Where to See WILDFLOWERS (especially POPPIES) in Arizona 2023!

March 2023 — Arizona has received a glorious deluge of rain and snow this winter, and the rivers, streams and lakes are flowing fast and filling up quickly. Yay!

As if in celebration of this divine gift of a long drink for a thirsty land, many parts of the desert are now ablaze in shades of yellow as Arizona’s wild Mexican gold poppies pop their heads out of the ground and point their smiling faces towards the sun.

But where is the best place to see wildflowers — especially poppies! — in Arizona this spring?

Mexican Gold Poppies and California Poppies in Fields of Gold near Phoenix Arizona


We had a roundabout opportunity to see the poppies when special friends of ours invited us to their winter digs in Apache Junction which is home to Lost Dutchman State Park, a gorgeous spot known for its springtime wildflower display.

The official reason for our visit was to get some troubleshooting help on our Onan 4000 gas generator which has been giving us all kinds of grief since our first night in the trailer last year.

So, what better way to make our sour generator “lemons” into sweet wildflower “lemonade” than to get the machine repaired and upgraded and then go play in the flowers?! (We’ll share the details about the generator, its repair and upgrade in another post).

But first, we had to get there — and on our way we saw the remnants of the recent March blizzard that had buried parts of northern Arizona in several feet of snow!

Winter storm clouds on a northern Arizona road

US-87 north of Strawberry still had plenty of snow on the ground.

As we drove into Apache Junction, the roads were still wet from yet another dose of life-giving rain, and the Superstitions rose up under stormy skies in the distance.

Storm clouds over the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction Arizona

The Supestition Mountains — where we hoped to see wildflowers — looked impressive and imposing as we approached after a rain storm.

At a stop light in the middle of town, at the intersection of Meridian and Brown, we glanced to the right and our jaws dropped at the sight of a vast field of yellow and orange daisies. We quickly parked and jumped out of the truck to take pics.

What was this place and how did these flowers get here?

It turned out that this huge field is owned by a local farmer who works his land with vintage 1960s tractors and farm equipment. He planted this field of daisies and it attracts visitors from far and wide every spring when the field erupts in vibrant color.

Field of Daisies Apache Junction Arizona

A large back yard in Apache Junction is filled with yellow and orange daisies.

As gorgeous as that field was, we wanted to see true wildflowers. So, as soon as the generator repair was completed, we did a hike in Lost Dutchman State Park. Unfortunately, the famous yellow poppies weren’t blooming where we hiked.

We did find one small collection of poppies, though, and it was lovely. But it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.

Wildflowers Mexican Gold poppies Superstition Mountains

The poppies weren’t in their full glory at Lost Dutchman State Park just yet, but we did find a small patch.

Photographing poppies in Lost Dutchman State Park


Even so, the Superstitions are glorious, and we got some satisfying pics of chain-link cholla cactus against the rugged mountain backdrop. But we were still in search of desert gold!

Chain link cholla cactus Superstition Mountains Arizona

A chain link cholla cactus in the Superstition Mountains..

Here’s a book about finding and photographing Arizona wildflowers that we just love:

We decided to take a drive on the Bush Highway, one of Central Arizona’s most scenic drives (blog post HERE).

The Bush Highway winds up and down and around the steep, rugged and gorgeous Sonoran Desert terrain, passing by lovely Saguaro Lake on its way.

We turned off at the Butcher Jones Recreation Area where there’s a small beach, and as cold and forbidding as the stormy and snowy mountain passes had been on our way here, this place was teeming with summertime beach activity.

Saguaro Lake Butcher Jones Beach Arizona

Saguaro Lake, a man-made lake on the Salt River, is lined with saguaro cactus!

People in bathing suits were drifting around on stand-up paddle boards and kayaks, and families were gathered around coolers on beach blankets and in camp chairs.

It was Spring Break and everyone was whooping it up!!

Butcher Jones Recreation Area Beach at Saguaro Lake Arizona

The Butcher Jones Recreation Area was hopping with happy spring breakers playing on the water.

But we were still on the hunt for massive blooms of poppies. Down at our feet we saw a beautiful bouquet of flowers poking up out of the gravel and sand.

Natural bouquet of beautiful wildflowers in Arizona

A natural bouquet of wildflowers blooms in the sand.

Another pocket of poppies was in full glory near the shore of the lake.

Mexican gold poppies at Saguaro Lake Butcher Jones Beach

We weren’t the only photographers to grab a pic of these poppies!

All of this was fantastic, and the excitement of the Spring Breakers was contagious, but we still weren’t seeing the poppy photo ops we’d hoped for.

We got back in the truck and drove another few miles north on the Bush Highway.

Suddenly, there it was, all around us, about halfway between the lake and US-87.

Mexican Gold Poppies and California Poppies near Saguaro Lake Arizona


The hillsides on either side of the highway were bursting with color, blanketed in vivid yellow poppies!

Mexican Gold Poppies on the Bush Highway in Arizona-2


Hillsides covered with Mexican Gold poppies near Saguaro Lake Arizona

The desert comes alive.

On either side of the road as far as the eye could see, drivers had parked their cars on the dirt shoulder and people were getting out for a closer look at the spectacle.

Everyone was grinning, cell phone or camera in hand, and excited exclamations and comments filled the air. We all stared at the magnificent scenery in awe.

“I’ve never seen anything like this!”
“Can you believe it?”

Mexican Gold Poppies and California Poppies near Saguaro Lake Arizona

Even though these poppies aren’t the kind that Dorothy walked through in the Wizard of Oz, I kept thinking of that refrain, “Poppies…poppies…poppies!”

We tip-toed between the flowers and found a dirt wash we could walk and were soon immersed in pretty yellow poppies.

Stop and smell the Mexican Gold poppies and California poppies near Saguaro Lake in Arizona

Stop and smell the flowers!

We’ve only seen vast fields of wildflowers where the flowers go on far into the distance a few times, by the side of I-40 in North Carolina (blog posts HERE), by a forest road near Cody Wyoming (see HERE) and at Cedar Breaks in Utah (HERE).

But this display was the biggest and boldest we’d ever seen. Fields of gold…and popping poppies!

21 721 Mexican Gold poppies and Calfironia poppies near Saguaro Lake Arizona


Fields of Gold with Mexican Gold poppies and California poppies near Saguaro Lake


Fields of Mexican gold poppies with Weaver's Needle in Arizona

On the Bush Highway, between US-87 and Saguaro Lake, there is stretch of about a mile or two where the rolling hills are covered in poppies right now.

We thought that these were Arizona poppies. After all, they were blooming in Arizona! But Arizona poppies bloom in July and this was mid-March.

Once we were back in our trailer that evening, we poked around online and discovered that these stunning flowers were Mexican Gold Poppies a subspecies of poppy closely related to the California Poppy (which is California’s state flower!).

Back in 1816, German physician and naturalist Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz (1793 – 1831) discovered the poppy genus in the San Francisco area.

Mexican Gold poppies


Mexican Gold Poppies on the Bush Highway in Arizona


Poppies in Arizona


Poppies love dry desert soil and they bloom profusely when they get a long drink during the wintertime. They are sun worshippers too, opening up in bright sunlight and closing their petals tightly when the skies are overcast or gray (and at dawn and dusk which makes them hard to capture in a photo with a sunrise or sunset!).

Mexican Gold Poppies on Arizona Bush Highway


On the fringes of the rolling hills of brilliant yellow, we found a few poppies standing side by side with other flowers.

Wildflowers smile up at the sun in Arizona


And, of course, in other places in the desert, especially along the highways, we found lots of other beautiful wildflowers too.

Wildflower in the Sonoran Desert


Wildflower in Apache Junction Arizona


Wildflower in the Superstition Mountains Arizona


Lupine wildflowers in Arizona


If you visit the Sonoran Desert between late February and early April, you can catch these delightful flowers brightening up the landscape. These pics were taken just a few days ago on March 17, 2023, so if you are there now, be sure to take a drive to see this extraordinary display.

There are wild horses roaming in the area too, another special treat!

Wild horses and poppies on the Salt River in Arizona

The Wild Horses of the Salt River are a beloved herd.

Pup in the flowers

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Cedar Breaks Wildflowers + Stunning Brian Head Overlook

August 2019 – One of the things that Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah is most known for is the brilliant display of wildflowers that happens in mid-July and early August.

Wildflowers at Cedar Breaks plus Brian Head Utah-min

Summer wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah

The overlooks at Cedar Breaks are stunning, of course, and well worth the trip to go see.

Amphitheater at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Cedar Breaks National Monument – WOW!

Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Stunning red rock views at Cedar Breaks

Storm clouds over Cedar Breaks National Monument-min

Monsoon clouds over Cedar Breaks

The wildflowers, however, are out of this world. They aren’t everywhere, but we found them in thick pockets here and there. They were especially dramatic on a hillside along the highway on the back side of the Monument. What a gorgeous and colorful meadow!

Wildflowers on a hillside Dixie National Forest Utah-min

Hillside full of wildflowers at Cedar Breaks.

Texture and color in field of wildflowers in Utah-min


Field of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min


Soft, undulating shades of lavender filled the hillside, and we wandered among the flowers for a long time admiring the blanket of pastel hues.

Purple wildflowers near Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min


Cedar Breaks National Monument Wildflowers in Utah-min


Hillside of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Cedar Breaks Utah-min


Little sprigs of red Indian Paintbrush were visible here and there. What a lovely contrast to the purple flowers and green grass all around.

Hillside of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min


Indian paintbrush and purple wildflowers-min


Field of wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min


Indian paintbrush and wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min


Red and purple wildflowers in Utah-min


Summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

A red paintbrush in a canvas of purple flowers

Over the years, when we’ve chatted with other travelers about this area, they’ve often asked us, “Did you go to Brian Head?”

Well, “Brian Head” is the name of a ski resort near here, and after hearing so much about Brian Head we made a special trip to the ski resort years ago. It was an interesting place, but didn’t impress us as being some kind of magical “must see” spot.

This year, while we were out and about, we noticed a sign at the start of a dirt road that said: “Scenic Vista.” This sounded promising!

The road wound around and climbed up a steep ascent. At the top, we realized we were at Brian Head — the Brian Head everyone had been talking about!

Brian Head is a knoll at an elevation of over 11,300 feet, and it offers a commanding view of the surrounding area. Back in the 1930s the CCC built a stone monument for visitors at the top.

Stone building at the Brian Head overlook in Utah-min

At the Brian Head overlook there is a stone building built by the CCC in the 1930s

Stone building at Brian Head Utah-min


There are a few trails that take you to various views, and they were all terrific. But the most dramatic was the one overlooking the amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument in the distance.

Puppy looks at Cedar Breaks National Monument from Brian Head-min

The red rocks of Cedar Breaks glow in the distance.

We had arrived on a blustery late afternoon during the “golden hour” just before sunset, and the red rocks of Cedar Breaks were lit with a magical glow.

Cedar Breaks National Monument as seen from Brian Head-min

What a cool view of Cedar Breaks!

From this perspective we could see how the Cedar Breaks amphitheater was cut right out of the side of the mountain. How totally cool!

Cedar Breaks National Monument from Brian Head-min

Cedar Breaks seen from Brian Head

There are several hiking trails around Cedar Breaks National Monument, and the Alpine Pond Loop Trail is where lots of wildflowers hang out. However, it is not pet-friendly. So we walked the dog friendly trail between the main overlook, Point Supreme, and Sunset View quite a few times, and we found lots of wonderful flowers in bloom.

Some of them seemed to have been carefully arranged by a divine hand.

Nature's flower arrangement-min

I looked down and saw this awesome little flower arrangement right at my feet

Natural landscaping with wildflowers-min

Nature’s handiwork

Columbine wildflowers-min

A pair of columbines

Yellow wildflower in Utah-min


Bee on a flower-min

A busy bee

Indian Paintbrush with a log-min

Mother Nature’s arrangement of Indian Paintbrush with a log in the background

Puppy checks the wildflowers-min

Buddy checks out some flowers

On our RZR rides in the area, I had noticed a clump of purple flowers nestled against a triangular rock. I had a hunch they would be especially pretty at sunset, so I headed out one evening to take a pic. I wasn’t disappointed — what a beautiful flower arrangement Mother Nature had made!

Wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min

This cluster of flowers looked so cool during the day I returned at sunset to capture them with a pretty sky

As the days went by, some types of flowers began to fade while others began to bloom. Patches of bright yellow flowers appeared here and there.

Yellow and purple wildflowers near Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

When one group of flowers faded another bloomed. Yellow flowers appeared after a few days.

Hill coveed with wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min


We met lots of different folks who came to the area to see the exotic red rocks at Cedar Breaks, but we also came across a few travelers who were visiting at this time specifically to see the wildflowers too.

Indian Paintbrush-min

Indian Paintbrush

If you decide to put Cedar Breaks National Monument on your travel itinerary, be sure to get to Brian Head, the “real” Brian Head!

And if you go in mid-summer, keep an eye out for Nature’s handiwork in the colorful wildflower displays all around.

Columbine wildflowers-min


Purple wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min

A soft blanket of flowers

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Black Hills Back Country Byway – Spring Flowers in Arizona!

April 2019 – After our quick trip to southeastern Utah to photograph the red rocks and fantastic rock formations, we took our RV back down south to eastern Arizona. Leaving Utah’s chilly late winter air behind us, we found Spring was in full bloom in the Arizona desert.

RV Camping in eastern Arizona

Exploring Arizona’s Black Hills National Back Country Byway.

The most extraordinary display of wildflowers covered the hillsides at the base of the Salt River Canyon, and we can’t recommend highly enough making a trek there to see the flowing blankets of yellow poppies and purple lupine that ripple between the towering canyon walls at the peak of spring.

Unfortunately, now that we drive The Train, we weren’t able to stop and savor the views. The pullouts are plenty big enough for a rig like ours if it’s the only thing parked there, but each one was filled with cars and happily gawking tourists who were gazing at the wonder.

Next time!

Wildflowers and puppy with mountains in Arizona-min

Buddy romps in a blanket of wildflowers.

But once we set up camp, our RZR got us out into the desert and we saw some beautiful wildflowers.

Mountains with wildflowers as far as the eye can see in Arizona-min

Spring flowers! (Sneeze!)

One day we decided to take the RZR on the Black Hills National Back Country Byway, a dirt road that was first built by settlers in the 1800s as a route connecting the flat farmlands around Safford with the mining communities in the hills around Morenci.

Black Hills Back Country Byway Plaque-min

There are picnic areas and plaques explaining the local history along the Black Hills Back Country Byway.
After Buddy was done reading the plaque, he rested in the cool shade below it.

This dirt road is about 21 miles long and it winds up into the junipers and back down into the desert on its journey.

RZR on Black Hills Back Country Byway Arizona-min

Black Hills Back Country Byway

Black Hills Back Country Byway in Arizona

Arizona’s Black Hills Back Country Byway

The views were very nice, but what caught our attention were the many different kinds of wildflowers tucked into nooks and crannies here and there.

Lavender wildflowers Arizona-min

Delicate and sweet.

Bud and flower in Arizona-min

Before and After (if you can believe it!).

Arizona wildflowers-min


Purple Arizona wildflower-min


Big pink flowers in Arizona-min

These things are huge and were in bloom all over the place.

From tiny purple flowers wriggling in the breeze to pretty yellow poppies dancing in the sunlight, we saw all kinds of flowers brightening this otherwise relatively drab landscape.

Yellow desert poppies in Arizona-min

Yellow desert poppies.

Fuzzy leaves with Arizona wildflowers-min

Fuzzy leaves and pretty blossoms.

Purple Arizona wildflowers-min

So cheery!

Wildflowers in Arizona-min

Little pink stars.

Desert daisies in Arizona-min

Desert daisies.

White dandelions in Arizona-min

Surely in the dandelion family!

The fun thing about doing this drive with the RZR is it was easy to hop in and out of it every few miles to poke around and take pics. It was a balmy Thursday, and in our three hours on the road (we go slowly!) we saw only one other vehicle, a motorcycle.

Puppy sniffs wildflowers in Arizona-min


Buddy sniffed the flowers now and then, but he was more interested in the little critters that make this area home. We had seen two red-headed bugs with antennae flying while linked together. It was spring, and they were doing what the birds and the bees tend to do in springtime!

Then I noticed a patch of purple flowers that was loaded with these red headed bugs!

Bug in the wildflowers in Arizona-min

A bush full of purple flowers was also full of red-headed bugs!

Buddy has discovered the joys of lizard hunting, and he chased quite a few on our excursion. He loves the chase, and on rare occasions he actually catches up to one too. They’re clever though, and they play dead to make him stop chasing!

Lizard with colorful belly Arizona-min

A lizard plays dead at Buddy’s feet.

Lizard in Arizona-min

Buddy found this guy who was actually already quite dead and stiff!

There are several picnic areas along this route with views that look out into the hills. These rest areas have picnic tables and ramadas covered with copper roofs and lots of information about the history of the area.

Black Hills Back Country Byway Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook-min

Black Hills Back Country Byway at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook

One of the most amazing views is of the Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci. This is one of the largest copper mines in the world and has been extracting copper from the hills for almost 150 years.

Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci Arizona-min

The Phelps Dodge copper mine in Morenci Arizona has been extracting copper since 1872.

Arizona schoolkids learn that Arizona is known for the five C’s – Cattle, Copper, Cotton, Climate and Citrus. We saw two of the C’s together while driving the Black Hills Back Country Byway!

Cow and Copper Mine in Arizona-min

Two of Arizona’s “Five C’s” in one photo – Cattle and Copper!

At the mine overlook there were several big boulders with copper embedded in them along with detailed descriptions of how the copper is extracted.

Copper in a boulder-min

Copper waiting to be extracted. It looks a little like lichen!

It was fun at another point on this drive to see tall red penstemon flowers against the backdrop of a boulder filled with lichen.

Penstemon and lichen_-min

Pensetemon flowers with a lichen covered boulder in the background.

Another thing Arizona is known for is sunsets. The word doesn’t start with a C, but reliably dramatic sunsets definitely make Arizona a very a special place!

Gorgeous Arizona sunset-min

The sunsets in Arizona are hard to beat!

Sunset at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

Lakeside sunset overlooking Four Peaks.

Flower Power in Arizona-min

Flower Power!

As we’ve continued experimenting with triple towing, we’ve learned a few more things in recent weeks. One of the attractions of a toy hauler is the very cool back patio deck most have, and I’ve been drawn to several units that had side patios too.

Well, one afternoon I looked at our utility trailer and realized it would make a wonderful little raised patio!

If the rig is positioned right, the whole rear wall of the trailer can shade the patio, and by being up off the ground you don’t get that bitter cold breeze from under the trailer that you do when you hang out on camp chairs at ground level.

RV triple tow utility trailer patio deck-min

The utility trailer makes a nifty raised patio!

Triple tow patio deck-min

A nice spot to share a sundowner… at the risk of someone saying:
“You know you’re a redneck when your back patio is a trailer!”

Another thing we’ve learned is that when you make a super tight turn, depending on the design of the utility trailer, it may be possible for a front corner of the utility trailer to make contact with the back of the fifth wheel trailer.

So, if you are getting set up to triple tow, you might consider taking your rig to a huge and vacant parking lot to try a few slow sharp u-turns to see just how tightly your rig can turn before contact is made between the two trailers.

RV camping in the Arizona desert at sunset

Sunset in Arizona

Arizona is a beautiful state and we’re looking forward to watching Springtime continue to unfold here.

Puppy silhouette at sunset-min

A yawn at sunset.

Arizona starry sky-min

“Blue moon…You saw me standing alone…”


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Wildflowers in Wyoming – Spring Showers Bring Spectacular July Flowers!!

July 2018 – Our spring travels through Utah, Wymoing, Montana and South Dakota have been awash in deluges of rain for the past few months. But while we camped in Cody, Wyoming, recently we witnessed the most astonishing blossoming of wild flowers that we have ever seen anywhere.

For us, this year, March through June showers have brought gorgeous July flowers!

Wildflowers in meadow on Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming-min


After driving the eye-popping Beartooth Highway we decided to check out other scenic drives near Cody, Wyoming. But our quest for beautiful mountain scenery was quickly set aside when we drove into the National Forest and found ourselves surrounded by meadows of fabulous wildflowers!

Meadow with wildflowers and mountains Wyoming-min


We quickly set up shop and started taking pics with our cameras and tripods. What a display this was!

Photographer in meadow of wildflowers in Wyoming-min


Bouquet of wildflowers in Wyoming meadow-min

We have never seen fields of wildflowers like this!

Buddy took off on his own, chasing the grasshoppers and butterflies all over the place.

Puppy in wildflowers in Wyoming-min


There were pinks and yellows and purples and white flowers too. And they were thick across the meadows!

Pink wildflowers blooming in Wyoming-min


Wild yellow daisies in Wyoming-min


Wildflowers were blooming everywhere, so we decided to forego the scenic drive for the moment and try some hiking instead. Beautiful flowers lined the roads and trails!

Wildflowers in woods in Wyoming-min


Wyoming snow fence with wildflowers-min


Buddy posed for a shot with some flowers. Thank you, Bud!

Puppy with wild lupines Cody Wyoming-min


Most of the colors so far had been yellows, purples, pale blues and pinks, but we rounded a bend to find our view filled with all of those colors plus bright red Indian Paintbrush flowers too.

Indian paintbrush and lupine wildflowers in Wyoming-min


Wildflower Guide Book
Woods and wildflowers with puppy in Wyoming-min


Indian paintbrush wildflowers in Wyoming forest-min

Indian Paintbrush.

Neither of us had ever seen wildflowers like this before.

I joked with Mark that when I bought my first house years ago I’d purchased a packet of wildflower seeds that had a photo on it that looked like these meadows. But that packet of wildflower seeds sure didn’t give me a garden like this!

Wildflowers in woods in Wyoming-min


Indian paintbrush and lupine wildflowers in Wyoming-min


Wildflowers in the woods in Wyoming-min


We entertained ourselves with our cameras for a few hours as Buddy continued to chase butterflies. We were in heaven!

Wild lupine in the Wyoming forest-min


Colorful wildflowers in Wyoming woods-min


As we tromped around in the woods, we loved the logs and rocks that were peeking up through the tall grasses. They made for the most beautiful flower arrangements!

Yellow wildflowers with tree stump in Wyoming forest-min


Wild lupine with old log in Wyoming woods-min


Pink wild flowers with tree stump in Wyoming woods-min


Wyoming wildflowers in the woods-min


In some places the flowers arranged themselves together better than any floral arranger could do. Mother Nature’s work was infused with a divine and artistic flair!

Yellow daisies and lavender lupine in Wyoming forest-min


Yellow daisies and lavender lupine in Wyoming-min


Wildflowers with logs and rocks in Wyoming woods-min


Tucked away from the huge splashes of color we found some less common flowers blooming on their own.

Looking down on wildflower in Wyoming forest-min


Exotic wildflower in Wyoming-min


If you happen to be in this area when it warms up after a very rainy spring, head down some of the winding dirt roads and trails that lead off the main highway. The flowers are spectacular!

Puppy looks down hiking trail in Wyoming-min


The flip side of being surrounded by gorgeous and abundant wildflowers is being surrounded by the flying bugs that feed on them — and on you!! I’m not a fan of bug spray, but the eruption of bugs everywhere we’ve been in Montana and Wyoming lately has been really bad.

I hunted around a little online and discovered that some essential oils can be effective bug repellents. I’ve never been an essential oils person, but I picked up some lavender and eucalyptus, and when we returned to those meadows of wildflowers for more flower pics, I gave them a try.

Mark opted not to try the essential oils at first, and lo and behold, about 10 minutes into photographing the flowers he was ready to quit and run home while I hadn’t been bothered much at all!

The official recipe I found called for 15 drops of lavender and 5 drops of eucalyptus mixed together with 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil in a small bottle. But all I did was put a few drops of the lavender and eucalyptus on my arms, legs and face and spread it around, and it was like magic.

I have found I need to reapply it about every hour or so, and of course it’s not as effective as 40% Deet. But it has been good enough for us and Buddy to romp around in the flowers and be comfortable.

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Montana Road Trip – Wildflowers, Bison, a Mission Church + Good Eats!

June 2018 – We recently visited our friends Bob and Donna Lea in western Montana, and they took us on a wonderful daylong road trip into the wildflowers and mountains that lie between Missoula and Flathead Lake.

Scenic views driving Montana back roads on an RV trip-min

We saw some wonderful pastoral scenery on a day trip in western Montana.

The scenery on the drive was delightful, with snow capped mountains and pretty farms dotting the landscape.

Barn in the mountains Montana-min


After we’d drive on lovely back roads for a little while, we pulled into the Windmill Village Bakery in Ravalli for a cup of coffee and some freshly made pastries.

Windmill Village Bakery Ravalli Montana RV trip-min

Windmill Village Bakery is known for fresh made donuts.

This cute little roadside bakery is known for its fresh donuts, which are made right behind the counter, and for its beautiful patio that overlooks a small pond and windmill.

Windmill Village Bakery Ravalli Montana RV trip-min

Out back there is a patio overlooking a pond with a windmill.

With our tummies happily full, we made our way to the National Bison Range. Managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, this land is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System and is a refuge for 350-500 buffalo that was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

National Bison Range in Montana RV trip-min

The National Bison Range has buffalo and a whole lot more!

Other animals also call the refuge home, and when we arrived we saw an enormous stack of elk antlers. Elk naturally shed their antlers each year, and these antlers were collected at the range.

Antler pile National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min

A pile of shed elk antlers greeted us at the Visitors Center.

There is a loop drive that meanders through the refuge, and as we drove into the park we climbed quite high up in the hills and had a great view of the Flathead River.

River view National Bison Range RV trip-min

The loop drive took us high up for a view of the Flathead River.

The scenic drive is a gravel road, but it is easy to drive in a passenger car.

Winding road National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min

The ribbon of road is gravel and easily driven.

We arrived just after the peak of wildflower season, but there were still lots of beautiful flowers in bloom blanketing the hillsides. We walked on a trail through the vast beds of flowers and spotted some wild photographers sitting among them!

Photographing wildflowers National Bison Range Montana-min

Photographers were enjoying quiet moments with the wildflowers.

Photographing wildflowers National Bison Range Montana-min

A trio of photographers.
The peak for wildflowers in the BIson Range is mid-May but they were still lovely two weeks later.

The flowers were so thick and so colorful that we vowed we will return another year to experience this place during the peak in mid-May.

Spring wildflowers National Bison Range in Montana-min


Spring wildflower National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min


Of course, flowers don’t follow the Gregorian Calendar too closely, so we’ll call ahead to see how the flowers are doing before visiting!

Lupine in bloom National Bison Range Montana-min


As we were strolling and crouching between the flowers to get their pics, Bob pointed out the Bitterroot flower. This beautiful pink flower is the namesake of the Bitterroot Valley.

Bitterroot flower National Bison Range Montana-min

Bitterroot flowers used to be very common in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley!

This seemed like a fantastic place to get a selfie. Of course, nowadays our selfies include a certain furry person, and sometimes it takes more than one shot to get it right. In the first pic he let out a big yawn. Luckily we got another!

Selfie with puppy yawning at the National Bison Range in Montana-min

What a great spot for a selfie. Oops, Buddy was yawning!

Selfie with puppy at the National Bison Range in Montana-min

That’s better.

Montana had a ton of snow this past winter and loads of rain in the spring too, so the rolling hills were lush and green.

Montana rolling hills National Bison Range-min

Rolling green hills of Montana.

We were very surprised to learn that the very flat valley below us was once the bottom of a huge lake that reached from the mountains we were standing on to the mountains in the distance.

Mountain views National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min

At one time a lake filled the valley between the mountains.

Just like driving through parts of Arizona and Utah that were once covered with an inland sea where you feel like you are driving on the bottom of an ocean with tall islands sticking up around you, it was easy to imagine a huge glacial lake with waves lapping the sides of these mountains. The lake came up about two-thirds of the height of the mountains.

Snowcapped mountains and valley National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min

Looking down at the ancient lake bottom.

We had been enjoying the wildflowers and the beautiful views, but the buffalo herd was apparently on break that day. We did see two sauntering by the car at one point but couldn’t get our cameras going fast enough to get a photo. However, near the end of our drive we saw a lone buffalo in the distance.

A lone bison National Bison Range Montana RV trip-min

A solitary bison.

By now we were ready for another scenic snack so we stopped at the Ninepipes Lodge which has a wonderful outdoor patio overlooking a pond with mountains in the distance.

Views at Ninepipes Lodge on Montana RV trip-min

We had a fabulous view for lunch from the patio at Ninepipes Lodge.

There’s an indoor dining room too, but the weather was just perfect to sit outside. The fish and chips was terrific, and we got a kick out of the gift shop too!

Dining room view Ninepipes Lodge Montana-min

The indoor dining room was beautiful, but we liked being outside on the deck.

Gift Shop Ninepipes Lodge Montana-min

The gift shop had lots of goodies.

Our final stop for the day was at St. Ignatius Mission Church. This church was built in 1891.

St. Ignatius Mission Montana with wooden sign-min

St. Ignatius Mission was built in 1891.

St. Ignatius Mission Montana RV trip

We explored the pretty interior of this Catholic church.

The mission is very ornate inside with elaborate paintings on every nook and cranny. There are 58 paintings in all, each one painted by Brother Joseph Carignano.

Inside the St. Ignactius Mission Montana-min

The church walls are decorated with 58 different paintings.

Inside the St Ignatius Mission in Montana-min

Church services are still offered here.

The paintings have been meticulously restored and are vibrant and colorful.

Alter in the St. Ignatius Mission in Montana-min


Interior of the St. Ignatius Mission in Montana-min


Detail painting from the Interior of the St. Ignatius Mission in Montana-min

Almost all the paintings have been lovingly restored. Just a few remain to be done.

If you are taking your RV to Montana and are looking for a scenic drive with some unique places to see that are not necessarily the headliners in the tourist literature, the National Bison Range and St. Ignatius Mission are well worth a visit, and you’ll find tasty eats in a beautiful setting at both the Windmill Village Bakery and at the Ninepipes Lodge!

Rainbow in Montana on an RV trip-min

What a beautiful day in a pretty state!

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Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers

June 2016 – Waterton Lakes National Park enchanted us. After all the grand and imposing majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that we had seen in our RV trip on the other side of this mountain range at Banff and Jasper National Parks, there was an intimacy, charm and quiet elegance to Waterton Lakes that was very refreshing.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park… Stunning!

The Prince of Wales Hotel really sets the stage for this special feeling at Waterton Lakes. We snuck down to the water’s edge one evening to get some photos of it reflecting its inviting warmth onto the lake.

Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

The Prince of Wales Hotel has an inviting glow at night.

How rare it is to find this unique combination of natural beauty juxtaposed with man-made beauty in a National Park.

Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton Lakes National Park

There was something about that hotel glowing across the water that just looked so appealing. It must be quite a place to stay!

Prince of Wales Hotel at night Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada


One thing we discovered quickly is that the night skies in Waterton Lakes National Park are extremely dark and absolutely jam packed with stars. The park is 35 miles away from the nearest “big” town, and by “big” I mean 3,700 people. So there aren’t any city lights to block out the view of the stars.

We crept out in the wee hours of the morning one night and got a quick pic of the buggy hanging out under the Milky Way. Wow!!

RV Roads Less Traveled Milky Way Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Our buggy loves camping under the Milky Way!

This gave me an idea to set up a time-lapse video showing the Milky Way moving across the sky. Watching the result after I woke up in the morning was a total thrill!

So I did it again the next night and again the next. I combined all three nights into one 36 second video (below) which is very cool.

The first two sequences in the video show the movement of the stars between an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise, revealing the entire night passage of the Milky Way on two different nights.

Since it was mid-June, we were nearly at the Summer Solistice, and because we were above the 49th parallel, the nights were darn short! So, the time-lapse videos from each night run from 11:45 pm until 4:15 am. There’s not much nighttime in those parts at that time of year!!

The third overnight sequence in this time-lapse video captures a bit of the Northern Lights playing in the sky for a short while just after midnight. Then, suddenly, the sky clears and you can see the Milky Way’s march across the sky that goes on all the time as our planet does its pirouettes across the heavens.

Shortly after we had all this fun capturing the Milky Way in still images and time-lapse videos, we read an article that said that 80% of the earth’s inhabitants have never had the good fortune to see the Milky Way, because our night skies all around the world are so full of artificial light.

The article went on to say that during a city-wide power outage in 1994 in Los Angeles which was caused by the huge Northridge earthquake, the police got calls from frightened residents claiming there was a big scary silvery cloud hovering overhead!

As the time went by during our stay in gorgeous Waterton Lakes National Park, we found our days were action packed.

Besides taking the wonderful Waterton Shoreline Cruise on the historic ship MV International along the length of the park from Waterton down to Glacier National Park in Montana and back (blog post here), we also got out on our bikes on the fabulous paved trail that wanders along the water and out of town a ways.

Bike Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

We loved the paved bike paths (and walking/running trails) around Waterton Lakes.

What a fantastic trail this is. The mountains soared into the sky all around us.

Bicycle Path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Mark rode off ahead of me into the pages of a cycling brochure!

It is a fun, rolling ride that has a few tight turns. Reminders on the pavement — in French as well as English — kept us from going too fast!!

Sign on pavement at Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

It was fun seeing official signs in French as well as English, even on the pavement.

We ran on this trail and walked on it too. We never got tired of the views!

Bicycle path Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada


There’s great cycling on the roads as well, and we saw some cycling groups going by. This is a fairly remote place, so the traffic on the roads was pretty light, making for some great road riding.

Cyclists Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The roads around Waterton Lakes National Park are great for cycling too.

But Waterton Lakes can be enjoyed by other means besides a shoreline cruise on a boat or a bike ride. We saw a group of horseback riders out enjoying the views too!

Horseback riders Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

A group on horseback took in the views across Upper Waterton Lake.

The Red Rock Parkway is one of the main roads in Waterton Lakes, but it was closed for most of our time there. It did open on the weekends, though, and we had a chance to drive this wonderful scenic drive one Sunday.

Akamina Parkway Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The Red Rock Parkway took us into more distant parts of the park.

It’s a very pretty drive, and at the end is lovely Red Rock Canyon. It is a neat surprise to see red rocks amid all this green and blue scenery!

Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

It was such a great surprise to find red rocks in this
mountain-and-lakes National Park.

There was a thin stream of water flowing down the rocks, and we caught it in silky slow motion.

Red Rock Canyon Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Red Rock Canyon was a pretty place to explore.

What we really wanted to see, though, was wildflowers, and these were scattered along the meadows on either side of Red Rock Parkway. We didn’t see huge fields of them, but instead we found tiny individual flowers of all different kinds.

Yellow wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We found a pretty little wildflower looking up at the sun.

Pink round wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada


Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada


Some of these were just the size of the end of my finger, and they were really delicate too.

Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada


Mark discovered a little bed of lady slipper flowers. I’m used to these guys being fairly big (and pink!), but the tiny white ones he found were the size of a marble, if that. I loved the twisted pairs of ribboned leaves on each one. They were like the satin ribbons on ballet slippers… for Thumbelina or Tinkerbell!

Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

This tiny lady slipper is so small only Thumbelina’s foot could fit!

Ladyslipper wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Ladyslippers… and ribbon leaves to tie them with.

We found Bear Grass and cheerful yellow daisies and more.

Bear grass Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Bear grass was blooming everywhere.

Yellow wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

Some yellow daisies warm their petals in the sun.

Pink Wildflower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada


Dandelion flower Waterton Lakes National Park Canada


We were both in our element for a few hours sitting amid the flowers in the meadows. I know there are great hikes out on the Red Rock Parkway, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this little dollhouse world of flowers.

Sitting in the wildflowers Waterton Lakes National Park Canada

We didn’t get much hiking or exercise in, but communing with the wildflowers sure was fun.

When we returned to town we were greeted by a pair of friendly deer.

Deer at campsite Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

The fearless and ever so curious deer at Waterton Lakes were a highlight for us!

And a chipmunk showed us just how tall he could stand when there was a prize to be had.

Chipmunk reaching for food

This little chipmunk did tricks for us.

Waterton Lakes National Park is a really special destination, and it’s ideal for an RV trip. There’s a big campground with a variety of amenities in town and it’s just a stone’s throw over the border from the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana!

Class C Motorhome Waterton Lakes National Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park is a wonderful destination for an RV trip!!

If you are planning an RV road trip to Waterton Lakes, there are more tips and links below.

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Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina) – Wildflowers Everywhere!

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

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

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

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Pretty views from the Parkway

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

Cyclist on Blue Ridge Parkway

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

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

Tunnel on Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

The first few tunnels are a little low for an RV

Tunnel View on Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

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



Azalea flower Bllue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Wild azaleas

Pink wildflower

Pretty in Pink

Butterfly or moth

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

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

Motorcycles on the Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

A Path Between the Trees

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

Blue Ridge Parkway mountain views

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

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

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

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

Wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina

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

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


All shades of pink and red!

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

Wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina_

There were even a few blue flowers in the mix!

Wildflowers on the freeway Asheville North Carolina

We were thigh deep in flowers and loving it!

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

Wildflowers on the Interstate North Carolina

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

Wildflower Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Spring wildflower

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

RV in wildflowers I-40 Asheville North Carolina_

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

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Hurricane Creek Wildflowers – Enterprise OR

Trees at Wallowa Lake Oregon

Wallowa Lake

July, 2014 – For a tiny little village, Joseph, Oregon, had been keeping us very busy with a wonderful variety of activiites.

From the unusual bike ride on the old railroad tracks to the Wallowa Tramway to enjoying the scenery along Wallowa Lake, we had been enchanted by this corner of northeastern Oregon every day.

Sacajawea statue in Joseph Oregon

Indian guide Sacajawea

Everywhere around Joseph is incredibly photogenic. Mark got a beautiful shot of the red and green trees down at Wallowa Lake.

Bounding deer in Joseph Oregon


In town, he got another beauty of the bronze sculpture of the multi-lingual Indian guide Sacajawea.

She helped Lewis and Clark on their 1805 expedition to the Pacific Ocean, not only with translations between two Indian languages, English and French, but with route-finding as well.

Hiking the Hurricane Treek Trail Eagle Cap Wilderness

Hiking into the Eagle Cap Wilderness at Hurricane Creek


Deer are abundant in and around Joseph, and one afternoon Mark miraculously caught one mid-flight as it bounded across the road.

Fording Hurricane Creek in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Who knew acrobatics were part of this hike?!

Wildflowers on Hurricane Creek Trail Eagle Cap Wilderness

What a pretty field of flowers!

Hanging out in Joseph with our friends Dick and Katie made our time even more special.

When they suggested we all hike into the Eagle Cap Wilderness on the Hurricane Creek Trail, we were delighted.

Wildflower on the Hurricane Treek Trail Eagle Cap Wilderness

There were beautiful wildflowers everywhere.





There hadn’t been any mention of fording rushing streams, but within the first half mile we had to make our way across a precarious log bridge!

Wildflowers on Hurricane Creek Hike Enterprise Oregon

And such pretty shapes!

Wildflowers in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Oregon

Such delicate patterns!


After a lot of uphill hiking through the woods, the trail suddenly delivered us into the most spectacular meadow.

It was filled with wildflowers, and surrounded on two sides by snow-capped mountains.

We were in seventh heaven admiring all the gorgeous scenery!


Hurricane Creek Trail Oregon wildflowers

The wildflowers came in all shapes and sizes: pink ones and lavender ones,; big ones and small ones.  Each seemed to be basking in the brilliant sunshine.

Waterfall at Hurricane Creek Trail Enterprise Oregon

A refreshing waterfall

After communing with the spirits of the colorful flowers for a while, we finally followed the trail through the woods and eventually came to a huge crashing waterfall.

Resting on Hurricane Creek Trail Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon


Riverside at Hurricane Creek Enterprise Oregon

The stream was shallow, but oh so clear!

This was a great spot for a break, and we all enjoyed a snack while zephyrs of cool air wafted over us from the cascading water, caressing our sun-baked skin.

Terminal Gravity Brewing Enterprise Oregon


In places, the creek alongside the trail was a vivid light blue and as clear as could be.

Back in Enterprise, we stopped at Terminal Gravity Brewing for a taste of their microbrew.

Sitting at picnic tables outside the brewpub under several huge shade trees, we enjoyed their outstanding Festiva ale, a yummy beer that can’t be found anywhere else!

Joseph Oregon Scenery

Joseph is incredibly photogenic!

Joseph captured our hearts in every way. It is scenic, quiet, relaxing and far from the rush and chaos of the real world, a perfect combination for a summer break.

Joseph Oregon Horese in a field

The fields were bright green and yellow when we arrived.

The languid days oozed from one to the next, and at one point we were convinced it was Thursday until we checked our wall clock and it told us it was Sunday. How did that happen? I don’t know, but we were loving the slow pace.

Mark gets lost amid the mustard flowers

Mark is in his element — lost in the wildflowers!

We stayed in Joseph, Oregon, so long that the daisies that had been approaching their peak when we arrived had begun to fade.

Sunset in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Oregon

A beautiful starburst in the trees at sunset!

The farm fields around town went from the bright greens and vivid yellows of the mustard flowers (planted to rejuvenate the soil) to the dull grey-greens of cut hay.

Hay bales began to dot the fields from horizon to horizon, and one day we noticed the clear air had become stained with the white haze of smoke from distant forest fires.

We still had one more hike we wanted to do, the Lostine River Trail hike that our friend Kim of the Joseph Branch Railriders had recommended very highly.

But we discovered the “distant” fires were actually very close and disturbing.  The Hurricane Creek Trail that we had just hiked was now closed.  A fire was burning in the wilderness we had just hiked.

This was the third time this season we had blazed a trail and left it blazing behind us, first at West Fork in Sedona and then in the Bend, Oregon, area and now here.

Reluctantly, we spread our maps out on the floor of the buggy and began to ponder our next move. North? East? South? We weren’t sure… However, after a few days of musings, inspiration finally struck!

Camping in a Fifth wheel trailer

Picture perfect…this was a time of pure peace and summertime bliss!

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For more information about hiking in this wonderful area, here are links for the Hurricane Creek Trail and the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

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