We left Tucson in mid March and headed back to our hometown in Georgia for the birth of our granddaughter. On the way, we tried to take the time to visit some great places. Our last stop in New Mexico was Carlsbad Caverns.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park is the show cave, Carlsbad Cavern, oh, and the bats.
Personally, I’m not a fan of caves. I have claustrophobia and the thought of being hundreds of feet below ground makes my teeth hurt.
But Dave wanted to see this particular cavern because he had heard so much about it. And we certainly couldn’t just drive right by without taking a look.
The entrance includes a large visitor center building that contains a cafeteria, interesting museum, gift shop, and two elevators that can take you down to the caverns below.
It is at this point that you have to make the big decision. Do you want to hike down into the cavern on your own, or take the easy way out and grab the elevator?
We chose to hike down. After all, how difficult could it be? The ranger said that it would take several hours to hike the four mile path down into the caverns. We would end up being 75 stories below ground.
At the entrance to the cave is a huge amphitheater, created for crowds to watch the evening show of up to 300,000 Mexican Free-tail bats as they emerge from the cave in a huge cloud of blackness.
Yes, seriously. There were bats.
The path zig-zags down into the darkness below. Ready for our new adventure, we started the hike. Carlsbad Cavern is the fifth largest cavern in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world. And as long as the bats minded their own businesses, we would be perfectly happy to take in the views!
As we descended into the cave, it was amazing to look up at the pathway that we had already traveled. The descent is steep, and honestly if you have bad knees, I wouldn’t recommend it.
It is a steady downward descent for 75 stories. Craziness.
This passageway continues into narrower tunnels where the first extensive collections of stalagmites and stalactites are found, including named features such as Devils Spring, Queen’s Chamber, Kings Palace and the Boneyard.
Note that I am now carrying my jacket. It is surprisingly humid in the caves. I believe it was around 90%. And warm.
The surroundings become steadily more scenic, with small side-caves filled with intricate rock forms.
We stopped often to take photos and small breaks from the walk down. Unlike many caverns that I have visited, Carlsbad was not brightly lit with different colors. They maintained the natural look with low lighting.
The lighting was just enough to enjoy the amazing scenery. Once reaching the bottom of the shaft, you enter the huge Big Room. It is here that you can further explore, visit an underground gift shop, and then make the next big decision.
Do you want to climb all the way back out or take the elevator up?
We chose the elevator. You can feel free to call me a wimp. LOL! As for the caverns themselves, I highly recommend a visit! Amazing rock formations, lots of history, and tons of bats! You can’t go wrong there!
First things first: it’s pronounced “suh-wahr-oh.” Do you know how many years I have mispronounced this cactus? Yep, I am ridiculously southern and can’t seem to shake it.
Anyway, we decided to make the short drive out to Saguaro National Park to see what all the fuss was about.
And there you have it. Cactus as far as you can see.
Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. There are two sections of the park, one on the west side of Tucson and one on the east side. Our visit this week was to the west.
The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. In the summer, it is common for the temperatures to climb over 100 degrees and it gets less than 12 inches of rain in a typical year.
With that in mind, it was surprisingly lush and beautiful!
The plants and animals are able to survive this environment with adaptations specially designed for desert survival. At first glance, desert life seems rather unfriendly.
Talk about a bunch of defense mechanisms! It would not be a great thing to trip and fall while hiking around this part of the country!
But in an extreme environment such as this, I imagine a great defense is necessary.
Even the local wildlife is extreme. The Sonoran Desert is home to 18 species of rattlesnakes. There are also poisonous Gila Monsters, and Coyotes, and Javelinas.
Not a lot of friendly in this part of the country, that’s for sure.
The star of the show is the Saguaro Cactus. It is not only the state symbol of Arizona, but a universally recognized image of the Southwest!
It is the largest and slowest growing of all cacti. The shorter ones to the left of me in the photo above are about 75 years old. The one to the right of me could be as old as 200 years.
These amazing cacti can weigh up to 8 tons, partly because of the large amount of water the stems can hold. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet.
We are now on our way south, heading to St. Petersburg, FL for our winter destination. I wanted to put together a final post on the beautiful area of the country that we had the pleasure of living in- Bar Harbor, Maine.
One of the questions that I was asked the most while working at the front desk of the campground was, “What are the best things to do in Bar Harbor?”
Well, I have the answers for you, at least from our point of view. These are the things that you should really not miss if you ever get the chance to enjoy the coast of Maine.
Cadillac Mountain is located in the nearby Acadia National Park and at 1,530 feet, it is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. There are various hiking trails to the summit, some more challenging than others. There is also a paved road to the top.
From the summit, you can see most of Mount Desert Island. On a clear day, it is a beautiful site to see!
At certain times of the year, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the United States to see the sunrise. Getting up to see a sunrise from the top of the mountain is a common attraction.
Sunsets there are beautiful too.
Schoodic Point is the only part of Acadia National Park that is located on the main land of Maine rather than on Mount Desert Island. For that reason, Schoodic is a much more secluded, less crowded opportunity to actually see some wildlife. Because of the fact that it is located away from barrier islands, you can enjoy the crashing of the waves from an unobstructed Atlantic Ocean.
It is about a 45 minute drive from the tip of Mount Desert Island, but well worth the time. From Schoodic, you can see the peak of Cadillac Mountain and enjoy another beautiful Maine sunset.
Schoodic is where we ran across several huge porcupines. I’d say they were as big as my VW Bug, but I’d be exaggerating just a tad. Suffice it to say, they were huge!
Nearly everyone that checked in at the campground asked me, “Where do the locals go?” As visiting “locals”, we soon discovered our favorites:
Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound– in Maine, any place that sells lobster by the pound is called a Lobster Pound. Imagine that. There are many of them all over Mount Desert Island and the mainland. They all compete with each other, sell similar items and their prices are very similar depending upon the varying prices of lobster. Trenton Bridge has the advantage of a great view and awesome Maine atmosphere.
Chart Room Restaurant– This restaurant is located right along the water on Route 3 headed toward downtown Bar Harbor. Because they are not downtown, they are not usually as crowded as those in Bar Harbor. You can eat right on the water and the food is just amazing. Loved their Stuffed Haddock. They also serve steak for those of us that are a bit tired of seafood, and of course, lobster!
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium located on Main Street in Bar Harbor has lots of fun flavors in their homemade ice cream selection including Dulce de Leche, Bubblegum, (KGB) Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream base ice cream with a Grand Marnier fudge swirl, Rum Raisin, Root Beer Float, and many more!
Oh, and Lobster icecream! Yes, I tried it. Imagine butter pecan with little chunks of meat in it… yeah, that. I have to say that it wasn’t my favorite, but at least I can say I tried it! Ha!
Blueberry Hill Dairy Bar- If you love soft serve, good prices and lots of ice cream for money, you can’t beat Blueberry Hill Dairy Bar. It is located off of Mount Desert Island in the little town of Ellesworth right on Route 3.
It was one of our most frequent stops when going back and forth to Ellesworth for groceries. While the ice cream is fabulous, the folks that worked there never seemed to like their jobs much. I have to say it was a very surly group of individuals. Cash only. No samples. Make sure you know what you want when you get to the window.
In spite of the help, the ice cream was awesome! And well worth the stop.
Hadley Point is a great place to go if you love mussels. In the state of Maine, you do not need a license to go mussel fishing. Simply wait until low tide. In Maine, the tide drops 10 to 20 feet depending upon where you are. This leaves quite a bit of the seaweed covered rocks exposed. Put on some boots march out there, and start lifting up some of that seaweed. Underneath you will find mussels!
Place them in a bucket of salt water, add about a cup of cornmeal and let them sit overnight, stirring them and adding fresh water every now and then. This will get them to spit out any sand. Rinse them and then either steam or boil them with garlic.
A true Maine experience!
Whale Watching, Lighthouse Cruises
The town of Bar Harbor is the base for many different boat tours including Whale Watching, Lighthouse Cruises, Wildlife cruises, Schooners, Lobster Fishing and more.
Which one is the best?
Well, we think they all have their good points. Pricing can be as much as $50 per person, so be prepared. Decide what you would best enjoy and take advantage of the opportunity to get out on the water. You will love it!
Oh, and take a warm jacket and some anti-motion sickness meds with you just in case. It is at least 20 degrees colder out on the water and windy too!
Acadia Park Loop
Acadia National Park offers much to do including hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and more. For those of us that love to watch nature in action, it is a fabulous place to go. The Acadia Park Loop is a 27 mile road beginning at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (near Route 3 on the northern side of the island) and connects the Park’s lakes, mountains, forests, and rocky coast.
Baxter State Park
Want a chance at seeing a moose? Head about 2 hours northwest of Acadia to Baxter State Park in central Maine. It is worth the trip. Miles and miles of wilderness where the opportunity to witness wildlife is at its best.
If you love to hike, you can climb to the top of Mount Katahdin which is Maine’s highest peak at 5,267 feet (1,605 m). This mountain is also the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Some things to note: Baxter State Park has restrictions- no pets, no RV’s, no motorcycles, no large trucks. It is remote, so little to no cell phone coverage.
West Quoddy Lighthouse
The little town of Lubec is the home of the beautiful West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. But even more interesting, Lubec is the easternmost town in the contiguous United States. Since we have already been to Key West (the southern most point); it seemed fitting!
A visit to this beautiful lighthouse and the area around it is a must-see!
Located about 2 hours south of Acadia is Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park. And…it is the lighthouse on the Maine State Quarter, making it the first lighthouse to be featured on a piece of US currency!
Coincidentally, this particular lighthouse is a top destination for weddings with its beautiful rocky cliffs and crashing waves. The lighthouse is one of the most photographed on the Maine coast.
So there you have it! Unfortunately, the list leaves out so many things. I could talk on and on about how much there is to see and do in the area. We are currently on our way south, and are already missing it. Who knows? One day we just may return!
We are smack in the middle of the busy summer season here at the Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA. With 50 to 70 check-ins a day, Dave and I have found ourselves working long hours. Granted, it will slow down in about a month, but in the meantime, our schedules are pretty busy.
We eat when we find a moment… and some meals are just plain peanut butter and jelly.
Work Kamping this time of year means dealing with crowds, tired campers, children on sugar highs, problems with guests not getting along, occasional backed up toilets, and all around craziness. I work the office and it seems that everyone shows up all at once and dealing with 10 checkins at a time, with RVs lined up as far as you can see, can be quite intimidating.
Dave and I both work hard to keep the guests happy. Sometimes it is as simple as helping their children learn how to use the rental bikes, or directing a guest to our favorite restaurant. Sometimes it is much more difficult than that. There are some folks that just won’t ever be happy. We just do our best.
Working long shifts means that I often end up working in the evenings and early morning on my websites. Of course, there are worse things than sitting by a campfire and writing on my website.
The dogs have been doing well. Of course one main thing we had to all adjust to was the fact that we have to regularly take them for walks rather than just put them in the backyard. Yep, living full time in a RV means that you are quite familiar with everyone’s daily routine.
Sometimes a little too familiar.
So I learned something new this week. Never wrap the leash around your finger. You see, when a 20 lb. Chihuahua/Pug happens to notice a squirrel in the distance and accelerates from zero to fifty in less than two seconds flat, the finger has a bit of problem keeping up with it.
I ended up with a badly dislocated finger, and torn tendons. Oh, and my wedding rings didn’t fair very well either. Someday when I can get a ring back on my finger, I’ll have a jeweler reassemble them.
Let’s just say I finally got a day off. LOL!
Work Kamping isn’t for everyone, and there is definitely a lot of work involved. But, there are good things too! Like getting off after a long tiring day and being stopped by the Lobster Guy on site who just so happens to have a couple lobster dinners ready for you!
(Ignore the dirty dishes in the photo- dirty dishes are a common occurrence during the busy season! ) LOL!
There are the times we get to enjoy a good dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants in the area with our friends and coworkers!
…trying out new and delicious meals. (Crab Cakes courtesy of The Burning Tree Restaurant in Bar Harbor).
…and the fun of exploring this beautiful area of the world!
This season at Bar Harbor KOA has been very exciting for us. It is our first taste of working at a campground. While not everything runs as smoothy as we would like, we wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
The beautiful sights of Mount Desert Island are something we will remember always. Last week, we took a break on one of our days off and hiked one of the trails along the shoreline of Acadia National Park.
Rock Climbing? Well, maybe that is something we just pretend to do.
The vistas are amazing here. And the journey to get here is worth the effort.
We are half way through our Work Kamping experience here and will be moving on in October to our next destination. Where that is, we currently do not know.
We left from Bremen, GA on Sunday. Timing was not the best as it literally poured down rain on us the whole way to Little Rock, AR. A stressful nine hour drive for Dave, that is for sure.
And it took constant diligence to keep mud from being tracked into the RV every time we stopped for a doggy bathroom break. I’m learning quickly how to juggle two dogs and an umbrella. It was a long day.
It was incredibly nice to wake up the next morning to a beautiful spring day in Little Rock!
I had to get some photos of the flowering cherry trees. Love these, but they only last a week so you have to enjoy them as quickly as you can!
We toured a bit of North Little Rock and ate at a small sandwich and pizza place . I took a nice photo of Dave.
He reciprocated with a terrible shot of me.
We discovered the nearby Arkansas River Trail and decided to do a bit of walking. Well, to be honest, this sign totally caught our eye. Did you know that they have a Big Dam Bridge in Arkansas?
We love dams. It gives us an excuse to put the word dam in everything we say. I imagine the Big Dam Bridge crosses the Big Dam River. And maybe there is a dam store there that sells dam hotdogs with big dam bags of chips. Dammit.
The Arkansas River Trail runs through Little Rock and North Little Rock, connecting 38 parks, six museums and 5,000+ acres of federal, state and local parkland. The loop is an impressive 88 miles, runs largely along both sides of the Arkansas River and is nicely paved.
It was quite popular too! Tons of hikers, cyclists, skaters, joggers were out and about there. Impressively busy for a Monday afternoon!
Ever the adventurists, we put on our hiking shoes and trekked the 88 miles, checked out the Big Dam Bridge, and had a dam good time.
Well…maybe not the whole 88 miles. I think we put in a mile and half, but who is counting, right?