Tag Archives: Texas

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.

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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.

Relics of the Mother Road, Route 66

Milepost 1336:  Conway, Texas, virtual ghost town.

Kaye and I have been traveling on our road to adventure through the American southwest the last couple of days, from Oklahoma west through the Texas panhandle  and into New Mexico.

We keep seeing relics left behind by earlier travelers, as we are roughly tracing the abandoned path of the famous Route 66, the two-lane blacktop highway that connected Chicago to California before the modern era of the interstate expressway.  Mind you, we are traveling on the freeway, not the two-lane, because ours is not a leisurely venture this time through; we have someplace we need to be by the end of next week.

But every time we get off the super-slab we see the ghosts of those former adventurers and the gutsy entrepreneurs who built the roadside tourist stops.  There are deserted houses and businesses everywhere, often within sight of the new travel plazas.

The abandoned Phillips 66 filling station, Conway, Texas.
The abandoned Phillips 66 filling station, Conway, Texas.

Last night we drove till after sunset and ended up getting off at the wrong exit while searching for a hotel.  We ended up checking in at a dubious outfit on a deserted blacktop running parallel to the freeway, a run-down motel with tumbleweeds lined up against the chain-link fence around the used-to-be-a-swimming-pool.  I was heartened to see several other cars parked in front of rooms.

Conway, Texas, a ghost town, at twilight.
Conway, Texas, a near ghost town, as we approached it at twilight.

The proprietor, Arwin,  was reassuring enough and told us where to park the rig and said it would be safe because he hadn’t had any trouble in 30 years.  We went to bed and were warm and comfy all night.

Morning dawned, and having slept in, we reported late for the free breakfast, walking across the parking lot where we noticed that the other cars were all still there…  and they all had flat tires.  Yes, they were dummy cars, clever props parked there a long time ago to make the place look busy.  The only vehicles that had moved were the two semis that I had parked our rig next to, and they had left early.

Arwin Patel, proprietor of the Conway Inn at the ghost town of Conway, Texas.
Arwin Patel, proprietor of the Conway Inn at the forgotten town of Conway, Texas.

My respect for Arwin might have taken a hit, but I starting thinking about what I would have done to stay alive if I owned a once-beautiful establishment that 60 years ago had been frequented by the intrepid wanderers on the the once-famous Route 66.  An aging motel that was now bypassed by the super highway.

I saw the abandoned gas station and restaurant next door and eagerly grabbed my camera for the now rare photo shoot.  I’ve been stuck to the highway for 1,336 miles now and haven’t had the luxury of time for anything aesthetic.  There is a lot of decaying beauty here on this deserted prairie.

Here are a few photos.

Abandoned car, Conway, Texas.
Abandoned car, Conway, Texas.
5 VW's sticking out of the ground.  Tourist attractions along Route 66 were zany and imaginative.
Five VW’s sticking out of the ground. Tourist attractions along Route 66 were zany and imaginative.
A typical scene along the famous old Route 66.
A typical scene along the famous old Route 66.
Abandoned tourist market, Conway Texas
Abandoned tourist market and restaurant, Conway, Texas,
Empty shop, Conway Texas
Empty shop, Conway Texas
"Do more for others" at the VW graveyard, Conway, TX
“Do more for others” at the VW graveyard, Conway, TX
Kaye waves from the truck at a rest area in the Texas panhandle.
Kaye waves from the truck at a rest area in the Texas panhandle.

Ozarks, Outposts… and Onward!

Milepost 1197:  Amarillo, Texas.

We have made it to Amarillo, Texas, and we’re liking the idea that we are half way to our winter haven in California.

But we’re also a bit uncomfortable with our surroundings.  The Ozarks of Missouri were beautiful and rugged, with outcroppings of rocky cliffs on both sides as we rode on the sawtoothed back of the beast, rising and falling with each hill and valley for a hundred miles.  It was almost dizzying.  The powerful Ford worked valiantly to deliver us safe to the other side. (Sorry, no photos of the Ozarks; I was busy driving.)

But the other side was the bleak prairie of Oklahoma.  It was desolate and creepy, and I’ll have to admit, it spooked us.  We stayed at a lonely outpost called Big Cabin last night, but there didn’t seem to be a town.  Just a solitary Super 8 hotel with nobody around but the girl behind the desk in the lobby.  It could have been haunted.

Wide open spaces full of...  nothing.
Wide open spaces full of… nothing heading across the Texas prairie.

And then today we drove all day to transverse the length of dreary Oklahoma, making it into Texas before sundown.  And again, the desolate and massive panorama left us dispirited, and the chilly wind off the plains whispered discouraging words over our shoulders as we scuttled to the cheap motel room while the tentative new crescent moon rose hesitantly over our temporary home on the range.

So, while we have escaped the violent winter that’s pouncing upon our friends back home in Michigan  – there’s no snow here at all, and the ponds and rivers haven’t the least bit of ice on them – we are still not resting easily, disquieted by the uneasy spirit of the wide open and unfriendly spaces.

Here’s an unusual bit of travel trivia that we encountered today while on the open freeway: The semi that had just passed us weaved a bit as it pulled back in ahead of us as if dodging a stray animal.  But what emerged was a large tumbleweed, 3 feet in diameter and rolling across the highway.  Strange.

Tumble weeds somersault across the roads on every windy day.
Tumble weeds somersault across the roads on every windy day.

Tomorrow we hope to make it across the Texas panhandle and into New Mexico.  And we are planning on quitting early, putting in a shorter travel day to spend more time relaxing.  Maybe we will find it warm enough to finally unfurl the RV and stay in our own abode for the night.  We need some down time to gather our wits about us.