Our New Travel Mate. He’s Such a Trip!

Our New Travel Mate. He’s Such a Trip!

A year ago this past April, we had to have our sweet, hammock-loving Chihuahua Cordie put to sleep.  She had had a very bad stroke and she wasn’t dealing with life well.  It broke our hearts and traveling just wasnt’ quite the same.  

Our sweet girl was definitely a traveler and she has been missed greatly.

Cordie was an extremely good travler and she was always ready to “go”.  There are so many times she would stalk the car and try to jump in.  When we did get her into the car, she would get right into car seat and begin to demand us to drive forward. It was this spirit we hoped we would have when it was time to adopt a new member of the travel team, if we ever did.

Such a tiny boy at 8-weeks-old!

After taking time to allow our hearts to heal, we adopted Trip on February 24 this year when he was 8-weeks-old. The drive to get him was a little over two hour and it felt like it took forever, but we soon arrived and were greeted by who was his father. The father was half Sish Tzu and half Pomeranian which is a breed called Shiranian. They are usually anywhere between 4 and 15 pounds in weight, 7 to 12 inches in size, and extremely fluffy!

Artwork: Shih Tzu Image by ana_olly and Pomeranian Image by life_is_beautiful from Pixabay.

These Shiranian dogs are extremely smart so easy to train, friendly, and are small. That was just want I wanted; a pocket puppy that I could take with me EVERYWHERE! However, every place we looked the price was $500 USD and higher! I was getting extremely frustrated so I began to look at the local dog shelters. Unfortunately, the small dogs were adopted before we could see them and the large dogs would not work in our tiny RV. Scott was telling me not to get upset because the right dog would come along, but I was definitely getting frustrated.

Sound asleep as we drive home trying to come up with the perfect name.

We discussed his name and came up with so many, but nothing really seemed to work. Then, halfway home, Scott said something about how he couldn’t wait to see how he dealt with a “real road trip.” It dawned on both of us, we would always be “taking a trip” and that was how we knew his name was TRIP. No matter where we went we would be “taking a TRIP.”

Scott and I usually stop in for a good dose of coffee before we head out to collect counties; Trip gets to enjoy pup-cups!

Trip is a very good traveler. He is just a puppy still, but we hope he will be as much fun as Cordie was. That girl was always ready to go and often times was seen circling the car when she saw us putting luggage in the car. So far he hasn’t figured out the difference is us going somewhere and us traveling, but he is smart enough, I think he will figure it out soon.

Trip visited his very first State Park in Missouri on March 20, 2022.
Many sticks were carried on the trail.

We were able to take him to his very first State Park and collect his first five counties in March. He was very excited about it. Since he loves to collect sticks, he had a very difficult time choosing one. He would pick one up on the trail and within minutes find another one he would rather have. Unfortunately, we had to explain to him that we do not take things from the parks. He was not amused.

Above is a short video of Trip his first three months with us. He has brought us so much happiness and we do hope we are making him happy as well.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog posts. We appreciate it so very, very much!

We Have a STATEment To Make

We Have a STATEment To Make

One of the things we love to collect are counties of the United States. Because counties are within the states, we are able to count off those states as well. It is very much a win-win for us. So far at this point we have visited 44% of the states (22 out of 50). The states we have visited are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisanna, Mississippi, Missouri, Montona, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Unfortunately, we did not always think of getting us and the state sign. I’m not sure why, but we just did not.  I guess this means we will need to head back to those states and get the state signs.

Most of the photos of the state signs we have visited.

Runaway June stands in front of an Arkansas state sign to document her travels.

Like Runaway June, we love the memories we have concerning our travels.  These photos not only serve as memories of our travels, but they help us to show our friends and family where we are and where we have been.  We do this by putting the photos on this website.  Because the photos on the site, we are able to log on and verify where we have visited and make our travel plans for an upcoming trip, as well as traveling on the spur of the moment.

One of the main reasons we are keeping photos of us with state, state park, and national park signsis because we live in an RV.  When you live in such a small space, you do not have room for the various knick knacks from a state tourism office here, state park there, or a national park everywhere else.  So we decided we could make postcards to send our GrandGeorges and friends, and the website.  It has reminded us what a wonderful life we have had and dream about all the new places we will go.

Everyone has a way and reason they travel.  For us it is pulling over to the side of the road and dashing over to the state sign  and take a photo so we can share our adventures.  It isn’t for everyone, just as collecting counties isn’t for all.  Do you have any travel traditions your family does as you move along the the roads, train tacks, and skies?

Thank you so much for taking the time to join us for this adventure.  If you would like to enjoy more of our travels, please feel free to visit our YouTube channel and see what we are doing.

Waco Mammoth National Monument 2016

Waco Mammoth National Monument 2016

Scott and I visited the Waco Mammoth National Monument in 2016. We absolutely loved visiting this site because of the fossils. Those of you who have been following us for a while know how excited I tend to get when I find fossils. There is something about seeing where places were during pre-history. It has helped me be able to see how real science really is.

We decided to do a video about our trip. If you haven’t already watched it, please feel free to take a few moments and see what a great national monument site this is. Also, go ahead and like the video and subscribe if you haven’t already. Liking the video will help YouTube show others, where we are, and subscribing, will enable you to see when we have a new video posted.

If you want to see a real fossil dig site, this is the place you want to visit. For further information about Waco Mammoth National Monument, please visit https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm

Thank you so much for watching our video. We do hope you have enjoyed it.

A very special thank you go out to Raegan King, Director of the Waco Mammoth National Monument; Gena Stuchbery, our amazing guide; Dava Butler, Education Coordinator; and the full staff and volunteers of Waco Mammoth National Monument.

Thank you also goes out to President Obama for making this a National Monument. We appreciate it very, very much.

To see President Obama’s signing the law designating three new national monuments in which the Waco mammoth site was one, go here: https://youtu.be/WIzOG-Rz8PY

Triumphant Return by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Artist: http://audionautix.com/

It Once Was A National Park, But No More

It Once Was A National Park, But No More

When the Chickasaw Nation was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, within their new borders they found a wooded area filled with fresh water and strong-smelling mineral water springs. They believed these springs had healing powers. Fearing that they would not be able to protect this area from commercial development and becoming another Hot Springs, Arkansas, they sold it to the Federal Government, with the condition that it be protected, and kept open to the public. In 1902 Senator Orville Platt introduced legislation designating this area the Sulphur Springs Reservation, and in 1906 Congress passed legislation creating Platt National Park, named for Senator Platt, who had recently died.

CCC built structure around Buffalo Springs.

At 640 acres, Platt National Park was the seventh and the smallest unit in the National Park System. Though small it was no less popular, in 1914 it received more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to make improvements, to make the area deserving of being a National Park. They added many buildings, and landscape features, that significantly altered the character of the park. By 1949 it was receiving more than a million visitors a year. However, many people within Congress felt that Platt National Park lacked the grandeur and scope expected of a National Park. On March 17, 1976, Congress changed the status from Platt National Park to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because it was not the same natural beauty as Yellowstone and Yosemite. This former national park was added to the Arbuckle Recreation Area to create a lush playground for all to enjoy.

Lake of the Arbuckle’s on a foggy fall morning.

The older portion of the park, the Platt District, remains popular, still receiving more than a million visitors a year. It features the springs, a swimming hole, fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. The swimming hole has a small man-made waterfall called the Little Niagara. Here the spring water is cold and a host to people of all cultures.

The lower falls at Little Niagara.

There are three basic camping areas. The Lake of the Arbuckles areas: Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and The Point. One, Guy Sandy, is first-come-first-serve and does not require a reservation. You simply show up, decide on your spot and visit the kiosk, then pay for your stay. Buckhorn and The Point are reservation camping loop is very nice with full hook-ups and full almost all year round. The third camping area is within the historic Platt District, the original area of the park has three camping loops, in which the only one is open year-round and only first-come-first-serve. This area is surrounded by the rushing creek and active in the springtime.

Ren and I first visited in the Fall of 2013, we were on the way back from visiting family in Oklahoma. This was before we really caught the travel bug, but we fell in love with the park and made plans to return. We have revisited the park several times since then, it is a reasonable drive from both Fort Worth and from Tulsa. When I started photography it was one of the first places I wanted to go.

We decided one day to visit the visitor center and hike trails behind it. Here the shade from the canopy of trees kept us cool in the Oklahoma August heat. It was quiet for the most part, except the various little waterfalls and birds chattering in the treetops. Here we found a peaceful place just minutes away from the main county road. It was an amazing hike.

Hiking along on one of the many trails at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

We then took the time to swim in the swimming hole just below Little Niagara Falls. We even followed many of the young people and jumped off the top! It was exhilarating. I remember my heart pumping and watching the people ahead of us pop up from down below. My knee was aching, it was only recently healed from being broken and the cold, spring water felt good, taking away the swelling.

It may not be a National Park anymore, but it is still worth a visit if you are in the area.

Thank you so much for joining us on this park adventure. We appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to enjoy the time with us. Please remember to help us get out to many others and share this post.

Remember to get out and live life outside your box!!!
All images taken by Scott and Ren. ©2021crosscountytravelers

Staying Flexible

Staying Flexible

It was time to head back to our camp in Black Mesa and Google wanted to take us back to Clayton, but we hate taking the same road back as the road we came on, so we, trying to be flexible, took the road less traveled; literally. What a difference. We went north through Folsom then took a small road east. It alternated between paved and gravel, and, usually, the gravel was smoother, but it was so worth it. The road led through a canyon we didn’t find on the maps, and where there is a canyon, there is a stream. The canyon, river, and road were all named the Dry Cimarron. Yes, another branch of the Cimarron River. The canyon went on for hours, almost entirely empty. Huge, rugged, and beautiful in a very different way than the other Cimarron Canyon, but no less impressive. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Scott taking photos at Petite Jean Mountain, Arkansas.

If you want to do astrophotography, one of the things you have to deal with is light pollution. You have to get where it is dark, far away from the city lights. Living in Fort Worth, was not terribly difficult. I was about an hour and a half from reasonably dark skies, and three hours from very dark skies. The other thing you have to deal with is that you need to shoot when the moon is not in the sky, so the New Moon is ideal. Once we moved back to Tulsa, really dark skies were further away. Looking at the Light Pollution map on http://darksitefinder.com I saw that the darkest skies in Oklahoma were found at the far western end of the panhandle. In fact, these were as dark as any place in the continental U.S., and right there in the middle of these wonderfully dark skies was Black Mesa State Park. I wanted to go. The problem was that it was over seven and a half hours away; this would be a major trip. I had suggested it a few times, but Ren had not been enthusiastic because she was worried about the heat and the distance.

When I saw the August New Moon was going to fall on a weekend, and that it was going to fall during the middle of the Perseid Meteor Shower, I told Ren that I was going to want to be somewhere DARK that weekend. I was surprised when she suggested that we go to Black Mesa. It took me about half a second to agree. We started our planning. More accurately, Ren started planning. She presented me with three plans with a breakdown of costs, driving times, and the number of new counties we could get.

Night sky at Fort Griffin State Historic Site in Texas.

We figured out what we wanted to see while we were there, which counties we would visit, how much gas it was going to take, and even where we would buy our gas, as we were headed into areas where you could not count on gas stations being nearby when you ran low. We knew we were headed to the park. There were three tri-state markers we wanted to visit, (A tri-state marker is where three states meet. If it’s not in the middle of a river, there will usually be a marker of some kind.), and, since Ren loves geology as much as I love astronomy, we were going to visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.

Taking a half-day Thursday off from work we hit the road as soon as I got off work. We drove straight to the park along Highway 412, with only a minor detour to visit Gloss Mountain State Park, which was right on the way. We arrived at camp just after dark and got our first surprise. For a park that brags about their dark skies, they had the place lit up like downtown. Street lights everywhere. We would have to get away from the park to get our stars. We set up our hammock stand camp for the first time in the dark, but they are very straightforward and it went quickly. It was cloudy that evening, with a small chance of rain Thursday and Friday, but we got lucky, while there were storms around us, they passed us by.

We spent Friday, as planned, exploring the park, visiting two of the three tri-state markers, and a couple of canyons in Colorado. Friday evening I found a location and set up to take pictures, but it was pretty cloudy and I didn’t get the dark skies I had anticipated.

Saturday the plan was to get the third tri-state marker and visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. We left camp and headed toward the Oklahoma-Texas-New Mexico border. When we got close enough to civilization to get a cell phone signal, I checked the weather forecast. The clear skies that had been predicted, were looking more and more unlikely. I wasn’t going to get my stars, again. I wasn’t too upset about it because we were having a great trip, and if you do astronomy long, you know that this is just part of the hobby. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

Us at the Oklahoma-New Mexico-Colorado tri-state marker.

As we headed into Clayton New Mexico, on the way to the Volcano, I looked at the map and told Ren, “If I can’t have stars, I want mountains. Let’s go to Taos.” She asked how far it was, and I told her it was just over two hours. I expected a little resistance to scrapping the plan she had worked so hard on, however, to my surprise, she agreed right away. At this point, we knew nothing about Taos except that there were mountains. While Ren drove, I tried to figure out what we wanted to do when we got there. We aimed to stop at a place called Eagles Nest Lake State Park, and figure out where to go from there. While I looked over Google Maps, I saw a marker for Cimarron Canyon State Park, but it wasn’t clear what it was. We drove on toward the mountains, which were becoming more and more impressive the closer we got to them.

Reaching the town of Cimarron, we stopped at a tourist information booth to pick up some brochures and spoke with the attendant. I noticed a National Park Passport stamp and asked her what it was for. It turns out that Cimarron Canyon was a National Scenic, and Historic drive and we were driving right through it to get to Eagles Nest. We always try to take any Scenic Byway we pass. This was as beautiful as any with its huge cliffs and thick forest while the Cimarron River flowed the length of the canyon. I love Rivers, and the Cimarron is not just any river, it flows into Keystone lake just a few miles from where we live in Oklahoma where I have camped many times. It had an entirely different character here near its beginning. The middle section of the canyon was the state park, with lots of campsites along the road. We were in love with the place.

The Cimarron River near the headwaters.

Reaching the town of Eagles Nest we had decided that we could see lots of interesting places by taking the Enchanted Circle Scenic Loop, which includes Taos and goes through large areas of the Carson National Forest. The only issue was that it was nearly 3:00 pm and we were about three hours from camp if we skipped the volcano. I wasn’t willing to skip the volcano because I knew how much it meant to Ren.

I called my boss, asking if I could take an extra day of vacation, while Ren tried to find a reasonably priced hotel; turns out that reasonably priced and Taos, don’t really go together. After a bit of searching, we found a room right in Eagles Nest so we booked the room. While we chatted with the manager, he told us that if we were driving the Loop, we should be sure and drive over to the Gorge Bridge, and told us how to get there. We were set with a basic plan for the afternoon so we headed out on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Loop and it was well worth taking the extra day. There is something about the mountains that call to me, something that feels like home. Whether it’s the Davis Mountains in Texas, the Ozarks in Arkansas, or the Sierra Nevadas in California. I love the mountains. These were no exception. It was a gorgeous drive through mountains, forests, and quaint little towns. The highest pass we drove through was just over 9,800 feet.

There were several roadside parks that were part of the Carson National Forest when we stopped at one to stretch our legs a bit, we crossed a small stream flowing gently over the rocks. To my surprise, it was the Red River. We had lived on the Red River for five months when we were park hosting on Lake Texoma for Eisenhower State Park. We had even made a point of crossing every Red River bridge from Texas to Oklahoma, and here we were crossing it again in New Mexico; it was so small.

The Red River between Oklahoma and Texas

As we made our way around the loop we reached the intersection where we turned left to go to Taos, or right to go to the gorge bridge. We turned right. Wow! Just Wow!. On this trip, we had seen mesas, huge mountains, beautiful lakes, canyons, cliffs, forests, and scenic rivers, but this was by far the most majestic and impressive thing that we saw. It was the Río Grande del Norte National Monument. The Rio Grande. We have traveled extensively in Texas, spent the better part of three years trying to see as much of Texas as possible, yet this was our first time to see the Rio Grande. It was amazing. This is the seventh highest bridge in the US, 565 feet above the river. There is a parking area on either side, with a scenic overlook, and you can walk out on the bridge. It was truly awesome, in the best sense of the overused word.

Reluctantly, we left the gorge and headed into Taos. I won’t spend much time on Taos, as this is getting rather long enough already. We drove around for a few hours, loved the place. Ren wants to move there; of course, she says that about every place we visit. I guess it’s a good thing we plan to buy an RV someday so we can live wherever we visit.

Río Grande del Norte National Monument

I suggested that we visit the Taos Ski Valley before heading back to the hotel. This was the first place I got any real pushback from her. Not that she didn’t want to go, but she is frightened about driving down twisty, turny roads, especially since it was getting late in the day; however, me driving scares her even more because, in her words, she is a bad passenger. One of the things I admire most about Ren is that she does not let her fears get the better of her. It took her a few moments to work up her nerve, but she agreed.

The Hondo Canyon Road is the road that leads up the valley to the ski lodge. I know I’ve said this several times already, but it was a beautiful drive through the valley with huge cliffs, tall trees, and a valley, there was, naturally, a stream named the Hondo, Rio. As is usual in this area, we were in the Carson National Forest and there were lots of scenic roadside campgrounds. We drove up to the lodge, but it was getting late, so we didn’t get out of the car, then headed through the valley again, stopping at a few of the parks.

It was time to be heading back to the hotel. The last leg of the drive was the twistiest and turniest road of the entire trip, and it was full dark, so we didn’t see most of it. When we got back to the hotel, Ren went to bed; she was exhausted from the last leg of the drive. The hotel manager told me earlier I could get a good view of the milky way from the deck on top of the hotel overlooking the lake. I went to take some pictures, but between the hotel and city lights, they were not the skies I had come seeking, but they weren’t bad.

Milky Way above Eagles Nest, New Mexico.

The next morning we found the entire town socked in with fog. We were not eager to drive through the canyon again until the fog lifted, so we walked through town to find breakfast. What we found instead was there wasn’t anywhere in Eagles Nest to get breakfast at 8:00 on a Sunday Morning. Did I mention that Eagles Nest is tiny? Did I mention that Eagles Nest is at an altitude of more than 8,200 feet? We hadn’t really paid much attention to that before taking our walk, but as we were walking back the thinness of the air became apparent. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got back.

When the fog burned off we headed back through the valley to Cimarron then north to Raton, where we found breakfast. Then we took the Raton pass into Colorado where we visited Trinidad State Park, before heading to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. This is an extinct, cinder cone volcano, with the cone remarkably preserved. There are a visitors center and a road that wraps around the cone to a parking lot near the top. From there you can hike down into the vent, or around the rim. We intended to hike around the rim, but between the altitude, our exhaustion, and general lack of fitness we turned back well before we reached the top. It was still worth the trip, and even from the parking area near the top, it is an impressive view.

Scenic view from on top of Capulin Volcano National Monument.

It was time to head back to our camp in Black Mesa and Google wanted to take us back to Clayton, but we hate taking the same road back as the road we came on, so we took the road less traveled; literally. What a difference. We went north through Folsom then took a small road east. It alternated between paved and gravel, and, usually, the gravel was smoother, but it was so worth it. The road led through a canyon we didn’t find on the maps, and where there is a canyon, there is a stream. The canyon, river, and road were all named the Dry Cimarron. Yes, another branch of the Cimarron River. The canyon went on for hours, almost entirely empty. Huge, rugged, and beautiful in a very different way than the other Cimarron Canyon, but no less impressive. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Dry Cimarron River Canyon in Northeastern New Mexico.

We got back to camp at a reasonable time, and as we were settling in, it became apparent we were going to have clouds again that night. Realizing I was not going to get the perfect night sky photo, I suggested we pack up camp and head south into Texas. In visiting the Texas Panhandle a few weeks earlier, we now had visited all but two counties in Oklahoma. The last two were down south and we decided to go get them.

We got back to camp at a reasonable time, and as we were settling in, it became apparent we were going to have clouds again that night. Realizing I was not going to get the perfect night sky photo, I suggested we pack up camp and head south into Texas. In visiting the Texas Panhandle a few weeks earlier, we now had visited all but two counties in Oklahoma. The last two were down south and we decided to go get them. In no time we were on the road. An hour and a half drive, and a minor crisis involving so many bugs hitting the windshield we could barely see out took us to Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Being Sunday night the place was empty and we found a nice site overlooking the lake, and slept under the stars, with a cool breeze to keep the bugs away.

The next morning we visited the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument. Walked through the visitors center, watched the informative movie and took a short hike, then got back on the road. We headed into Oklahoma to get those last two counties. On the way to Kiowa County, we were passing right by Quartz Mountain State Park. We couldn’t be this close without stopping. It is a very pretty park, though the lake was very low at the time. We spent about an hour here before heading to our next destination.

Quartz Mountain Nature Park near Altus, OK.

The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is a place I had to hear about for a while but had not yet managed to visit. It was getting late and I was thinking we should just head home, but Ren knew how much I have wanted to go here and insisted that we take the time. I’m so glad I listen to her. I had been afraid that after seeing New Mexico, that Oklahoma would seem dull and unimpressive by comparison. I needn’t have worried. The mountains of Oklahoma may not be as tall as those of New Mexico, but they are no less beautiful. We ended up staying much longer than we intended and it was getting dark by the time we headed home.

Arriving home late, we were tired and sore, however, the trip had been more than we ever expected because we abandoned our plans and took a chance. Sometimes having a plan is important because it tells you the when, the where, and the how; but it often causes you to miss the unexpected treasures of traveling along the backroads. Our motto is “Get out, live life outside your box,” which sometimes means getting outside of your plans. Take a chance, do something unexpected, live your life to the fullest. I still want to go back to Black Mesa. I still want those dark skies. But I wouldn’t trade this trip for the one we planned.

Remember to get out and live life outside your box!!!
All images taken by Scott and Ren. ©2021crosscountytravelers