

It turned out that there are lots of opportunities for people to volunteer and help with the Nevada Open Road Challenge, and we talked with some of the folks about what a good time they had being a part of such an unusual car race.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters

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Near the end of our beautiful ride through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, all the Porsches parked in a line for some photo ops. We were delighted to capture these colorful cars all in a row, and the owners proudly posed next to their cars for another round of pics.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters in Colorado Rockies

A rainbow of pretty Porsches.

Pretty Porsche 356 roadsters lined up in Colorado

More Porsches join them.

Rocky Mountains Porsche 356 Club Rally

Classy class photo!

I can’t think of a better way to get an overview of the magnificence of Colorado’s mountain scenery than to hop in the back of a friend’s convertible Porsche 356 and drive all around the state for a day. What luck!

Driving a Porsche in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

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But even if you don’t have a friend who has restored a vintage Porsche to take you on an exquisite ride, this part of Colorado is stunning no matter what vehicle you’re in. A map of the route is below in the reference links.

RV camping at sunset in Colorado

We never know where our travels will take us!

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The Porsche 356 Rally Route:

Other cool car rallies & races – Model A’s in Maine, sports car races in Sun Valley & Nevada, and Porsches in San Diego:

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RV Trip on Utah Scenic Byway 12 – Driving An All American Road!

September 2016 – One of America’s most dramatic and beautiful scenic drives goes between Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

Scenic Byway 12 Utah RV trip

Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 is an All American Road

Classified as an All American Road by the (now defunct) National Scenic Byways Program, this drive is an awe-inspring drive through 123 miles of the most spectacular scenery anywhere.

RV trip Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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We began our drive just outside Bryce Canyon National Park and drove between towering sandstone walls that rippled in whites, greys, and pinks.

RV Utah Scenic Byway 12

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At the beginning of the drive we passed farmland and ranches that stretched across the vast landscape to cliffs in the distance.

Farmhouse on Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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Occasionally a cow standing by the side of the road watched us pass.

Cow on Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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Soon, the ranch land gave way to exotic red rock formations that rose up on either side of us.

Red rocks on Scenic Byway 12 Utah RV trip

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The road climbed and fell and swooped this way and that in big wide bends and tight hairpin turns.

Red rocks RV trip Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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There wasn’t a lot of traffic, as this road goes between tiny communities in a vast area. Many of the vehicles on the road were RVs.

RV motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12

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But this drive isn’t for the faint of heart or for RVs that are underpowered. One of the climbs we did was a 14% grade! We stopped at the top to get a photo of the sign for cars and trucks that were starting the descent.

14 percent grade Utah Scenic Byway 12

Utah Scenic Byway 12 is not for the faint of heart or for underpowered RVs.

Last year, we upgraded to a more powerful truck just so we could tow our 14,100 lb. trailer on roads like this and climb double digit grades without worrying about whether the truck could handle it.

RVing Utah Scenic Byway 12 in the red rocks

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As we had hoped, the truck didn’t even flinch even once on this stunning scenic drive. Lighter on their feet, lots of motorcycles were having a blast!

Motorcycle Utah Scenic Byway 12 RV trip

Scenic Byway 12 in Utah.

This would also be a stunning road for riding a bicycle, and we saw a van from Trek Tours providing sag support to their riders.

Trek Bike Tour Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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The patterns of colors on the red rocks were just gorgeous, and we stopped many times to look out across the incredible landscape and soak it all in.

RV motorhome Utah Scenic Byway 12 red rocks

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RVing Scenic Byway 12

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We had driven this route years ago with our popup tent trailer, but this is a road that is worth driving many times. Such views!!

RVing Utah Scenic Byway 12

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Red rocks Motorhome RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 12

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There are many things to see and do along the way on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12. Kodachrome Basin State Park, which was named for the film because the colors are so magnificent, is a true highlight.

RV motorhome Utah Scenic Byway 12

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We didn’t stop at Kodachrome Basin State Park this time, but we did the jaw-dropping Burr Trail drive, which we’ll share in an upcoming blog post.

Motorhome Scenic Byway 12 Utah RV trip

Don’t miss Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 in your RV travels!!

We also hiked to the majestic Lower Calf Creek Falls, which we’ll share soon too (smile).

RV motorhome Utah Scenic Byway 12 road trip

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But for RVers who don’t have the time to make any stops on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, the road itself is so breathtaking that it is well worth a detour to experience.

To help you plan an RV trip on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah, there are some links below.

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More info about taking an RV trip on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah:

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“Going to the Sun” from Glacier National Park’s East Side – Breathtaking!

June 2016 – During our visit to the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park, we saw lots of storm clouds roll in and out, and at dawn and dusk the sky lit up in astonishing patterns and colors.

RV at sunset Glacier National Park Montana

We saw some amazing light shows in the sky.

The Going to the Sun Road is the famous and extraordinarily scenic drive that cuts through the center of the park from west to east, and one great way to do it is on one of the Red Bus Tours. Many of these buses were built by the White Motor Company in the early 1900’s but have been converted to run on propane and gasoline. Some have been in service since the 1930’s!

Glacier National Park Red Bus Tour

Here’s a fun way to tour Glacier National Park – with a Red Bus Tour!

We saw the red buses all over the place. They have tours of the west side of the park and tours of the east side of the park.

Red Bus Tour Glacier National Park Montana

What a classy ride!

Sometimes we saw them in groups of two or three. With the top of the bus rolled back, folks could stand up inside to take pics of the mountains with a totally unobstructed view. This seemed like the best way to enjoy this incredible drive, as the traffic can be pretty intense. Why not leave the driving to someone else?

Three Red Bus Tours Glacier National Park Montana

We saw the red buses everywhere!

Of course, there are many ways to enjoy the Going to the Sun Road, and driving it in a Led Zeppelin van looked pretty cool too.

Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Road

Take a drive up the Stairway to Heaven on the Going to the Sun Raod!

The views of Saint Mary Lake on the east side are just gorgeous, and we marveled at the ever changing colors of the water and the sky as the storms rolled in and out.

Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Saint Mary Lake – teal blue water under misty gray skies.

One of the nice things about driving your own vehicle (especially if you have a sweet hubby who chauffeurs you around) is that you can stop in every single pullout and see what’s there. We found wildflowers blooming on the banks of Saint Mary Lake.

Wildflowers Saint Mary Lake Glacier National Park Montana

Pretty flowers throw a splash of color in the greenery.

At the beginning of the Going to the Sun Road, we were greeted by tall, craggy, gray mountains that didn’t have a whole lot of snow on their peaks.

Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Going to the Sun!!

As the road twisted and turned and rose higher, the mountains grew taller too, and they were dressed in their snowy white best. The road snuck right through a mountain at one point too!

Tunnel Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road has snowy peaks and cool tunnels!

The temperatures quickly cooled as we climbed higher, and the snow on the highest peaks got thicker.

Snowcapped mountains Glacier National Park Montana

Mid-June in Glacier National Park!

Near the top, we found ourselves rounding a tight curve that took in an incredible view of the vivd green valley floor. What a setting!

Happy camper Glacier National Park Montana

The views down into the valleys from the Going to the Sun Road are stunning.

There were patches of snow on the ground in the valley, and the tall evergreens seemed miniscule so far below us.

Snow and trees Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

Patches of snow were tucked between the trees in the valley.

In 1995, Waterton-Glacier National Park was named a World Heritage Site.

A century earlier, America and Canada joined hands across the border to to unite their adjacent National Parks, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA.

12,000 years ago, thick, moving slabs of ice and snow — glaciers – carved the valleys between these towering mountains, giving them a distinctive U-shape.

Glacier valleys Glacier National Park Montana

Eons ago, glaciers carved wonderful U-shaped valleys.

Waterton-Glacier National Park is referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” and no wonder. The spiky mountains that encircle the valleys and lakes look like a crown.

This area also straddles the Continental Divide, the ridge that runs north-south down the continent and separates the water flow through the eastern states provinces from that going through the western ones. The water that spills down the mountains from the Continental Divide in streams and rivers heads towards the two opposite and very distant oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Happy Campers Glacier National Park Montana

Happy campers on the Crown of the Continent.

Far below us, tucked between the cliffs and grassy slopes and pine trees, we spotted a waterfall that was about a quarter inch tall from our vantage point. No doubt this is a tall cascade that plunges down with a thunderous roar.

Waterfall Glacier National Park Montana

Far below us we saw a tiny waterfall.
A zoom lens brings it in close!

We found another waterfall right alongside the Going to the Sun road near the top of the continent’s crown. This one was wide and shallow, and it scurried this way and that as it rushed downhill between the rocks.

Waterfall Going to the Sun Road Glacier National Park Montana

We explored a beautiful wide waterfall right by the road.

Up near the visitors center at Logan Pass, the snow was still very deep in places.

Thick Snow Glacier National Park Montana

Mark stands by a wall of snow at the visitors center.

Snow covered much of the ground, and it was really fun to follow the little animal tracks in the snow until they disappeared into round and deep holes. We didn’t see anyone peeking out of their burrows, but we knew they were under there. We threw a few snowballs at each other too!

Snow Glacier National Park Montana

The Going to the Sun Road had just opened at Logan Pass when we were there in mid-June!

There are three entrances to Glacier National Park on the east side. The Going to the Sun Road starts/ends in Saint Mary, but 37 miles south of there is the entrance at Two Medicine, near the town of East Glacier Park Village.

Two Medicine is home to a fabulous historic log building that was once part of the Two Medicine Chalet rustic vacation destination built by the Great Northern Railway in the early 1900’s. Today it is just the Two Medicine Store, but it offers a little bit of everything to visitors.

From souvenirs to guidebooks, hiking gear and tourist info, they also serve fancy fluffy lattes and yummy lunch fare and bottled microbrew beer. This cute cabin in the middle of nowhere has everything the modern hiker needs!

The Lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

This simple log building serves up cheap beer and lattes as well as yummy lunches and souvenirs.

We were shocked at how reasonable the prices were too, especially after visiting the village of Waterton in the heart of Waterton Lakes National Park where the prices of certain essential food items (beer) were more than double the norm.

We were also very intrigued to chat with our latte barista and find out she was a college student from Colorado who was working at the store as a summer job. Her boyfriend was also working a summer job nearby at Amtrak’s East Glacier Park station.

People often wonder how to make a living while RVing full-time. One option is to get fun seasonal jobs at popular tourist destinations. You just have to be as much of a go-getter as a college kid and be willing to do things like make espresso drinks or work at a train depot!

Inside the lodge at Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Inside the historic Two Medicine Store.

Mark had just purchased a Rokinon 12 mm lens for his camera, and he was absolutely loving the very wide angles that it could capture. He also found it made fantastic starbursts, so he had a wide-angle-starburst theme going for a lot of his photos at Two Medicine.

Starburst Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

A fiery sun shines on Two Medicine Lake.

Two Medicine Lake is a beauty. We wanted to get out on it for the little boat ride that goes across, but we ended up saving that treat for our next visit!

Beach Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Two Medicine offers Glacier National Park beauty with a bit of peace and solitude to go with.

There are lots of canoe rentals, and this lake would be a great place for a kayak too, especially in the mornings before the wind picks up.

Canoes Two Medicine Glacier National Park Montana

Rental canoes wait for a ride at Two Medicine.

Besides camera-created starbursts in the sky, we also loved seeing the stunning crepuscular rays at sunset when the sun lit the sky on fire.

RV in sunset Glacier National Park Montana

The changeable weather at Glacier National Park created some wonderful sunrises and sunsets.

On the morning we left Glacier National Park, the gods treated us to some unbelievable theatrics in the heavens. It began innocently enough with a beautiful pastel sunrise over the mountains. The thick forest of dead trees below seemed to mirror the shades of gray in the heavy moisture-laden clouds.

Sunrise over dead trees Glacier National Park Montana

Storm clouds mirror the dead gray forest while pink shades dance in the sky.

As we drove, the sky began to turn wild shades of yellow and orange, and heavy rain fell from the clouds in the distance. We pulled over the enjoy the spectacle and were stunned by the light show that followed.

RV in dawn stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

As we were leaving, the sky went wild.

The rising sun cut across the valley and lit the mountains in the distance with soft orange hues while rain fell from black clouds. Suddenly a brilliant rainbow appeared.

RV in rainbow stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

Wow.

We ran around like mad snapping photos, and as if in joyful response to our excitement, the rainbow got brighter and brighter.

RV under rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow seemed to jump out of the clouds!

Then a second rainbow appeared outside the first one. This surely meant double good luck — but which one led to the pot of gold??

RV in a double rainbow Montana

And then there were two rainbows, one inside the other.

The outer rainbow eventually faded, so we knew it wasn’t that one! Off in the distance the remaining rainbow seemed to fall right into the heart of the valley below.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow ultimately aims right at the pot of gold down in the valley at Glacier National Park.

As clouds slowly parted and we made our way back to our buggy, we were breathless with excitement. What a sensational light show that had been.

Rainbow Glacier National Park Montana

The rainbow lands in the middle of the forest of dead trees, promising a new beginning.

We loved our visits to Glacier National Park this year, both the west side and on the east side. If you have a hankering to take an RV trip there too, there are more links for planning your adventure below.

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More info about the east side of Glacier National Park:

Other blog posts from our RV travels to Glacier National Park:

Other blog posts from our travels where the Sky went Wild

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Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway weaves between towering mountain peaks through the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks, offering up a new and utterly astonishing vista at every turn.

RV travel Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway takes you from one jaw-dropping view to another..for 150 miles!

We wanted to catch the magic of Canada’s Rocky Mountains at dawn, and on a few mornings we hopped on the Icefields Parkway at the break of day to chase down down that magical moment.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway

But it is hard to capture the soft pinks that fill the sky a half hour before sunrise when the sun crests the horizon at 5:30 a.m., as it does in this part of the world in late May, especially since it wasn’t getting totally dark until nearly 11 p.m. So much for sleeping!

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff Canada

Morning on the Icefields Parkway.

So, we didn’t quite make it before sunrise, but we still got the beautiful golden glow that spreads across the mountains as they wake up.

Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Soft light radiates across the peaks of the Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway_

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The snow was thick in certain spots up on the mountain peaks, and we loved the patterns the rock and snow made high above us.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

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Patterns on the Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Canada

Beautiful patterns on the crests of the Rockies

The tourist literature for the Icefields Parkway doesn’t wax poetic about any particular location. Their implied suggestion is simply that you should explore on your own and discover the most exquisite spots for yourself.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Looking across Bow Lake.

Luckily, a friend had told us to make sure we didn’t miss Petyo Lake. He hadn’t elaborated about why Peyto Lake was a “must see,” but as soon as we emerged from the short hiking trail to the viewing area that overlooks the lake, we knew exactly why he wanted us to go there.

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

Peyto Lake comes into view.

“Oh, Wow!” I blurted, my eyes like saucers. “Who spilled the can of blue paint?”

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Is Peyto Lake really that blue? Yes!

The small crowd on the viewing platform laughed. Every hiker that arrived had the same shocked look on their face as I did when they came upon the stunningly gorgeous view in front of them. The color of Peyto Lake was extraordinary.

A group lined up for a selfie, and who wouldn’t?

Selfie at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Selfie time!

A dad took his son below the deck and sat with him for little while enjoying the view. What an unforgettable moment and priceless memory.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

A father and son take a moment to enjoy the view together.

His wife was standing next to me at the overlook, and we chatted for a few moments. I discovered they were from Germany and they had visited Peyto Lake a week earlier when the mountains had been blanketed in snow. “It was all white — except for that blue,” she said, her hand sweeping across the painted landscape as she described what she had seen.

All of the rivers and lakes in the Canadian Rockies turn vivid green and blue in the sunlight, as long as the water isn’t too stirred up. The water is full of “glacial flour” which is crushed rock that the glaciers have ground down to a fine powder as they move. This crushed rock becomes suspended in the water and creates vivid blues and greens in the sunlight.

Another beautiful pair of lakes on the Icefields Parkway is the Waterfowl Lakes (Upper and Lower). Rather than royal blue, these lakes are turquoise colored like Lake Louise.

Waterfowl Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Unlike the true blue of Peyto Lake, the Waterfowl Lakes are turquoise!

We didn’t see any waterfowl there, but as we were wandering around the shore, we came across a grouse.

Grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

Down at our feet, Mark spotted a grouse!

This bird noticed us, but she wasn’t too concerned. She was preoccupied with brushing off the amorous attentions of a her suitor who was walking around her in circles.

Male grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

“Hey, baby, are you free tonight?”

This guy was pulling out all the stops for her.

Male grouse strutting Banff National Park Canada

Do you think I’m sexy?

She wasn’t all that impressed, even though he was strutting his stuff for all he was worth, but I sure was!

Male grouse struts Banff National Park Canada

She was having none of it, but I thought his display was great!

Back out on the Icefields Parkway, we continued to be blown away by the towering mountains and their snowy peaks.

Icefields Parkway scenic drive Banff National Park Canada

The scenery on the Icefields Parkway never gets boring!

Occasionally, when we pulled over to admire the views, we could hear the thunderous sound of an avalanche high up in the mountains.

Rocky Mountains Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park

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Then we’d see the snow pouring down the crevices in the side of the mountain.

Avalanches Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Avalanches are common as the snow melts in the spring.

It was incredible just how loud these avalanches were, and equally incredible just how hard it was to spot where the avalanche was happening. They were way far up in the peaks, and they didn’t seem all that big from our vantage point on the ground.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff NP

Triangles in the sky.

The loftiness of the mountains was awe-inspiring.

Canadian Rockies Icefield Parkway Banff National Park

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And the clarity of lakes was too.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Herbert Lake

The Icefields Parkway is a fast moving thoroughfare between Lake Louise and Jasper, but we never got tired of driving it!

RV at Bow Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Now THAT’s a scenic drive!

The village at the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, makes a great “home base” for exploring the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. For more info, see this post: Lake Lousise – Heart of Banff National Park. At the end of that post (and in the following link) there is info about RV camping at Lake Louise.

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Places we’ve traveled where there is vivid blue or turquoise water:

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Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway is a 150 mile long scenic drive in Alberta, Canada, that goes between Lake Louise in Banff National Park at the south end and the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park at the north end.

It is touted to be one of the world’s top scenic drives. And they aren’t kidding!

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The Icefields Parkway is one of the world’s most spectacular scenic drives.

We drove the southern half of this eye-poppoing scenic drive several times during our stay in Lake Louise. We were blown away by the thrilling views every single time.

Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

The dramatic views never quit!

The Canadian Rockies were right there all around us, nearly close enough to reach out and touch.

RV on Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

RVs are the most common vehicles on the Icefields Parkway.

The mountains towered in front of us and behind us, and we kept jumping around in our seats looking in every direction out the windows, our jaws hanging open in amazement.

Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

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The mountains changed shape and color constantly as we drove in the varying light of early morning, midday and late afternoon.

RV in Rocky Mountains on Icefields Parkway

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The magnificent Icefields Parkway provides a feast for the eyes while driving but, for its length, it has suprisingly few scenic overlooks and pullouts where drivers can stop to admire the breathtaking vistas.

One of the best scenic viewpoints is at Herbert Lake. It is the very first pullout at the south end of the Icefields Parkway, and loads of drivers who start their drive at Lake Louise zoom right by.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Canada Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Herbert Lake – A gorgeous spot on the Icefields Parkway that many northbound tourists skip past!

The temptation when you round the bend and pass Herbert Lake and first catch a glimpse of the mountains reflecting in the water is to think, “Oh, we’ll have lots of scenic viewpoints on this drive, and the Icefields Parkway is 150 miles long, so let’s keep going for a while and stop a little further down the road.” After all, you’ve been on the Icefields Parkway for all of about three minutes at this point! We zipped by the first time but made a point to stop there on several return visits.

As I stared at the mirrored reflections in the lake one morning, I noticed the clouds were flying across the sky. So I set up a timelapse on my camera to capture the swift movement and variable light. What a cool result!!

One day as we drove along the Icefields Parkway, we were craning our necks looking up at the mountains when we noticed a cluster of cars pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Everyone was pointing their cameras towards the woods. It turned out there was a black bear just in front of the trees.

Getting a photo of a bear Banff National Park Canada

People stopped there cars to snap pics of a bear.

What a beauty he was!! We were tickled to see a bear so effortlessly for a second time here in the Canadian Rockies.

Black bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Another wonderful black bear sighting!

He stood still for a long time, chowing down on the grass, and our cameras clicked furiously.

Black Bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Black Bear Icefields Parkway Banff National Park_

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He stayed so long that his audience cycled in and out. Some folks got back in their cars and drove off and newcomers pulled over to park and stare in awe. Finally, the bear lumbered off into the woods.

Black bear Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

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There are a number of dry camping campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway but most were closed, even in late May. We wandered through a few — what great spots to camp during the summertime! — and we discovered a lovely view of the Rockies reflecting quietly in a large puddle on the ground near Mosquito Creek Campground.

Reflections Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff

Canadian Rockies reflections…

Lots of RVs travel this highway, and we saw more rental RVs than any other kind of vehicle on the road. The Icefields Parkway was under construction in spots, so there were loads of big construction trucks driving very fast on a mission to get where they were going. In the early mornings, though, we had the road to ourselves.

Rental RV Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway is a popular spot to take an RV!

One of the biggest and most popular scenic pullouts is at Bow Lake. This is a stunning lake, and we caught it in a mild mood one morning when it was as still as glass.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Serenity on Bow Lake.

The patterns of the snow on the mountains reflected beautifully in the green depths of the water.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

We loved the images the mountains created in the green water of Bow Lake.

The pullout at Bow Lake is very large, and we hung out for an hour or so watching the tourists come and go. First there was one RV.

RV driving on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

An RV slows down to pull over at Bow Lake

Then two.

RV parking on Icefields Parkway to Jasper Banff National Park Canada Rockies

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Then the tour buses began to show up and park alongside the cars and RVs. There was a constant shuffle of vehicles coming and going and people running around the overlook admiring the exquisite view.

RV and tour bus sightseeing Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada Rocky Mountains

Bow Lake is the most popular pullout in the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. It was busy in the off season!

Everyone wanted a selfie. Well, if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em! So, we got one too!

Happy hikers Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

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Our original plan had been to drive the Icefields Parkway with our rig, going slowly from south to north, and possibly camping midway at the Columbia Icefields.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

We never got tired of views like these!

But we soon found out that being 55′ long from end to end, we would have struggled to fit in most of the pullouts and in almost all the trailhead parking areas.

Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Canada

Icefields Parkway scenery – beautiful!

So, we drove the Icefields Parkway at leisure in our truck, stopping in different places each time we drove it, and never having to fight to squeeze a big rig into a tiny parking area.

Eventually, when we were finally ready to go all the way to Jasper, we took our rig straight through without stopping. But there was a lot to see around Lake Louise and Banff first, so that story will have to wait!

Fifth wheel RV on the Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

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The Icefields Parkway is a glorious road, and it is an easy drive that doesn’t involve any hairpin turns or steep climbs. So it is very manageable for a big RV and tow vehicle/toad as long as you don’t plan to pull over too often. And the views… oh my, the views!!

Canadian Rockies Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Canada

We saw sensational Canadian Rockies scenery at every turn on the Icefields Parkway

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Schoodic National Scenic Byway – Downeast Maine at its best!

June 2015 – While we were in one of the Maine visitors centers getting info about Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park, I noticed a tiny brochure entitled, “Schoodic National Scenic Byway.” We love scenic drives, and any drive that has been designated as a National Scenic Byway is always really outstanding.

I tucked that little pamphlet into my stack of literature with a happy smile, and one sunny morning we took off on what turned out to be a truly inspiring tour.

Schoodic Point Scenic Drive Mt Desert Island Maine

Coastal views on the Schoodic National Scenic Byway

This short drive takes in some of the best scenery that northern Maine has to offer, and what’s even better is that we saw almost no other tourists all day long. This was quite a contrast to Acadia National Park and all of Mt. Desert Island which were teeming with visitors.

Rocky beach coast of Maine Acadia National park

Pebble beach and rocky shoreline in Maine

We were loving the raw and rugged coastline that we found in this part of Maine, and at one point we stopped to watch the waves crashing on the granite boulders.

Crashing waves northern Maine coast

Fantastic!

At the tiny hamlet of Wonsqueak Harbor we found a gem of a little cove and stopped for pics.

Wonsqueak Harbor Maine near Acadia National Park and Schoodic Point

Picture perfect Wonsqueak Harbor


The water was wonderfully calm in the many bays that we passed, and it was crystal clear. It was so clear in Winter Harbor that Mark got an awesome photo of the swaying seaweed beneath the water with a classic pine covered shore in the distance.

Underwater seaweed Schoodic Point Maine

Above and below — talk about clear water!

Acadia National Park has a little branch on Schoodic Point that is isolated from the rest of the park over on Mt. Desert Island, and as we passed through the heavily wooded shoreline, we were engulfed in the most delicious smell of pine. I don’t know if it was the damp morning air or what, but we breathed deeply and felt so refreshed. Mark later bought a bag of crushed Balsam Fir needles so we could enjoy it in the rig wherever we parked!

Passing the tip of Schoodic Point, we came to the most engaging part of the tour: Prospect Harbor.

Prospect Harbor Maine

Lobster boats in Prospect Harbor

This harbor oozes downeast Maine charm. It is filled with lobster boats, and on the far shore you can see Prospect Head Light.

Prospect Harbor Point Lighthouse Maine

Prospect Harbor Point Lighthouse

Nearby we found some wild irises growing by a small pond.

Wild irises northern Maine coast

What are these doing here? How pretty!

Next to those were some wild lupines.

Wild lupine northern Maine coast

Pink, purple and blue wild lupines were everywhere!

But it was the pretty Maine scenery of the waterfront communities that really caught our eye. The tides are big here, so there are tall ladders that go from the docks down to the water.

Lobster pots Prospect Harbor Maine

Classic Maine lobster dock with traps stacked six high.

Out in the water, dinghies waited patiently for their owners to return from a day of lobstering.

Row boats Prospect Harbor Maine

Beautiful Prospect Harbor

What we loved about this area is that it is very real and not a fake put-on like so many seaside villages that are decorated with cutesie lobsters, bouys and traps.

This whole region is a true working community of active lobstermen. Evidence of the lobster trade was everywhere. We saw lobster pots stacked high all over the place.

Skiff and lobster pots Prospect Harbor Maine

Lobster pots and a skiff
These aren’t props, but they do make for great photos!

The lobster boats in the harbor sat peacefully in the morning sun.

Prospect Harbor Maine

Scenic quaintness aside, this is a working harbor.

Most of the homes in the area are owned by working lobstermen, and we passed one house after another that had a huge stack of lobster pots in a side yard or even in the driveway. On top of the stack would be a neatly coiled pile of rope and a big collection of identical bouys strung together.

After seeing so many seaside towns that use old bouys with all different color schemes and patterns as colorful ornaments, I was fascinated as we passed one house after another, each with its own colored bouys adorning a neat stack of pots. One house had all white bouys with a blue stripe. The next had all orange bouys with a white stripe. And so on. I was so caught up in musings about these folks and their lifestyle that I totally forgot to take any photos! This stuff was real. I loved it!

Down on the wharfs and the docks, things were a little more chaotic. Little coils of rope were all over the place, and a scramble of different bouys was scattered about.

Lobster pots and line on the docks at Prospect Harbor Maine

Coiled rope, lobster pots and bouys on the dock at Prospect Harbor.

13 701 Lobster pots Prospect Harbor Maine

We wandered around the docks and watched a lobsterman with a big bushy beard coming up from his boat at a brisk pace. His step was nimble and quick, and his smile was big and warm.

He stopped for a moment when we greeted him, and in no time we fell into conversation. We discovered he was going to be 82 years old in August, and he’d been fishing and lobstering since he was 7 years old. “I’ve been doing it all my life,” He said. “My grandfather took me out to the Grand Banks to fish when I was 9!”

Now that is the real deal.

My own great-grandfather was a lobsterman, and counting out the years, I realized both his grandfather and my great-grandfather would have been out on the sea working their trade in the same era in the early 1900’s. We laughed that both of our ancestors had used boats powered only by oars and sails.

True Maine Lobersterman Prospect Harbor Maine

We meet a true Maine lobsterman who’s been at it for 75 years.

As he drove off in his pickup, he didn’t tip-toe away. He peeled out and squealed the tires! I hope we live with such gusto when we’re 82!

At Prospect Harbor we’d reached the end of the Schoodic Scenic Byway, and we turned around to go back. Retracing our steps a little ways, we came across a huge field of wild lupines.

We learned later that these gorgeous flowers that blanket every corner of the coast in rich shades of purple, pink and blue are actually invasive in Maine. Admiring them and sitting among them, it was hard to imagine them having any kind of evil intent. Something that cheers up the countryside so much just can’t be called an invader. I think they should be called guests!

Snuggling in the wild lupine flowers northern Maine

These big Maine lupines make wonderful company!

Further on, we took a slight detour off the Schoodic Scenic Byway and stopped at Grindstone Neck, a beautiful outcropping of vast granite slabs that stretch out to the sea just west of Winter Harbor.

Couple at Grindstone Neck Winter Harbor Maine

Scenic Grindstone Neck

We romped across this rocky shoreline for a long time, exploring the nooks and crannies and tidepools along the way.

Grindstone Neck Winter Harbor Maine

Craggy rocks at Grindstone Neck

Tidepool Grindstone Neck Maine Acadia National Park

A tidepool at Grindstone Neck.

We finally tore ourselves away from the water and were just getting back in our truck when who should pull up but one of those adorable Ford Model A cars that was part of the big rally we’d seen back in Mt. Desert Island!

Ford Model A car parked at Schoodic Point Maine Acadia National Park

Hey, it’s one of those Ford Model A’s!!

We had no sooner gotten a pic of this pretty car posing for us when another one arrived and parked right next to it.

Two Ford Model A cars parked at Grindstone Neck Maine

And another one!!

Then suddenly two more came along and pulled in right alongside. How cool!

Four Ford Model A cars Grindstone Neck Winter Harbor Maine

What a handsome line up!!

This beautiful sunny day was a real high point in our visit to Maine. If you have an RV road trip planned to the northern coast of Maine, be sure to spend a day enjoying this wonderful drive.

The route for the Schoodic National Scenic Byway begins on coastal Route 1 a little southeast of Ellsworth in the town of Hancock, and heads southeast from there. Even though you’re going southeast, though, technically you’re northbound on Route 1. It is New England, after all!

After a few miles, turn right on Route 186 South and follow the coastline around Schoodic Point on up to Prospect Harbor. That is the official end of the drive, but continuing on to Corea is a special treat. Finish by looping back via Route 195 to Route 1, or turn around, as we did, and retrace your steps. See the map link below.

UPDATE: The new Schoodic Woods Campground managed by the National Park Service is opening on September 1, 2015. Here is a newspaper article about the opening. The land was donated by a family foundation. Undoubtedly the family name begins with the letter R, since that family has been extremely active and generous with their land holdings on Mt. Desert Island for nearly a century.

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Acadia National Park – Alluring Beauty on the Maine Coast

June 2015 – Maine’s Mt. Desert Island (pronounced “dessert” despite the spelling!) is home to several small harbor-front towns as well as lovely Acadia National Park. We made a beeline for the trendy and chic seaside town of Bar Harbor as soon as we got there.

Two old cannons face the water in the middle of town, aimed almost directly at a pretty schooner in the harbor. Mark decided to have a look down the barrel of one!

Cannons and schooner Bar Harbor Maine

Boom!

It was early in the morning, well before the crowds of tourists began to fill the streets, and we enjoyed the quiet and peaceful feeling of the place. This is an upscale town loaded with high end galleries and boutique shops, and it was nice to walk the main street and window shop completely by ourselves for a while.

Boutique shops Bar Harbor Maine

Shops on the main drag in Bar Harbor

Another wonderful small waterfront town is Northeast Harbor (whose sister town, Southwest Harbor, lies across the bay). All of these towns made for fun excursions during our stay, and we spent many a happy hour walking along the docks and watching the boats in the harbor.

Boats in Northeast Harbor Maine

Scenic Northeast Harbor

A lot of Maine harbors are geered primarily towards the lobster boat fleet, but Northeast Harbor is also home to many beautiful sailboats — and some unusual looking ones too!

Antique ketch Northeast Harbor Maine

Northeast Harbor has sleek fancy yachts and cute antiques too

Mt. Desert Island is shaped something like a lobster claw with a pair of wide pincers hanging down. Acadia National Park takes up most of the eastern lobe and much of the western lobe too. In the eastern portion — the main part of the park — there is a Loop Road that passes the major sights.

The eastern 2/3 of this road is one way, and in our excitement to see it all on our first day in Acadia, we blew right by the visitors center, missed some key signs and wound up at the far end of the loop road facing the wrong way, trying to figure out how to see the park. Oops!

Scenic drive Acadia National Park Maine

The drives around Mt. Desert Island are wonderful

We got ourselves sorted out the next day and, map in hand, drove the loop clockwise as you are supposed to! Stopping at some of the viewpoints, we were quickly swept up in the beauty of the craggy shorline.

Crashing surf Acadia National Park Maine

Crashing surf on Maine’s rugged coast.

There were wonderful, huge granite boulders, and some of them even held tidepools. I love these northeast tidepools. There are whole ecosystems of algae, seaweed, periwinkels and limpets living in them, and many are lined with an ultra soft and rich red velvet that is some kind of algae.

Tidepools in rocks Acadia National Park Maine

We found lots of pretty tidepools

Rocky coast Acadia National Park Maine

We LOVED the mix of pine trees and jagged granite boulders on the coast.

I wandered way off so I wouldn’t keep getting in Mark’s photos, and around the bend I saw a lobsterman busy hauling his traps. I took a bunch of photos of him and then noticed that he waved to me. I took my camera down from my face to wave back. When I raised it again, I saw through the telephoto lens that he hadn’t been waving — he’d been holding up a wriggling lobster for me!

Unfortunately, he dropped the lobster into his bucket before I realized what he was doing, and I missed the shot.

Darn! The one that got away…

The one that got away!

I didn’t realize he was showing off a lobster for me to photograph until too late!

One of the most popular attractions at Acadia National Park is Thunder Hole, an opening in the rocks where the waves crash in and out, sending up a huge spray of water. To see the biggest spray, you have to catch it as the tide is coming in. The tide was going out when we swung by, but it was still neat to hear the gurgles, gulps and belches booming between the rocks far below as the waves washed in and out.

Thunder Hole - cool sounds on an outgoing tide and huge splashes on an incoming tide

Thunder Hole – Booming sounds on an outgoing tide plus huge splashes on an incoming tide.

This shoreline is very alluring, and we had such fun scrambling over the rocks.

Rock crevice Acadia National Park Maine

I swear, these kinds of big boulders bring out the kid in me.

These are SO MUCH FUN to run around on!

What a coastline! If you don’t want to run and jump on the rocks, Thunder Hole has a solid railing…

Dramatic sky Acadia National Park Maine

A touch of drama in the sky.

Acadia National Park is a very popular place, and the park was very busy even though we had arrived ahead of the summer crowds (New England public schools were still in session because they’d had so many snow days during the endless winter blizzards). The roads are narrow and winding, and some crazy people like to bomb down them like they’re a racetrack.

One group of travelers, however, was enjoying every minute of slow driving on these roads — a Ford Model A club! They were so cute that none of the other drivers objected to their pace. Some 170+ Model A’s attended this rally, and everywhere we went we ran into little groups of them.

Seeing them out on the roads was lilke stepping back in time.

Antique Model A drives up Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

A Ford Model A rally took us back in time.

This group was having a ball, and the weather was perfect for them, so they drove around with the tops down and their beautiful leather suitcases strapped on the back bumpers.

Happy driver of a Ford Model A

Those guys were having too much fun!

Enjoying a fabulous road trip!

Enjoying a fabulous road trip!

Ford Model A cars lined up

These guys were all over the park. What fun!

Another Acadia National Park favorite is to take a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in the park. We zoomed up the mountain, watching the views grow ever larger around us. And who was waiting for us at the top? A bunch of those Model A’s!!

Ford Model A parked on Cadillac Mountain Maine

View from the Top

The views were truly beautiful — you can see the many islands of Frenchman Bay in the distance — but we got the biggest kick out of watching these cute Model A’s drive down these wonderful roads. They had come to Acadia National Park from all over the country, most making the trip on their own four wheels. One club member even hailed from Australia, although he’d left his Model A at home.

Ford Model A car drives down Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

What a classic image descending Cadillac mountain!

Two Ford Model A cars descend Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

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If you take your RV to Mt. Desert Island, unless it is fairly short in length and short in stature, you’ll be happiest leaving it behind as you tour the park. The scenic viewpoint parking is not RV friendly and there are bridges on the Loop Road as low as 11′ 8″. We enjoyed a fabulous stay at Narrows Too RV Resort, about 7 miles north of the north entrance to the park.

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Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia) – Waterfalls & Rhododendrons

May, 2015 – As we took our RV north through Virginia, hopping on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, we followed the blooming of the rhododendrons as they blossomed first in the south and then in the north. In fact, we followed the rhododendron bloom all the way from the Smokies to northern Maine over the course of five weeks! We also decided to contine the travel theme we had begun in the southern part of the parkway in North Carolina: Waterfalls.

Rhododendron selife Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Lavender rhododendrons and stairs defined our Blue Ridge Parkway waterfall hikes in Virginia

Seeing waterfall pics is very inspiring, but actually getting to them on a hiking trail usually involves a lot of vertical hiking, either climbing up to the top of a waterfall or scrambling down to the bottom of one. We got some great stair-stepping workouts on our quest for beautiful waterfalls in the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

APPLE ORCHARD FALLS

The first waterfall we went to was Apple Orchard Falls. This hiking trail crosses the Appalachian Trail, and we were astonished as we approached the intersection with the Appalachian Trail to meet a fellow who was spending his summer hiking from Georgia to Maine!

This hiker, Brian, was traveling light for a 4 month walk in the woods, but he said he was doing great. Unlike most of his fellow hikers, he hadn’t had to replace his hiking shoes yet, and he’d knocked out 770 miles of the trek with another 1,400 or so to go before he reached Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Appalachian Trail Through Hiker Brian (Porkchop)

Brian is walking from Georgia to Maine this summer, and we met him 1/3 of the way into his trip.

We bounded down the trail to the bottom of Apple Orchard Falls after that encounter, so excited to have met an Appalachian Trail through-hiker in the middle of his journey. At the bottom we found a pretty waterfall cascading over the rocks.

Apple Orchard Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Apple Orchard Falls

Better yet, there were rhododendrons blooming all around the lower part of the waterfall and even more along the stream that fell loosely over the rocks into the woods. We were in seventh heaven running around taking pics. In no time we were in our own worlds, totally separated. It was long after we were out of sight of each other that we realized we’d left our trusty two-way radios in the truck. I had no idea where Mark went, but I followed the rhododendrons!

Rhododendrons Apple Orchard Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Rhododendrons were blooming all over the place

Rhododendrons are a magnificent flower, and I crouched and crawled and snuck under branches along the river banks to try to find places to get pics of them with flowing water. I couldn’t believe they grew wild in such abundance. Everywhere I looked, they were in all stages of bloom:

04 406 Rhododendron blooming 1

05 406 rhododendron blooming 2

06 701 Rhododendron blooming 5

07 701 Rhododendron blooming 6

When I’d had my fill of rhododendrons and waterfalls, I hiked back to where I’d last seen Mark at the bottom of the falls. I searched around there for a long time wondering where he’d disappeared to along the creek. I yelled his name, bunches of times, but there was no answer. Oh no!

The return hike to the truck was a one and a half miles or so straight uphill. This trail was STEEP, and I was torn. Should I stay at the bottom? Should I go back to the top?

I finally decided to take the chance that he had gone back to the top. It was late, after all, and if he couldn’t find me I figured he’d return to the truck up top. I hiked nervously straight uphill, sweat pouring down my back.

What if he wasn’t at the top? I wondered. Would it make sense to go back down to the bottom to look for him? And what if I couldn’t find him down at the bottom? Should I then hike back up again?

At exactly what point would I try to get help? And how many miles away would help be? And would those helpful people then hike to the bottom to look for him this late in the day or wait til tomorrow? What if he’d gotten injured and couldn’t move? My imagination ran wild.

Apple Orchard Falls Blue Ridge Parkway VIrginia

Apple Orchard Falls

I continued yelling for him periodically, morosely envisioning the headlines, “Dead hiker found at waterfall, two-way radios found in truck.” How foolish of us!

As I hiked the last 100 yards straight uphill I craned my neck looking for the truck. When I finally caught a glimpse of it just beyond the last tree, I saw the door was open and Mark’s smiling face poked out from behind it and we both ran and gave each other a huge hug. What a relief!

Fallingwater Cascade Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Fallingwater Cascades — with overhanging rhododendrons

FALLINGWATER CASCADES

The next hike proved much more straight forward. Fallingwater Cascades is just five miles away from Apple Orchard Falls, and is a much shorter and easier hike.

Fallingwater Falls rhododendrons Virginia

Fallingwater Cascades

The rhododendrons were blooming here too, but I stayed on the trail this time. The waterfalls were lovely.

Fallingwater Falls Virginia

Fallingwater Cascades

CRABTREE FALLS

Our final waterfall hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia was Crabtree Falls. When we saw the name of this waterfall we did a doubletake because we had already hiked a Crabtree Falls in the North Carolina part of the Blue Ridge Parkway a week or so ago.

12 406 Fallingwater Waterfall Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

So we were surprised when the gal at the visitors center who told us about Crabtree Falls in Virginia had never heard of the one in North Carolina. However, the Virginia falls is the tallest waterfall in the east, a claim to fame the North Carolina Crabtree Falls doesn’t have.

Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia lower waterfall

Crabtree Falls — Lower falls

We found out that when you hike the tallest waterfall in the east, you are in for a LOT of stair climbing. Crabtree Falls consists of three waterfalls sections that are each unique, and between each section there are staircases and some steep trails.

Crabtree Falls hiking trail Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Not only is this hike steep, but there are a ton of stairs!

Each staircase brought us to more waterfalls.

Lower Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Crabtree Falls

And then we climbed more stairs!! Some stairs were built into the trail. Others were just plain old staircases!

Hiking trail stairs Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

In some places the stairs look natural, and in some places they are just staircases.

After the stairs we saw another bit of the waterfall. Different shape. Same falls!

Middle Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Crabtree Falls

As we climbed higher, we got more and more tired. And obviously the rangers did too, because up near the top they quit building stairs and just let the tree roots be the stair cases!

Root staircase Crabtree Falls Virginia

Nature’s Staircase!

At the very top of the waterfall, the stream flowed between the rhododendron bushes and then fell right out in front of them. Just beautiful. And this time, since we had started the hike at the bottom and had climbed to the top, we gleefully ended our hike by descending down the stairs instead of trudging up!!

Top Crabtree Falls Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

Crabtree Falls

If you take your RV along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the parkway itself is fine for driving except for two low bridges at the far south end in North Carolina.

No matter where you drive in this area, be prepared for steep hills. We were very grateful driving in these hills to have recently outfitted our truck with a diesel engine tuner to improve its towing power and to have outfitted our trailer with electric over hydraulic disc brakes.

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Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina) – Wildflowers Everywhere!

May, 2015 – The south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is in Cherokee, North Carolina, right next to the Newfound Gap Road that traverses Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we enjoyed some wonderful views at the beginning of this scenic drive.

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (see the motorcycle on the road?!)

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Pretty views from the Parkway

Motorcycles were everywhere, but this is a road that would be great for cycling too because, even though there’s no shoulder, there’s very little traffic.

Cyclist on Blue Ridge Parkway

There are so few vehicles on this road, it makes for good cycling.

Two tunnels at the south end make it best for tall RVs to find an alternate route, but they are neat to drive through in something smaller!

Tunnel on Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

The first few tunnels are a little low for an RV

Tunnel View on Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Spring was in full bloom and we saw lots of wildflowers. White trillium and huge bright orange azaleas were blossoming on either side of the road, as well as some pretty pink flowers. Down at our feet, while tromping around at an overlook, we spotted a big yellow butterfly. He flew off when a matching butterfly landed nearby.

Trillium

Trillium

Azalea flower Bllue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Wild azaleas

Pink wildflower

Pretty in Pink

Butterfly or moth

We watched several of these guys flying around…and this one landed by our feet.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was built between 1935 and 1983 to give people a way to travel along the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains and enjoy their ethereal beauty without interruption between Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south, in North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park to the north, in Virginia. It is a narrow ribbon of protected land that threads its way across these two states, from the southwest to the northeast.

Motorcycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

A Path Between the Trees

Ironically, because much of the road is lined with tall trees, it is often impossible to see across the valleys! At many overlooks the trees have grown so tall since the time the overlooks were constructed that you can’t see the view at all. Looking past the sign that says “Overlook” all you see is trees! But every once in a while the vistas open up, and the views are lovely.

Blue Ridge Parkway mountain views

Although many overlooks have no view, occasionally a stunning one opens up.

Oddly, driving through all these twists and turns under an endless archway of trees can get a little tedious after a while, since the views rarely change (in the fall, however, I imagine the colors are extraordinary). So, we hopped on and off the Blue Ridge Parkway as we snaked our way north, enjoying the activities, small towns and hum of life that goes on alongside it.

Even though the Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park System, just like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no fee to enter or drive on it. It intersects other roads frequently, and in many places the locals use it as a shortcut from here to there.

At one point in our travels on and off the parkway we found ourselves on I-40 just west of Asheville, North Carolina. We were zooming along on the freeway when we suddenly saw a massive field of wildflowers at the side of the road. Mark slammed on the brakes (yay for our new trailer disc brakes!) and pulled off the highway.

Wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina

Driving on I-40, west of Asheville, we see a meadow full of colorful wildflowers

The wildflowers were just stunning. We’ve seen so many photos of fields of wildflowers over the years, and we’ve always dreamed of taking wildflower shots where the land was blanketed in color. But where are those photos taken? We just don’t see fields of wildflowers in our travels like some people manage to get in their photos.

wildflowers

All shades of pink and red!

Well, I guess one huge field of wildflowers can be found on the eastbound side of I-40 just west of Asheville, North Carolina!

Wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina_

There were even a few blue flowers in the mix!

Wildflowers on the freeway Asheville North Carolina

We were thigh deep in flowers and loving it!

I don’t know what kinds of flowers these were, but they were blooming in all shades of pink, red, white and peach.

Wildflowers on the Interstate North Carolina

As the cars flew by us on the highway, all in a rush to get somewhere else, we stayed in this spot for over an hour enjoying this glorious display of Nature’s handiwork.

Wildflower Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Spring wildflower

Many people drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the vivid display of rhododendrons that happens every spring. But we discovered that spring is a great time for flowers in other places in North Carolina too, even out in the wilds of I-40!

RV in wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina_

If you want your rig surrounded by wildflowers, the Blue Ridge Parkway is nice — but try I-40 too!

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Georgia’s Antebellum Trail – Milledgeville, Eatonton & Madison

May, 2015 — As we scouted around for a good route to travel north through the middle of Georgia from Thomasville to North Carolina, we came across the Antebellum Trail. This route passes through several pretty and historic small towns in Georgia that have strong roots from before the Civil War. We were on the hunt for statuesque antebellum mansions, and all the towns on the Antebellum Trail boasted at least a few.

Antebellum mansion with rhododendrons in Madison Georgia

Roses bloom in front of an elegant antebellum house in Madison, Georgia.

There are seven towns and cities on the Antebellum Trail, and we ended up visiting three of them: Milledgeville, Eatonton and Madison. In each of these towns, caring homeowners and historical societies have lovingly preserved these elegant old homes.

Antebellum house in Eatonton Georgia

Matching double-decker rotunda porch wings! (Eatonton, Georgia)

And thank goodness they have, because old wooden homes just don’t stand up to the elements all that well. For every four or five true beauties that we gazed at on these lovely old town streets, we saw a forlorn one that had succumbed to the ravages of time.

Crumbling antebellum house in Milledgeville Georgia

Occasionally we came across crumbling relics.

There is a majesty to the tall columns and proud, imposing front porches of these antebellum mansions, and it seems that the number of columns that lined the front of the house made a statement about the wealth of the people that lived within. We read little signs on plaques that referred to the home being a “four column house,” or a “six column house.”

A four column antebellum mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

A four column mansion in Eatonton, Georgia

And then, of course, there were the people that built their house with columns going all around the outside. Wow!

Stately antebellum mansion in Milledgeville Georgia

Aw, heck, why not have columns on all sides? (Milledgeville)

There were inviting front porches everywhere we turned, and straight-backed rocking chairs adorned many of them. Even the simplest historic homes that just had a few posts holding up the porch roof rather than a row of grecian columns still had a row of rockers out front.

Rocking chairs on a porch in Milledgeville Georgia

Straight-backed rocking chairs grace almost every front porch.

Milledgeville was in high spirits when we visited. We just happened to arrive on First Friday, a big downtown party that takes place on the first friday of every month. Impromptu bands made music in the street, and all the merchants and bistros threw their doors wide open. Throngs of people filled the sidewalks.

A band plays at First Friday in Milledgeville, Georgia

We pulled into Milledgeville on First Friday, and bands were playing on the sidewalks!

If this weren’t enough, there was an antique car show going on at one end of town. As we walked towards it, we heard music coming from the large lawn across the street — the front lawn of the Georgia College and State University campus. We walked over and discovered it was a spring outdoor concert. One group of kids after another got up onto a makeshift stage and played jazz tunes and big band music. What fun!

Georgia Collete & State University

There was an outdoor music concert at Georgia College and State University too!

As we wandered back to the truck, we noticed lots of college students dressed to the nines walking around. It turned out that tonight was their big Senior Formal. The smell of perfume and cologne wafted over us, and we marveled at the shiny shoes, snappy ties and slinky dresses. Oh, to be young and sexy!

College Kids on a roof in Milledgeville Georgia

Hey — what’s going on up there?

Meanwhile, some of the underclassmen seemed to be cutting loose with a prank or two. Many of the old homes around Milledeville are student housing of one kind or another, and I spotted a pair of boys climbing out of a window onto a rooftop. This was going to be quite a night!!

Coming down a few notches to a much lower key, we visited nearby Eatonton, a tiny town with just a few cross streets.

Downtown shops Eatonton Georgia Antebellum Trail

Peaceful Eatonton, Georgia

Exploring the outer edges of town, we went down one side street and noticed we were about to drive under a very low train bridge at just the last second. “Will we make it?” Mark looked at me wide-eyed. I hopped out to see. Just barely!!!

Low bridge in Eatonton Georgia

Going under the limbo stick!

The Civil War is still felt in this part of the south, and we read plaques in every town that talked about General Sherman’s 1864 “March to the Sea” where he barnstormed across Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah, mowing down everything in his path.

Civil War Memorial Eatonton Georgia

A statue commemorating all the Confederate soldiers
that fought in the Civil War

On the other side of the grand Eatonton Courthouse in the middle of town we found a statue of a very different sort: Brer Rabbit!

Brer Rabbit in the Briar Patch Eatonton Georgia

On the flip side — Brer Rabbit!

Eatonton was the birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris who compiled a collection of stories about the wily Brer Rabbit (“brother” Rabbit) whose cunning and wits saved him (usually) from various scrapes. Harris’ stories were told by the fictional Uncle Remus, but he had heard them himself as a boy from the slaves on the plantation where he grew up.

Writer's Museum Eatonton Georgia

How many towns have a Writer’s Museum? Tiny Eatonton does!

Harris wasn’t the only famous writer from this area, and The Writer’s Museum on Eatonton’s town square is dedicated not only to him but to Flannery O’Connor as well. We knew little about either writer when we walked into the museum, but by the time we emerged we just had to check out Flannery O’Connor’s homestead on the outer fringes of Milledgeville.

The narrow road into the estate is so well hidden that we almost missed it, but the home and grounds within told the intriguing story of this young, brilliant writer who succumbed to lupus at age 39 in 1964.

Flannery O'Connor Homestead Milledgeville Georgia

Andalusia Farm — home of 20th century writer Flannery O’Connor

She wrote her most famous works while living at this house between the ages of 27 and 39, and due to her decreasing mobility, she spent much of that time inside where she enjoyed the views from the large windows.

Flannery O'Connor Home in Milledgeville Georgia

Flannery O’Connor suffered from Lupus, and as she became less mobile she stayed indoors more and more.

When we got to the trendy town of Madison, we were most impressed by the dramatic courthouse which stands on a corner facing outwards towards the heart of town.

Courthouse Madison Georgia

Madison has the most flamboyant of the courthouses we saw on the Antebellum Trail

At the visitors center we were told we should visit Madison’s new city park, and when we got there we saw why. It is a beautiful brand new city park for outdoor events and gatherings that was dedicated in 2009 but that looks as though it might have been around when General Sherman came through!

The Town Park in Madison Georgia

Urban revitalization in the small town of Madison — a wonderful new outdoor park that blends right into the historic look-and-feel of the town.

Our stay in Georgia was brief, but we thoroughly enjoyed sampling each of these unique towns and wandering at a leisurely pace along the Antebellum Trail. If you are taking your RV on a north-south route through Georgia, the Antebellum Trail is a wonderful way to go.

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