"It's no wonder we wander..."
When we began our RV travel adventures in late 2014, we tried to come up with something to do together, enjoy the outdoors, learn something that would also be physically exerting to keep us healthy. A few months prior to us throwing off the bow lines of our land yacht, we watched a few of our new 'younger' RV friends on Facebook going on awesome hikes in places we've only dreamed about or have seen in travel magazines. The hiking bug bit us! After our first hike, we were hooked. If you've been reading our blog, you will notice that we've previously written an article of our Hiking Essentials (Oh! Take a Hike!)
So, we compiled our list of our favorite hikes for our first two years on the road:
- Toadstool Geological Park – Nebraska – this was our very first hiking experience. OH, we've learned so much since July 2015. What a difference a year and a half makes. We found this place after we moored Liberty at Fort Robinson State Park while on a sunset motorcycle ride. We saw this small brown historical marker pointing to the dirt road that led to this moon-like landscape. It is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. This place was amazing! Highly recommend! Come check out our blog HERE.
- Scottsbluff National Monument – Nebraska – this was actually a destination we found a few years prior while we were on a cross-country motorcycle trip. While we didn't get to hike it back then, we were amazed at the unexpected beauty of the bluffs in western Nebraska. This beautiful monument is managed by the National Park Service. When we think of Nebraska, we think of lots and lots of cornfields and cows. But hold your horses, there's so much more in the west…in the middle of the Oregon Trail. If you're interested in reading about our hike up to the top of Scottsbluff, check it out HERE.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park – Colorado – This was an awesome planned outing with our friends, Brittany and Eric from RV Wanderlust. On this particular hike only half of us could go on though. Eric had recurring back issues, and I was not willing to give my already-prone knee ACL issues. So while Eric and I stood on the first sand dune chatting and waiting, Brittany and Dan took off to experience one of the most exerting and physical hikes even the pro's would make. Their words, 'one step forward, three steps back' is how their hike went. If you've ever hiked in dry sand, you'll know what I'm speaking of. But it's certainly no walk on the beach as hiking the Dunes had you walking up and down several dunes just to get to the top of the highest. We lost sight of them; they looked like little ants. A few hours later, they finally returned red-faced, tired and parched, but they were so excitedly accomplished that they showed their guns in this photo. Want to read more about our Great Sand Dunes hiking experience, click HERE.
- Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona – I've always wondered about this place since I was 13 when my family traveled via Greyhound bus cross country to my aunt's house in San Diego, California. We only got to stop at rest stops, and I remember buying a piece of petrified wood as my souvenir…even though we didn't get to go there. Well, in our 2016 RV adventure planning, we included this in our stops. When we arrived, we were taken aback by the vastness of different colors layering the desert. It took all day of starts and stops; getting out of Captain America to hike a mile or two here and there. This was our first hiking experience in the Southwest United States. It was incredible because I kept thinking back to that little piece of petrified wood I picked up 40 years prior. We learned about the prehistoric history, saw petroglyphs, touched the layers upon layers of petrified wood enjoying every minute.
- Carlsbad Cavern National Park – New Mexico - We've hiked inside caves but this one truly takes the cake...a BIG cake too! Did you know that Carlsbad Cavern, located in the Guadalupe Mountain Range from west Texas to New Mexico, is one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea over 250 million years ago!? Did you also know that this great National Park has more than 119 limestone caves; receiving almost 400,000 visitors each year? Oh, and 17 species of bats? Carlsbad Cavern is over 1,000 feet deep and has 30 miles of mapped passages. So you can imagine our curiosity to see and trek America's ancient bottomless pit marvel. Over 5 miles of underground hiking gave us perspective of where the history of our earth ensued. We also stayed until after dusk to see 400,000 bats take their evening flight to hunt. Don't miss this one...just don't! Check out our hiking at Carlsbad HERE.
- Badlands National Park – South Dakota - Man, oh man, this is the primo of hiking! The landscape is just fabulous and spacious! The barren landscape that leaves much to the imagination. We started on the Window Trail (boardwalk) to get a taste of what to expect. We graduated ourselves to Saddle Pass and Notch Trail that challenged us to a verticle log ladder climb to the top where it joins in to heights overlooking the White River Valley. We were able to score some awesome photography and stay for a sensational sunset over the park. Truly magnificient! Want to see more of our Badlands adventure? Click HERE.
- Spearfish Canyon – South Dakota - THIS trail...WOW...will leave you breathless, literally! The 76 Trail is only a one miler but don't let the small distance push you into thinking, 'this will be done in 15 minutes. It was incredibly challenging Black Hills trail in the Savoy area of Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota. The 76 Trail is marked and located right near the Roughlock Falls. This trail is not for the meek, beginners, nature hikers or those who fear heights. This was designated as being a 'difficult' trail. If you have short legs like mine, you'll be tasked to slay the log steps. Going down was much more difficult from the pounding of jumping or stepping down. But I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Once we reached the top, all we could say is WOW!! The view 'up there' is the reward saved only for those who appreciated the arduous climb. We won't tell you anymore. You must go experience it yourself.
There you have it! We've hiked a good many other trails at different places, but these are our top for 2015-16; our first two years as RVers and hikers. We've learned a ton of history and geology, about hiking, the places we've trekked, each other and ourselves. We've challenged ourselves in ways we never have before and we've become stronger as partners in fitness and in marriage.