Yellowstone National Park
Out of all the places we’ve traveled, none have been as magical as Yellowstone National Park.
We timed our visit perfectly! We visited mid-October and got really lucky. It had snowed just a few weeks before our trip. We were a little worried it would be too cold for us. It wasn’t. The sun was out. We wore jeans and t-shirts and enjoyed every minute of our time in Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone.
Traveling late in the year meant plenty of access to a typically sold out campground. Hook-ups to power and potable water were turned off for the season. But boondocking at Buffalo Bill State Park was an unforgettable experience. The kids built teepees on the beach with driftwood, and I sipped Sangria by the campfire. I can’t imagine how life could have been better. We will absolutely be back to this campground again. SOON!!
Anyway… Back to Yellowstone.
I really wanted to see a bear. It was the number one on my list of things to see since our trip to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Our last day in the park had just ended, and I still hadn’t found a bear. I was a bit pouty as we drove to the exit, constantly peeking out the window. Hoping. Praying…
About a half mile from the park exit, Scott noticed a ton of people gathered on the side of the road. Call it instinct. Luck, maybe. He thought it would be a good idea to stop, just in case there was a bear. Sure enough, a little black dot came barreling down the hill. You had to squint to see him (or her) along the tree line, but I didn’t care how far away he was. I zoomed in as far as my camera could go and took as many pictures as I could.
When I got back into the truck, I zoomed in on my photos. This is what I found…
Woohoo! I finally got to see a bear— cross that off the RV bucket list. We also saw plenty of buffalo, elk, a variety of bird and a fox. Next on the list? Wolves. I hope to visit the North end of the park where teams are working to protect the viability of the Grey Wolf species. You can learn about their efforts here.
I was so intrigued by exhibits and researching about the wolves. It seemed so magical and exciting. You never know… it might be the inspiration for my next book.
Let’s talk about Old Faithful for a moment. Is it cool? Yeah. Am I dying to see it again? No. Honestly, the Steamboat Geyser is way more exciting. We were able to watch it erupt from our spot at Old Faithful. The Mud Volcanos and Sulphur Caldron were super cool, but my favorite geothermal feature was the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. (Click here to check it out. Turn the sound up!)
The sunset over Lake Yellowstone is breathtaking. The pictures above don’t even do the scene justice. It was the type of landscape that stops you in your tracks to reflect on the world.
There is beauty all around us, we just have to find it.
You're My Rock, My Colorado
Justin Beiber got it right. Colorado is all about the rock, and y'all I might be in love! The landscape is breathtaking; everywhere you turn, there is something new to see, from snow-peaked pointy mountain tops to beautiful sloping desert sands. Every rock formation is different and picture worthy.
No matter where the wind takes us, adventure we will find...
While I enjoyed the views at Garden of the Gods, the ride through the park would have been more enjoyable if we didn’t have two small children in the back seat.
“Are we there yet?”
“Can I have my kindle?”
“He hit me!”
Those were just a few of the phrases escaping the back seat, but I could go on for hours… There aren’t enough words to share how excited I was to climb out of the truck at Balanced Rock. It’s a neat spot to take eclectic pictures, but we just let the kids climb and explore. If the air hadn’t been substantially polluted by wildfire smoke, and we were able to hike instead of drive through the park, this experience would have been magical!
Typically, I would always advise against gift shops, but the Trading Post in Garden of the Gods was super enjoyable. It could be because I had a kid-free mommy moment, or it might be the Caramel Macchiato I bought… but you guys, I was in high heaven in that store! They had funny signs with little critters painted on them and tons of Colorado oddities. I took my time checking out all the apparel, and there was no way I was leaving that store without a box of fresh fudge!
Now, we usually travel to warm places, but the children were crazy excited for a September snow! I even bought them some boots when I went to buy groceries. Of course, the store was completely sold out of mittens and toboggans, but it worked out okay! The kids had a great time making snow angels and throwing snowballs at me.
With snow comes thoughts of Christmas. So, I loaded the kids up, and away we drove to the North Pole in Colorado Springs. The kids got to meet Santa, who already knew they have not been cleaning up after themselves. He also knew the kids had been quarreling quite a bit lately… Hopefully, Colten and Kate can still make the nice list, but I guess we will have to wait and see. The North Pole ended up being a really cool experience; the rides were super fun! The train driver even taught a few animals to follow the tracks for a nutty treat. Colten stood and watched the glassblower for forty-five minutes! Funny I should mention glass. I warned the kids, quite sternly, I may add, not to touch anything in the glass shop. Guess who broke something in the shop? Yep! I did. SMH!
It feels like our family got an extensive tour of the whole state. We visited the Hot Springs in Ouray, the waterfall in Box Canyon, and Color Change Weekend in The Grand Mesa. On a side note, the Grand Mesa RV Park is the perfect location to explore the top of the mountain, but also extremely convenient for families. The owners are probably my favorite people we’ve met along our entire trip. They were so sweet to our kiddos, and they are making an incredible impact on their community. I love finding ways to support small, local businesses, and this was a great one to visit!
Most of the people we meet along our journey are super kind, thoughtful people. We met a group that loved my book and were sweet souls. But, that’s not always the case. Boy, do I have a story for you! You’ll have to read RV Mama Take Two to learn about our first KOA experience. I’ll just leave you with a little hint: crashed late-night kid-free campfire that resulted in Scott needing to defend more than just my honor. You don’t want to miss this story!
Bottom line, if you’ve got a bucket list add, visit Colorado.
PS: Want to see more pictures from our adventure??? Go check my insta! @rv.mama
Spirit of Suwanee
When you are a grown-up, with kids of your own, it's nice to recreate memories of your childhood. When Scott was a young lad, his family camped at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. So, we made a pit stop to explore the park with Colten and Kate.
Scott says the park has changed quite a bit over the years. A new cafe and music hall were added. However, the park still offers access to the Suwannee River.
During our stay, we wanted to tube down a river. We attempted to visit Ichetucknee Springs, but it was already at capacity. We're not early risers, so we missed the 7 AM line to get into the park. Then, we tried Gilchrist Blue Springs, Florida's newest state park, but it was also at capacity. We didn't even try Ginnie Springs, there were several cars parked outside the entrance waiting for their turn to enter. We ended up tubing down the Sante Fe River off of a boat ramp we passed driving down Highway 47. Needless to say, if you want to see a spring-- go early!
Visit North Georgia!
If you have a Thousand Trails membership, Carolina Landing is worth the visit. Not because of the quality of the park, but because of the proximity to so many incredible adventures along the Georgia, South Carolina border. I vacationed to North Georgia quite a bit as an adolescent; It was fun to recreate experiences with my own family!
Babyland General Hospital, located in Cleaveland, holds unforgettable memories from my childhood. When I was a young girl, the Cabbage Patch Factory, as I called it, was a magical place, where little girls dreamed of spending every day. The hospital is set-up as a museum, showcasing dolls from long ago and today. Pretend nurses will greet you as you progress through each room. The dolls are creatively arranged in cribs, treehouses, and a variety of lifelike scenes. Our family's favorite is the schoolroom. When you visit, stay until the tree comes to life and a baby is born from the cabbage. If the doll hasn’t already been adopted by a specific family, the crowd will get to name the doll and watch the nurse prepare the baby for adoption. I still have my doll born from the magical tree twenty-five years ago. My daughter plays with him now, and I hope to pass the tradition along to my grandchildren one day. There is no fee to tour Babyland General Hospital, however, the authentic Cabbage Patch Kids do come with a hefty price tag. Remember, you’re buying an experience that your daughter will cherish for the rest of her life.
Another family favorite includes the Tallulah Gorge. When you check into the park, don’t skip the museum. You’ll learn about Karl Wallenda, a high wire artist who walked across the gorge on a two-inch wire. Animal enthusiasts will love the display as well. This mama loved the air conditioning… Anyways, wear walking shoes and make sure you have a step tracker! You’ll hike down hundreds of steps to a suspension bridge. Once across the bridge, check out the overlook. It’s only 221 extra steps, but the view and photo op are worth the exercise. Don’t leave Tallulah Falls without taking a look at the dam. It’s a neat pit stop that only takes a few minutes. Just past the dam is access to the lake. The park does have a beach and picnic area if you need a break after hiking all of the steps.
I have so many favorites in the area, the list goes on and on. Helen, Georgia is another memory I hold dear. The quaint Bavarian town is full of adventure, from mining for gold and mini-golf to hand made wooden toy shops. Visitors can tube through rapids around the city, enjoy amazing international cuisine, or simply walk through the neat little shops. I never miss the glass shop and I always find a spot on the river to eat!
Henderson Falls Park is definitely worth the mention. It is a fairly short drive away, just outside of Toccoa Falls (another neat sight.) The park has a nice playground and plenty of water for the kiddos to splash around in.
Last but not least, I took the opportunity to show my son the campus of the best college in the south, The University of Georgia. We walked around the best part of Athens to find the bulldog statues, see the stadium and take a photo with the arch. If you visit the campus, grab a warm cookie from Insomnia, you won't be disappointed!
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Oh, hello Smoky Mountains! This is the first National Park we visited during our camping adventure, but ya'll know we like the secluded, smaller, RV parks. So, we chose to stay at Honeysuckle Meadows RV Park.
Honeysuckle Meadows is situated conveniently near Pigeon Forge, the national park, and Gatlinburg. The park offers spacious wooded campsites with complimentary full hook-ups. Campers receive free access to the Honeysuckle Meadows pool. The pool is owned by the same family who maintains the RV park, however, tourists from all over the county are welcome to the pool, (for a small fee.)
The Smokey Mountain National park is phenomenal. There are several pull-off areas for visitors to splash in the waterfalls or simply take a glimpse into nature. We found a little creek next to the stone sign. Colten practiced his Parkour skills hiking up the creek; Katie picked a little stone to use as a stage for her tap dance show.
I became a tad bit wiser camping in Sevierville, Tennessee. The closest grocery store was a small IGA. Now, I'll preface my story by saying the store manager was incredible. He immediately corrected the situation and did everything within his power to make sure our experience was extraordinary. I will certainly shop here again, however, I learned it is not a good idea to buy meat from a small IGA connected to a gas station. When you start comparing the smell of ribs to various seafood, there may be a problem. Again, the manager was amazing and offered a great solution, even though returns were strictly prohibited due to COVID-19. It didn't occur to me that if I needed to purchase baby back ribs, I should probably go to a full-sized grocery store. Lesson Learned...
Before I close, I'll share just one more reason why this park has a special place in my heart. I published my first book, sitting at the Honeysuckle Meadows Pool. I'll never forget the moment my final manuscript was uploaded to my publisher!
Wow; what an incredible adventure! We had a blast in Nashville! From massive playgrounds to tasty food trucks; you just can't go wrong here.
We stayed at The Grand Ole RV Park in Goodlettsville, TN. It was just outside of the city; the location could not have been better! The park offers live music every evening. There is a swing set on the lawn; it was nice to listen to the melodies while the children played. The park office serves breakfast and dinner for a small fee. You can even enjoy a church service Sunday mornings at 9 AM. The staff were really friendly and helped us overcome a few obstacles. The sites are well maintained and fairly level. I would definitely visit this campground again in the future.
Less than a mile from the campground was a little playground, Mansker Creek Park. If you walk just a few minutes around the greenway, you'll see a little path. The path leads to a creek that helped to cool the kiddos off during the day.
About three miles from the camp were some other awesome playgrounds. We even found a splash pad! We visited Peay (pronounced pay) Park. Moss-Wright Park has a massive playground, too.
If you have time for a little longer drive, Veteran's Park in Hendersonville is amazing! It has a zip line and a ton of accommodations so that all kids can play.
When you go to Nashville, be adventurous on your food choices. When we booked the site, we knew we would likely spend a little extra money on eating out throughout the week. Y'all we found Lost Cajun and I am officially in love with blackened alligator cajun pasta. We followed dinner with the most heavenly beignets I've ever tasted! Perhaps I am a long lost cajun?
The quintessential taste of Nashville is hot chicken. My hubby loves Hattie B's but we just didn't make it over this time. Instead, we grabbed our hot chicken from the Prince's Hot Chicken food truck at the Ole Smokey Distillery. While you're there, order their Bushwacker! You won't be disappointed!
While on the trip we enjoyed a little Tennessee BBQ at Edley's. The tacos were pretty good, but the nachos are where the flavor's at!
Our trip ended with a special visit from two awesome people! We cherish every moment we get with family. I'm so glad we were able to see you, Nikki and Scott!
Cherokee Landing Campground
Cherokee Landing is a remote Thousand Trails campground located in Saulsbury, TN. The campground is roughly thirty minutes from any grocery store, so plan to pack plenty of sustenance.
We spent a ton of time exploring the property. The campground has its own lake, old school playground, and giant pool. The park was rather vacant; the kids had a blast exploring all the nearby sites. For the majority of our stay, the pool was completely empty as well, which provided the perfect opportunity to stay socially distanced.
The kiddos learned some major life lessons on this campground.
Colten discovered the effects of Poison Ivy. For some odd reason, he decided to take a rounded stick and beat some Ivy leaves against the tree it was growing against, which caused the leaves to secrete oil. He then took the stick and placed it in his shirt behind his back, pretending it was a sheath for his sword (the stick.) We told him it was Poison Ivy, but hey, what do parents know anyways... The next day, he had a rash from his neck all the way down his abdomen. Thankfully, we were able to video conference with a pediatrician to find a remedy. The itchiness and sores were gone about a week later, but I'm sure he'll remember the experience forever. Maybe next time, he will listen to his father.
Katie took some time at this site to learn how to do laundry. She is now quite the laundry pro! I swear the girl loves our little portable washer and spinner! She could probably manage the whole household if I stepped away for a few moments.
Speaking of laundry, if you venture to Cherokee Landing, I would not recommend using the laundry facilities. While the cost per machine is only one dollar, the dryers do not work at all.
Tupelo is one of the rare cities that I wished we had more time to visit. The lovely town is the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Explorers can tour the home and church of Presley's childhood. The grounds are beautiful, and my kiddos really enjoyed seeing the statues as well as the Presley family car.
Tupelo's downtown scene, Main Street, is lined with guitars, restaurants, and bars. I wish we had more time to explore one of the many nearby parks!
While in Tupelo, we enjoyed the Campground at Barnes Crossing. The park was very well maintained; the location is unbeatable. If you're a shopper, a nice mall is less than a mile away. The tech genius in my life was very excited to see a Best Buy close to camp. The restaurant selection in the area is vast. We love to see a Texas Roadhouse.
Tupelo was a little extra special for us because we had the opportunity to visit some family members that we haven't seen in years. It's always nice to make time for the ones you care the most about; I feel so blessed to have such an incredible support system in my family! So glad we were able to see you, Inman family!
We will definitely be back to Tupelo... soon!
We only stayed at Capital City RV two nights, but the stay was rather eventful!
First and foremost, Alabama is a beautiful state! The views along our route were a hidden treasure that I didn't know existed.
We learned some pretty big lessons at this park. When we pulled into the site, we went through our normal set-up routine. We tried to plug in the power plug, but the breaker kept tripping. The breaker wouldn't us to switch the breaker on. We called the office, thinking we would be moved to a new sit.
That didn't happen.
Instead, the park owner came out to fix the breaker. He replaced the switch, and all was well... or so we thought.
We didn't have any issues throughout the stay until the last night. I stepped outside to work on a little laundry and smelt burnt rubber. We looked all around the camper, but we were certain the smell was coming from the neighbors, who were on their very first RV trip.
The next morning we went throughout the pack-up process and found the burnt rubber.
Apparently, the breaker wasn't fixed.
Our surge protector melted from the excessive amperage pouring from the breaker.
While having a surge protector wouldn't stop the problem from happening, I am thankful we had some layer of protection between our camper and the faulty breaker. I really think so much more could have happened, but I'm very grateful that it was a minor dilemma.
Now, on to the fun stuff...
On the property, you will find a paved walking path around a pond teeming with wildlife. The owner mentioned he's observed a small alligator lurking around the path.
Colten made friends with a little turtle; it was adorable! The little guy swam out of the water and into Colten's hand. Check out the pictures above!
Katie decided she wanted to make friends of her own. So, she got a stick and built a fishing pole. They decided to collaborate to create something a little more successful. They got bread from the camper to use as bait.
The kiddos never actually caught anything, but watching my two littles work together was positively precious!
The Hitchinpost was a tremendous experience that taught me a lot about choosing the right campground. I’ve learned that sometimes the best hospitality can be found off the beaten path. Sometimes, smaller parks away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, have the best amenities and even better views.
The Hitchinpost is a small camp in Cottondale, Florida. The camp owner offered fresh eggs, access to her personal garden, free paddleboats, and the coolest dog park I've ever seen. The park was secluded, and I’ll admit the road leading to the camp was more than a little sketchy. However, the experience was phenomenal!
Our site had easy access to the Florida Caverns, which contrary to their website, is not currently open for cave tours. We did find a local favorite, Blue Springs Recreation Center. The cash-only center offers access to a sky blue swimming hole fully equipped with lifeguards, water slide and diving board. Little ones can play along the sandy beaches or on the small playground. The center had tons of shaded space for an outdoor snack or lunch.
Sites at the Hitchinpost average less than thirty dollars per night with full hook-ups. You can’t stay at a quality hotel for any price near that!
Teacher, Author and Traveling Mom.