Southwest travel in an RV

Antelope Island State Park, Syracuse, Utah

We discovered Antelope Island State Park quite by accident. Joy spontaneously picked up a free RV travel publication that happened to have an article describing the park. We decided the park was centrally located on our fall line from Durango to Yellowstone so we called and made reservations. The initial park alerts warned about this being the hatching season for fierce gnats immune to bug sprays and described the only remedy was to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants and hats with nets. The entry to this isolated island in the Great Salt Lake is a seven mile causeway. While coming across the causeway, there was a distinct odor coming from the marsh on each side. We both looked at each other and agreed this stop was going to be a boom or bust and that we may have to cancel our reservations for the following 3 days.

Antelope Island had been the working ranch of the Garr family at its inception in 1878 and remained a working ranch until it was turned over to the state of Utah in 1981. The island is approximately 14 miles long and 4 ½ miles wide. In this relatively small area, it is amazing how the terrain changes from flat plains to steep rocky hill tops. Today the park service offers only 26 primitive camp sites (no electricity or running water). The camp sites are excellent- each with paved pads and covered picnic tables with wonderful panoramic views. There are some paved roads on the island and an estimated 30 miles of hiking trails. Today Antelope Island is the home of 500-700 buffalo, an untold number of birds, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope along with all sorts of other wildlife.

We are pleased to report we did not experience the gnats we were warned about and the marsh odor ended as soon as we got off the causeway. While here, we have had 3 Buffalo, we nicknamed “Los Tres Amigos”, visit our campsite each day.  Yesterday (while in the truck) we stopped to watch a herd of about 150 buffalo heading toward us. Within a few minutes, we found ourselves in the middle of the herd as they crossed the road to reach the grasslands on the other side. The animals kept within 10—15 feet of the truck.  This stop on the way to Alaska has turned out to be nothing short of amazing.

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A View of Colorado from 10,910’

Saying good-bye to the Hill Country in Texas, we set our sights for Durango, Colorado.  Along the way we visited Fort Stockton, TX (depicted in the header of this blog), Roswell, New Mexico of UFO fame and Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of the famous Hot Air Balloon Festival.  Ft. Stockton was our first experience with a rugged, desert town. From our location at the Hill Top RV Park, we were able to see an awesome view and desert sunset. Roswell was a charming small town celebrating the Cinco de Mayo along with the Kentucky Derby and  very proud of its UFO notoriety. In fact, as we were following our GPS, we became ensconced in a traffic jam due to roads being closed for the Cinco de Mayo festival- John with help from some locals had to move barricades in order to get the Silver Manatee to our home for the night!  Later, relaxing at the restuarant  at the Roswell Elks Lodge, we were informed that a former Kentucky Derby winner was from Roswell, No Bird of Mine and that a local jockey was riding one of the contenders!  So, needless to say, we had a great time watching the Derby. We found Albuquerque to be a vibrant city as we did some of our necessary shopping and treated ourselves to dinner at  Pappadeux’s restaurant that had been suggested by Mike Treworgy.  The crawfish bisque was just as delicious as Mike described, the ambience was casually elegant and we left feeling very pampered.    On another journey to the West, we hope to return to Albuquerque inorder to experience the Hot Air Balloon festival which takes place in the Fall.

Arriving in Durango, Colorado was breathtaking with its majestic Purgatory Mountain.

The historic town of Durango , perched at 6512′ above sea level, was founded back in 1880 with the development of the narrow gauge railroad to Silverton.  Consequently, Durango became the hub of the mining towns in the San Juan Mountains.  To this day, the railroad plays an important role in Durango. One day during our stay, we drove over the 10,910′ pass to Silverton only to see snow still on the ground and warnings of snow that very afternoon. Being flatlanders, we explored Silverton, had a wonderful lunch at a former  turn of the century saloon and made sure to head back to Durango before the snow fall!   On another day, we decided to take a hike that had been described as “Easy” from the downtown area inorder to see a vista of the town with the mountains; however, once we were at the trailhead we only saw this rocky incline ahead of us.  So, we proceeded to hike thinking it was going to level out- wrong.  The trail only continued to climb and after going about 2 miles up and finally coming to a trail map, we decided this was definitely not the “Easy” trail and hiked back down the mountain.  Once arriving at the base,we saw the other trail to our right and there was not a rock to be seen on that path!  The third highlight of Durango for us was our meeting of the photographer and author of the book Colorado’s Wild Horses, Claude Steelman.  Mr. Steelman was a delightful, humble man who shared many interesting insights about the wild horses with us. We found Durango to be a fascinating combination of outdoor recreation with its many hiking and biking trails and culture with its public art collection, numerous galleries and Ft. Lewis College.  With its southwest location in Colorado near the four corners area, Durango is a true destination.

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The Texas Two Step to the Hill Country

Beaumont and Brenham, TX were two overnight stops on our way to the Texas Hill Country. The oil industry was in evidence everywhere- drilling, refineries, chemical plants etc. We lucked into a BBQ cook off in Beaumont by a statewide group called the Go Texans which benefits education. The night before the judging they had a Fish Fry and dance which they invited us to join. The catfish was outstanding and watching them Two Step was really enjoyable. We’ve decided the next time we come to Texas we will know how to Two Step and line dance! We stayed on the grounds of Elk lodges in both towns and were warmly welcomed and given some great local information. They treated us to Boudin and Armadillo Ball appetizers which we will try to replicate when we return home.

Driving from Brenham and then on through Austin brought  two lane country roads lined with the wild flowers, the meandering narrow rivers and the rustic small towns of the Hill Country.  Along the road to the picturesque German town of Fredericksburg, we purchased freshly picked peaches from the Vogel Orchard- the sweetest, juiciest peaches we have ever eaten.  We finally got to see the iconic Longhorn close up along the winding roads near the Pedernales Falls State Park.  For us, two of the highlights of the Park were the Bird Blind with its viewing area of the migratory and native birds and the hike through the rocky terrain to the Falls.  The LBJ Ranch located on the Pedernales River along with the Texas White House was a fascinating personal glimpse of a President’s life.  The ranch was a unique blend of history and nature.

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