Taos, New Mexico: 1/11 – 1/23/20

We arrived in Taos late Saturday in the dark, something we said we weren’t going to do anymore. We had previously alerted the office manager at Taos Valley RV Park & Campground that we had a new rig that would require a larger site than we originally had reserved. It was after hours, but they left us papers with our site number. Unfortunately, someone didn’t do their job because the site was way too small for our fifth wheel. We walked around in the dark until we found an empty site that was big enough. In the morning, we were lucky to be told that we could stay in our selected site #78.

Our friends, Gail and Charlie Brunner, were arriving today. They rented a condo close to Taos Ski Valley. We agreed that we would meet at the mountain in the morning. I had been told that Taos was known for its back country skiing and double black diamond runs, as evidenced in the trail map below. Kachina Peak, the highest elevation, is located on the top left.

Monday was a sunny but cold, windy day. Hence, we only have one picture that Gail took. Check out the warning sign. Never saw this one skiing before.

The next day, Scott had to go back Amarillo to sign the title for our Coachman Trailer that we traded in. He made the 11-hour, round-trip drive in one day. Meanwhile, I went skiing with Gail and Charlie. It was a beautiful, bluebird day! Kachina Peak was closed and the trails open were fast and hard.

Scott made it back in time to join us for dinner at Guadalajara Grill. As we entered the cafeteria style restaurant, we were hoping that we had made a good choice. You had to order and pay for your food at a counter, and then they bring the food to your choice of table. Never judge a book by its cover. The food was delicious. I ordered the 7-piece Shrimp and Salsa dish. Delish!

On Wednesday, the four of us took off for the slopes. It hadn’t snowed in about a week, but the conditions were still pretty good. We had found a fun, short mogul run that we returned to with Scott. You had to ski across the trees and come out above the moguls.

It was our second run of the day, and Gail had taken the lead. The guys were behind me. By the time I came out of the trees, she was halfway down the mogul run. She was rocking it! I was encouraged by her to give it my all and go for it. As I got to the halfway point, I stopped and looked ahead. Gail was lying on the flat ground, and she was not moving. I quickly skied up to her and knew immediately that she was hurt. The guys were at our sides in a flash, and they quickly got her skis off. She caught an edge stopping and simply fell down. She hit the side of her head and landed hard on her right shoulder. It was only a short distance to get to a First Aid Station. As tough as she is, Gail was able to ski slowly, while Charlie held her poles. She eventually took off her skis and walked where she could. They did an initial examination at the First Aid Station, and prepared her for a sled ride to the base of the mountain. Charlie stayed with her and Scott and I skied a few more runs. It wasn’t as much fun anymore. We soon checked back with them and found out that Gail had fractured her collarbone. Bummer.

The next morning, Scott had to drive up to Durango by Molly to drop off our toys. She would be storing them for us for the remainder of the winter. He would be spending the night. On his way out, he dropped me off at the Brunner’s condo. Gail stayed at the condo while Charlie and I went out skiing. It was cloudy and snowing lightly.

I let him be my private instructor. He was very patient. We went back to the moguls where Gail had gotten hurt.

We had a fun day, but I had reached my saturation point by mid afternoon. Charlie took a few more runs. I waited at the base and took a still photo.

I am not even sure if he is in the above picture. So, I tried a video. He is wearing red pants with a black jacket. Watch closely. He is the second skier at the end with red pants.

After a great day of skiing, we headed back to the condo. Charlie and I made dinner, and he did what he could to make Gail comfortable. She is such a trooper. The next morning it was snowing, windy and cold. We woke up Friday morning to more snow.

Charlie and I headed out to ski. It was colder today, and the visibility was nil when we got off the chair lift on top of the mountain. Charlie took the lead and before I knew it, I could no longer see him. For me, the conditions were too challenging, coupled with little to no visibility. And now I was alone. I made a very quick decision to quit for the day, and I skied down to the base. It wasn’t long before Charlie found me. I encouraged him to keep skiing if he wanted to. I was quite content just hanging out until Scott and Gail arrived. Scott would be back by early afternoon, and he was going to stop at the condo to get Gail and bring her to the mountain. She was beginning to feel well enough to get some fresh air. As you can see, she was prepared for sitting outside on a snowy day.

Gail and Charlie had to leave on Saturday. Since we weren’t into the weekend crowds, Scott and I went for a hike at the Rio Grande River Gorge.

This looks like prayer flags.
Look dead center to see the Rio Grand River.

On Sunday, Scott needed to work on the trailer so I went to yoga. I pulled a muscle in class, which kept me home the following day. Scott ventured out to ski alone on Monday. He reported that Kachina Peak was open but that he didn’t want to go without me.

It was snowing on Tuesday, our last day to ski here. We pretty much had the mountain all to ourselves. It was quite the powder day! The only bummer was that they closed Kachina Peak again. I guess we will not be able to ski that peak this season. We will certainly be back.

On our way back to the RV Park, we stopped for an early dinner at a local restaurant.

It would be here at The Alley Cantina that I would enjoy a new, local Mexican beer! Love the name!

On Wednesday morning, we were on our way to meet Molly in Durango. The most direct route required us to drive over a pass. The view on Highway 64 was breathtaking with clouds that looked like snow in the sky.

About two hours into our five hour ride, we noticed that the blacktop would soon come to an end. Great.

We had to turn around and head back east to go south and then east again. This added an extra two hours to our trip. By the time we arrived in Durango, it was dark. Didn’t we say we weren’t going to do this anymore??? We were able to park our new Fifth Wheel in the driveway at Molly’s friend’s parent’s house. It had snowed prior to our arrival and the driveway’s entrance was quite narrow. It is a pleasure to back in a 38-foot trailer into a narrow space for the first time in the dark. The pictures below were taken the next morning.

That evening, Scott and I went to a speakeasy in Durango where Scott had been with Molly and her friends this past week. From the outside it looks like a barber shop, which is also is.

The bookcase was a hidden door that takes you into the bar.

This is strictly a bar with a number of drink concoctions. Scott examined the menu and we made our choices.

Sue’s drink
Scott’s drink

Tomorrow morning, Molly, Scott and I will be boarding a plane to head back to New Jersey for a weekend family wedding in the Catskills.

Texas: 1/1 – 1/12/2020

Bright and early on the first day of 2020, we arrived in Texas.

We spent two days at the Jetstream RV Resort at NASA in Webster, just southeast of Houston.  

During this time, we continued our search for a new trailer.  I had become obsessed with the prospect of upgrading.  We were becoming more educated with the options available to us.  We learned that the Montana is higher priced because of its interior looks but is not necessarily well built.  We learned that two of the top makers for quality built RV’s are Jayco and Forest River, but everyone has an opinion.  We checked out a Jayco Eagle at Lonestar RV in Houston, but left empty-handed once again.  It just wasn’t right.  I couldn’t get that Mississippi Montana RV out of my mind.

We arrived at Northlake Village RV Park in Roanoke, only 20 minutes from our friends in Keller, Texas. This resort was not only closer to them, but much nicer than the Fort Worth RV Park where we stayed last year.

It was great to see the Miller Clan again and to be able to celebrate Kate’s birthday in person.  We had four days together, which included a day trip to Six Flags and dining at the movie theatre.

Six Flags Over Texas

 

On Tuesday, January 7, we headed northwest towards Amarillo.  We had found online a Coachman Fifth Wheel for sale at Century RV that looked promising.  Scott and I had agreed on a rear-living layout with three slides and an island kitchen.  Below is a picture depicting the type of center island kitchen/cooking area we were looking for. 

Our current RV is made by Coachman, and we have had no issues with it thus far.  We found a RV Resort not far from Century RV, so we booked a night at Oasis RV Resort so that we could continue looking at RV’s the next day.  It was a brand new resort with almost 200 sites.

The next morning we got to Century Auto RV Sales to check out the Coachman Fifth Wheel.  We liked it but it had a residential refrigerator, which would require upgrading the battery system for boon docking.  Except for the fridge, it pretty much had what we were looking for.  

Dale, our salesman, suggested that we look at a Palomino Columbus Compass that was on his lot.  Within a very short time, we knew we had found our new home…a 2020 Palomino Columbus Compass 329 DVC, which is made by Forest River, Inc.

For the next few days we remained in windy Amarillo, waiting for our new home to be readied for sale.  Scott had to remove the cap from the bed of the truck, take apart the built-in-drawers, and empty all contents to make room for the fifth wheel tow. We had to rent a U Haul to take our “toys” to Durango where Molly would store them for us temporarily. Scott ordered a new trailer hitch to hold our bikes, kayaks, and SUP.

We had to kill some time, so we drove to Cadillac Ranch, one of the worlds’ first roadside sculptures. It features ten Cadillacs buried nose down in a field. You are allowed to bring your own paint can and be creative. You are also encouraged to take your empty cans to the on-site dumpster. It seems like many people forgot that simple task. We didn’t partake in this activity.

The Entrance

Our next tourist stop was at The RV Museum, which featured RVs, camping and lifestyle exhibits from the 1920’s through today.

The Juke Box reminds me of Hagler’s in Oradell.
This looks like our first TV set from the 60’s.
My Grandpa Joe Finnegan traveled around the country in one of these.

The next morning, we were ready and on our way to pick up our new home. Notice the empty bed in the photo below.

It was time to shake hands with Bill and Dale and get on our way again.

If you would like to see the inside of our new home, check out the “About Us” page.

Our planned ski trip was delayed by four days, but we were truly happy with the reason for our delay.  Next stop, Taos, New Mexico.  Woo-Hoo!!

Alabama/Mississippi/ Louisiana: 12/31/2019

On the last day of 2019, we exited the Sunshine State.  Our next destination was Texas, but we knew that it would take a few days before we would arrive near friends in Roanoke.  December 31, 2019, was a beautiful, sunny morning as we arrived in Alabama.

We stopped at a rest area and played a little frisbee. 

Back on Hwy 10W, it was’t long before we entered the next state.

Scott and I had been discussing upgrading to a larger trailer as we recently decided to stay on the road for longer than initially planned.  We had been online searching for fifth wheels and found one in our price range at a Camping World in Biloxi, Mississippi.  We stopped in to just look and see what our options were.  The savvy salesman knew our price range, yet that didn’t stop him from showing us a rig that was way over our budget.  I fell in love with it immediately, and then he told us the price.  He never should have shown us this Montana fifth wheel.  He negotiated with us a little bit, but we didn’t sway.  A budget is a budget.  The salesman knew that I loved this RV, but we didn’t budge.  We had spent four hours looking at RV’s, and then walked out without making a purchase.  It was already 5:14 p.m. as we entered Louisiana.

We made the decision to stop driving for the day.  It was New Year’s Eve after all, and we were hungry.  I wanted to eat some home style Louisiana food.  We googled restaurants in the area and found a little place in Slidell that served seafood.  We ordered their fried seafood platter for two.

Not only did we not like the food, but we also felt pretty ill afterwards.  It was a rough evening.  Happy New Year!!! More to come in 2020 as we make our way to Texas.

Gulf Islands National Seashore: 12/28 – 12/31

It rained for most of our time in Southern Florida which was considered unusual since it was dry season.  We had maybe four nice days out of the 17 days we were there.  On the day that we left Markham State Park, we had to wait for the rain to subside.

As we travelled west and then north on 75, the rain continued.  We drove several hours and stopped at Ocala Sun RV Resort for the night. It appeared that perhaps the rain was finally going to stop.

Ocala Resort is a rather large, newly renovated RV resort located just west of Hwy 75 not far from the pan handle and Hwy 40 which heads west.  It seemed like a good place to stop driving and call it a day. Unfortunately, for a reason unbeknownst to me, I was having difficulty falling asleep.  I got out of bed and sat up reading on the couch.  My cough would still prevail.  I finally got up to get some honey and lemon.  As I reached for the handle of the refrigerator, I was eye level and only about ten inches from a rather large frog that was hanging out of the side of our fridge.  Well, I SCREAMED bloody murder.  Scott jumped out of bed not knowing why I was losing it.  I couldn’t speak but merely pointed toward the now hopping creature.  He didn’t tell me at the time that he didn’t want to touch it because a lot of tree frogs have poisonous skin. He also didn’t tell me that it was most likely the same frog that had taken up rent on our picnic table back at Markham Park in Weston.

I recall the day that Scott told me we had a new pet living outside of the trailer, but I wasn’t interested in frogman.  Now, in the middle of the night, I just wanted him to get it OUT OF MY HOUSE and fast.  Scott turned toward me with a pointed figure and yelled at me to STOP screaming.  I was so stunned that not only did I stop screaming, but I also stopped coughing.  LOL. You cannot make this stuff up.  He finally caught the frog in Tupperware, and tossed him out the door.  Then, I became obsessed with cleaning the areas that our ex-pet had travelled upon.  I was completely grossed out, but I was no longer coughing.  Finally, I went to bed and slept. 

Back in May of 2018 when we began full-timing, I recall telling Scott that if we found any creature in our trailer, I would be leaving for good.  We both had to be conscious of not leaving the screen door open so that the scary creatures would stay outside in their habitat and not enter ours. I think that during our first 20 months on the road, we had only a couple of flies, a few moths, and two beetles find their way into our home.  It wasn’t a big deal, as I was more concerned with reptiles making an unwelcome visit.  So, here we were with a frog freaking me out in the middle of the night.  I was half asleep, not feeling well, and certainly not expecting to see what I saw without any warning.  I chose to hang around and not leave.  

Sorry for the sidebar about the frog, but it was a pretty significant event in my opinion.  It could have been a game changer…but lucky for Scott, it wasn’t.

The next morning, we headed west on Route 40 towards Gulf Shores National Seashore.  This National Park is a two-state, 160-mile park that offers many recreational opportunities and beautiful white, sandy beaches.  We chose Fort Pickens which is south of Pensacola Bay in Florida.  Years ago, Pensacola Bay had been chosen as the site for a navy yard, a depot, mainland and island forts, a naval timber reserve and more.  It’s Third System masonry forts represents over 200 years of innovation in military design, materials weapons, and strategy aimed to fortify major US harbors after the War of 1812.  Interestingly enough, it was also the reason why it was abandoned decades later.  Of the nearly 200 forts recommended nationwide, only 42 were built.  Today, the park preserves five sites.  

It had finally stopped raining as we drove over the Pensacola Bay Bridge, Route 98, to Gulf Breeze Island. 

Then, we crossed over Santa Rosa Sound and onto Fort Pickens Road.  As we drove west, the GPS map reminded us that we were on a very narrow piece of land with water on both sides.  

When we arrived at the Fort Pickens Campground Registration, there was a long line.  Scott wanted to watch the sunset, but he needed to wait on line.  So, I snuck outside to catch a last peak for the day.  Just look at that white sand!

Scott soon joined me and took a short video with my camera.

After we got settled, we walked down to the beach.  It was only a five minute walk from our campsite.  It was now 5:43 p.m.

The next morning, Scott got up early to catch the sunrise.  

The sun was shining but the temperature had fallen from yesterday.  It was 45 degrees overnight and by early morning, it was still chilly. 

Scott got busy working on the trailer while I happily read my book inside the trailer.

My talented husband!

By late morning, the temperature had risen to 61 degrees and the sun was shining!  Since it wasn’t exactly swimming weather, we got our bikes and went for a ride.  Fort Pickens is the park’s largest fort.  It has been partially restored and reveals how its construction has developed over time. 

After walking around the fort, we got back on our bikes and came to a small, wooden bridge where we could observe the quiet marshes and birds.  

We made our way back out to the main road and onto the shore. The sun felt warm on our skin, but not warm enough for me to go for a swim.

I found a happy spot.

You know who had no issues with the cold air coupled with cold water.

Time to dry off.

The following morning, New Year’s Eve Day, we took a morning walk to the beach. It was another beautiful morning.

What appeared to be a straight path to the water, ended up being a drop off of about 30 feet.

Here we would find a beautiful crane looking for breakfast.

We both would love the opportunity to go back to these beaches in warmer weather.  I now have another repeat location on my list of places to see. Now it was time to exit Florida.

Everglades National Park: 12/14/19

“Everglades National Park is an American national park that protects the southern twenty percent of the original Everglades in Florida. The park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States, and the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippis River. An average of one million people visit the park each year. Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous United States after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Most national parks preserve unique geographic features; Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem. The Everglades are a network of wetlands and forests fed by a river flowing 0.25 miles (0.40 km) per day out of Lake Okeechobee, southwest into Florida Bay. The park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America and contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Thirty-six threatened or protected species inhabit the park, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee, along with 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles.”

Who knew? I was aware of the fact that my sister’s home in Weston, Florida, was built on the Everglades. In the twenty years that she has lived there, I went to visit dozens of times. Yet, I never once went to the National Park. My biggest fear is that of alligators. Route 75 (also known as Alligator Alley) runs west out of Weston to Naples. Take one guess why they call it Alligator Alley. We continued west on 75 to Route 29 South to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. After watching a few historical movies, we took a break on the water’s edge enjoying the view. We wondered if we were looking at one of the Ten Thousand Islands, a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of southwest Florida, between Cape Romano and the mouth of the Lostman’s River.

Mangrove or Island?

We went back north and then headed east on Tamiami Trail (Route 41) and entered Big Cypress National Preserve.

Big Cypress National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in South Florida about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami on the Atlantic coastal plain. Unlike the vast sea of grass that makes up the Everglades, Big Cypress has five primary habitats: Hardwood hammocks, Pineland, Prairies, Cypress swamps, and Estuaries. The Preserve is open all year, but the Visitor Centers are closed on December 25. From December through April, rangers lead programs including swamp walks, canoe tours, talks and amphitheater programs. Recreation options include bird watching, wildflower viewing, bicycling, canoeing, hunting and off-road vehicle explorations. There are several parks with boardwalk trails along Tamiami Trail. We stopped at Ochopee first and chatted with a friendly ranger.

It would be here that we would see our first alligator!

I needed to mail some postcards, so we made a quick stop at the post office.

All this walking was making us hungry. There was one restaurant in the area. It was both bizarre and yummy.

Drinks are self served

Our next stop was H.P. Williams Roadside Park.

We took a short walk and snapped a few pictures of our friends below us.

Aren’t they cute?

Our next stop was at Kirby Storter Roadside Park where we enjoyed a long walk along another boardwalk. Since it was winter’s dry season, you could tell how high the water level had been during the wet season.

Cypress Swamp

We got back in the truck and continued east to Loop Road, otherwise known as County Road 94. It is 24 miles long and is south of the current path of Tamiami Trail. The rangers at the Visitor’s Center had suggested we take a ride on this unpaved road. It was quiet and magical as we drove for miles, stopping to catch photos of gators and birds.

Brave, isn’t he? I took my pictures from the truck!

We exited the park at the Tamiami Ranger Station located on the southeast side. Scott would return for an overnight solo kayak trip on December 20. Before he left, I wanted to know his EXACT plan. I wasn’t thrilled about his solo journey, but I knew I would have high anxiety if I joined him. He entered Everglades National Park via Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center from the east and traveled to Flamingo Visitor Center to obtain his overnight permit. He parked at Hells Bay Canoe Trail, and planned to sleep in a lean to on Pearl Bay Chickee Island. He saw one group of four people along the way, and he was able to get some footage with his GoPro.

After two hours paddling through the mangroves, he stopped to take a quick break. As he got back into the water, the kayak flipped over and he lost his drinking water. It was a quick but difficult decision to abort this journey. After all, there would be no place to get fresh water. Needless to say, this is EXACTLY why I wouldn’t go with him. There are gators in those waters…even though he never saw any.

Florida – “The Sunshine State”: 12/10 – 12/28/19

On the morning of Tuesday, 12/10, we took 278W out of Hilton Head Island to 95S to 4W towards Orlando. We passed briefly through Georgia, and took a moment to stop at a Rest Area. It was a hot, beautiful day.

It wasn’t long before we would enter The Sunshine State.

We wanted to break up the driving from Hilton Head to Fort Lauderdale, so we stopped at about the half way mark. We found an RV Park in Orlando to spend the night.

That evening, we met my friend Lori’s daughter, Tracey, and her husband, Joe, at a restaurant in Windermere – Signature Lakes. It was a gorgeous night, and it was great to spend it talking with friends.

When we were getting ready to leave the next morning, we saw a little friend in our yard. I wasn’t quite sure what it was at first. Can you identify it?

We arrived at our home for the next 17 days within five hours.

This beautiful state park is located just outside of Weston, and only a 15 minute drive to my sister’s home. We had site C6 that abutted a canal. Truth be told, we didn’t see ONE gator in the park while we were here. This was a fear that I had during the entire stay, and it never materialized.

This 666-acre park features 11 miles of bike trails plus model airplane field and lakes for jet skiing. It has a popular doggie park (Markham Barkham), playgrounds, tennis courts, 18-hole frisbee golf course, picnic areas, and an outdoor fitness area. It also has a shooting range for skeet, pistols, and archery. While we were there, we watched a RC (remote control) Boat competition. Unfortunately, it rained A LOT during our stay. It rained just about every night, and the mountain bike trails were closed the entire time due to the muddy conditions that were created. We did, however, take a ride along the canal on one of our last days there. We were able to get a view of our campsite from the opposite direction.

Besides being in Florida to celebrate Christmas with family, we also got to be a part of some special events and reconnect with old friends.

My nephew, Cody, graduated from University of Miami on 12/12/19.
Lunch and at the Boatyard in Fort Lauderdale for my sister, Rosie’s, birthday on 12/15/19.
Prime Time Bar & Grill in Weston for my brother-in-law, Dean’s, birthday 12/18/19.
My dearest Lipton friend, Debi, in her home.
Playing tourists in Jupiter.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
A wee bit windy on top.
Gorgeous eastern view from the top.
The Spirit of Lauderdale Sunset Catamaran Cruise on 12/26/19.

And finally, the only picture that I have of all of us…and my phone was on Portrait. Oops. I would have preferred to have my family in focus and my face blurry. LOL

During this visit, Scott and I visited Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. A separate blog will detail this event.

Next, we will head north in Florida to the white, sandy beaches in the panhandle.

Hilton Head, SC: 12/8 – 12/10/19

We traveled on 321N out of Tennessee to 40E into North Carolina.

We continued on via 26E to 95S to 462E to Hilton Head Island, 170W to 278E. We arrived in the dark which is never a good thing. It’s not worth getting into how I got lost walking from our parked trailer to the showers/pool area. If that wasn’t bad enough, I got lost AGAIN after my shower trying to get back to the trailer. It was a maze of circles amidst pitch blackness. There were no street lights. I was a tad angry at someone who I won’t mention. He could have waited for me.

My friends, Mary and George, retired this year and moved from New Jersey down to Hilton Head. We were excited to be able to spend some time with them. We got a site at Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina for two nights. Once I was able to see the place in the daylight, it was easy enough to maneuver about.

That evening, we dined at Hudson’s, where we enjoyed excellent seafood. The next day we played tourists as George drove us around the island. We stopped at Harbour Town, picked up a sandwich and walked the pier.

Later, we stopped at the Tiki Hut for drinks and a little karaoke.

Just a short walk from the bar was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean complete with colorful turtle statues.

Hilton Head Island is one of the SC beaches where the Loggerhead Sea Turtles lay their eggs. They are listed as a threatened species by both the federal government and the state of South Carolina. Sea Turtle Season begins in early May and runs through October. This was the only turtle that we saw. It is December after all.

We finished up the evening enjoying more delicious seafood at Jane’s Bistro, a fun, eclectic American restaurant on the island. I highly recommend it.

Next stop is Florida, The Sunshine State.

Great Smoky Mountains, TN: 12/5 – 12/8/19

We continued heading south on 211 to 81S into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We had reserved a spot for three nights at Greenbrier Campground in site 48 that abuts Little Pigeon River.

Front Yard View
Backyard view of stream.

The next morning we dressed for warmth and headed to Great Smoky Mountains, among the oldest mountains in the world. The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. U.S. 441, known in the park as Newfound Gap Road, is a high mountain road that cuts across the ridge near the center of the park, providing outstanding scenic views. We entered the park from the north.

We had a late start and arrived at the trailhead about 20 minutes before noon. You can see the snow on the ground at the beginning of the trail. Notice on the trail sign the distance to Katahdin Maine is 1,972.0 miles. This entry point is about 228 miles from the Appalachian Trail’s southern starting point in Georgia.

This part of the Appalachian Trail led us to Charles Bunion Trail, an 8.5-mile round-trip trek with an elevation gain of 1,854 feet.

The trail was snow and ice covered most of the way. It was cold and damp. It wasn’t long before we had to put on our micro spikes.

We made it to Charles Bunion summit and perched ourselves on the rock.

View looking to the right
View looking to the left

The Cherokee described these mountains as shaconage, meaning “blue, like smoke.” It seems appropriate, don’t you agree?

When we returned to our truck, I noticed the sign in the parking lot showing the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Facing East
Facing West

The next day we drove through the town of Gatlinburg to Cherokee Orchard Road, which led to the trailhead for Rainbow Falls Trail.

It was a bit warmer today, and the constant gain in elevation made layering necessary today. We would peel off the outer layers as we climbed up, only to put them back on once we reached the falls. Our trek today would total 6.7 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 1,680 feet. The trail ran alongside Le Conte Creek. Here we are getting closer to Rainbow Falls.

And, yet another warning sign.

There were several people hanging out at this juncture, but we still opted for a selfie.

Scott wanted to get as close as possible to the falls. The heck with the warning sign. Can you find him in the photo?

It afforded him a much better angle than mine.

Gatlinburg, TN, is one of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s principal gateway communities. It is located on U.S. 441 on the park’s norther border, just two miles north of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The city offers lodging, dining, and shopping. During the holidays, the main streets are loaded with holiday lights. Here are just a few.

Saturday, December 7, was the 44th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. We didn’t go since the parking was ridiculous and the crowds even more so. It was, however, televised and due to air in about 100 markets during the week of Christmas.

Next stop is Hilton Head, South Carolina!

Shenandoah National Park, VA: 12/3 – 12/5/19

We ended up leaving New Jersey two days later than planned due to the first snowstorm of the season.

We travelled from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia and finally into Virginia (routes 80W to 95S to 78W to 81S to 211S).

Did you know that the tourism and travel slogan “Virginia Is For Lovers” was just an ad campaign from 1969 that stuck?

We set up camp on Site RV-2 at Outlanders River Camp, located on The Shenandoah River in the town of Luray.

There was only one other RV, without a car, in the campground and no evidence of people in it. The main office was closed, but they had left us information with our site number. It was a cool, windy night, but we did have a full hook up and a wide open view of the mountains.

The next morning we drove about 20 minutes to Shenandoah National Park. Its’ scenic roadway, Skyline Drive, follows the crest of the Blue Ridge mountains for 105 miles. At its’ southern end, it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches 469 miles to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our original plan was to take about four days, driving from the northern part of Skyline Drive all the way to the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unfortunately, the loss of two days departing from New Jersey, coupled with the lack of campgrounds open at this time of year, made it impossible for us to do so.

We entered Shenandoah National Park at the Thornton Gap Entrance Station.

First, we hiked about to the summit of Mary’s Rock Trail from Meadow Spring.

This winding trail climbs up through the forest to a rock ledge. Spectacular view to the west, as far as the Allegheny Mountains.

After reaching Mary’s Rock summit, we followed the AT for awhile. We walked past a through hiker with a simple hello. He looked tired and we thought it was extremely late in the season to see a through hiker heading north. When we got back from our 6.2 mile hike, we saw the same hiker in the parking lot. Mike, a retired Veteran from Kentucky, was an Appalachian Trail “flip-flop” hiker. He was down to his last 81 miles to complete his seven month trek. A flip flop hiker completes the entire 2,170-mile AT trail from one end (Mt. Katahdan in Maine) to the other end (Georgia’s Springer Mountain) but not in succession. Sometimes, weather conditions will prevent a hiker from moving forward. Rather than quit, there is the option of rerouting. Mike’s last stretch was from where we saw him in Luray, Virginia to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. He needed a ride into town to regroup before his last week on the trail. We were his “trail angels” and gave him a ride into town. He did agree, however, to take a short drive north on Skyline drive. We stopped to take in the views. The boys stayed in the car.

While getting ready to head out the next morning, Scott stumbled upon a black-widow spider. He told me that you can tell that it is a black widow by the red mark of its body. I did not know that little fact, and I also thought that they were much larger in size. You tell me.

We are off to Tennessee

New Jersey Visit: 11/4 – 12/2/19

It is always bittersweet for me to be back in New Jersey to spend time with my family and friends. It’s feels like a tug of war in my brain, however, as I embrace the old and attempt to find its’ place in the new. I don’t live in New Jersey anymore. I live on the road with my husband. We get to travel to new places (some repeaters), and we are getting a glimpse into the diversity of our beautiful country as we wonder about where we will live when we grow up and settle down. What we don’t get is the regularity of spending time with the people we love. And, we don’t have a home base. Although, I do consider my mom’s home my home base. While it is not a complaint, this is the reality of my current life on the road, of being a full timer. All I can do is accept that which is and “to bloom where I am planted”, one of my mom’s favorite words of wisdom.

During our time back in New Jersey, Scott and I went hiking a few times in good-ole-Harriman State Park. Harriman is located in New York, just outside of the town of Tuxedo. It is the second largest state park in New York. Located in Rockland and Orange counties 30 miles north of New York City, it is a haven for hikers with over 200 miles of hiking trails. The park is also known for its 31 lakes, multiple streams, public camping area, and great vistas. The park’s hiking trails are currently maintained by volunteers from the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference. Although, the elevation gain is minimal, there are lots of great trails to get your heart rate up. We have a favorite that we call “Our Loop”, which is about 4.5 miles in length. Here we are with our friend, Karen. It was perfect weather for an east coast hike.

Below are some highlights from this trip back home.

Finnegan’s for Lunch with Mom
Celebrating Grandma Moo’s 90th Birthday!
Sixty and Sensational
Visiting Baby Luke
Taking the Ferry to the Big Apple
Holiday Dinner at Carmines with “The Gang”
Celebrating Danielle’s 28th Birthday!
Getting a Tree in NYC
Helped with the Lights
Celebrating Lizzie’s Birthday!