Cold Weather RVing – Brrr… (or Ahhhh?!)

RVing is most fun as a warm weather activity, but for those of us who live in these rolling boxes full-time, cold weather is sometimes an integral part of the RV lifestyle too.

RVing in Cold Weather winter snow storms-min

“Hey Sweetie, was there SNOW in the forecast??!

We’ve been caught out in the cold many times, and we’ve been surprised to find ourselves camping in unexpected snowstorms a few times too. We love these snowy opportunities to take photos of winter wonderlands, and my photo of our rig in a Colorado Rocky Mountains snowstorm appeared on the cover of the November/December 2017 Escapees RV Club Magazine.

RVing in Winter Escapees RV Club Magazine Cover-min

Escapees Magazine Cover, Nov/Dec 2017
Photo by: Emily Fagan

Brrr…! Looking at that photo I remember just how chilled we were when Mark made that snowman. We shivered for a few days at 10,000′, surrounded by snow and ice. But the beautiful fall foliage that Jack Frost had covered in lace made up for it!

We have published several blog posts that offer tips for RVers who plan to camp in cold places for a while:

While we shoveled snow off our solar panels and struggled with overnight temps in the teens during that Colorado snow storm (indoor temps that weren’t much better!), we learned a few more things about how to boondock in a snow storm when overnight temps drop into the teens, and we wrote them up in another wintry blog post:

We ended up in a snow storm again this past spring when we were camped in Los Alamos National Forest in New Mexico and the white stuff began to fall.

View out the back of an RV fifth wheel during snowstorm-min

In New Mexico we looked out our back window and saw snow quickly piling up on our bikes!

RV trips in the snow in New Mexico-min

It’s snowing!

This gave us a few more insights into camping in snowy weather, and we put together an article for Escapees Magazine with various tips we’ve found useful for camping in the cold. It was published in the January/February 2018 issue of Escapees Magazine.

Winter RVing Tips article in Escapees RV Club Magazine-min

“Camping in the Cold” in Escapees Magazine Jan/Feb, 2018
Text by: Emily Fagan. Photos by: Mark and Emily Fagan

Although it sounds silly, perhaps the biggest tip is simply to avoid places where temperatures might drop below freezing and where it might snow. In the wintertime this means heading south (Florida, California and Arizona are good and generally snow-free choices), and in the shoulder seasons it means staying away from far northern latitudes and high mountains.

RV in snow and RVing in cold weather-min

Well, we won’t be wearing shorts today!

As I write this in January, 2018, we’ve had several weeks of temps in the mid to high 70s in the Arizona deserts, hardly winter weather at all! Yet much of the rest of the country has been bitterly cold.

Of course, it’s impossible to know ahead of time whether the southwest or Florida will be warmer. It seems that almost every winter one or the other is blissfully summery while the other is steeped in frigid misery, so it’s not that easy to choose an itinerary that guarantees winter warmth. When you find yourself in a blizzard, you just have to enjoy it. For us, as soon as it starts snowing, we run outside to play and take photos!

Photography fun in a snowstorm and an RV-min

The snow was coming down hard in New Mexico last spring!

Camera in a spring snowstorm with fifth wheel RV-min

We had to wipe down our cameras every minute or so!

Another good idea is to take advantage of the snow and chill your beer while you play. Whenever we are in New Mexico we hunt down Alien Ale wherever we can find it, and during our stay in snowy Los Alamos National Forest we cooled down a few beers in the snow in the bed of our truck!

Alien Ale chilling in the snow-min

Our Alien Ales got nicely chilled in the snow.

Once inside the RV, all that wet, snowy and sometimes muddy clothing has to go somewhere to dry. We hang ours in the shower on a spring loaded curtain rod where it can drip freely.

Snowstorm in an RV drying jackets in the shower-min

Wet, wet, wet!

But aside from romping in the snow, drinking ice cold beer, and warming up next to our vent-free propane heater when we come inside, it is dealing with cold nights that is the biggest challenge. For RVers that get hookups, there are many options for heating an RV with unlimited electrical power. But for those who boondock all the time and live on solar power like we do, electrical power must be conserved, especially if the daytime skies are overcast.

Our vent-free propane heater is a blessing during the day because it throws off incredible warmth without using any electricity. However, we don’t run it overnight, and our factory installed RV furnace is so loud it tends to wake us up every time it turns on, which can be every half hour when temps dip into the teens.

Lots of blankets and a good quality heavy down blanket solves the problem under the sheets, and in the morning a combination of our vent-free propane heater and RV furnace bring the indoor temp up 20 degrees higher within a half an hour.

Here are pics of our clock thermometer during our worst case ever of early morning cold temps in our buggy. This happened earlier this year at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah in October:

Winter RV temperature 30 degrees inside-min

When we first opened our eyes one morning at Utah’s Sand Hollow State Park, the temp was 30.6 degrees in the rig (lower right)!

Cold Camping RV temperature 52 degrees inside-min

36 minutes later the rig had warmed up to 52 degrees…NOW we could get out of bed!
(or maybe we slept in another 20 minutes while the rig warmed up some more!)

Escapees RV Club’s magazine offers loads of wonderful tips and insights every other month, and we’ve been publishing articles in its pages for ten years now. One of the best things about this unique RV magazine is that most of the articles are written by club members who are sharing tips that they have learned in their own RV travels.

From beginning RVers learning the ropes to seasoned RVers sharing things they’ve learned over decades of involvement in the lifestyle, real life experiences are at the heart of each article.

For RVers that have a dream of becoming a published writer, joining Escapees and then submitting a tip or two to the magazine is a wonderful way to see your work in print. Escapees Magazine also features a member photo section in each issue with a theme, and we’ve had a ball prowling through our old photos to find fun images that fit the theme of the month.

RV solar panels covered in snow-min

Solar panels don’t work too well when they’re buried under snow!

Escapees RV Club is much more than just a magazine, however, and we have been astonished over our years of membership to see how doggedly the club leadership stays on top of the changing times, evolving the Club’s offerings to ensure an ever increasing value for all its members.

There are several different kinds of RV parks under the Escapees umbrella offering short and long term rentals as well as ownership. Many other affiliate parks discount their fees as much as 50% to SKPs (Escapees members). Escapees members can also join the Days End Directory which has the biggest database of boondocking locations out there.

Since the concept of boondocking is highly valued by Escapees RV Club, it is possible to dry camp at any of the Escapees parks very inexpensively. When we visited Escapees headquarters at Rainbow’s End in Livingston, Texas (near Houston) a few years back, we stayed in Dry Camp A for just $5 a night.

Classic Texas deluge rainstorms turned Dry Camp A into Wet Camp A very quickly, but we just ducked inside to tour the phenomenal mail sorting facility for Escapees’ mail forwarding clients. This facility is so large it employs 20 people full-time and a semi-tractor trailer full of mail pulls up everyday. It even has its own zip code!

Clearing snow off RV solar panels-min

That’s better, clear of snow, but prolonged cloudy skies will make the solar panels relatively ineffective.
We have many pages of articles about solar power here.

Escapees co-founders Kay and Joe Peterson were a very unusual couple who jumped into the full-time RV lifestyle when they were in their early 40s. Working as a licensed traveling “tramp” electrician, Joe found work all over America. They and their younger kids lived in both Airstream and Avion travel trailers, and at one point they even put the kids in their own suite in a truck camper in the bed of their truck! (Read more about Kay Peterson’s remarkable life here).

Neither Kay nor Joe is with us any longer, but in recent years Escapees has reached out to younger RVers with their Xscapers program, and they have expanded their offerings for all RVers in many ways. Not only are there multi-day RV Bootcamp programs where new RVers can attend seminars and learn from seasoned pros, but they now have a Webinar series and an RVers Online University full of fabulous courses on every imagineable RVing topic.

RV roof with solar panels after snowstorm-min

We sure didn’t expect snow, but what fun it was!

Escapees doesn’t stop at just RVing. They also offer many intriguing organized outings. Escapade is a big rally that brings together Escapees friends, both old and new. Another type of organized travel adventure, SKP Hops, takes members by RV, cruise ship and/or plane to destinations in all corners of the world.

Escapees is also very active in advocacy work for all RVers, whether they are members or not, making sure that our concerns and needs are supported at both the state and federal level.

Escapees also addresses issues facing RVers that no other organization tackles. From offering an assisted living facility at Rainbow’s End so RVers can remain in their rigs after they hang up their keys, to offering information about choosing a domicile state and acquiring health insurance, to doing a very thorough weighing of your RV (wheel by wheel) in a program called Smartweigh, the folks at Escapees are extremely creative in providing information and support for RVers of all shapes and sizes, ages and interests.

RV roof with solar panels and snowman after snowstorm-min

What to do with the snow on the roof? Mark built a snowman…

We have been Escapees members since 2008, and we highly recommend it to everyone who owns (or dreams of owning) an RV. You can join by calling 888-757-2582 or clicking the link below. If you mention our blog, Roads Less Traveled, when you sign up, the good folks at Escapees will put a little something in our tip jar, a win-win-win for you, Escapees and us!

Join Escapees RV Club

The cost is $39.95 per year and includes the magazine subscription, but if you think you’re going to be enjoying the RV lifestyle for a while, you might consider a Lifetime membership which will pay for itself in less than 6 years.

Fifth wheel RV in snow and woods of New Mexico-min

Winter RV Wonderland.

To read our Escapees Magazine article about cold weather camping, visit the following link:

Stay Cozy and Warm while Camping in the Cold – Our article in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of Escapees

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Snow, Hail and Ice in our Travels – Where Jack Frost Has Come to Visit Us!

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Valles Caldera National Preserve & a Spring Blizzard in New Mexico!

May 2017 – While hanging out in the Los Alamos, New Mexico, area with our RV and visiting the cool pueblo cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, we made a day trip to visit Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Selfie at Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico overlook

The “Valles Caldera Overlook” – Great spot for a selfie, and the only view til now!

This is a brand new National Preserve managed by the National Park System.

The land was originally a huge ranch that was privately owned under a Spanish Land Grant, that is, a gift of land from Spain to a Spanish citizen as part their effort to colonize and control their territory, New Spain, in the 1700’s before America began its westward expansion.

Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

Valles Caldera is a new National Preserve managed by the National Park Service (Dept of the Interior)

When America’s New Mexico Territory was formed, the US Government recognized and upheld the Spanish (and more numerous Mexican) land grants. The Valles Caldera land was operated as a ranch and passed from generation to generation. In the year 2000 the US Government purchased it from private owners to form the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Buildings and fences at Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

The Valles Caldera ranch was so big there was a settlement of homes and buildings
for the ranchers and their employees.

Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

Valles Caldera is a 13.7 mile wide volcanic caldera – a crater formed when a volcano collapses into itself.

It is a beautiful tract of land that has wide meadows, plentiful wildlife, and thick forests on the surrounding hills. A cluster of houses that the ranchers and their employees used up until the property was sold now stand vacant.

Log cabin Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

This would have been an amazing place to live!

Old log cabin windows Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

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The land was hotly contested in court for many years because multiple groups wanted portions of the land, including the local Indian tribe, the Jemez Pueblo.

There are dozens of websites describing the issues that were at stake and the roles played by the members of government, tribal leaders and lawyers who made the legal cases for each side.

Skull found at Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

As we wandered the roads on this huge ranch, we found some unusual things like this skull!

I haven’t chased them all down, but the folks in the Visitors Center were thrilled the National Park Service had finally become the manager of this land. It had been under the control of the US Forest Service for a dozen or so years prior to the NPS taking over.

Because the NPS has a much bigger budget than the USFS, the hope was that the land will be developed for public use — and prepared for the inevitable throngs of visitors — in a thoughtful way. Debates are ongoing now about the number, size and placement of campgrounds, issuance of hunting permits and wild stock grazing permits, creation of hiking trails, etc.

In the past, quite a few movies were made on this land, and we came across the remains of a movie set.

Movie Set debris Valles Caldera National Preserve New Mexico

The land was leased out to the movie industry in the past. This is all that is left of an old set.

Wandering around Valles Caldera and returning to Bandelier National Monument, we saw quite a few flowers.

Yellow columbine flower

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Wildflowers Los Alamos New Mexico

Spring has sprung!!

One of our favorite wildflowers is the Milk Thistle. We didn’t know what it was called and had nicknamed it the “fireworks flower” because of its wonderful shape, but a friend recently told us its real name and said in some places it’s considered a noxious weed!

Beautiful yellow milk thistle wildflower Valles Caldera

Milk thistle — one man’s gorgeous wildflower is another man’s noxious weed!

Valles Caldera is quite high in the mountains of New Mexico, and we woke up one morning in our spot in the woods to find that spring had fled and old man winter had returned with a whollop!

Spring snowstorm in an RV in New Mexico

What??? Snow in late may? Maybe Spring hasn’t totally sprung just yet!

Winter wonderland Los Alamos New Mexico

Old man winter returns…

The flowers that had warmed their petals in the sun the day before were now covered with snow crystals!

Snow on wildflowers Los Alamos New Mexico

The wildflowers had been basking in sunshine the day before!

Pine cone in snow Los Alamos New Mexico

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As we wandered around taking photos, suddenly the snow began to fall again — thickly!

Spring snowstorm photography New Mexico

We had such a blast running around getting photos of this beautiful storm.

Snow storm in the woods

It’s a blizzard!

What a hoot it was to go from spring back to winter in just 24 hours!

5th wheel trailer RV in snowstorm

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We had blizzard conditions for about an hour, and the snow kept piling up.

Snow storm in an RV in the woods

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Photography in a spring snowstorm

The white stuff is sticking!!

Up on the roof of our trailer, the solar panels were completely covered.

RV solar panels in spring snow storm

Snow buried our solar panels.

Mark cleared the solar panels off so we could get at least a little charge for the batteries from the ambient light.

Thick snow on an RV roof

The snow piled up quite deep.

He built a snowman while he was up there too!

Snowman on RV roof with solar panels

After clearing off the panels Mark built a snowman on the roof of our trailer!

New Mexico is home to the mysterious city of Roswell where space aliens have taken up residence since a strange UFO crashed nearby back in 1947.

The aliens even have their own craft beer — Alien Ale — a yummy brew we always enjoy when we visit New Mexico. What better way to chill it down than to stand it in the snow on our truck!

Icing down an Alien Ale in snow

What a great way to ice down an Alien Ale!

Inside our rig the shower became the “wet locker” for our dripping jackets after we came in to warm up.

Wet jackets hanging in RV shower

Our jackets dripped in the shower. Our boots dried out by the door!

We didn’t run our furnace or blue flame heater overnight, so even though it was 75 degrees inside when we went to bed, when we woke up the next morning it was 38 degrees downstairs in our living room. Brrrr!!

Sometimes it seems that we get our seasons mixed up in this traveling lifestyle, going to tropical places where it’s 90 degrees in January and then playing in the snow in late May. But that’s part of the fun of it too. We never know what to expect!

38 degrees inside our RV

It was a little brisk inside our rig the next morning, but our heater warmed it up in no time.

This spring blizzard was a wonderful little interlude, but all the snow was gone by the end of the next day, and temps climbed steadily as we headed down from the mountains and into the valleys of south eastern Colorado!

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More info about Valles Caldera:

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

RVing in Winter and RV trips where we got surprise snow and hail storms:

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Brilliant Fall Foliage + Snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

September 2016 – Chasing the late September fall foliage season in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains high up at a lofty altitude of 10,000 feet brings hillsides filled with shimmering golden aspen leaves.

Fifth wheel trailer fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

What a beautiful place for an RV road trip – The San Juan Mountains in late September!

Sometimes vivid colors sparkle in the sun, but fall in the Rockies can also bring snowstorms. We woke up one morning to whiteout blizzard conditions and soon found our RV surrounded by three inches of snow

Snow in the Colorado Rocky Mountains San Juan Skyway

Hey, it’s snowing!!

The fall foliage season in Colorado is spectacular when the sun is shining and the air is warm. But a layer of pure white snow makes it ever so much more dramatic.

Snow and fall colors San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

Fall color in the snow… beautiful!

The skies were gray and gloomy, but the leaves were vibrant and bright

Yellow aspen fall leaves San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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The temps in the mountains were bitterly cold, dropping into the twenties at night. This prompted us to run our furnace as well as our vent-free propane heater and put together a blog post about how to heat an RV in cold weather!

But it was oh-so-beautiful. The juxtaposition of spiky evergreens, trimmed in white snow, against a backdrop of vivid orange and yellow was sensational.

Orange aspen San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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The scenery in every direction was magnificent.

Autumn leaves fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountain

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Up close, each aspen branch held a little layer of snow.

Aspen leaves fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado

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After the snow stopped falling, the wind blew, and the yellow and orange aspen leaves fluttered to the ground and settled on the snow.

Aspen leaves in snow

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The craggy rocks on the mountainsides were covered with a lovely dusting of white lace.

Rocky Mountains in autumn San Juan Skyway Colorado

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Autumn color aspen trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Colorful hills San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Out on the Million Dollar Highway, a portion of the San Juan Skyway that goes from Durango to Silverton to Ouray, the views from the passenger seat were awe-inspiring.

Million Dollar Highway autumn color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Snow on Million Dollar Highway San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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As the roads dried and people got back on the move in their cars again, we saw a few small trailers go by.

RV fall colors San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Heading into the mountains.

Travel trailer San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall color

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The hillsides were blanketed in color everywhere we turned.

Aspen hillside fall color San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Golden aspen and pine trees San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

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Pine trees and golden aspen San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains fall foliage

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The San Juan Mountains are part of the Colorado Mining Belt that was mined intensively for silver and gold in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The rivers in the area run orange from minerals leaching out of the tailings piles left behind by the mines.

Waterfall on the San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

The river water runs orange here.

After the snowfall, the reddish water was filled with snow covered rocks and surrounded by evergreens clad in white. Pretty!

Snowy River Colorado Rocky Mountains San Juan Skyway

The Uncompaghre River.

Eventually the clouds began to dissipate and patches of blue sky began to appear.

Snow and Autumn Color San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

Our truck is dwarfed by this incredible mountain. Yay for some blue sky appearing!

Snow and fall leaves Million Dollar Highway San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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 Rocky Mountain Fall Color San Juan Skyway Colorado

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Autumn is gorgeous in many parts of the country, but fall in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is utterly breathtaking.

The cool thing for RVers is that you can catch the fall colors in Colorado in late September and, if you’re willing to hustle, you can get to other beautiful areas in far distant states to catch their fall foliage show a week or two later in early to mid-October.

RV autumn leaves and snow San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Aspen leaves in fall San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

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We haven’t done that yet, perhaps sometime in the future. For this year, we savored the colors in Colorado, and were amazed that the mountains seemed to change shades right before our eyes.

Snowcapped mountains autumn leaves San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

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Colorado Fall Foliage San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains

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The snow left puddles behind that reflected the trees around them

Reflections of autumn leaves and aspen trees San Juan Skyway Rocky Mountains Colorado

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And all the leaves on the ground were covered with tiny water droplets.

Water droplets on golden aspen leaf

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By the time we left this part of Colorado, our eyes were tired from staring so hard and taking so many photos!! But what a wonderful kind of fatigue it was.

San Juan Skyway Snowcapped Mountains autumn color Rocky Mountains

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If you haven’t experienced a fall foliage season in the aspen filled Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it is something that deserves some special planning!

Snowcapped mountains fall folilage San Juan Skyway Colorado Rocky Mountains

Happy campers surrounded by astonishing scenery. How wonderful!!

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Info for Colorado’s San Juan Skyway:

Fun snowy and wintry blog posts from our RV travels:

Other blog posts from our RV trips to this part of southwestern Colorado:

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Bryce Canyon Gone Wild – Tempests, Rainbows & Wildlife

September 2016 – Bryce Canyon National Park is enchanting, and during our stay we were mesmerized by the beauty at Inspiration Point at sunrise, along the Rim Trail at the peak of midday, and descending into the Canyon along the Fairyland Trail in the early hours of the morning. We had lovely sunny weather for these excursions, but suddenly the skies went dark and storms threatened.

Storm Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

An afternoon thunderstorm rolls into Bryce Canyon National Park

Watching a storm develop in Bryce Canyon National Park is a thrill, and they are regular afternoon occurrences in late summer.

Storm at Bryce Canyon National Park Inspiration Point Utah

A storm brews over the red rocks.

We had some all day rains, and on one of these days we drove down towards the south end of the Park. On the way, we stopped at Agua Canyon.

Colors at Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Looking down into the depths of Agua Canyon.

This is a beautiful part of Bryce Canyon in any weather, but as we climbed the trail that rises above Agua Canyon on its north side, we were blown away by how the colors of the soaking wet red rocks came alive.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Brilliant colors of wet rock pinnacles at Agua Canyon

With no shadows to define each vivid red and white pinnacle, the shapes blended together in fantastic patterns.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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A woman stepped out on a precipice to take a photo, and her tiny blue figure looked like a mere speck against this vibrant backdrop.

Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A woman is engulfed by the radiant red rock landscape.

We hiked higher and higher above Agua Canyon, smitten with the beauty of this canyon in these wet and miserable conditions. What luck to have discovered this spot on just such a day.

Photography at Agua Canyon Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

They always say, “Bad weather makes for great photography,” and how true that was on this rainy day!

At the far south end of the park at Rainbow Point, lots of tourists were huddled under a shade ramada, bundled up to the hilt. The usually stunning vistas were invisible because of the mist and fog, but we found a spot where the fog lifted just enough to peer through.

Fog and mist Rainbow Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The mist clears for a moment at Rainbow Point.

Out on the ranch lands around the edges of Bryce Canyon National Park, we saw some incredible storm clouds brooding in the sky.

Storm clouds in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A storm sweeps across the plateau near Bryce Canyon.

Suddenly a bolt of lightning split the heavens above us.

Lightning strikes Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The gods let loose their fury!

We hopped in the truck to go do some errands in nearby Panguitch, and in no time we heard the unmistakable sound of hail pelting the truck’s roof. This was crazy! We were barely into the first week of September!

Hail at Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

We’re in a hailstorm!

The hail piled up and made a wonderful contrast to the wildflowers that were blooming by the curb.

Hail on roads Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The roads between the wildflowers turned white with hail pellets!

The hail was pea sized, but it made an incredible racket as it struck our truck’s roof. When we got back to the trailer, we were relieved that nothing had broken or been dented on our RV roof!!

Hail on the ground

Yup, that is definitely hail!

Wild thunderstorms and hailstorms brushed across the landscape more than once during our stay in Bryce Canyon, and at Inspiration Point one afternoon, we met a very soggy pair of hikers who had been hiking on the Peek-a-boo Trail for the last hour while we enjoyed the storm from the comfort of inside our heated truck!

Hikers in hail storm Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Soaked to the bone!

Getting caught in an afternoon storm turned out to be pretty common in Bryce Canyon at this time of year. During our visit we became accustomed to the gathering clouds and eventual torrents that took place every afternoon, but they caught lots of hikers and visitors by surprise.

The show must go on, however, and a wet group of tourists on a guided tour passed us as we arrived at Sunset Point, and each was adorned in rain poncho of a different color.

Photography tour in hail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The gods took pity on all of us drenched visitors, however, and one afternoon as we drove along the wet scenic drive through the park we could see the sun shining beyond the black clouds.

We whipped our heads around looking for the rainbow that had to be shimmering somewhere, and saw it was hanging over the canyon. We flew out to Fairyland Point, the closest part of the rim we could reach, and there was the rainbow, in all its glory, spanning the canyon.

Rainbow Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A rainbow sails over Fairyland Canyon

We watched in awe as it hovered over the canyon, and then grew brighter and dimmer at each of its ends, intensifying first on one side and then on the other.

Rainbow Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Rainbow Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The wild weather we were experiencing at Bryce Canyon National Park was an adrenaline rush, especially as we dashed around from place to place trying to catch the drama in the peak of action.

Back on our computers Mark had fun playing with some of his photos in Photoshop Elements. Suddenly a simple image of a tree against the red rocks was mirrored as if in a pond.

Mirrors Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A little wild magic applied later!

We were loving witnessing “Bryce Canyon Gone Wild,” and we soon saw lots more evidence of this National Park‘s untamed heart as creatures of all kinds wandered in and out of our cameras’ viewfinders.

One morning we took our gaze off the stunning red rocks at Sunset Point and noticed a young buck with fuzzy soft antlers peeking over the bushes.

Young buck deer Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A young buck appears behind the bushes.

How funny, a week later, to catch a mature buck with a beautiful rack standing in the bushes in almost the exact same pose a few miles away at Rainbow Point!

Buck deer Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A week later and many miles away another older buck strikes the same pose!

At Piracy Point we noticed a little chipmunk munching away on a pine cone. He was making quite a mess and had bits of his breakfast on his whiskers and fur.

Chipmunk Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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One morning we saw a sweet little face peeking out at us from the front tire of our truck. This little guy was the size of a chipmunk, but he was some other kind of critter.

We looked him up online, and discovered he was a little stoat. We hoped he’d stick around, but we never saw him again after that morning.

Stoat on a truck tire in Utah

A stoat peeks out at us from the front tire of our truck!

On another afternoon, we spotted a beautiful pronghorn antelope in the grass.

Pronghorn antelope Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A pronghorn antelope pauses in the grass.

He was part of a small group of pronghorns, and a few minutes later two more ran across the road.

Pronghorn Antelope Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A pair of pronghorn dash across the road.

As happens to us on every visit to Bryce Canyon National Park, we were utterly bewitched by everything we saw, from the turbulent weather to the animals that call the place home. It is pure magic!

RV camping in Utah

Fast moving clouds at sunset.

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More info about Bryce Canyon National Park:

More blog posts from our RV trips to Bryce Canyon

Related posts from our RV travels:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
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How to Heat an RV in Cold Weather and Winter Snow Storms

Heating an RV in cold weather during the winter, especially in a snow storm, is quite different than heating a house, and it often requires utilizing different kinds of heaters and a little creativity too.

RV camping and travel in snow in winter

Is that SNOW??!! We sure didn’t expect THAT!!!

A few weeks ago, at the end of September, we woke up to find ourselves in a beautiful snowstorm at 10,000′ elevation in Colorado.

We had to pull out all the stops to make sure we were cozy warm in our RV even though overnight lows were in the 20’s and daytime highs didn’t get out of the 40’s for a week.

Bikes on RV bike rack in snow in winter

We looked out our back window and saw snow covering our bikes!

The first order of business was to go outside and build a snowman, and Mark got right to it.

Winter RV tips for staying warm in cold weather

It’s snowing!!! Let’s make a snowman!!!

While he’s busy getting that snowman together, I wanted to share with you the strategies we’ve used for heating our RV without electrical hookups, because we use different heating appliances in different situations.

For “cool” conditions, like December and February in the Arizona desert or May in the Canadian Rockies, when lows are in the 30’s, keeping our buggy warm is a cinch with our blue flame vent-free propane heater that Mark installed back in 2008.

But in in “extreme” conditions, like this recent snowstorm on a mountaintop in Colorado, we use a different strategy and rely more on our RV furnace that was factory installed in our trailer.

We have tried different strategies in very cold weather at very high altitudes like this in the past, and this most recent cold spell was our most comfortable, despite the wet gloppy mess of snowy covered jackets, hats, mittens and boots and the sullen gray skies that persisted for several days. So, we seem to have gotten it right this time.

Of course, “lows in the 20’s” is far from “extreme” for North Americans living in houses with central heating, but it definitely feels extreme when living in an RV off the grid. In reality, RVs are most comfortable in temperatures that stay above freezing.

Winter RVing in the snow

The snowman gets sticks for his arms…

Even though high end RVs are marketed as being “four season” coaches, boasting high R-factors in the walls, ceiling and floor, you just can’t compare 1.5″ styrofoam walls that have a thin layer of gelcoat and wallpaper board to a residential house wall that’s made of 3.5″ fiberglass insulation covered with a half-inch of drywall, half-inch of plywood, Tyvek and exterior siding.

Besides the skimpy walls, we find that the RV windows are the biggest reasons for the poor insulation. The metal window frames are extremely cold to the touch when temps outside are in the 20’s, and all that metal around our many windows conducts the cold right into the rig.

Some folks like to have thermopane (dual pane) RV windows, but if moisture gets between the two panes, which can happen more easily in an RV that rattles down the road all the time than in a house that stands still on its foundation, the moisture is likely to remain there permanently, no matter what the weather does outside or how many years go by.

RV windows don’t seal all that well either. Our top quality, four season fifth wheel trailer is downright drafty inside, with a definite breeze that can, at times, flutter a tissue by the “escape” windows. You don’t notice it so much when it is 70 degrees both outside and inside with no wind blowing. But when it is a blustery18 degrees outside and we are trying to heat the rig to 65 degrees inside, the breeze by those windows is a shock.

The microwave vent is another drafty spot, and if the wind is howling outside and blowing directly on that wall of the RV, it blows right into the kitchen through the vent holes on the top of the microwave. One solution for that, of course, is to tape over the vent on the outside of the rig and not use the microwave for the duration of the cold snap (we haven’t done that, however).

Winter RV trip in the snow

The snowman gets a hat!

So, in our experience, keeping an RV and everything in it toasty warm when it is snowing out can require a little creativity.

Back in our house living days in snow country, we would set the thermostat to our preferred indoor temperature and keep it there 24/7, perhaps raising it slightly at the breakfast and dinner hours and lowering it slightly while we were at work or asleep.

When a blizzard blows into our RV lifestyle nowadays, we can have that kind of stable heat in our rig if we plug into shorepower with access to unlimited electricity. Portable electric heaters can back up the RV furnace, and RVs that have an air conditioner with a heat pump can use that (ours doesn’t).

We have a portable electric ceramic heater for just such an emergency where going to an RV park and plugging in is our best line of defense for weathering a storm.

However, it is possible to stay warm without hookups, even when it starts snowing.

RV in snow in winter

What fun!!

We rely on our vent-free propane heater for 95% of our heat year round. These little heaters use propane very efficiently, don’t need any electricity to run, and can be installed in an RV permanently to run off the RV’s propane tanks.

There are also handy portable models that can be stored in a closet when not in use and then placed anywhere in the rig where you want a little heat. These run on disposable propane bottles, so it isn’t necessary to plumb the heater to the RV’s big propane tanks.

Animal tracks in the winter snow

We found fresh animal tracks in the snow.

We have a detailed article describing the different kinds of vent-free propane heaters on the market, the pros and cons of each type and the type of heat they generate, plus a step-by-step guide for how to install one in an RV at this link:

How to Install a Vent-free Propane Heater in an RV

These heaters heat the rig amazingly quickly. We find that our 20k BTU blue flame heater warms our rig at a rate of about one degree every two minutes. So, in twenty minutes we can warm up our home by 10 degrees, and in an hour we can raise the inside temp by 30 degrees.

The best part is that we can hover over it and warm our hands, bodies and clothes, just like standing in front of a woodstove or fireplace. We do that a LOT and totally love our little heater for the terrific blast of instant hot air it provides!!!

How to heat an RV in winter and cold weather

When you’re chilled, there’s nothing like hovering over this heater!

We use our blue flame heater year round, and we have used it at elevations ranging from sea level to 10,000′.

This past year we traveled primarily in cold places where overnight lows were in the 30’s and 40’s. We went north through Utah, Idaho and Montana in March and April and spent May and early June in the Canadian Rockies. Consequently, we saw quite a bit of snow and hail, and during those months we used our heater almost every day.

Aspen and pine trees in winter snow

The snow in Colorado fell for hours and gave us a beautiful winter wonderland — in September!

Colorful aspens in winter snow storm with pine tree

Fall colors with snow – Magic!

We thawed out in July long enough to get overheated and write a blog post: “How to Beat the Heat in an RV.” Then it was back to the high elevations of Utah and Colorado in mid-August where we saw more hail and overnight lows in 30’s once again.

Our vent-free blue flame heater has been keeping us warm during all four seasons like this since Mark installed it in 2008!!

Snowy road with aspen for an RV in winter

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Snowy road in winter

It was really cold, but it was so beautiful we didn’t mind!!

The basic difference between an RV furnace and a vent-free propane heater is this:

  • RV furnace – Uses a lot of electricity, uses propane inefficiently, brings fresh air into the rig (because it’s vented)
  • Vent-free propane heater – Doesn’t use electricity, burns propane efficiently, uses up oxygen in the RV

So each has its place under certain circumstances. In a nutshell:

— The ventless propane heater is awesome as long as there is sufficient oxygen for it to run. We like to use it in the mornings and evenings, and since we are in and out of the rig a lot, there is a lot of air exchange inside our RV from opening and closing the front door all day long as well as from all the drafts and breezes that blow in the RV windows and microwave vent.

— The RV furnace is best for other scenarios: in cases where there is a risk of the water pipes freezing (the hot air ducts keep the basement and water lines warm), at very high elevations in extreme cold, and at night, because it is vented and continually circulates the air in the rig. The RV furnace is very loud and tends to wake us up at night, however, so we don’t use it overnight very often.

So, we use our vent-free blue flame heater for 95% of our RV heating, and we turn to our RV furnace on rare occasions.

Aspen and pine trees in snow in winter

Fall colors and snow — a gorgeous combinations!

Dodge pickup truck covered in winter snow

This snowfall was definitely sticking around a while!

Vented vs. Ventless Propane Heaters and Propane RV Stoves & Ovens – Safety Concerns

An RV furnace is a vented system, meaning that it releases warm, moist air from inside the RV to the outside, and it brings cold air from outside to the inside of the rig. This makes it very inefficient in its use of propane, because it is essentially heating the outdoors as well as the indoors. Put your hands by the RV furnace vent outside, and they will get nice and warm and a bit damp too!

While RV furnaces are safely vented yet very inefficient, vent-free gas heaters are very efficient and are required by law to have an automatic shutoff when the available oxygen goes below a certain threshold (there is a built-in sensor that triggers the shut-off). We know when ours is about to shut off because the flame begins to sputter and make noise. Once it has shut itself off, it won’t turn on again until we air out the RV a little by opening the door or windows for a while.

Ironically, propane RV stoves and ovens are not required to shut off automatically when the available oxygen is depleted. To me, this makes them inherently quite a bit more dangerous than vent-free propane heaters.

Of course, an RV fitted with propane tanks is basically a rolling bomb, so it’s a very unsafe place to call home (I say this with a smile, because we wouldn’t trade our 9 years on the road for anything)!

Every time we have seen our blue flame heater shut itself off (probably 30+ times), the RV stove and/or oven has kept right on a-cookin’ without any hint that our supply of oxygen inside the rig was running out. We could easily have baked something in our factory installed propane RV oven and simmered something on our factory installed propane RV stove for hours while camped at 10,000′ with no inkling that the oxygen in our rig had dipped below safe levels!

Winter snow on RV steps

Welcome home…. Brrrrr!

Which Heater is Best Under Which Conditions?

For most of this year as we traveled in cold country, the lowest temperatures we saw were in the low to mid 30’s overnight. Daytime highs were in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. These kinds of conditions are very similar to what we see in the southwestern deserts in the winter months (except January, which can be colder). These conditions are ideal for a vent-free propane heater.

We usually run our vent-free propane heater every morning until the rig is 60 to 75 degrees inside (depending on our mood) and then again in the evening if the temperature inside has dipped below 65. If the windows have fogged up from condensation (about 5% of the time, usually only in the winter), we run the RV furnace too to help dry the air out.

In general, we don’t heat our RV overnight in this kind of climate. We prefer to bundle up with down comforters instead. If we do run the heat at night, we use the RV furnace and set it to 50 degrees. If outdoor temps drop into the 30’s overnight, the RV furnace will come on once or twice in the pre-dawn hours.

Golden aspen in snow in winter

Golden aspen leaves in snow.

Ironically, if the outside temps dip really low — into the 20’s or teens — and daytime highs don’t get much past 50 degrees, then the RV furnace will start coming on before midnight and will come on every hour for 15-20 minutes as it struggles to keep the rig at 50 degrees.

Since we are light sleepers, this is extremely annoying. So, at the times we would want to run the RV furnace most — overnight when it’s really cold — we opt not to!

On overnights that we don’t heat the rig, when we wake up in the morning our bedroom is around 10-12 degrees warmer than the outside air (bedroom door closed all night) and our living area is around 5-7 degrees warmer than the outside air.

It is routine for us to wake up to temps in our trailer that are between 37 and 42 degrees. For us, that is a small price to pay for living off the grid, however, for many RVers it is good reason to get electric hookups and have more substantial and consistent heat in the rig overnight.

Aspen covered with snow in winter

The colors of Fall in Colorado.

There is a lot of debate about whether you can operate a ventless propane heater at high elevations. By the time we got caught in that September snow storm in Colorado two weeks ago, we had been living at elevations between 8,000′ and 10,000′ for 5 straight weeks, running our vent-free propane blue flame heater every morning and evening without a hitch.

Along with many weeks spent heating our rig at high elevations in previous years, including 8 weeks or so at 6,000′ or higher this past spring, our 5 weeks at 8 to 10 thousand feet this fall kind of proved the point for us: it’s no problem to run a vent-free propane heater at high altitudes in cool weather.

But in sub-freezing overnight temperatures and daytime highs in the 40’s under stormy skies at 10,000′ elevation, we’ve found a vent-free propane heater is best used in combination with the RV furnace.

Bikes on back of RV in snow

Well, we won’t be biking any time soon!!

Until the the snowstorm came to our mountaintop spot in the Colorado Rockies at 10,000′, we hadn’t been using the RV furnace at all. But once the temps dropped to the 20’s (lows) to 40’s (highs) at that elevation, we couldn’t rely on our blue flame heater exclusively any more and had to change our heating strategy for three reasons.

1) There is less available oxygen at 10,000′ than at lower elevations, and once the oxygen in the rig dipped below a certain level, the blue flame heater would shut itself off automatically. Because it was so cold outside, we weren’t thrilled about opening the windows and doors to let in more air just so we could turn on the blue flame heater again. It was time to use the RV furnace.

2) Our RV roof and ladder — along with our solar panels — was covered with snow and ice. Mark wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement to climb up there to clear off the solar panels, and I wasn’t about to get up on that slippery roof either. So, our batteries were no longer getting charged by the sun and wouldn’t have enough juice to run the RV furnace.

3) Vent-free propane heaters emit a lot of moisture. We had just had several days of torrential rain, and everything in our rig was wet. Our shower was filled with raincoats and rain hats hung up to dry, our boots and socks were wet and muddy by the door, our pants were wet and hanging in the bathroom and our bath towels refused to dry. While our blue flame vent-free heater would exacerbate the moisture problem, our RV furnace would help dry out the air inside our buggy.

Doing all these things gave us a nice dry and toasty warm environment to live in during this cold spell in snowy conditions at 10,000 feet.

To implement this heating strategy, we did two things. We stocked up on gasoline and propane and ran our Yamaha 2400i generator and RV furnace a lot. Sometimes we also ran the blue flame heater alongside the furnace.

Yamaha generator in bed of pickup truck in snow

Our Yamaha generator got a good hard workout for over a week.

The generator ensured that the batteries got fully charged. Because we were running our RV furnace so much, which burned up lots of electricity, the batteries were being depleted much faster than normal. So, not only did we need the generator because the solar panels were snoozing under the snow and ice, we also needed it because of running the RV furnace.

RV in snow in winter

A few weeks prior we had been roasting in the summer heat. What a crazy life we live in this RV!!

In general, we ran the RV furnace every morning until the rig was 65 degrees inside and then ran it on and off during the day and in the evening. If the air wasn’t too moist, we also ran blue flame vent-free heater alongside the furnace to warm things up faster. The vent-free propane heater never shut itself off, so the RV furnace was doing its job of circulating the air.

Golden aspen in snow by pond in winter

Getting creative heating our RV made it possible to enjoy views like this as it snowed.

Using the RV furnace also lessened the possibility of the water pipes freezing. The heater is ducted through the belly of the rig, and the warm air passing through the ducts helps warm the nearby water and sewer pipes. If the temps had gotten below 20 degrees, we would have run the RV furnace once or twice overnight as well just to be sure no ice formed in the pipes.

If we had had brilliantly sunny days every day, we may or may not have needed the generator. Our 490 watt solar panel array may have been able to charge the batteries fully, despite the additional load from the RV furnace.

Also, we probably wouldn’t have needed to use the RV furnace so much because the sun would have warmed up our rig and dried it out a bit during the day.

See how flexible and variable all this is??!!

Colorado fall colors after winter snow

This is why we came to Colorado at this season… Wow!!!

We have descended out of the clouds now and have been living at elevations between 5,000′ and 6,500′ for the past few weeks. The RV furnace is back on vacation and our trusty blue flame heater has taken over all the RV heating duties. Our generator is on break for another 6 months or year, and the shore power cord is buried somewhere in the basement once again.

RV in winter snow staying warm in cold weather

Snug as a bug in a rug!!

If you are going to be using your RV in cold weather this winter, we have another post full of tips for keeping warm that you might enjoy:

How to Stay WARM in an RV – Winter RVing Survival Tips

And if you think a vent-free propane heater is something you’d like to get, have a look at our detailed article that discusses the different types of heaters and shows how we installed ours:

Vent-free Propane Heaters (Catalytic, Infrared and Blue Flame) PLUS How to Install One in an RV

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Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients

March 2016 – The one thing about desert camping is that it can get very dusty when the wind blows. And out in the desert, once the wind picks up, there is little to stop if from howling. A rule of thumb we’ve heard is that if it is windy one day, it will be windy for three days.

During our stay in the Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park region of southeastern Utah the clouds gathered steadily each day, and then the wind pick up. Oh my, how the dust was flying. It was in our eyes and our noses and in everything in our rig. We packed it up and hightailed it out of there to the north as fast as we could.

Of course, every region has their own manifestation of bad weather, and the dusty wind storms in Valley of the Gods morphed into threatening dark storm clouds outside of Monticello.

Storm Clouds in Utah

Dust storms give way to menacing storm clouds as we climb in elevation.

Temps plummeted from 80’s in the desert to the 40’s near Monticello and were rapidly dropping as we climbed in elevation to the pine forests. Storm clouds were gathering overhead and the world suddenly looked very ominous.

We looked around, and suddenly, in unison, we both blurted out: “It looks like it’s gonna snow!”

We laughed at this absurd nortion, but I checked the weather forecast on my laptop anyway. My eyes flew open when I pulled up the forecast for Monticello, Utah.

“It IS gonna snow…in the next hour!!!”

Snow on RV in Canyonlands National Park Utah

OMG – It’s snowing!

And snow it did. As the skies turned black and the wind picked up and the temperature fell further, we found a place to hide for the night.

What a shock it was to see the snow flying thickly around us. It began to pile up on everything, from the trees and leaves to our bike seats on the bike rack on the trailer to our front door steps.

Snow on RV steps in Utah

One small step for an RVer…

The next morning we were in an icy winter wonderland!

Fifth wheel RV in snow in Utah

Who ordered this? I don’t know, but if you can stop shivering it’s very pretty!

It didn’t last, though. In no time at all the snow melted and we were on our merry way. We had come into the high country of eastern Utah to visit Newspaper Rock, a fabulous rock art panel that appears to be just what its name implies.

Newspaper Rock is an enormous slab of rock covered in natural “desert varnish,” which gives it a dark, smooth surface, perfect for pecking out images. It stands under a natural rock overhang, just like a huge sheltered bulletin board, out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods and other rock cliffs.

Newspaper Rock Indian Rock Art Petroglyph Panel Utah

Newspaper Rock is the Facebook of the Ancients!

The slab is absolutely covered with ancient Indian petroglyphs and rock art.

Newspaper Rock Ancient Indian Petroglyph Rock Art Panel in Utah

What a cacophany of conversations!

Apparently, the older art on Newspaper Rock is attributed to ancient Puebloan Indians who lived in the area for 1,600 years, from 100 B.C. to 1540 A.D. The more recent rock art on the panel is thought to have been created by the ancestors of the Ute people who still live in the area.

Newspaper Rock Art petroglyph panel Utah

If you look closely, there are all kinds of crazy and fun images here.

We were mesmerized by all the different images. They are packed in tightly, with animals and odd looking creatures and images of hands and feet and geometric shapes all crammed together. There’s barely an open inch anywhere on the panel.

Another woman and I excitedly pointed out various images and even possible stories to each other. There was the weird snake charmer guy who wore a fancy horned headdress and fringe leggings and had a very curvy snake crossing right over his neck. All around him were frolicking horned animals, bison, a four toed foot and another guy with a horned headdress.

Ancient Indian Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Mixture

With horns on his head and fringe on his legs, this guy has a snake winding across him!

In another area there was a very clear image of a hunter shooting an elk or a deer. He had a bow and arrow and the animal had a huge rack of antlers on its head.

Right above this image there were two odd looking space alien creatures. Each had horns, of two different types, and one had four fingers on each hand while the other had only three. Their bodies (or clothes) were very boxy and they had impossibly short legs with no feet.

Hmmm…

Around them were images of feet with only four toes as well as a spoked circle that looked like a wagon wheel.

Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Elk hunt and people with horns

A hunter on horseback aims at an elk, but who are those chunky guys with horns on their heads?

I find this three, four and five finger and toe thing fascinating. Some rock art depicts the modern day number of human fingers and toes and some just doesn’t. I doubt these people had trouble counting. Scientists working with African Grey parrots have proven they can count to seven very easily. I think there must have been another reason they omitted the toes and fingers — but what was it?

The amazing thing about petroglyphs like these is that they are pecked out of the rock. It isn’t easy to peck this rock. All over the American Southwest there is rock art that has been vandalized with graffiti in the last 200 years, and none of the graffiti comes close to the quality of the original rock art.

In another part of the panel four horned animals are marching in a row. Three are alike, but the one behind them is bigger and looks like it might have been created at a different time. They look a little like Santa’s reindeers!

Next to them is a flying squirrel caught mid-flight. I discovered Northern Flying Squirrels can be found in the conifer forests in Utah, so there he is on the rock art panel!

Petroglyphs Rock Art Newspaper Rock Utah Herd of deer

A deer track and then a line of deer like Rudolph, Dasher, Prancer and Vixen.
Graffiti in the upper left area barely penetrates the “desert varnish” of the rock.

Two other images of flying squirrels are prominant on this panel. One has a Superman S on him and the other has three fingers on each hand!

I imagine the flying squirrel had significance to the ancient people who pecked these images on the rocks. I couldn’t find any Ute or western Indian references to flying squirrels, but several eastern Indian tribes have flying squirrels in their folklore.

Beneath them is the ever-present foot — with 5 toes.

Newspaper Rock Petroglyph rock art Flying Squirrels Utah

Flying squirrels, one with a Superman S on his chest and the other with 3 fingers on his little hands.

Hands and feet are everywhere on this panel of rock art petroglyphs, and in one section it is a veritable track of two people wallking up the rock, a larger person on the left and a smaller person on the right. Some have four toes, some have five and a Very Large Person to their left sometimes has six!

A graphic artist or characature style hand outline also appears above some feet.

Feet and hand petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah

Tracking the human race with a bigger person and a smaller person together and a Very Big Person to the left.
What about that cool hand?!

Nearby there are two very cute and small deer, each with a very elaborate pair of antlers on his head.

Below them is a bison that has the same outline styling as the hand in the previous image.

Rock Art Newspaper Rock Utah with deer, foot and bison

A slick bison outline and two deer with very intricate and mature antlers

Bison are very popular on the Newspaper Rock art panel. One image near the bottom of the panel shows a hunter on horseback with a bison. This image is in the lighter color that the Bureau of Land Management says is more recent rock art dating to some time after 1500 AD.

Buffalo roamed all over the North American continent for thousands of years, and many Indian tribes were totally dependent on them.

In 1840 there were 60 million free roaming bison thundering across America. By 1886, 46 years later, there were fewer than 100. They all died at the hands of hunters who were encouraged by the US Army, as they knew the extermination of the buffalo would be the end of the Indians. Buffalo hide also became more popular than cowhide in the eastern states and in Europe, and an average hide hunter could kill 60 bison in a day.

Newspaper Rock Art petroglyph Utah horseback hunter and bison

Buffalo hunting was essential to the Indians.

One bison is depicted with cloven hooves, and it’s little details like these that make these images resemble children’s drawings where one feature or another is drawn with careful detail at the expense of other details that sometimes go missing all together.

Along with bison, those animals with the curved horns are really popular images at Newspaper Rock. They are commonly referred to as Big Horn Sheep, but as I noted in another post about rock art in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, the horns don’t resemble big horn sheep horns at all. Oh well. They are a mystery bovine!!

There is also a creature with a wide tail, perhaps a beaver, and animal which was once abundant throughout Utah.

Petroglyph rock art at Newspaper Rock Gazelle, bison and beaver tadpole

This buffalo has cloven hooves, and is that a beaver near him, or something else?

There is also a very cool bird with a long beak standing near a horned animal and a very small person.

Bird petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah

A very birdlike bird, a horned bovine and a small person here.

Some of the imagery is geometric and some is, well, who knows what it is. There’s also a difference in pecking skill when it comes to creating these images on the rock panel.

Rock art Newspaper Rock Utah Deer, feet geometric designs

Some images are obvious while others a little obscure.

Down near the grass there’s an intriguing double sun that appears to have something inside it.

Newspaper Rock Art Utah Twin Sun Design

A double sun. There is something wonderfully mystical about this.

I loved studying all these crazy images. What do they mean and why were they on this particular rock? There are millions of square feet of smooth flat rock walls covered in desert varnish throughout Utah where there are no petroglyphs. And then there’s a place like this that is packed to the gills with images from different people of different eras.

A newspaper indeed!

One of my favorite images was one I spotted just before leaving. It is a ladder with three fingered hands at the top. What the heck?! Nearby is a guy with his three fingered hands in the air. He sports a tail and horns.

There are also some deer tracks marching right throught the image from bottom to top, and a doodle that looks like a flying saucer or satellite.

Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Ladder with hands

A ladder with hands, some bizarre shapes, a few feet, and deer tracks running through it all.

In the bottom right is a very elaborate paw print, complete with claws. There are an aweful lot of toes on that paw. Maybe it’s a flower!

Newspaper Rock is a fantastic roadside stop for RVers and other travelers heading into the southern Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It is right on the way in to the National Park, and it is without doubt the best rock art we’ve seen anywhere.

When we were there after a snowstorm in late March there was hardly anyone there because it was absolutely freezing. But I imagine in warmer seasons the place can get insane because the parking lot is not very big and there are signs up and down the sides of the road before and after the site saying, “No Parking.”

Note: Newspaper Rock is within the boundaries of the 3,000 square mile parcel of land that the Navajo Indians and 25 other tribes have asked the public land agencies to convert into Bears Ears National Monument. It is currently a State Historical Monument managed by the BLM. More info at this link.

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Snow in the Arizona Desert – A Beautiful Fairy Dusting!

January 2016 – A lot of folks that have never been to Arizona think of it as a very hot and dry place. That’s true in certain parts of the state at certain times of the year, but it isn’t always so!

Sonoran Desert in Snow Tonto National Forest Arizona

Snow and mist cover the mountains east of Phoenix, Arizona.

This past week the humidity level stayed above 80% for five straight days, and the rain fell relentlessly.

Boat on Roosevelt Lake Arizona Snow on Mountains

What a gorgeous morning on Roosevelt Lake!

The stunner of it all was that this moisture showed up as a beautiful blanket of snow in the mountains around the desert floor.

Saguaro cactus Four Peaks in Snow Arizona

A lone saguaro cactus looks up at the snowy mountains in the distance.

Tonto National Forest snow in mountains Roosevelt Lake Arizona

This is a spectacular area at any time, but snow really sets off those mountains!

What a great reward after a soggy week in our RV. We threw open the windows, even though it was only 50 degrees out, and let the sun pour in!

Roosevelt Lake Marina Arizona snow in mountains

Roosevelt Lake Marina – boating between snowy peaks!

This part of the desert can hit 120 degrees at the peak of summer, but the overnight lows have been flirting with the freezing point on the thermometer all this week. Nonetheless, the occasional die hard boater has cast off on Roosevelt Lake.

Boating Roosevelt Lake Arizona snow on Four Peaks

An enthusiastic boater takes to the water on the first day of sunshine.

A pack of coyotes lives nearby, and we’ve been hearing them a lot in the mornings and evenings. The other day we spotted one just a few feet away.

Coyote at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

A pack of coyotes has been singing and yipping a lot around us lately.

What a gorgeous animal! I was delighted when he turned to look at me.

Coyote portrait Roosevelt Lake Arizona

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And the scenery wasn’t bad either!!

Snow on Four Peaks and cactus Roosevelt Lake Arizona

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We were just loving the colors…

Snow on mountains Sonoran Desert Arizona Roosevelt Lake

What a place!

We hopped in the truck to take a drive and were amused to see cars and trucks coming down from the mountains with snow on the roofs. There were winter warnings for drivers too.

Winter Driving Conditions Arizona Desert

When we crossed one mountain pass we could tell the snowplows had been busy the night before. Wow!

Snow doesn’t last long in these parts, so we snapped as many pics as we could.

Snow in Sonoran Desert saguaro cactus  Arizona

So pretty.

This area is beautiful at any time of year, but the backdrop of the snowcapped mountains with the saguaro cactus and Roosevelt Lake was just fantastic.

Saguaro cactus snow capped mountains Roosevelt Lake Arizona

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Four Peaks snow at Roosevelt Lake Arizona

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Crossing the mountains on our way to Globe, the distant rippling mountain peaks were covered with snow.

Saguaro cactus snow capped mountains Tonto National Forest Arizona

This saguaro has upright arms.
When one has a droopy arm, it’s often because snow or ice weighed it down for a while!

This was a wonderful fairy dusting of winter. Just enough to give us the beauty from a distance without having to shovel!

House on snowy hill

A tiny house on a hill…

The daytime temps warmed up to the low 60’s and the snow began to vanish from the peaks in no time. But what a neat few days we had here in “hot” and “dry” Arizona!!

Cactus and snow Tonto National Forest Arizona

The snow won’t last long, but it gave us a lovely winter interlude!

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How To STAY WARM in an RV – Survival Tips for Winter RVing!

Winter RVing is loads of fun, but figuring out how to stay warm in an RV on those chilly winter mornings and long cold dark evenings makes all the difference between having a great time and wishing you were in a house. Going to a southern state is a good start, but it may not always fit with your overall full-time RVing itinerary. You might get caught in an early winter storm, like we did in one year in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or you might get whipped by a blizzard on your way south, as has happened to some of our snowbirding friends who wanted to celebrate the holidays at home in Montana before trekking south to Arizona in January.

Here are some tips for ways we’ve found to stay warm in our RV in winter…

Winter RVing Tips How To Stay Warm in an RV

Brrr…How do you stay warm inside of this??

WINTER RV TIP #1 – STAY IN BED UNDER THE COVERS TIL SPRING!

One winter RVing tip is to go to bed and stay in bed until the spring wildflowers begin to bloom. Our two little RV companions, Chrissy the cockatoo and Weazie the ferret (named for former beloved pets) seem to have decided to go that route this year.

Winter RVing how to keep warm in an RV

One solution – jump under the covers and stay there until Spring!!

WINTER RV TIP #2 – GET AN EFFICIENT SPACE HEATER!

A better option is to get a good and efficient heater. The factory installed propane furnaces that come with most RVs is very inefficient. The blower uses a lot of electricity. What’s worse, the heater goes through a lot of propane, because much of the hot air is exhausted outside the RV (just go outside on a cold day and put your hands by the RV furnace vent — they’ll be warm in a jiffy!).

If you will be plugging into electric hookups a lot, and staying for just a few days at a time in most of the places you travel to (with no metering on the electricity and unlimited power built into the overnight camping fee), then it makes sense to get a really great electric space heater.

WINTER RV TIP #3 – INSTALL A VENT-FREE PROPANE HEATER!

If you are going to be boondocking (or dry camping), out in the southwestern deserts — or even in Florida or Texas — then you will need an RV heater that is efficient both in its use of electricity and its use of propane. The best option is a vent-free propane heater.

Winter RV tips vent-free blue flame propane heater

We LOVE our vent-free propane heater.

We have been using ours since Mark installed it in 2008, both during the winter and the summer, and we love it. We have a whole blog post explaining how this kind of heater works, what the technologies are behind the different styles of vent-free propane heaters on the market, what kind of heat each type of heater produces, and how to install one here:

Choosing and Installing a Vent-Free Propane Heater in an RV

We have used this heater from sea level to 10,000′ altitude year round, and we share some tips for heating strategies we’ve used when we’ve camped on a lofty mountaintop as temps plummeted and a snowstorm rolled in:

How to Heat an RV in Cold Weather and Winter Snowstorms

 

WINTER RV TIP #4 – GET A PORTABLE VENT-FREE PROPANE HEATER!

Mr Buddy Portable Propane Heater Staying warm in an RV

A portable vent-free propane heater is an easy way to go.

If you love the idea of using an efficient propane heater that doesn’t use any electricity, but you’re not keen on doing a permanent installation, another great option is to get a portable propane heater.

 

WINTER RV TIP #5 – INSTALL A VENT-FREE PROPANE FIREPLACE!

Pleasant Hearth Vent-Free Propane Fireplace 35 inch

How about a vent-free propane FIREPLACE?!!

On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!

 

 

WINTER RV TIP #6 – SHRINK-WRAP YOUR RV SCREEN DOOR!

One of the easiest ways to winterize an RV is to shrink-wrap the screen door. By covering the screen door with a thin layer of plastic, you can keep the big RV door open all day long, close the screen door, and let the sunshine fill your rig with light and warmth. It is really surprising that just a thin layer of plastic on the door is all it takes to keep the cold air out and let the warm air in (if you aren’t in sub-freezing temps!!).

Winter RVing Tips Shrink-wrap RV screen door

Shrink-wrapping our RV screen door keeps the cold air out and lets the sun shine in!

We learned this trick from our RVing mentors, Bob and Donna Lea, in our first winter of RVing back in 2007-08. The beauty is that the installation of the shrink-wrap is less than a one hour job, and you can remove it in the springtime in just a few minutes.

Winter RVing how to stay warm in an RV use Window Shrink Film

Window shrink-film kit

We love having shrink-wrap on our screen door so much that we’ve gone through quite a few summers without removing it. Up in the mountains, it can be chilly in the summertime, with a brisk breeze blowing into the rig in the mornings, so the shrink-wrap can work its magic there too, and it also keeps the dust out.

This year, however, we took the shrink-wrap off our screen door when we got into the heat and humidity of the northeastern states in August, so we had to reinstall it just a few weeks ago.

To get started, all you need is

  1. Pair of scissors
  2. Razor blade (or boxcutter or sharp knife)
  3. Hair Dryer
  4. Window Shrink Film kit
Winter RVing Tips - Tools to Shrink-wrap RV screen door

All the tools we used to shrink-wrap our screen door.

The window shrink film kit comes with double-sided tape, and all you have to do is outline the door with the tape, remove the backing, press the plastic onto the tape, trim off the excess and then heat it up with a hair dryer to make the plastic taught. It is best to clean the frame of the door with alcohol or film remover first so the tape adheres well.

Winterize an RV screen door attach double-sided tape

Press the double-sided tape along the frame of the door, going around the plastic sliding insert
by the door handle.

Go around the little slider opening for the door handle, because you need to be able to slide this open and closed (the shrink-wrap is covering only the screened parts of the door!). Then peel the backing off the tape all the way around the door.

Winter RVing winterize screen door remove tape backing

Remove the backing from the tape.

Press the plastic onto the sticky tape around the door frame.

Winter RV Tips - Winterize screen door and hang plastic shrink film

Hang the shrink wrap around the door frame.

Then use a razor blade to trim off the excess all the way around the door. Get the plastic as taught as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect, though, because all the wrinkles will be taken care of in the next step.

Winterize RV screen door - trim off excess plastic shrink film

Use a razor blade or box cutters to trim off the excess plastic.

Using the hair dryer on the high setting, wave it gently back and forth over the edges of the door. The plastic will miraculously shrink up and become taught.

Shrink-wrap RV screen door and use hair dryer to shrink plastic film

Use a hair dryer on the high setting to shrink up the plastic along the door frame.

Once you’ve gone around the frame of the door, wave the hair dryer across the middle to tighten that up too. Keep the hair dryer moving so it doesn’t melt the plastic in one spot.

Shrink-wrap RV screen door and shrink plastic film with hair dryer

Keep the hair dryer moving and wave it across the plastic to tighten it up.

If it’s cold out, you can always give yourself a blow dry too!

That hot air feels good!

.

Once it is done, open the outer RV door open and close the screen door. The warm sun will pour in, but the cool breezes will stay outside!

Winterize RV screen door sunshine comes in

Morning sunshine fills our kitchen

Note: Since publishing this post, we have refined our shrink-wrap system even further. We have found that it is easy to make this into a Dual Pane system but adding a second layer of shrink-wrap film on the INSIDE of the RV door. What a world of difference this second layer makes!!

 

WINTER RV TIP #7 – ORIENT THE RV WINDOWS (and DOOR) TOWARDS THE SUN

Every RV floorplan is different, with the largest windows and the door placed in various locations, depending on how long it is and whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome. Take a look at where your biggest windows are, and try to orient the rig so those windows are in the sun for most of the day.

Our biggest windows are in a big slideout on the curb side (passenger side) of the trailer and also in the rear of the coach. So, in the wintertime we are best off orienting our rig with the truck headed northeast. This places our biggest windows towards the southeast and southwest.

In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.

This does place our RV refrigerator in direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day in the summer, but we’ve never had trouble keeping our food cold with the fridge on the highest setting during those hot months (of course, our fridge died recently, but we discovered that that was to be expected because of its age!).

How to stay warm in an RV Orient the RV windows towards the Sun

For our rig, it’s best to orient the truck to the northwest in summer and the northeast in winter.

Note that the sun doesn’t travel the same arc in the sky in the summer months as it does in the winter, as shown by the orange arrows in the graphic above.

In the dead of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During the day it is high in the sky, almost directly overhead. In mid-winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, traversing a very low arc in the sky. At its highest, the sun is only halfway up the sky. These low angles are advantageous for keeping an RV warm in winter, however, as the sun shines directly in the windows into the center of the coach.

WINTER RV TIP #8 – INSULATE THE HATCH VENTS

The RV roof may have some fabulously high R-rating that the manufacturer proudly touted when you bought it, but that applies only to the parts of the roof that are solid. Most RV vent hatch covers are thin pieces of plastic, and they don’t have much of an R-factor at all.

You can give the vent hatch covers a hand by using a hatch vent insulator. These have reflective insulation on one side to make them even more effective.

How to keep warm in an RV Hatch vent insulating pillow

A hatch vent insulator really helps!.

Another option is to cut styrofoam to the exact dimensions of the hatches. When we bought our fifth wheel trailer from the manufacturer NuWa Industries, we asked them to cut four pieces of the Blue Dow insulating styrofoam that they used in the walls to the exact dimensions of our four roof hatches.

The great thing about having insulation on the hatches is that they work both summer and winter. We often use ours in the summertime when we leave the rig for the daytime hours.

Another helpful benefit is that they block out all light. So, if you are parked under a bright light or there is a full moon that wakes you up as it shines right in your eyes, you can block out the light with an insulator in the bedroom hatch.

How to stay warm in an RV hatch vent insulation

We use Blue Dow foam from the fifth wheel walls cut to the dimension of our hatches

 

WINTER RV TIP #9 – DEALING WITH CONDENSATION!

One of the biggest annoyances in cold, winter weather in an RV, is condensation. If you run a vent-free propane heater while boondocking, whether it’s a portable heater or one that is permanently installed, condensation will build up on the insides of the windows when the dew point is at a certain level.

Condensation on an RV window in winter

Insulation on our windows – ugh!

You can minimize the condensation build-up by running the RV furnace for a while to blow out the moist air. You can also open a window a crack, or open the RV door for a bit.

Absorber XL towel wipe away condensation

Absorber towels sop up moisture with ease.

The fastest way to deal with the condensation is simply to wipe it off with an Absorber towel. As the name implies, these towels are incredibly absorbant. They are most effective when they are damp, so they come with a little plastic container that will keep them damp for months.

Simply wipe the window and then wring out the towel. And repeat. Once the window is dry, give it a final swipe with a soft microfiber towel. This gets rid of any streaks.

To make your life easier during the winter condensation season, remove the window screens and put them in a closet. This way, you aren’t fighting with the screens every time you wipe down the insides of the windows.

How much do we love our Absorber towels? We have two — blue for him and red for me!

 

WINTER RV TIP #10 – INSULATE THE WINDOWS AT NIGHT

Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.

Likewise, on the worst of the cold winter nights, covering the windows with Reflectix insulation makes a big difference. This aluminum foil insulation comes in a big roll, and you can cut it to the exact dimensions of each window. Just use a marker to write on each one which window it’s for.

To put one of these window insulators in place, simply hold it against the glass and then lower the blinds over it. In the case of our biggest one in the back of the rig, we rest the bottom of it on a spare pillow so it doesn’t slip down.

Reflectix insulation keeps heat from escaping out an RV window

The window-sized piece of Reflectix Insulation is held in place by the window shade.

We keep all of them rolled up together in a closet and use them both summer and winter. In the summertime, they help immensely with keeping the heat out during the day.

 

WINTER RV TIP #11 – USE THE OVEN

One of our favorite ways of warming up the inside of our buggy is by baking. Mark is the Resident Baker in our household, and there is nothing like a batch of yummy muffins or a fresh loaf of banana bread coming out of the oven to warm us up inside and out!

How to stay warm in an RV baking muffins

On a brisk morning, there’s nothing like a fresh loaf of banana bread coming out of the oven!

After the baking is done and the oven is off, we keep the oven door open for a while so we can enjoy the residual warmth as it cools down. By the way, we recently discovered Chiquita banana bread mix, which is absolutely delicious and tastes just like a loaf made from scratch. It requires two bananas, and lately Mark has been adding raisins to it too.

On a cold afternoon, we’ll bake something in the oven for dinner. The longer it takes, the warmer the buggy will get during the baking process! Anything from frozen pot pies or lasagna to a whole chicken does the trick nicely.

 

WINTER RV TIP #12 – DO SOME EXERCISES

As soon as we wake up in the morning, we do some modest exercises. We might be shivering when we first turn on the vent-free heater, but a quickie round of 25 sit-ups and pushups always gets the blood flowing, and by the time we get in a few rounds with the hand weights, we’re sweating and turning the heater off!

This is also a great way to work off those extra calories from the tasty muffins, sweet breads and pies that keep coming out of our oven!

Exercise to keep warn in an RV in winter

One way to take the chill off — do a set of sit-ups. Still cold? Roll over and do a set of push-ups!

 

WINTER RV TIP #13 – PLAY THE FIREPLACE DVD

Fireplace DVD How to stay warm in an RV

Fireplace video.

This may sound a little goofy, but a video of a fire burning in a fireplace is really fun and makes the rig cozy. The video simply shows logs in a fireplace burning down to embers, accompanied by the crackling sound a fire makes. It is surprisingly realistic, and quite funky. The crazy thing is that whenever we play it, the person sitting in the recliner closest to the TV always feels a little warm on the side by the fire!

 

WINTER RV TIP #14 – INSULATE THE HOT WATER HEATER and HOT WATER PIPES

To conserve propane, we always heat the water just once a day, right before we take our showers. After we’re done, we have warm water for dishes, etc. By insulating the hot water heater, the water stays warmer longer. We also put insulating pipe foam on the hot water pipes that run from the heater to the shower and the vanity and kitchen sinks.

Taking a shower in an RV in the winter can be a numbing experience if temps got to freezing the night before, no matter how hot the water is in the hot water heater, because the cold water has to run through the pipes before the hot water reaches you in the shower.

If we are conserving water, we’ll bring a small cooking pot into the shower and run the cold water into it. Then we’ll warm that water up on the stove later for dishes or whatever. Even though it’s less than a quart of water, this way it’s not wasted on our bodies as we hop around in the shower shouting expletives and soaping up our goose bumps!

For more tips on heating an RV, see these articles:

How to Heat an RV in Snow Storms and at High Elevations

How to Install a Vent-Free Propane Heater in an RV

 
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Slip Sliding Away – An Ice Storm in Texas

Many freeways in Texas are wide open roads where high speeds can be great fun. The 80 mph speed limit, with its unwritten 10 mph grace zone above that, is a temptation for many. We prefer to jog along at 60 mph in the right lane when we’re towing our house around, but our slow speeds put us in the minority in this part of the country.

Texas Speed Limit 80 mph

Texas highways move at a good clip!

Last Friday, a nasty winter storm swept through the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sending trucks and cars careening off of the freeways on a virtual skating rink. We first heard of the chaos in the small town of Marathon where we saw frightening images on TV at a gas station and listened to scary tales from motorists seeking safe haven on their way from Dallas to Big Bend.

Texas driving in ice storm

We drive through the remnants of a vicious winter storm 2 days earlier.

We had hightailed it out of Big Bend National Park after enduring below freezing temps for 48 hours. When we got onto I-20 about 100 miles west of Fort Worth, we began to see the remains of the ice storm from two nights before. The trees were filled with ice, and mist hung heavy in the air. A Winter Weather Warning was in effect for another incoming storm due to arrive the next day.

Winter Weather Warning on Texas I-20 freeway

Ugh…we won’t be warm any time soon!

I began snapping pics as we drove, just to keep myself occupied, and a small Beer sign in the wintry woods made me smile.

Beer sign on the side of the highway

A welcome sign on a lonely highway

This stretch of freeway is basically a truck route, with the occasional car or RV filling in around the fringes. Trucks were everywhere, ahead of us and behind us.

Truck traffic on I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

I-20 is a major truck thoroughfare.

These guys don’t mess around, and they seem to view the high speed limit as an open invitation. And why not, when you have a tight delivery schedule to keep? We were passed by one semi-tractor trailer truck after another until we felt like the old grannies of the road.

Trucks overtake us on I-20 in Texas

Truckers get impatient with our slow little buggy.

When an “Oversize Load” truck passed us like we were standing still, and remained in the left lane until it vanished from sight ahead of us, all I could think was that we were experiencing the modern day Wild West of Texas out here on the freeway.

Oversize Load passes in the left lane on the highway

An “Oversize Load” passes us and stays in the left lane until he disappears out of sight.

But what unfolded next took us both by surprise. The ice on the trees and mist in the air had been just an introduction to the pandemonium and mayhem that had taken place here on that fateful Friday two days prior on I-20. While scoping out my next pic, Mark suddenly said, “Look at that!”

Overturned semi tractor trailer truck on I-20 in Texas

Holy smokes — it’s a semi-tractor trailer on its side!

It was an overturned semi-tractor trailer that had obviously been one of the victims that slid off the road on the ice. A few minutes later a Fed Ex truck facing the wrong way in the median caught our eye.

FedEx Ground truck stranded on I-20 in Texas

Hey, there’s a FedEx truck — was the driver okay?

The front end appeared to be smashed. Mark whipped his head around as we passed it and noticed a huge hole in the windshield on the driver’s side.

Gulp.

A mile further on we saw more.

Freightliner truck rollover on Texas I-20 near Eastland

This is crazy! Another truck on its side!!

Now our eyes were popping out of our heads. We rarely see wrecks on the highway, and especially not abandoned, mangled trucks.

Signs ahead made us slow down. There was a 6% descent and the word “SLOW” was painted right on the freeway.

6% grade on interstate I-20 in Texas

A fast descent ahead!

Slow sign painted on the pavement of I-20 in Texas

If you missed the little yellow sign, here’s a big one right on the pavement!

But it probably wasn’t possible to heed these signs on the fearful night of the ice storm. More wrecks lay ahead.

Semi tractor trailer truck stranded on I-20 after Texas ice storm

We saw images of this truck later on in news reports.

Truck rollover on I-20 in Texas near Eastland

Yet another rollover a few miles further down the highway.

At the last moment Mark spotted a second Fed Ex truck stranded by the side of I-20. He leaned back as I snapped a pic out his window.

FedEx Ground trailer stranded on Texas I-20 after ice storm

FedEx was not having a good day that day…

By now I was perched on the edge of my seat, my mind racing as I tried to imagine what the scene had been like in the dark with snow falling and black ice everywhere. Now I understood why those people back in Marathon had been so rattled as they talked about what they’d experienced on the road that night.

Suddenly there were lots of brake lights ahead of us. We slowed to a crawl and were herded off the highway for a detour.

Brake lights ahead on the freeway interstate I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

The freeway comes to a halt ahead of us.

As we climbed a frontage road and looked down at the empty freeway next to us, we saw a semi-tractor trailer that had just been raised up from its side. Its cab was jacked to one side as if it had a broken neck. There were three wreckers and countless people in vivid orange working to get it removed.

Freightliner semi-tractor trailer being removed from I-20 in Texas

As we detour around I-20 on a frontage road, we see three wreckers removing a semi-tractor trailer.

In the end, we counted ten abandoned truck wrecks and countless stomach-turning skid marks in the dirt going into the ditches by the side of the freeway. Looking for info later, we thought for sure we’d find dozens of news stories about the bedlam on I-20 around Eastland from that terrifying night, but this area had been a secondary story. The scenes on I-35 and I-75 around Dallas had dominated the news for that storm instead!

Eventually, the wrecks subsided and I sat back in my seat, rather stunned by what we had seen. Just then, as if to break our mood and make us smile again, an antique hot rod appeared, headed in the opposite direction.

Antique hot rod car on interstate I-20 west of Fort Worth Texas

Finally, something to smile about — an antique hot rod!

And so it goes, driving the wilds of Texas. It’s a jungle out there!

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Acapulco to Huatulco – A Disturbing Passage

San Juan Mountains Colorado – And then it Snowed!

October, 2014 – When we first arrived in the Ridgway/Ouray area in Colorado, the aspen trees were just beginning their autumn golden glow. As the days passed, their colors intensified until we were surrounded by a vibrant mass of yellow set against a rich blue sky. Autumn is the harbinger of winter, though, and before long we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm. We have never been in a snowstorm in our RV, and it was quite exciting — and very surprising, as it was still early October.

Fifth wheel RV Ridgway Colorado fall foliage

Before…

5th wheel RV Ridgway Colorado snow storm

…during…

Fifth wheel trailer in the snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

…After!

Million Dollar Highway Route 550 with snow Colorado

The “Million Dollar Highway” becomes a winter wonderland.


The snow fell steadily around us, and slowly a gossamer veil of white settled on our world.

There was enough of the white stuff to stick around awhile, and when we finally emerged out of the fifth wheel, the amber woods had become a winter wonderland trimmed in white lace.

We tip-toed around in total awe of the scene and took our cameras out for a drive along the Million Dollar Highway.

If it’s possible, the landscapes were even more beautiful now than before.

Aspens in autumn with snow in Colorado

Peaches and cream!

The snow on the orange aspen trees looked like peaches and cream, and the stately evergreens added dramatic accents here and there.

We were here because our friend Nasim Mansurov was conducting a photography workshop. One of the highlights was meeting John Sherman, a professional bird and wildlife photographer who was an instructor at the workshop.

He lives in a custom built Class C motorhome full-time, and as we tromped around in the snow the first morning after the snow storm, he suddenly appeared between the trees.

Evergreens and aspen in Colorado autumn snow

Gorgeous scenery all around.

He was shooting birds that morning, of course, rather than snowy landscapes, and he was using a staggeringly long 800 mm telephoto lens (yes, gasp, that price is correct, lol! Merry Christmas, anyone?!).

The darn thing is so big that the lens mounts directly onto the tripod (usually the body of the camera is what sits on top of a tripod). I just had to get a photo of him with this thing! See the tiny camera body on the end of it?

Pro Photographer John Sherman

John “Verm” Sherman and his LENS!

He ended up getting some wonderful photos of tiny birds high in the trees that we didn’t even know were there!

In the following days we got to know John a little bit.

Photographer taking photos in Colorado fall foliage

We were almost in a daze as we walked around taking photos.

He has shot two back covers for Arizona Highways magazine as well as some full page and two-page photos on the inside. How cool is that?!

He also writes for PhotographyLife.com and his posts are written with a wry sense of humor that always makes us chuckle.

Fall colors with snow in Ouray Colorado

The spectacular colors seemed even more-so after the snow.

His girlfriend Dawn Kish also shoots for Arizona Highways and has had more front cover photos on that beautiful magazine in the last five years than any other photographer.

Good Lord!! We were keeping some pretty illustrious company — way out of our league! — but we were learning lots and having a blast at the same time.

One evening John and Nasim did a critique of students’ photos, and it was a fascinating exchange between the two of them and each student as they went over the highlights and flaws in each photo.

Travel trailer in snowy Colorado mountains

This was cold camping, but oh so pretty!

Everyone in the room was able to see how a slight adjustment here or there would have transformed a good photo into a great one. Many photos, of course, were fabulous already and just got big nods of approval all around.

Out here in this newly snowy world, we were loving hanging around with a full-time RVer who shares our fascination with photography.

A deer by our trailer

This deer visited our trailer many times.

John is a rock climber as well, and was Senior editor of Climbing Magazine for years. He’s also written several popular books about climbing and bouldering.

Here’s a link to some of his very impressive work. Wow!!

This was a cold world up here at nearly 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, but the wildlife was plentiful.

One night we listened to elk bugling all around us as we laid in bed. We didn’t see any during the day, but their high pitched calls filled the night air.

We did spot a little deer who hung around our trailer in the mornings and evenings for few days. We both marveled that he could manage all winter in this freezing climate.

Autumn leaves in snow

The bushes and trees hung onto their colorful leaves in the first snow.

He didn’t have an ounce of fat on him, and the fur coats that deer wear are not very thick!

Before the snowfall, he had come by our trailer one evening, munching the grass between the aspen. It was way too dark to get a photo of him, so we watched him quietly from our spot by our window.

After getting his fill of grass, suddenly he lowered himself to the ground and folded his legs under his body.

His ears twitched as he listened to all the night sounds growing around us. Every movement we made in the rig made his ears turn our way.

The night got darker and darker and he stayed put in his little spot.

Golden aspen in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado

If you have a chance to go to Colorado in autumn, do it!!

Snowy mountains and fall leaves in Colorado

An amber window on a snowy world.

Before long his head began to droop lower and lower, and in no time he had fallen asleep, right next to our fifth wheel trailer!

We were absolutely delighted. We had a special neighbor — and a trusting one.

When we got up in the morning he was gone, but the long grasses were all flattened out where he had made his bed for the night.

This was a magical time in every way. The colors on the trees were still vibrant, and the snow was a brilliant white in the sun.

Golden path near Ridgway Colorado

Treading down a golden path.

 

For a few days the trees and bushes hung onto their leaves tightly, cradling the snow that had fallen.

The photography workshop came to an end and everyone disbanded, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the beautiful San Juan Mountains.

We wandered down dirt paths and drove up and down the highways, catching each view in different lighting as the days passed.

A second snow storm covered us in another frosty blanket of white

 

Red Mountain Pass Colorado

Looking up towards Red Mountain Pass.

When we drove through the town of Ouray, we noticed that almost all the RV parks that had been full to overflowing two weeks earlier were now virtually empty.

The red “No Vacancy” signs on the hotels had changed to “Vacancy,” and the outdoor bar on the second floor of the Ouray Brewery that had been packed every afternoon since we’d first arrived was now empty.

It seemed like we were the last visitors in town! And no wonder — it was freezing cold.

In fact, when the snow fell the first night and into the next day, we were so focused on trying to stay warm that we didn’t really think about the other systems in our rig.

 

Fall colors in Colorado with a starburst from the sun

Mark does some starburst magic in the late afternoon sun.

Suddenly, near the end of the day, Mark gave me a lopsided smile and said, “You know, our solar panels haven’t charged one bit all day long.”

Huh? Oh, right, they were covered in snow!!

Oops!! He scampered up on the roof and found there was well over an inch of snow on top of them.

We had been running our electricity-hungry RV furnace almost non-stop all day, because the 10,000′ elevation was so high that our vent-free heater would run for only an hour or so before the oxygen detection sensor shut it off due to lack of oxygen.

Colorado Mountain stream with snow in autumn

Just beautiful…

Unfortunately, the furnace could barely keep up, and we were in shade until late morning. So, the batteries needed a little boost!

For the second time this season, Mark fired up the Yamaha 2400i generator to save the day and charge the batteries.

Motorhome on Colorado's Million Dollar Highway in snow

After the snow, the RVs left for warmer places!

The truly amazing thing about this underused generator is that, despite the cold, it started on the first pull, and it ran beautifully for the bulk of two days while we lived through this mini Arctic blast.

We don’t use that thing very often, and we sometimes regret the space it takes up in our rig as we chauffeur it around, but it sure comes in handy at times!

After the second snowfall, we sadly watched the colorful leaves fade to their winter shades. They began to fall from the trees like rain every time the wind blew. It was time to go! We packed up the buggy and headed up and over the Million Dollar Highway one last time — with 14,100 lbs of house in tow!

For more info on this stunningly gorgeous area, check out these links:

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