Tag Archives: Alabama

12 Wild Places Where I Have Spent the Night… in no particular order

For a guy who has spent much of his life on one adventure after another, this could be a really long list.  To narrow it down, I will post only my favorites…. and tell why they have special appeal to me.  Since I am a quiet laid-back guy, most of these are away from the crowds and the noise of the popular parks and resorts.

Valley of the Gods, Utah.

The desert landscape is remarkable enough; it is an extension of the iconic Monument Valley Tribal Park a few miles away.  But when the sun sets you discover you are in Dark Sky country.  The Milky Way is dazzling above and hanging over the nearby cliffs.

My free campsite was just below a huge butte and there wasn’t a level spot to park, so I drove onto some rocks to level the camper for the night.  Complete solitude.  And almost unnerving silence.

Valley of Gods pickup campsite crop


Bob V.O.G. Milky Way corner fix 2


Hole-In-The-Rock Road, Escalante, Utah

After spending a rainy afternoon at Devil’s Garden, I drove a couple of miles farther down the washboard road and found a flat spot on the open prairie across from Dinosaur Tracks road.  This is boon docking – no facilities.  No problem, I am self-contained with the truck camper.  And all alone for the night.

pickup at Devil's Garden
On a rainy day at Devil’s Garden near Escalante, Utah, I was glad not to be camping in a tent.



Pacific Coast Highway, Seacliff, California

It is hard to find places where one can camp on the beach.  Especially on the west coast.  This park is two miles long and about 20 feet wide.  Everybody gets a 40-foot-long space to park for the night and our rig fit exactly from bumper to bumper.   You can walk the beach for miles.  No hookups.  Again, no problem.

Seacliff overnight CA _0007



Coal River Lodge, Coal River, Yukon Territory

I think this was one of the most remote campsites we ever stayed at on our epic trek along the Alaska Highway.  At Milepost 533, Coal River is one of the original Roadhouses built to accommodate the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942-1943 and is beyond the reach of the electric grid.  They were generating their own power while we were there.  We had the campground to ourselves with hookups to water and electricity.




Denali Canyon “Glitter Gulch”, Parks Highway, Alaska

After driving up from southern California, we were fortunate to find a campsite at the Rainbow Village RV Park right behind the coffee shop where our daughter was working every summer.  We stayed half the summer, biking the canyon and hiking the ridges and peaks surrounding the village.  A highlight was backcountry hiking with two of my daughters inside Denali National Park.

The RV was nestled snugly behind the row of log cabin tourist shops, a great base of operations.


Wendi could write her own story about “wild” places she has stayed the night.  She spent 12 summers in a row in this dry cabin near Denali.


Dauphin Island, Alabama

One winter we set out to camp only on islands where we could walk the beaches all winter long.  Dauphin Island was our choice for the month of January and we were camped in the woods a short walk from the gulf beach and historic Fort Gaines.

Dauphin Island beach edit 2480
The beaches along the Gulf are white sand.  Dolphins cavort just offshore.

Dauphin Island campsite

Fort Gaines surrendered to the Union Navy during the Civil War.


South Manitou Island, Leland, Michigan

This is one of my favorite backpacking spots that’s not far from my home in Michigan.  The island is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and is run by the NPS.  It is entirely covered with hardwood forests or perched sand dunes.  The extensive network of hiking trails can thoroughly exhaust even the most hearty of souls.  As a lifelong adventure sport director, I have been there several times with groups of kids.

Hobo dinners are wrapped in foil and cooked directly on the campfire.  No pans, no grill, no problem.




The Cove, Samana, Dominican Republic

What I liked about our winter vacation rental on the beach was not the infinity pool or the air-conditioned condo, but the close interaction with the natives.  Many resorts are isolated and walled away from the locals meaning you miss a lot of the indigenous flavor.  Our beach was shared with the fishermen and their kids.  We were able to walk to the local tienda for a cold Coke and provisions for cooking our own meals.  Local shuttles would take us to the nearest village for a few cents.


DR edit 0128

DR edit 0017


Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington, Michigan

The lighthouse is staffed by teams of volunteers who spend two weeks living in the original light keepers’ quarters and running the gift shop, museum and tower which is open for a fews hours every day.  The rest of the time we are free to hike the dunes or splash in the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan.


Volunteers take turns preparing meals for each other in the old kitchen.  Also the best place to get wifi.


Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, Michigan

We used to live about an hour’s drive from this park so we got to know it pretty well.  One of our favorite things was when we were lucky enough to get one of the campsites that are right on the shore with our rear bumper almost hanging over the beach.  The water is shallow and stays warm in the fall so we would often wait till after Labor Day when the kids were back in school and there was plenty of elbow room in the park.



Sierra Madre Mountains Trek, Central Mexico

I usually avoid the resorts when I want an authentic experience and hiking in the mountains of Mexico is one I have been able to do several times.  Usually I have been directing a group of youths on a cross-cultural experience.  The organic nature of this kind of adventure means that we eat the local foods and use the local outhouses. –  if there are outhouses.  Fun!

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Redwoods National Park, California

Okay, I have spent the night in at least 15 of the most amazing national parks.  That could be a list all of its own.  But the Redwoods were so remarkable I had to mention them.  We pulled into a deserted county park in the redwood forest late at night and weaved our way between the giant trees that showed in the headlights.  We found a spot to set up the tents and went to sleep.  Climbing out of the tents in the morning, we were rendered speechless at the fantasy land that surrounded us.  Nothing tops this.  Huge!

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Well, this listing is just a sampling of the wild places where I have stayed.  It makes me sad to leave out a whole bunch of wonderful places.  Maybe I should  write a Part Two including Glacier National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the over-water bungalow in the Maldive Islands…  and so on.

I would be interested in hearing about a wild place you have stayed in the comments below.  Do tell!


Note:  Header photo at the top is Butler Wash, Bluff, Utah, banked by cliffs on both sides and sheltering many ancient cliff dwellings nestled on the ledges and alcoves.

The Seasonal Southern Shift

Milepost 1-3-15   Dauphin Island, Alabama                              70 degrees

Call it Snowbirding or Winter Migration or whatever, the population of the nation undergoes a significant redistribution twice a year.  Kaye and I are part of the northern exodus that accompanies the onset of cold weather in Michigan.  We stayed home long enough to have Christmas with the kids and grandkids, and then we hitched up the RV and set the GPS for the Alabama coast and took off.

On the way down, we stopped at Memphis Tennessee for a New Year’s Eve dinner of catfish and ribs at B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Outside B.B. King's Blues Club the street was starting to fill with party-goers who were waiting for the midnight Guitar Drop.
Outside B.B. King’s Blues Club the street was starting to fill with party-goers who were waiting for the midnight Guitar Drop at the end of Beale Street..
BobnKaye at BB King's
A New Year’s Eve dinner at B.B. King’s Blues Club was an unexpected bonus for us.

Our first campsite of the trip and of the year was at Tom Sawyer RV Park on the west bank of the mighty Mississippi River where the tugs were shoving the barges up and down the river all night long.

A third day of driving landed us at Dauphin Island Park a few miles off the coast of Alabama at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

Dauphin Island is surrounded with white sand beaches.  Oone of them a short walk from our campsite.
Dauphin Island is fringed with white sand beaches,  one of them a short walk from our campsite.
Our campsite is under a stately old live oak tree.
Our spacious campsite is under a stately old live oak tree.

Dauphin Island is the site of the historical Fort Gaines that saw action during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay (1864).   It’s open to the public and promises to be a great backdrop for some photography in a couple of days.  Across the bay is its counterpart,  Fort Morgan on another barrier island.

I'm looking forward to a wandering tour of Fort Gaines with the good camera.
I’m looking forward to a wandering tour of Fort Gaines with the good camera.

On the first day here I jumped on the bike and took off for a 6-mile ride.  This is one of the reasons Kaye and I like to get away from the north during the winter;  our exercise routine falls apart when the cold weather arrives.  At this southern island there are many miles of cycling trails and beaches to be explored.

All roads -- and bike trails -- lead to the beach at Dauphin Island.
All roads — and bike trails — lead from one beach to the next at Dauphin Island.

The island also is home to a nice Audubon sanctuary, although I think the terns and the pelicans may be outnumbered by snowbirds during the winter.

So this is our home for the month of January.  When we left the north it was 10 degrees.  Today it reached 70 here.  That’s what I’m talking about!  I haven’t slipped on snow or ice even once since arriving.

Bob at Dauphin Island beach 2502
I dug out my shorts and flip flops shortly after arriving and setting up camp not far from the beach..