Category: State Parks

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Sunday, July 10, 2022

We took two hikes through Kodachrome Valley State Park. It is described as a basin within a much larger basin. Once filled by the Cretaceous Sea, these basins were filled with water when the seas receded. So many of the southwest’s unique rock shapes, colors and forms were created by these seas and sometimes raging rivers. It is hard to imagine now in these dry lands, but it was much different 170 million years ago.

It was overcast, which made for a perfect day for hiking, but the colors don’t show up unless the sun is shining. Still, it was cool. We were surprised to find two campgrounds, a visitor’s center, and even a laundry! The park was named by a National Geographic expedition that photographed the area in 1948 and published an article.

At a crossroad, we read a sign pointing the way to Escalante National Monument, 45 miles on a gravel road through the Grand Staircase on a gravel road to Rt. 89.

We were all a bit worn out, so we took a break the rest of the day. I finally had time to fix a small leak under the sink and looked into the drive to Zion National Park tomorrow and through the Zion 

Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Just outside Goblin Valley State Park is Wild Horse Canyon, which can be a four-mile or eight-mile hike. We opted for the four-mile, which meant we would hike up the slot canyon until it meets a gravel road, then go back down. A sign warned to check weather before hiking. Flash flooding can put you in danger in a slot canyon. “Be aware of your escape route.” Capitol Reef National Park had big flooding issues three weeks ago. Six people had to be rescued and 60-80 people were stranded in a parking lot.

Although an incredibly beautiful storm came through last night, there was nothing expected today, and it was a beautiful morning. It starts out walking up a dry stream bed. We talked with an experienced family with three small children, who said the forecast was good. They were obviously experienced hikers with all the right gear. The husband had climbing gear and a rope over his shoulder. I felt good following them, but when we stopped to photograph a few lizards, they were gone. I’m pretty sure they were doing the 8-mile loop and would come down the slot canyon on their way back.

As the canyon narrowed from 60 yards to four feet, to 3 feet, we had to negotiate rocks and puddles of water. Once we surrendered to getting our feet wet, it became easier, but still challenging. Karen and Nathan are tremendous athletes and the kids are too. Melissa, usually silent until after noon, was leading the way, talking and laughing the entire way. I couldn’t help but laugh. She is a gymnastic star and cheering team member with strength and flexibility that are incredible. She was playing a Disney star describing the challenges presented.

As with most hikes, Martha and I were glad to get to the top, but already wondering if going down would be even tougher. Fortunately it was easier. I think everyone rated it one of their favorite hikes. It was pretty, challenging and very different. I kept looking for mountain lions or goats, but never saw anything. Karen, however, spotted several pronghorn on the way to the hike.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

We were first scheduled to stay two nights in Goblin Valley, but it has been very hot and Goblin has no electric, or hookups. You can get water, and there is a dump station. It’s a cool campground, with views of the Goblins and mountains. It was a little intimidating at first, being so hot, and it is in the middle of nowhere. Once we got used to it, and all it’s beauty, two nights would have been fine.

There are no hikes in Goblin Valley. You just wander Goblin Valley on your own. Karen decided to take a trail that leads to Goblin Valley from the campground, up and over a small mountain, then down through a narrow wash that finally led us to the Goblins, the Three Sisters and up to the parking lot overlooking Goblin Valley Three. Again, it is so hard to imagine this whole, dry area covered by an inland sea, but it was, and what made this area unique is it was a tidal marsh, shallow and rising and falling. This led to some very unusual stone structures.

After drinking some water, we wandered through the valley. It’s very cool, with canyons and corridors leading everywhere. We ended up following a Goblin-surrounded canyon winding through some tall cliffs and interesting “faces” looking down on us. It continued to narrow until we all agreed it didn’t lead anywhere, so we turned around.

Thankfully, Martha and Melissa had gone back to get the truck early in the trip, but it was only .8 mile back to camp. They have wonderful covered and wind-protected picnic shelters at every camp site. If you were in the shade, there was a nice breeze, and it was quite pleasant.

Then the winds came. A storm and big, black cloud came over the mountain, blowing sand and raining over the dry valley. We quickly closed the windows in the trailer, but the sand had blown in. As it seemed to subside, I reopened the windows, but it blew again. It was so fierce, the kids hit the floor! 

As the storm passed in front of us, there came a very pretty rainbow, the rain and sand extending the rainbow as I have never seen before. We saw the other end of the rainbow was over Goblin Valley, so we jumped in the car and drove up there. We did get some pictures of the rainbow over “The Three Sisters”. It was so cool!

We drove to the other end of the campground to find several yurts in great spots, one tucked up in a little cove up against the mountains, with a porch, a grill and picnic table. What more could you want?

Dead Horse State Park, Utah

Sunday, July 3, 2022

On our way up to Canyonlands National Park, we first stopped at “The Monitor and Merrimac” rock features.  To the east were the La Sal Mountains and Mount Waas at 12,306’. We turned left (east) we came to Dead Horse State Park, not knowing what to expect. Well, my new friend, Cindy, at Riverside Plumbing said she and her future husband used to go up to Dead Horse State Park  for a date.

I think it was a $10 entry fee, but we had bought a Utah State Park pass, so they waved us on. The park overlooks a gooseneck turn in the great Colorado River. It really is as pretty a spot as one could wish for. A cute couple were having breakfast at the overlook at sunrise, giddy in their young love in such a gorgeous spot.

Buccaneer State Park

Saturday, April 30, 2022

I got up early, fixed some coffee and listened to some birds not far away. Although I couldn’t tell what they were, they sounded big. Looking at Google Maps, I saw a big lake or inlet next door. There was also a creek close to my camp. No wonder there were mosquitoes. I drove out of the park, turned right and followed South Railroad Avenue going behind my camp site. There was a train track on the other side of the road. 

The Gulf from South Beach Blvd.

As I slowed down to look at the big estuary, a man got out of his car in front of me. I pulled over behind him, thinking I would take pictures of some egrets or something similar, but there were none. The man started rigging up a fishing rod, so I walked up and asked what he was going to fish for. 

In his mid-sixties, he put a Hula Popper on as he told me he came here every morning for an hour’s fishing while his wife slept. He said he sometimes caught sea trout, flounder, largemouth bass and drum. “OK”, I thought to myself. “I think I’ll hang around and watch.”

This guy was a pro. He had a Daiwa rod and a Japanese reel, braided line and a tippet he tied onto a loop at the end of the line. As we talked, he must have thrown one of two lures  200 times, and never got caught in the grass once. He could throw that thing a long way with a two-handed grip with the lure dangling 2.5 feet below the end of the rod. He knew the currents and the wind, so he threw it past and left of a point. The current would carry the lure right past the point. It was pretty-much high tide, his favorite time to fish.

Fish began jumping to our left and further out. I suggested he needed a boat. “Ahh, I used to have one, but now I’m too old and sore to pull it out. I sold it last year.”  The jumping fish were bait fish trying to escape some predator. Sea gulls cried above, swooping down to capture some. 

Finally, we introduced ourselves. Stephan Champagne (pronounced with Creole accent). He was born and raised in New Orleans, but traveled a lot with business. He worked with the railroad for years, and said this is still a busy line carrying all sorts of goods – whatever someone wanted to have shipped. He worked in Newport News for a while, installing a system for ship building that was a big success. 

Finally he got a hit – a good one. He had switched to some 2.5” topwater crawler he gave me the name of, but I no longer remember. It was a very nice trout. He quickly dispatched it with a knife to the spinal cord and threw it into a cooler. “Dinner”, he said with a smile. He said he preferred topwater lures. “It’s just more fun.” 

After a few more casts, he looked at his watch. His wife would be getting up, so he started packing up, and we said our goodbyes. I enjoyed my morning with Stephan, and I think he liked having some company. I liked his stories as well as watching an expert fish. He talked about his 40’ mahgany trawler he bought and restored. He and his wife enjoyed traveling in it for about 7 years before he got tired of throwing money at it.

I stood looking at this pretty piece of water, imagining a nice fishing kayak, maybe one you power with your feet. Maybe I could get to the other side where all the fish seemed to be. Then again, maybe Stephan was right. Drive up, throw lures for an hour in the early morning, watch the gulls and maybe take a nice fish home for dinner.

Driving to New Orleans

April 28, 2022

Next week I am doing a 5-day photography/cultural workshop with Mark Zablotsky Photography in New Orleans. Mark lived in New Orleans for two years while doing his Periodontics residency in the 80’s, and he has been back many times for continuing education. 

I could have flown down, but didn’t want to, or I could have taken the train, which I strongly considered. It would have been cheaper than driving if I didn’t get a sleeper. A sleeper pushed the price to $507, so I opted to drive.

I thought about taking the Airstream, but a hotel is included in the price of the course. In my many campground stays, I have often wondered what it is like to stay in cabins or tents that are so often in campgrounds. They seem rather under-utilized, so I thought I would give them a go. 

Sweetwater, Tennessee is an hour short of half way to New Orleans. Actually I thought it was half way, but I didn’t factor in the time change, which happens just east of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had booked a small cabin at Sweetwater KOA, not far off I75. The costs are about $77 without plumbing and $110 with plumbing. I thought I would try it without plumbing, which means no sink or shower, but I would later learn there is a faucet in front of the cabin.

It’s a bit like camping with the trailer, using the bathroom for showers etc, but in the middle of the night, the treck to the bathroom is cumbersome. Cooking is more like camping with a tent. All in all, it was a nice little cabin, and I slept well.

I liked the little reading light
The cabin was called Dolly

I chatted a while with the owner of this beautiful camper that isn’t made any more.

I was up and out early, but I had to go into town for gas and DEF. I went into Skinner Auto Parts Store at 7:00 and it was hopping. Sweetwater is a town of 6300, but looks smaller. I think everyone was in the auto parts store, and they all knew each other. A nice man behind the counter asked what I was looking for, and he pointed to the DEF right by the front door. He greeted two others by name before pointing to the Diesel Clean on aisle 10. After I paid he carried two containers of DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) out to the truck, set them down and said goodbye. Two small groups were talking in the parking lot. A donut shop next door caught my attention, so after filling the DEF tank, I went over and got a couple of donuts and coffee. I think it was the owner sitting at a table who thanked me as I walked out. What a nice, little town.

Sweetwater, Tennessee

Back on I75, traffic was busy on this Friday. Chattanooga was busy, but Birmingham was more busy with road construction making things come to a complete stop several times. By the time I got to I59, things got less hectic. I pulled into Buccaneer State Park at 5:15. A young man showed me to my Tentrr and wished me well.

I had visions of exotic tents I had seen pictures of in Africa, but it wasn’t exotic. It was a nice tent on a wooden platform with two chairs out front. Like the KOA cabin, there was a bed inside and a picnic table and fire pit outside. 

I went out of the park, along the gulf coast and turned toward Waveland and went into Da Kitchen Too restaurant. It was rated a 4.3, and I envisioned home-style black cooking. It was not. It was hopping on Friday night, and the all-white staff couldn’t keep up. A young girl pointed me to the refrigerated cabinets to get my own beer. The food wasn’t worth waiting for.

At my Tentrr, I poured a glass of wine, and started to relax when the mosquitoes came out. I retreated inside the tent. Tired from two days of driving, I went to sleep early. I vaguely heard a train horn in the distance. It progressively got louder until I thought it was coming through the middle of the tent! I could feel the rumbling of the train. I sat right up, trying to remember if there was a train track coming through camp. Fortunately it rumbled on by and I went back to sleep. Two more times trains came by in the night.

Betz-Tiger Point Preserve

We have spent several days exploring reserves, preserves and state parks north of Jacksonville, and there are a bunch. There was Pumpkin Hill on Pumpkin Hill Creek, Cedar Creek and Betz-Tiger Preserve. These are on Pumpkin Hill Creek, so there are various kayak/boat launches. We have wandered roads and walked trails. What we discovered is there are some wonderful horse trails in this area. It would also be fun to kayak. It’s good to be alert when walking trails in Florida. I’m also sure there is some great fishing if you know what you are doing. In the evening Sandra fixed a great dinner of Chicken Picata, asparagas, salad and a nice bread 😊

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Just east of Jacksonville, Florida is Kathryn Abbey Hanna State Park is an unusual spot. To its north is Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. In fact there are many reserves to the north and west. There is so much water in this area, it boggles the mind – Back River, St. John’s River, Pumpkin Hill Creek, Clapboard Creek, Trout River, Ribauld River and more. We went exploring some of these reserves, but they are so vast, one could spend a lifetime exploring all the waterways. But then, as often happens, the best was right in our back yard – in Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, a great blend of beautiful beach on one side and a number of lakes on the other, where birds and alligators abound. While Martha, Ruff and Sandra took a Tuk Tuk tour of Jacksonville, I explored Kathryn Hanna.


Anastasia State Park

It’s next to impossible to get a campsite in Anastasia State Park to the east of St. Augustine. Only Jane B knows how to get it done! Although we love North Beach Campground, we drove over to Anastasia to check it out. The campground is excellent, and there are two main attractions – the beach and a big lake. It is also nice being close to St. Augustine. We went for a long walk on the huge, flat, peaceful beautiful beach, where there are no houses or hotels for four miles. The alternate mode of travel was the bicycle, or even better, an electric bike with fat tires. This is one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. I can’t imagine what it is like in warmer months.

On the way back to town, I stopped at a car wash and washed my filthy truck. We stopped at Ace Hardware for a new thermometer for the outside of the trailer. Then we met Sandra and Ruff at O’Steen’s Restaurant for lunch. We have eaten there before, and it is truly unique. They are always busy, with lines outside. We checked in and sat on the bench outside. I asked a fellow, who looked the part, which bike was his. He said the red one. It’s bike week, and they had enjoyed the ride up from Daytona for lunch at O’Steen’s. I sat next to a young man who rode a different kind of bike – a bicycle – with his grandfather. Four ladies were dressed nicely and had obviously been here many times before, as the the lady keeping track of the line knew their names. We were still sitting when they came out from having their lunch, toting little leftover boxes. I offered to buy one, but got no takers.

From last year

After serious study and debate, we all ordered the lightly battered and butterflied shrimp. They also have great vegetables and hush puppies. It’s where we learned about Datil sauce, made from local Datil peppers.They are great shrimp! Great service, great food at a good price. It’s on my favorites list.

9) Where someone is always being blessed”

Tomoka State Park, Florida

We drove east across Florida from Manatee Springs State Park to Tomoka State Park, passing near beautiful Ocala. It’s like Lexington, Kentucky, with gorgeous horse farms. This is the height of show season, and big horse trailers were traveling to events. Tomoka sits between Orlando and Jacksonville, just north of Daytona Beach and south of Flagler Beach. It is a very nice state park with well-protected campsites and sand roads. The Tomoka River runs through the middle of it, providing a great place to kayak.

We have never been to this park, so we drove around exploring “The Scenic Trail Loop”. It is certainly scenic. It was Bike Week, so lots or Harleys were also driving the loop, mixed in with local travelers. I came to a frantic stop at Boardman Pond, a beautiful spot on the Halifax River. I grabbed my camera, tripod and walked back up the busy road, and for 40 frightening minutes took a hundred pictures of ducks, little blue herons, big blue herons and great egrets as cars whizzed by a few feet behind us. It’s a dangerous place to shoot, but would prove to be the best of the trip. I would later learn there is a viewing platform on the other side, but we would not see so much at that location.

Little blue heron

We drove over to Ormond Beach and went into Hull’s Seafood Market, maybe the best we have ever been into and bought a big Tripple Tail filet to grill over the fire. After lunch, we put the kayaks in and paddled Tomoka River for an hour or so. In the middle of the float, I was surprised by my phone ringing. It was Nick from The Apple Core. I find it difficult to understand people on a cell phone in perfect conditions, but with the wind blowing in my ears, I could barely make out what he was saying. He said he need to replace some chips and a board, that cost $450. The labor would bring it up to $920, and did I want to go ahead? “Yes, go ahead Nick.” That was an expensive bottle of wine!

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