NW Exped – TN


Reelfoot State Park TN in Tiptonville, Tennessee has been on my park visit wish list for some time. It is in the extreme western part of Tennessee by the mighty Mississippi River. Hundreds of eagles are reported to Winter here and seeing the biodiversity it is obvious why they this

Tennessee State Parks says “the 15,000 acre lake was created by a series of violent earthquakes in 1811-1812 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period of time, creating Reelfoot Lake.

The lake harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as golden and American bald eagles”. So now you know why this was on my list of stops. I will be back during the winter to see who stops here to rest and refuel since this is on the Mississippi Flyway (the 325 species bird superhighway for annual migrations). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Bird Science) has the BirdCast website that shows ” When, where, and how far…” for migration in real time. For my fellow Bird Nerds this flyer tells the Birding locations in the area.


Our stops included the Reelfoot NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) to see the new visitors center which was closed on a Friday at 11am?  Other than finding a few refuge roads closed it was phenomenal for wildlife with turtles, a water moccasin in the road, and a


baby raccoon who peeped around a tree. The Cypress, dragonflies, and Lilly pads were so beautiful. If you venture to a NWR make sure you are prepared for dusty potholed roads, no amenities, wildness and never never go with out a refuge MAP! Their roads are rarely on Google Maps and most are open at sunrise and close at sunset (the staff drives through to escort you out before locking the gates). But the ecosystems are the best!img_6797

 Edgar Evans State Park get ready to park your camper or RV on a deck off the 20190804_152846 mountain over the lake! Yep that is a campsite. This middle Tennessee State Park is a must see between Murfreesboro and Cookeville. This was the last stop on the way home. The shore line is rocky cliffs down to the water, I would say cool water but it wasn’t cool. Not the warm first 8 inches I dipped my feet in – maybe 80 degrees – uck.img_6815

The thunderstorms rolled through this mountainous places the days we were there. But it had all the southern things I had been missing; lightening bugs, insect song so loud you can’t heard your camper neighbors, and our rich green plants. This also served as acclimation to our super awesome humidity of 60+ at all times.

Enjoy the TN album  https://photos.app.goo.gl/pnNLneGgyExP5suv9

Where to next? I only have 12-ish states to explore so maybe to up North to the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota & Minnesota)? Or those few to the west I missed (more of Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado) or stay south only in winter to Louisiana & Mississippi?

If you missed the 2018 NE album – enjoy https://photos.app.goo.gl/WqR5ocsbyymzSzXy6 

NW Exped – Arkansas


DeGray Lake State Park   was a quite respite from our journey eastward.  It was a taste of home with the green forest, grass and familiar insect sounds. My highlight of these couple of days was seeing this bird below. I have never seen one of these before.img_6786

This is a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on the golf course of DeGray Lake. This bird is not in our area but breed in the Arkansas, according to my experts with allaboutbirds.org. This bird is small, appears Mocking Bird-ish (they are related to kingbirds) but when that amazing tail is flared out it is striking.

At our campsite there was a DUNG BEETLE doing his thing – rolling dung – backwards. 20190731_104654

Not many pictures of Arkansas the miles and acclimation back into the heat/humidity are taking a toll. THANK GOD for Air conditioning!

Smallest Arkansas album ever https://photos.app.goo.gl/seV4bfcAms3KBCGCA


NW Exped – AZ, NM, TX and OK


Arizona is a beautiful state which sadly I did not capture many photos. It is hot in Southern California and western Arizona in a heatwave, in the dog days of summer. This was a shock to my system having been in the cool Pacific Ocean breezes or high enough in latitude &/or altitude that afternoons only reached the 80s on hot days.

We stayed in Flagstaff which was high enough to be cool but sadly had a wildfire. We stayed on the eastern side of the mountain which saved us from the smoke but the trails in the beautiful Coconino National Forest were closed due to fire. We also received a hand delivered letter in the campground telling us about the fire to be ready to evacuate if notified. The fire started July 23 and is still burning today but the dangers have lessened. Wildfire is not something I had considered but after walking on the crunchy grass of the dry southwest I understand the danger.

On the way to New Mexico we had to stop at the Petrified Forest National Park  this amazing place of trees turn to rock was a must see for me.

This place has really amazing sites such as a 10 foot in diameter petrified log and a log bridge over a canyon. It is very hot and dry but not to bad due to the elevation of 5,400 feet. If you need a reference our tallest North Carolina mountain Mount Mitchell is 6,684 feet (it is in the mid 50s right now – 10 am) and if you have visited in the summer you know just how nice that reduces the summer heat. There are great views and amazing tree stones where you can even see the bark of a 200 million year old tree. National Geographic wrote a great article if you want to know more.

New Mexico Bluewater Lake State Park is a beautiful spot with great stargazing potential as it is very dark. The gate however is intimidating with two armed Rangers in bullet proof vest and the exit has the tire puncture strip. The local area was not welcoming either very rough looking – no we did not stop due to my rule. We were late arriving and had a early departure so exploration was done in the cool of night with a beautiful night sky.img_6756

Texas – Palo Duro Canyon State Park only one night and a partial day but I SAW ROADRUNNERS!! They do not say beep beep more of a weird hooo hooo with some vibrato. And a cool fact from Allaboutbirds.org “Coyotes run more than twice as fast (43 mph) as a Roadrunner”. These guys were great to watch there was a group of three.img_9776

This park is the second largest canyon in the United States (#1 Grand Canyon) and how fitting it is in Texas. The Campsites in Palo Duro are Texas sized as well and include your own covered picnic table. We descended (including switchbacks and steep grades) into the canyon to stay on the floor with the painted walls surrounding us. img_9738-effectsWe also saw a Mississippi Kite which was also a first for me perched in a snag overlooking the canyon floor. Flies are an issue in the desert southwest and many of them, seeking fluids, will get it from you in the form of blood.

Oklahoma – Lake Thunderbird State Park was the best campsite ever with our own beachfront property on the cool lake of which we took advantage. It was beautiful in the morning with the mist on the water.20190730_082941This was great arriving early in the afternoon for a cool swim! We departed early the next morning for Arkansas!

Please see the AZ NM OK TX album here  https://photos.app.goo.gl/vSxT1F5eo4wQNqjo7

NW Exped – CA the land of BIG TREES!

This journey has been incredibile but please do not underestimate the planning required to have a relaxing expedition camping across the diverse United States of America. Having learned immensely from the Northeastern Expedition of last summer which culminated in MAINE. I stove to be better prepared with; estimated travel times, estimated times of arrival, fuel/supply stops, printed maps/directions, climate reports, Fauna/Flora/Sites to see, and campground maps.  Thanks to Google Maps and saving my locations across the USA I was able to get us from point A, to B, to C, to D, to E, on and on. You get the point, yes there is a 18 page hyper-doc which also includes Pet Hospitals, Hospitals, campground reservations, recipes, maps, directions, sights to see and other vital things. 20190712_135035S’More even had his booster immunizations in our Banfield Hospital in Bozeman, Montana and another in Seaside, California. Photo is how S’more travels best.

WHY all this planning? I guess the most honest answer is have you met me? Poor planning will never be an issue to constitute an emergency on my part. It is after all a vacation. Who wants to think? When to leave or which trail is best to hike or even what time of day will not cause heat exhaustion?  Please try to comprehend the stress potential of pulling a vintage camper in big city rush hour (or most of the state of California) or turning 33 foot camper/vehicle out of a fuel station. Do you want to shop at the Walmart with security gates? Do you want to sit in the 1 hour and 52 minute delay on I-5 with limited fuel? Or stop in the gas station with barred windows and bullet proof glass? To all these, I hope you answered no. Mind you, my rule of not slowing down in the barred window, razor wire topped fence, or bullet proof glass zones was put into affect in my home state of North Carolina. An unfortunate fuel stop (in which the dogs and I were in the vehicle) our attached cargo gate was stolen off of the back of the camper instigated this ruling. All the preparation was so necessary and useful in California.

First stop in California is Crescent City, which is amazing! Having beautiful Oregon-like Coastline and not so many people. It is also home to the Redwoods and where most of the Easter Lillies20190721_092658 in the US are grown. There is a region where the cold Pacific produced air is making a cloud any time of day so you must have your headlights on the in white out of it. I opted out of Yosemite National Park in favor of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks to the south. The California plan was to see the Redwoods, descend through the agricultural region to see the Biggest tree in the world (a Sequoia), to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and then relax in Silverlake Recreation area before starting the trek back east.

California is a beautiful state and if there was a way to visit without so many millions of people and such crappy traffic I might just be a fan, but as it is … it is a one and done for me. I do not care for crowds or crazy traffic and this place is jammed with both.

img_9438Redwood NP (Visit RedWood National Park:  Visitors Guide) you must see the old growth in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and walk the trails to Simpson-Reed Grove or Leiffer Loop. We stopped by the Hiouchi Information Center to drive the stunning gravel Howland Hill Road which winds ten miles through the old growth forest of huge Redwoods. Do this drive in the am as it gets busy later in the day and is quite slim for two cars. The  Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway is on the busy section of the park but has many pull offs that are also a must see.


img_6631Davison Road looks out on the named Elk Meadow where you can watch Roosevelt Elk graze and relax in the forest if they are there. We did not see any. This guy was from a since forgotten National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.


Premier RV Resort Of Redding a pretty commercial park with nice laundry. It would have been better with a coin changer since it was a coin operated laundry. I wish parks would enforce the leashed dog rule. In every state and type of park so far the rules are keep your dog on a leash (some have 6 foot requirements) and people don’t. I love my fur babies, but I understand they are dogs. Some behaviors are instinct and some are pack related. Keep them safe Leash you dadgum dog in public! Off to Monterey!


Monterey RV Park a Navy MWR site and the worst I have ever seen or stayed. It was 3 miles from the  Monterey Bay Aquarium the draw was there but this afterthought of a campground in the dirt behind a beautiful golf corse was deplorable. You backed your camper in a small dugout sand dirt site looking at industrial buildings and a golf ball screen. It was near the aquarium which had sea otters and fantastic exhibits (a must see), but the number of people allowed in the aquarium at one time should be limited. It is shoulder to shoulder with a lack of hospitality for the most part. Yet another one and done.  No, I did not see the whales or site of the Star Trek Movie filming.  Off to more big TREES!

Island Park Campgroundwas our ticket to Kings Canyon National Park  it was a butt puckering ride down to the “island” with cutbacks and a 20 degree grade descent to speed bumps. The site was from one of my nightmares in which the car comes out of gear rolling uncontrollably down the 45 degree hill to plummet into the icy depths of the lake. I found a bolder to add to the camper tire chocks and slept with it attached to the vehicle.  However, I did see a great tree frog.img_6726

We drove from the island on a winding, cutback, wild road through the California hills to Sequoia National Park to see the biggest tree in the word the Giant Sequoia General Sherman . For those of you like me when you hear 36 feet in diameter tree…I cannot visualize that. If you said a school bus could park in it and cover all but the hood, I get that. It was immense but I am team Redwood due to the shear number and huge forest of Redwood trees. The Sequoias being present with Moses, but being so few in number was somber in effect. Like why so few? What human screwed that up? Ah, sorry my literal tree hugger side is showing.


  Silverwood State Recreation Area (Park Brochure)  Climate 97/62  can you believe it in Southern California? This place was beautiful! Private campsites, with a view, concrete picnic tables. I would come here again. It was a needed respite from the tolls of traffic and way to many people.

Enjoy the album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/dwLnr9KgMuEkSiNA6

We are eastward bound – with a 4 day run of over 1200 miles through the states Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.





NW Exped Site #10 & 11 Oregon


Oregon… as I reflect on the beauty and almost savage coast I feel certain I could live there. It is a fantastic mesh of the things I love (evergreen trees, coastal tide pools and wildlife). But the rocky sheer cliffs make access to the beach a challenge for those of us who are height aversive.img_6641 The descent is formidable down these steep, sandy, rocky, drift log (the giant size of driftwood) covered pathways. It is worth it and frustrating when you have done the one mile down and another up to see the tide pools to see the ADA beach access off in the distance. Ah well, the challenge route proved to be a plethora of coastal diversity. From red and orange Sea Stars to jumbo sized Sea Squirts, all colors of seaweed and kelp, even the bobbing heads of sea otters.img_6688

On a side note I don’t know if I have mentioned some of the phenomenal items about the Pacific Northwest such as: Sunrise 5am-ish, Sunset 9pm-ish, (really look it up), Air Temperature low of high 50s and high maybe 70 degrees Fahrenheit, Pacific Ocean temperature 55 – 60 degrees, breeze constant, wind strong in afternoons, and humidity none a true Southern person would notice.

NOTE to disabled Veterans Oregon State Parks have a FREE PASS for you!

Umpqua Lighthouse State Park  was a cool respite from the famous US Highway 101 tucked high along the coast in the evergreen forest. The park is small but you can descend down to the pacific to the Oregon Dunes Day Use area which is evidently a nirvana for ORV (Off Road Vehicles) peeps. There is an amazing huge area of dunes for these four wheeling folks to test their skills.  I could only imaging the amount of sand you would have embedded in your skin after a day of riding. Until that day I had always wanted one of the Razor – car edition – four wheeled beast of a machine.

From the Umpqua campsite we explored the coast line to see Stellar SeaLions and Seals. img_9417

So as you know I always have a wildlife viewing wishlist. This park provided STELLAR JAYS! Where? Well by the dumpsters off course. These members of the Corvid family are a beautiful cousin to our own Blue Jay just bigger and in my opinion more ornate. 20190716_113705

Harris Beach State Park this park is a jewel even though we had the most awkward campsite ever. Why awkward because the septic port and the picnic table were beside each other. Normally for you non-campers the hookups tuck neatly behind your camper so you don’t view the water hose, power line and the worst the septic hose. The campground was beautiful and within 25 miles of Redwood National Park in neighboring California.

Redwood NP (Visit RedWood National Park: the Visitors Guide) You must visit the Hiouchi Information Center and drive Howland Hill Road winds ten (gravel) miles img_9433through the old growth forest, as does the paved Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Do Howland Hills Road on a weekday in the morning and you will have these amazing trees all to yourself! This road is rough and not fit for RVs or any trailer take the SUV or other such vehicle. The road winds through the trees and beautiful creeks and streams. This two-way road is worth the dust and pullovers to let an oncoming vehicle pass.

Words cannot do justice to the immense size and stately presence of these Redwoods. You feel dwarfed in their presence and honored to stand among them. The red of their rough bark feels soft to the touch and the dark green foliage are so incredibly beautiful together. Redwoods are a must see – probably multiple times.

Oregon Photo Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/qZr2o9GxkRwAaHVF8

Off to the Land of Big Trees – (California)