It was difficult to find a campground on the west side of the state, so we settled for a lesser-known one, Orchard Beach State Park. I'm really glad we did though, because our site was absolutely beautiful and we found several treasures in the area.
- Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary: Just a few miles from our place, this little haven is home to the only 3 Giant Sequoia's in Michigan. They Grey family brought 6 of them from CA in 1938 and planted the seeds on their farm in Manistee. Three are left today, and all are here at this bird sanctuary/farm
- Arcadia Marsh Preserve. 15 miles north of Orchard Beach, this 305-acre preserve is home to 231 bird species (17 endangered), 28 fish species, and 201 plant species. It was a beautiful and serene boardwalk stroll in the morning before it was too hot.
- Orchard Beach Trail is a 2-mile trail just outside the campground. It was a beautiful walk in the woods and some meadows. We would highly recommend this walk for exercise and time to unwind.
- Manistee Bay and Lighthouses. Must take a quick tour through town and visit the lighthouses. To our surprise, the city beach here is a dog beach! Even though Pica chose to stay behind on this hot day, now we know where to take her for some fun. It was a fun walk with some cool shots for a night without the pup. There is also a Riverwalk on the south side of the river if you're interested.
Stay Details: Orchard Beach State Park; Manistee MI
*Note: This very large and active campground is a very well-kept campground with a lot of recent upgrades due to its beach erosion in 2019. They are still relocation the main pavilion and steps going to the beach, so don't expect the beach to be open yet. Most sites are tight and made for group camping. We were lucky enough to get a large pull-through site that gave us a pretty good view of the lake. Sites provide 50a electric only, so fill up your water before finding your site.
Just a quick stop here because it's an affiliate park without our home membership resort. It has a lot of ammenities, and best yet is that they are all open! Even the hot tub!
We parked on lot VS3, so we are in the front opposite of the lake, very near the pool. Mark just LOVES the pool! While here, we got some laundry done, played miniature golf, swam, took a lot of walks, and got some paperwork and cleaning done.
We have an upcoming appointment with the Grand Design (our RV factory), so get some warranty work, so we want all the Arizona dust removed. lol!!
The worst part of our stay was getting stuck in the rain while on a walk. Well, Pica didn't like it, it got her bloomers wet. Ha!
We would definitely recommend this campground, even if it's for a membership. They take good care of their grounds, and are even building more campsites on the other side of the park. There are a lot of friendly geese here, fishing allowed, playground, miniature golf, a large clubhouse, and an absolutely beautiful pool.
From FL to Myrtle Beach, had to find an overnight stay. After almost 7 hours of driving, we stopped at this precious little gem. MUCH better than a truck stop, don't you think?? :-)
Before leaving in the morning, we walked 3 miles on the trails (listed below), then rode our bikes about 12 miles on the other trails. We saw over 20 alligators, numerous birds (herons and Anhingas), a lot of frogs and unfortunately, numerous deer flies that drove us nuts. However, surprisingly we did not encounter many mosquitos here during this visit.
Stay Details: Santee Coastal Reserve, McClellanville, SC
* This is a small FREE campground in a beautiful reserve which lies inside the Francis Marion National Forest. The campground is total dry camping, meaning there is no bathrooms, water or garbage for people. You have to be totally self-contained. There are about 8 sites that are First Come, First Serve, and there were 3 left when we arrived. There were several beautiful trails in the area, a boardwalk over the marsh, and the possibility of seeing quite a few different animals. We walked the Marshland Trail, the rode our bikes on the Cape Trail and Eldorado Trail.
* The Eldorado Trail leads to the ruins of the Eldorado Plantation which was build in 1797, was hit with a canon ball during the Civil War, then ended up burning to the ground years later. It was a very interesting piece of history.
During our stay at Long Pine Key, we met up with Maria, Steve & the kids. It was great to see them after a year of traveling!
After resting and working on her camper for a day, we visited Wooten's Airboat tours. We bought the package which included the airboat ride, swamp buggy ride andgator park. The airboat ride was phenomenal!! Buggy ride.. Not so much. It was still fun being all together though.
The next day we all went to Key West. Visited John Pennekamp State Park and took a kayak tour and small hike. Mark had to work on his class halfway to Key West, so we found good cell signal, and the kids went on their way. They went shopping in downtown, then we met up again to get our pictures taken at the Southernmost Buoy.
We visited the beach, the kids swam in the ocean, and we found a spectacular sunset! After that we satisfied our hunger at a Mexican Restaurant.
Stay Details: Long Pine Key Campground; Homestead, FL:
* This is a beautiful campground nestled inside the Everglades State Park. The sites are dry camping only (no hookups), and are spaced pretty far apart. The kids parked oposite of us, and we were close enough to comfortably share the picnic table and refrigerator. We were also right next to the bath-house, so it was convenient for everyone.
* We walked the Anhinga Trail in the morning, and we saw a large alligator, and many Anhinga's along the way. It was a nice short trail for the kids.
* The only problem we had was some other campers were screaming at eat other until 2am, but the rangers were quick to take care of the problem in the morning.
We left our previous location early so we could tour the area and park closer to the beach. Most of Florida State Parks are full this time of year, so we used a new resource called "WanderingLabs" which search campgrounds for openings due to cancelations. So, I put in my request for 3 different campgrounds around the Panama City area, and within an hour we had an opening at this park! I had 15 minutes to reserve it, and we were in!
During our stay here, we rode our bikes on the trails, visited the beach, and enjoyed the beautiful outdoors. This is a definitely a park that you should put on your ToDo list if you are in the area. It is absolutely gorgeous and well kept!
Stay Details: Topsail Hill Preserve Campground - Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Site #35. Our site had a broken cement pad, so it was difficult to get the camper up there without hurting any tires. We did a great job as a team once again, and we were situated in no time! Before heading out on the bikes, Mark worked on some class work. Before long, he was ready to relax and ride the trails.
Before dinner, we left Pica in the rig and went to the beach. We arrived shortly before sunset, and were able to get some awesome photos!
There are NO bad sites at this park from what we can see, and this park is very well maintained and clean. We highly recommend this campground if you are in the area. The walk to the beach was .9 miles, and the pool was closed due to Covid.
After a 6-hour drive and about 50 miles of it being bridge over Louisiana swamp land, we ended up at a very nice Coast to Coast resort, Abita Springs. It is nestled amongst very tall pines, has a swimming pool, 3 ponds and a hiking trail.
I am finding out that when we request 50 amp sites when booking a camping reservation, it usually lands us smack in the middle of huge rigs and motorhomes, not the remote and quiet sites we prefer. So, we asked to downgrade to a 30 amp site and they reluctantly honored that request. When we returned from our excursion to New Orleans, we packed up from our sardine location and hastily moved to our new pond-side site with fewer rigs and more wildlife. It was darker, much quieter, had a beautiful picnic area in the pines and even occasional visiting ducks and geese!
Highlights of the visit to New Orleans: There were only a few things we wanted to see in New Orleans, so we planned for a quick visit.
- Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is the world's longest single bridge over one body of water. We think it was pretty awesome, except it was so foggy we couldn't see anything until our return trip back over the straight-long span.
- Venice: Located at the southern most end of the Mississippi River, the trip down to the end of this peninsula was nothing short of spectacular. We learned that levees built on either side of the road were meant to keep out the storm surges and protect homes and businesses. During hurricane Katrina, these levees were breached and the locals suffered from a 29' storm surge. Even 15 years later, there is still plenty of evidence from the Katrina's devestation. The 400-year storm left such an impression on New Orleans, you can take a tour of it from the French Quarter.
- Eagle: Stopping at the Plaquemines Parish Museum, Mark spotted an eagle sitting in the tree watching us. It was protecting its nearby nest and I was able to get a few photos!
- South Plaquemines High School: Most of the homes and business south of the levee gate was built on pylons to raise it beyond probable storm surges. Check out this high school that has been built above ground! The name of the HS football team? The Hurricanes!
- Venice: At the end of the peninsula, we stopped to walk around the marsh. The Pass A Loutre State Wildlife Management Area was nearby, so this area is rich with wildlife! We saw Pelicans, Osprey, Loons, Egrets, Herons, and even Alligators!
- French Quarter: We walked the markets in the French Quarter, and even though neither of us are the 'shopping' type, we enjoyed the experience of the area. We even had a Biegnet at the Cafe Du Monde!
The ornate iron railings around town and seeing Bourbon street was one of the more interesting points of the visit. There were young men scattered around town making money by shining shoes, playing music and telling jokes. We can now consider this visit checked off our list, and have little desire to return. It was definitely a learning experience, and now we understand why so many people were affected by the hurricanes here.
Stay details: Abita Springs RV Resort: Abita Springs, LA.
* Site # 223 changed to site # 25. The sites in the smaller pond loop have water and electric only, with 30-amp electric. The park does have a dump station near the entrance. We chose site 25 because it was an easier angle to back into, and our large windows would face the pond.
During our time at site 25, we had the peninsula to ourselves and the local ducks seemed to love spending their day with us; even laying down next to us as we sat and worked. :-)
(See more photos on our ARIZONA page)
We found this spot on Campendium, and after reading the reviews, I wasn't sure if we were going to find a spot or fit into the spots we did find. We could only go so far, so after passing the 5th cattle guard, we pulled over and rode the bikes in to scope out a spot. Low and behold, there were 2 areas that MAY work, and a few spots to turn around if they didn't.
It was difficult to put the rig into position, but even though a bit frustrated, Mark did an awesome job. Once it was in position, it was also work to level the rig, as we were 8" off. We put one side up on blocks, and the other side we dug a little hole so the tires would go down. Came out to 1/4" off, so we called it good and hit auto-level.
The views at this place are spectacular! We walked the area and found recent evidence of cows, Mountain Sheep, and some dog or cat-like medium type animal. We were at the top of the hill overlooking the rest of the campers, so we set up the cameras to face the mountains, in hopes that we'll see some kind of wild animal activity.
The local cows moved in on day 2, keeping their distance yet welcoming us with their presence. :-)
Stay Details: Indian Bread Rocks BLM; Bowie AZ. (32.240677, -109.506086)
Well we had a new favorite yesterday.. Now we have another new favorite today! Lost Dutchman State Park, just east of Phoenix is one of the beautiful places to camp at a state park. The beautiful mountain right behind us, the many walking and biking trails, the ammenities, and the wonderful staff made this place top-notch.
We chose to dry camp at one of the newer spots which was located closest to the mountain for spectacular sunset views! There are modern bathrooms and showers here, a dumpster at the beginning of every loop, a camp host on every loop, and a dump station so dry campers get take care of tanks (included in cost of site).
We met up with some CMA friends and had a wonderful visit. We met up with another CMA couple in the campground and visited with them too. They happened to be camping across the loop from us! What a small world! :-)
Critters: We caught several mice or desert rats on the camera throughout the night. A screen shot of one is listed on the AZ page.
Stay Details: Lost Dutchman State Park; Site 124. 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ. (33.452576, -111.479417)
Time to say a temporary 'see ya later' to our new found friends, and make some headway east. We like to stop before it gets dark, so we chose Saddle Mountain because of the reviews. I was really glad I read more reviews before we arrived because someone suggested a better entry for larger rigs. I can't believe the spot we found! This is absolutely my new favorite place! Why? Because of the view, the ease of entry, and the ground is not dirty/dusty/yucky!
There is supposed to be Saddle Mountain Petroglyphs somewhere nearby, but after riding our bikes on a very rocky 5-mile terrain, we didn't find it. It was getting dark anyway, so we headed home. Maybe tomorrow or next time.
Critters: Most days, we have cameras set out at night to watch for animals. Last night we are pretty sure we caught one of the Arizona Ringtails on our camera video! It wasn't a great video because it was too close, then went by again in the distance, but all the features of this animal matches the ringtail exactly! We are very exited about this even though it wasn't a great video of it!
Details: Saddle Mountain BLM Dispersed: (33.460627, -113.061973)
* Note: If you are planning your stay with a medium-large rig, you'd do better by entering at GPS location 33.464515, -113.062337. There was a little dip here, but not bad. The roads are VERY good for dispersed camping, and the sites are huge. If you go to the other place listed in Campendium, you will have a very bad, rocky road with smaller sites.
We found another stellar bike ride! The historic railroad trail near the Hoover Dam. Really awesome!
Then a side track to Red Rock Canyon (thank you Kathy! Then a drive back through the Las Vegas strip.
Pray for Pica, she has a grooming Appt tomorrow and because of her nasty nature when groomed, I really don’t think it will go well. Here’s hoping she can at least get a bath!
Blessings to all!