Countless Canyons – Canyonlands National Park Utah

Canyonlans NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

I really thought Arches National Park was going to be the highlight of the trip.  Then, I saw Canyonlands!  We stayed in Moab about three miles south of town with our Motorhome Thor and our little Smart car. I had some preconceived ideas that Arches National Park was going to be the one to beat for views and color and photography and well overall experience.  Canyonlands NP Utah

Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

We drove into the Park (paid our $10 entry fee) and drove to the very end of the road when in the area known as “Island of the Sky”.  There are a few different entrances but this was the closest (about 17 miles out of town).  Island in the Sky is very well named.  You are about 1000 feet up from the canyon floor and as you drive at about 7200 feet you don’t see much from the road.  Then you reach the end, hop out of the car, and look over the edge.  The Colorado river has carved much of the area into vast canyons with views that let you see forever.  I noticed it was remarkably quiet even with people around!  It feels like you need to whisper.

It had rained every night all week long.  I guess it is monsoon time in the desert southwest.  So little puddles had formed where the rocks were worn away by erosion. We were able to catch a few reflections of the puffy white clouds in those puddles!

Reflections in the rain Canyonlands NP Utah
Reflections in the rain Canyonlands NP Utah

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on any of the unpaved trails. Since we had the little pal, Kuma, with us no hiking for us.  There was plenty to see and photographic opportunities at every corner!

Depth of the Canyons! Canyonlands NP Utah
Depth of the Canyons! Canyonlands NP Utah

This is one of those places you feel really small because the landscape is incredibly large and is almost overwhelmingly beautiful.  It was hard to pick yourself up to move on to see the next part of the park because it could not be more beautiful than what you were seeing right now!  That is the thing…each place was more breathtaking!

Smart Car Canyonlands NP
Smart Car Canyonlands NP

“Night skies at Canyonlands are so pristine that the International Dark-Sky Association designated Canyonlands as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park in 2015. Canyonlands joins three other national parks in southern Utah with the International Dark Sky Park designation.” ( NPS night sky)

Colorado River Canyonlands NP Utah
Colorado River Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

This is a place of magnificent beauty and gave me the feeling of tranquility even amongst the large number of visitors!  Canyonlands National Park is a must see and I plan to see the other parts of this park! I am sure you see see more posts as that opportunity arises!

-Mara

Arches National Park – Moab, Utah

Double Arch Arches NP Utah
Double Arch Arches NP Utah

We are on the last leg of this great adventure! One week in Moab, Utah to take in the unbelievable sights and sounds of two magnificent national parks.  Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  Arches National Park Utah   Canyonlands National Park

Delicate Arch Arches NP Utah
Delicate Arch Arches NP Utah

While the two are nearly touching and only about 30 miles apart and both near Moab, they are wildly different. Today is all about Arches….the next post will go into more detail about Canyonlands.  Where to start?  The entry fee is $10 per park for a seven day pass. If you plan to use any other parks within the year, it may be more cost effective to get a national park pass for $80 or you may qualify for other passes if you are disabled or a senior.  Water bottles can be refilled at the visitor center or near the campground.

OK, on to the park…Arches National Park in Utah is a wonderland of red rock formations.  The colors and textures are abundant! Everything from petrified dunes to balanced rocks to arch formations that become more delicate with erosion and time.  It is truly breathtaking at every turn! This area was once a large body of water that has been filled and drained twenty-nine times!  There is evidence of salt deposits and the rock layers speak to tell their history.

Balanced Rock Arches NP Utah
Balanced Rock Arches NP Utah

This  landscape is inspiring and massive!  The first overlook as you drive into the park is of the Lasal Mountain Range. You can see forever! It is refreshing that there nothing in sight.

Arches NP Open Vista
Arches NP Open Vista
Arches NP Utah
Arches NP Utah

After a long day at the park, we stopped in for a local favorite… the Moab Brewery! We decided to have a few samples (two per person Utah law) and a small plate of nachos. Great way to relax after time on the trails. Moab brewery

Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah

We stayed in our motorhome about three miles south of Moab at the Spanish Trail campground.  Here is what I can say positive about the experience: the campground was easy to access, the restrooms and showers were very clean and the campground was well maintained. Most of the time was spent in the parks so the campground was not as important! Now this area is extremely popular (as are most national park areas). So booking reservations early is key and the campgrounds in the parks were full every night we were there. We will have to plan better for next time to stay within the parks.

-Mara

Niagara of the West – Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Snake River Idaho
Snake River Idaho

What happens when you have the snake river coming over a series of large cliffs?  You have a few magnificent waterfalls including the Niagara falls of the West…Shoshone Falls! Shoshone Falls is three miles south of Twin Falls, Idaho.  It is taller than Niagara Falls at 212 Feet. Visit Idaho Shoshone Falls

I have been looking forward to seeing this area since I was a kid.  Apparently, the day after Labor Day is not the best time to see the refreshing water running over the cliff walls.  We paid our three dollars at the entry gate and found out the falls were dry!  They had stopped running the water for the season. First of all I didn’t know you could stop the falls unless this happened naturally.  I guess they are working on the power plant and no water no smashing waves….just a trickle!

Entrance to Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake Idaho
Entrance to Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake Idaho
Shoshone Falls Idaho
Shoshone Falls Idaho
Dry Shohone Falls Idaho
Dry Shoshone Falls Idaho

OK, so the upside… it is still beautiful and the park is well laid out for picnicking or laying in the shade. No falls which made the park less than busy and parking was a breeze.

Moral of this story…check to see if the falls are running if that is what makes or breaks your visit.  Check that out here: Shoshone Falls water information

landscape central Idaho
landscape central Idaho

Something we noticed while driving around the area… there must be no shortage of water for the fertile fields along the snake river! The fields, campgrounds, city parks, private lawns were all being watered nonstop – day and night. Coming from areas of drought this sheer amount of water being used was incredible! Just something that stood out to us coming from a desert climate.

-Mara

Made in the USA! – Pendleton, OR

45th Parallel Oregon
45th Parallel Oregon

I was a little sad leaving Washington state. It is definitely one of my favorite places! But super excited for the next adventure and getting stoked to see some national parks. Sometimes it amazes me the vistas you can see from the side of the road or, in this case, a rest area near the 45th Parallel in Oregon. I was walking the dog around the rest area when I looked up and needed to grab my camera (just an Iphone 4).

Here is another great one from a rest area near Yakima, WA. I get really excited when it is a partly sunny day.  Clouds make for a great photo in my opinion!

Near Yakima WA
Near Yakima WA

By design, our stop for the night was in the small town of Pendleton, Oregon.  I needed to see the mill where all of the famous (and expensive) woven delights are made. I was shocked to see how small it was! I was expecting this grand operation.

Pendelton Woolen Mills Pendelton OR
Pendleton Woolen Mills – Pendleton, OR

This is the factory and the store and the outlet! I wanted to touch everything (and I think I did).  The mill makes everything from blankets, to cloths, hats, socks, and fabric for purchase.  Tours are available, but not on a holiday weekend.

History Pendleton Woolen Mill
History Pendleton Woolen Mill

I love hats…David spotted this one.  After a quick check in the mirror, it had to be mine!  I know some people like Tiffany bags…I am a Pendleton girl, myself 🙂 that little blue plaid bag is mine!

Purchase at Pendleton
Purchase at Pendleton

You can find out more information about the store and the mill tours on their website: http://www.pendleton-usa.com/home.jsp

We stopped for one night in Pendleton with the Thor (the motorhome) easy on and off location. RV park right behind a Casino: http://www.wildhorseresort.com/.

-Mara

Taste of Bavaria Leavenworth WA

Leavenworth, WA
Leavenworth, WA

Let’s continue the great adventure across the Cascade Mountain range to the little Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington! While we stayed near Leavenworth wildfires were flaming through eastern Washington. I feel for those firefighters and residents that were effected by the fires. As a result, the thousand trails campground around Plain, WA was nearly empty!  Only 22 of us in a 280 space park until the Labor Day weekend. While the campground was not full, it did have a healthy number of campers for the holiday.

Wildfire Smoke Near Plain WA
Wildfire Smoke Near Plain WA
campground Thousand Trails Leavenworth, WA
campground Thousand Trails Leavenworth, WA

The town of Leavenworth is a Bavarian theme town with stunning views of the surrounding mountains! The views get even better in the snow. http://www.leavenworth.org/ Leavenworth explodes in the winter with a Christkindlmarkt (open air market) and a tree/town lighting.

Leavenworth in the Holiday Season
Leavenworth in the Holiday Season
Holidays in Leavenworth
Holidays in Leavenworth

Let’s talk good eats for a moment… shall we?

Sandwiches, German sausages, hot pretzel?

Here are some of our picks:  Ducks and Drakes (outdoor patio) They used to have our favorite Jagerschnitzel, but only have on holidays now, Cured for sausage and pretzel (outdoor patio). Since we needed to find a new place for Jagerschnitzel we tried King Ludwig’s.  It was tasty!

Ducks and Drakes Leavenworth, WA
Ducks and Drakes Leavenworth, WA
Ducks and Drakes Patio Leavenworth, WA
Ducks and Drakes Patio Leavenworth, WA
Sausage Try Cured Leavenworth, WA
Sausage Try Cured Leavenworth, WA
King Ludwig Leavenworth WA German Food!
King Ludwig Leavenworth WA German Food!
Jagerschnizel, Red Cabbage, Spatzel!  King Ludwig Leavenworth, WA
Jagerschnizel, Red Cabbage, Spatzel! King Ludwig Leavenworth, WA

Here is the treat of the trip to Leavenworth!  There it was!  Blue Spirits Distillery and to top it off…Blue Spirits was dog friendly! Now on to the tasting..Mary was our sweet and very knowledgeable guide! Did I mention she was awesome! We were able to taste 3 spirits each for $10 then if we bought a large bottle we would get $5 of that back on our purchase. After having small sips then they were transformed into mini cocktails.  What a great feature! In the back they were making cucumber vodka that day. If you like spirits as we do…this is a must on the list to stop! check them out here… http://www.bluespiritsdistilling.com/  Hint Hint…we would love if the had a quarterly membership like wineries do. https://www.facebook.com/BlueSpiritsDistilling

Blue Spirits Distilling
Blue Spirits Distilling
Mixers Distillary
Mixers Distillery
Spirits Tasting Blue Spirits Lake Chelan/Leavenworth, WA
Spirits Tasting Blue Spirits Lake Chelan/Leavenworth, WA

Drum roll…. here is what we purchased!

yum! Spirits we bought!
yum! Spirits we bought!
Blue Spirits Sign!
Blue Spirits Sign!

Here is the guide to all things Leavenworth http://www.leavenworth.org/

-Mara

Washington = Water, Trees, and Views – Perfect!

LaConner Thouand Trails Sunset
LaConner Thousand Trails Sunset

There is a beauty to Western Washington state!  It is a perfect combination of amazing views of mountains and puget sound with huge green fir trees towering above.  I love the way light filters through those massive trees and soaks into the moss below.  It is a truely magical place though my eyes!

Lodge Thousand Trails LaConner WA
Lodge Thousand Trails LaConner WA

We were able to obtain a second hand thousand trails membership before we left for our trip.  Great way to go if you are looking for one! We saved a ton of money! As a result, we stayed at the LaConner Thousand Trails.  Great campsites for RVers. (you know you love full hookups). Absolutely loved the views and the walks to the sound every morning!  The wifi was horrible and even our unlimited cell data was almost no use.  We needed a booster for the cell and then there was only one place we could get internet via cell…and here it is! I know poor us!

Internet LaConner Thousand Trails view
Internet LaConner Thousand Trails view

Yup! That is a picnic table with an amazing view! The town of LaConner is adorable with a lot to do.  Here is a suggestion.  Try the Silver Bell Winery downtown LaConner!  Wonderful wine and is dog friendly (no tastings for the dog… come on I know you were thinking that). check out their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SilverBellWinery

Silver Bell Winery LaConner CabSav
Silver Bell Winery LaConner CabSav
mmmm Wine Tasting LaConner WA
mmmm Wine Tasting LaConner WA

This campground location is perfect for seeing Anacortes, WA and taking the ferry to the San Juan Islands. I believe it was about 8 miles to downtown Anacortes. I love all of the independent coffee drive through locations in the Pacific Northwest!  I had to get my espresso fix at whidbey coffee in Anacortes.  It is right at the corner where you turn to go toward the ferry line. Wish I had a picture of that but I drank it way too fast! Check them out on https://www.facebook.com/whidbeycoffee.

Tree Growing on a boulder LaConner Camping
Tree Growing on a boulder LaConner Camping
Shuffleboard anyone? LaConner Thousand Trails
Shuffleboard anyone? LaConner Thousand Trails

Our adventure took us from LaConner, WA to Monroe, WA into the Thunderbird Thousand Trails. Since we used to live in this area, it was super fun seeing all of our old places.  We married two of our favorite places together for a wonderful evening at the waterfront.  You need to run to Barney’s Pastrami Dip on Evergreen Way in Everett, WA. This is a cash only joint and when we went the full sandwich is about ten bucks.  Worth every penny! The very best pastrami sandwich on the planet!  You can eat this mouthwatering sandwich at the restaurant or drive a few miles and eat at the marina in Everett, WA. Watch the sunset over puget sound! A truely perfect evening! Barneys Pastrami Dip

Barney's Pastrami Dip Everett, WA
Barney’s Pastrami Dip Everett, WA
Everett, WA Marina
Everett, WA Marina

We truely enjoyed spending a bunch of time with our friends!  Can’t wait to see you all again!

Stay tuned for our Leavenworth stay!

-Mara

Road to the Washington Coast

Ocean shores creek

What a sight to see! The great Columbia river bridge from Astoria, OR  to the coast of Washington State. This bridge is massive! It is a 4.1 mile bridge crossing the Columbia river near the mouth of the Pacific Ocean. Oh yeah! Did I mention it is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America? Our 31 foot Motorhome Thor pulling the little smart car did magnificent with these cross winds!

Bridge from Astoria Or across the Columbia River
Bridge from Astoria Or across the Columbia River

So, as you cross the bridge into Washington state there is a crossroad… turn left to go to the long beach peninsula or right for a direct route inland through some tiny logging towns on your way through Aberdeen and Hoquiam directly to Ocean Shores! Ahhh…the beach once again!

Ocean Shores footprints
Ocean Shores footprints

I know this is crazy…but I absolutely love how you can drive on the beach on the west coast!

Smart at the Beach Ocean Shores
Smart at the Beach Ocean Shores

We are thousand trails members, so we stayed a few miles north of Ocean Shores at the Oceana campground.  While this campground does have location in it’s favor…not exactly scenic or wooded or even private! It is basically a gravel parking lot with hookups.  The ranger and staff do a great job making sure everything is clean and in working order. Scenery is not it strong point.  Make sure to take this into account if that bothers you. Check out the history of Ocean Shores, WA Ocean Shores, WA history

Ocean Shores beach
Ocean Shores beach
Ocean shores creek
Ocean shores creek
Ocean Shores Draft Beer Soap
Ocean Shores Draft Beer Soap

Right on the main drag in Ocean Shores was an absolute delight.  A little handcrafted soap shop called Ocean Shores Soapworks.  I was given a very thorough tour of the shop by it’s owner and decided on a manly draft beer scent for the hubby.  (It smells nothing like beer, by the way, just more manly smelling than most soaps geared toward the ladies). Let’s be honest – Since you could imagine how the inside of an RV could smell after a while, I also purchased a room deodorizer in a champagne scent…all natural essential oils… fabulous!  Visit them here ocean shores soapworks or on facebook here https://www.facebook.com/OceanShoresSoapworks. So here is the other crazy tip…there is really good Asian food in Ocean Shores for a small town…it is our favorite place to go when we’re there.  Viet Hoa restaurant is super tasty… oh no… now I am getting hungry!

Ocean City landscape near beach
Ocean City landscape near beach

-Mara