Quiet Acadia

Schoodic Woods Campground
Nights: 7
Bikes: 1
Paddles: 1
Timeframe: 1st week of August

So I’ve gotten even further behind on posting—we visited Schoodic nearly a month and a half ago! Here’s a quick recap.

After the busy Bar Harbor area of Acadia National Park we reveled in the peace and quiet on the Schoodic Peninsula. This part of the park is about an hour drive away (or a hop on the passenger ferry plus the bus) so not a lot of folks bother to explore Schoodic. That was okay with us because it made for a nice, relaxing week.


After our awesome campsite at Bar Harbor we were ready to be a little let down, but we found another great spot waiting for us. The campground at Schoodic Woods has only been open about 2 years and it is beautiful! There are lots of trees but also lots of open sky which is what we like.

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Our awesome pull through site could have fit two giant motorhomes!

Spaces are big and come with electric hookups, rare for a national park campground.

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Bathroom Building


The bathrooms are the nicest I’ve ever seen.

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The architecture of the visitor’s center is stunning. This campground is a great find.

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Selfie along the loop drive.

This side of the park is set on a peninsula. The 6 mile, one-way “loop” road travels along the entire shore, but doesn’t connect back to itself. We drove it our first day, but it was even better when we took our bikes later in the week.

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Since the road has two lanes, both going in the same direction, cars have their own lane to pass you. We could peddle along soaking in all the water views and not worry about holding up traffic.

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Awesome water views!
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A lighthouse on one of the islands. That’s Cadillac Mountain in the distance, which we drove up when we were on the other side of the park.
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Pink Granite “beach” at Schoodic Point, the tip of the peninsula. 
Be sure to stop at the Schoodic Education and Research Center to tour the small visitor’s center in this building. It has really interesting brick and stone work and was used by the military for top secret communications.




When you get to the end of the road you exit the park and have to return on regular roads with no shoulders so we were glad the ranger recommended a bike path that cuts back to the campground. Unfortunately the bike paths on this side of the park are not as nice as those over on Mount Desert Island. These are made of loose gravel, which made the uphill going even harder, but we made it back.

By the time we took the spur out to the point and the trail back to the campground we ended up riding 10 miles.

Off course all that exercise meant we deserved a treat. I got out the solar oven and tried a new recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars (recipe below).

The delicious smell of cookies baking attracted this fellow who I had to keep chasing off.

Most of the kayaking around here is for those used to ocean waves, and the ranger recommended that we go to a pond outside the park. Thanks to Google, Chuck found a a protected area right off the Frazer Point picnic area recommended by a local kayaker. Mosquito Harbor turned out to be perfect and not at all plagued by its namesake.

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We did a better job inflating the kayak this time which made the ride even better. It was fun tooling around exploring the little nooks and crannies.

Just so you don’t think it’s fun and games all the time we did have to do laundry (found the biggest laundromat ever!) and defrost the refrigerator, which meant time for a tiny snowman. 🙂

On our last day we couldn’t pass up one more drive along the loop. This time we stopped at a beach we spotted on our bike ride.

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We laughed about the sign but once we got down there we understood. The beach was covered with round stones, golf ball to basketball size, and it was so tempting to take one, but we resisted.

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It was mesmerizing to listen to the stones gently tumbling as a wave came in and then the water trickling back out as the wave receded. It would make for a very relaxing nature sound CD!

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If Acadia wasn’t so far out here I think we would come back to this little corner of the Schoodic Woods! Who knows, maybe someday we will. For now we’re checking off national park number 12 and heading back to Ohio for some warranty work.


Oh, and if you’re ever in this neck of the woods there’s a great little farmer’s market in Winter Harbor. 🙂

Oatmeal Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Yield: 12 cookies with kind of a chewy muffin texture.

1/3 cup gluten-free thick rolled oats (33g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond butter (64g)
1/4 cup peanut butter (64g)
1/3 cup brown sugar (70g)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips (57g)


  1. Line GoSun oven tray with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl beat peanut butter, almond butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda, salt and oats into bowl. Mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very sticky!
  4. Scoop dough into prepared tray, smoothing out and leaving 1/2“ at ends (they puff up a lot and you don’t want them to hit the top of the tube).
  5. Bake in solar oven for 25 to 40 minutes (depending on your level of sun) or until top deflates a bit and toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

If you want a regular oven version of this recipe I adapted it from: http://meaningfuleats.com/flourless-oatmeal-almond-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies-gluten-free-dairy-free/

Yuma Round 2

While we loved the beauty of KOFA National Wildlife Refuge, we didn’t like the cold weather so we headed back to sunny, warm Yuma. After just one night in dry camp we lucked into a spot we could stay in long-term and ended up staying four weeks. Combined with the 9 days we spent here before going to Quartzite, it is our longest stay anywhere since we left Washington. We hadn’t really planned it that way, but when we looked at the weather other places it was hard to leave the sunshine (plus there was the incentive of half-off our fourth week).

Our sweet spot for the month.

We found the living pretty easy at KOFA SKP Ko-op in Yuma. We didn’t need to monitor our power and water—our solar panels were making more electricity than we could use, we had water hook-ups, and there was cheap propane on site. With a laundry room nearby we could put in a few loads and walk back to the trailer to enjoy the sun while they washed. I could grocery shop whenever we needed something and we could order from Amazon. Soon we settled into lazy mornings lingering over coffee and tea watching the Today Show and sunny days spent reading, surfing the web, or watching the acrobatics of the hummingbirds at our neighbor’s feeder and the installation of their park model (what a process!). Chuck puttered around the trailer doing maintenance and cleaning. When it hit 80 degrees we couldn’t believe we were swimming in an outdoor pool in February.

The longer we stayed the more we found to do in Yuma. We visited the Arizona Marketplace, one of Yuma’s famous flea markets. As we walked through the booths catering to the huge population of RVers, we thought this is what we expected at Quartzite. One even had every kind of screw and plug and part you could ever need to fix anything in your trailer.

Only in Yuma would you find a shop about Montana!

We went back to the historic downtown for the Yuma Date Festival. We walked through the small fair twice, bought a bag of organic dates 🙂 and walked up the block to the local coffee shop for a latte and tea. Not much of a festival by Seattle standards, but we’re not complaining when you can be outside in the sunshine in January.

Date Tasting!

We rode the bike path along the Colorado River and found nice parks at either end of the 3 mile trail with interesting signage about the history of Yuma and an old locomotive in Gateway Park. We also rode the the longer canal path, but it’s not too scenic unless you like peering into people’s backyards.



Of course being in one spot we discovered a few good local places. We ended up having dinner twice at the Prison Hill Brewery on Main Street. The Peanut Patch is a little store full of all kinds of nuts and dried fruits, both plain and chocolate covered (try the unsweetened pineapple!), ice cream, candies, souvenirs and some delectable fudge. We needed Valentine’s chocolate and the Almond Joy and Alaskan fudge did not disappoint! We had to make a return visit there too. 🙂 I also found some lovely soap at Bare Naked Soap Company.

Can you guess which plate is mine? Gotta love all those veggies!

Chuck finally convinced me to order a small solar oven called the GoSun Sport and we had fun testing it out. I miss baking, but hate to turn on the propane oven because it takes 20 minutes to preheat and warms up the inside of the trailer. This seemed like a good alternative. Once we figured out how to aim the oven correctly things got cooking. After 20 minutes our test hot dogs were bursting open. Next I lined up silicone muffin cups in the tray and filled them with batter. It’s a little tricky because you don’t really know what temperature you’re cooking at (it varies with the intensity of the sun) and thus how long it will take, but after 45 minutes we had perfectly baked hot muffins. Amazing that using only the sun you can get such good results. I’ll definitely be experimenting some more. I also tried out a recipe for chocolate lava cake in the crockpot. It was yummy! I’ll include my recipe at the bottom.


Looking for hiking in the area, I found little that was close. The most popular, a very steep hike up a service road to Telegraph Pass, seemed not very scenic unless the wildflowers were in bloom but another blogger (wheelingit.us/2013/01/20/back-in-time-to-the-heydey-of-gold-hedgestumco-ghost-town) talked about an old mining town that looked interesting (see her post for the full history of the area). Driving west from Yuma fields quickly gave way to arid desert landscape and in the distance the Imperial Sand Dunes. Taking Ogilby Road north we found the Tumco mine site at the base of the chocolate colored Muchacho Mountains.


Unfortunately, as we are finding is usually the case, the interpretive guides for the trail were long gone but there is a sign about the history of the town and it was interesting to walk among the ruins.

Afterwards we drove across the road to Gold Rock Ranch, a really old RV park that has a sort of makeshift historical museum in it’s old dusty registration building and many artifacts from the mine displayed on the grounds. We couldn’t believe anyone would pay $40/night to stay there. It was really creepy, so we skedaddled out of there.

Historical Marker at Gold Rock Ranch.

Back across the road we explored the different boondocking options, peered through the fence at the still operating American Girl Mine, and even found a few geoglyphs. It was an interesting area that should definitely be on your list if you’re in Yuma.


Can you tell what it’s supposed to be? We couldn’t. Supposedly it’s best viewed from the air.

So even though Yuma didn’t seem like much at first, as we spent more time there it really grew on us. If you can get past the fact that it’s dusty, especially when the wind blows across the sandy desert soil, and you regularly hear jets and helicopters from the Marine Core Air Station, the reasonable rates, cheap produce, things to do and abundant sunshine make it a hard place to beat for waiting out the winter weather.

Yes, that’s a real cactus!

Crock-Pot Chocolate Lava Cake
This makes a cake with a layer of fudgy sauce on the bottom. It’s rich so you can serve 3-4, especially if you top it off with vanilla ice cream! Recipe is for a 1 quart crock-pot. Double it if you have a 3 or 4 quart one.

Mix these together in a bowl:

Put 2 T cornstarch in a 1/2 cup measure. Fill the rest of the way with brown rice flour. (If you’re not gluten free just use 1/2 c of regular flour.)
2 T coconut sugar (can sub white or brown sugar)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 t baking powder

Add and stir just until moistened:

1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 T oil
1 t vanilla extract

Stir in:

1/4 cup chocolate chips

Pour into greased slow cooker.

In a heat proof bowl or cup combine 3/8 c. sugar and 1 T cocoa powder. Mix with 3/4 cup boiling water and slowly pour over batter in slow cooker. DO NOT STIR.

Put lid on cooker and turn on high for 1.5 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove lid and let cool a bit before scooping into bowls and topping with ice cream.


Big Bend Part 1


Cottonwood Campground: 5 nights
Hikes: 3
Bug Bites: 2
Wildlife: 6 javelinas (they came through the campground each evening), 5 tarantulas (2 on the path, 3 on the road), vermillion flycatcher (beautiful bird with bright green wings and a fiery red/orange head and breast), a great horned owl, our first snake (luckily not a rattler), roadrunners, walking sticks, butterflies (at least 6 different kinds), lizards, orange and white spotted grasshopper, and lots of other birds.

We were so excited to be in another National Park (this is #6). While the state parks we’ve been in have been interesting, we were struck again by the grandness of our national parks. Big Bend wowed us with its sweeping and varied views, sheer size, stark dessert beauty, geology, and even a bit of history. The campground was near the end of the Ross Maxell Scenic Drive, about 26 miles from the western entrance, so we were treated to spectacular views for our first impression of the park.


This US Boundary marker was right in our campsite, but I think it had been moved.

The campground itself wasn’t that impressive, but it did put us in a good locale to explore this side of the park. Interestingly they flood the campground each evening to irrigate the grass and trees, and although the parking pads are elevated, it does make for muggy and buggy conditions. Still in the afternoon we enjoyed sitting in the shade of the trailer enjoying the view. Most of the time it was warm, up to 90 degrees. We had an awesome storm one night with the thunder actually shaking the trailer.


On our first day we took the scenic drive, this time stopping at all the pullouts and signage, much easier without a 30’ trailer in tow. They have very small visitor centers at this park, but make up for it with informative roadside displays, which is almost better because you are seeing the actual things they talk about instead of seeing a picture of it at the visitor’s center. We learned about the geology of the park, as well as, the history of ranching, farming and cross border trade in the region. Below is Tuff Canyon, an area formed from volcanic ash.

We took a short hike to the Burro Mesa Pouroff. A pouroff is a dry waterfall, only filled with water during rains. You had to get all the way inside to see all of it’s coolness. We also walked a short path through the remains of the old Sam Hill Ranch. The windmill still operates to provide water to the fig and pecan trees planted years ago.

The approach
Inside the pouroff

We continued all the way to the Chisos Basin, climbing from our campground’s 2100’ elevation to 4500. Here you are guaranteed about 10 degree cooler weather. The change in vegetation was quite apparent too as trees became a part of the landscape. There is a campground here, but the tight turns in the mountain road and small sites prohibit larger RVs. This is also where you can find bears in the park. On a map in the visitor’s center people marked where they had seen them and it was obvious they were quite active feeding up for the winter. The most popular hike was closed due to bear activity so we didn’t end up taking any hikes up here.

The Window in Chisos Basin

Big Bend is the only national park to contain an entire mountain range, and while it is a big park, the “Big” in the name refers to the giant bend the Rio Grande takes here. On our second day we hiked to Saint Elena Canyon to see the canyon formed by this famous river. It seemed amazing that we were staring right at Mexico. In fact there were signs warning you not to cross the center of the river or you could get in trouble for an illegal border crossing. The muddy water did not look inviting to us so no worries there.

Our final hike on this side of the park took us 7 miles down a dirt road, seemingly into the middle of nothing. But a short easy walk led us through a valley of rocky hills. Then a scramble up the rocky hillside and we made it to Balanced Rock. All around were boulders to climb on. It was nature’s version of a jungle gym and it brought out the kid in me.

Yep, that’s the trail, a scramble up the rocks.
That’s me climbing boulders on the far right.



A nice view of the canyon on the way back.

Back at the campsite a great view to enjoy while relaxing with a giant glass of refreshing lime water! By the way that cliff in the distance is Mexico. 🙂


Lime Water
Squeeze 1/4 lime in a large glass with ice.
Fill half way with club soda.
Add filtered water to the top.

To the Mountains

Davis Mountains State Park
Nights: 4
Hikes & Bikes: a few low key walks and rides around the campground
Bug Bites: 0 🙂

As we got near Davis Mountains State Park we realized that we haven’t seen mountains since we left Montana. It felt good to be in the mountains again, although these mountains are much different from those in the Northwest. Here the hillsides are covered with mesquite, yucca, agave and cactus.

Harvard agaves bloom once every 20-50 years and then die leaving these sculptural stalks that can reach 20 feet in the air.

This is a place full of history. Not only is this another park build by the Civilian Conservation Corps, nearby Fort Davis National Historic Site does a great job of telling the story of life in a late 1800s era fort.

We took the skyline drive to see the remains of CCC structures and the views. We also strolled through the lodge they built that is still in use.

We spent a couple of hours walking through the fort. All of the structures are original and many are furnished. We walked through everything from the commander’s house to the hospital to the commissary.

I found it interesting that the army recruited the best doctors in the country and gave them the latest equipment. Still this is the 1800s were talking about so their grasp of disease and the human body was limited. They favored things like blood letting to remove the “poisons” in the blood that were causing illness and didn’t understand how germs were spread so didn’t wash their hands or implements as they moved from one patient to another.

We happened to be here on Halloween and the rangers led a zombie hike and one of the campground hosts donned a mask for the day. Wish I had got a pic of that. For us it was a quiet holiday—no trick or treaters in sight unless you count the deer at the bird feeders.


Our big excitement was getting our ballots via General Delivery mail (thank you Jolynn!) and being able to cast our votes. I also pulled out the tiny crockpot I packed and made a version of the Chicken Tortilla Soup I used to make back home. It was torture to smell it cooking all day and have to wait to dig in. I think next time I’ll make it on a day we’re out hiking.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 2

Mix together in a 1 quart crock pot:

3/4 cup Pace mild chunky salsa
3/4 cup chicken broth
12 oz. bottle V-8 juice
2 tsp. mild taco seasoning
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (raw)
1/2 c. canned black beans (rinsed and drained)

Turn on high for 6-8 hours. It should be gently simmering. Adjust to low if your crockpot is hotter. Remove chicken breast. Shred with 2 forks and return to crock pot. Stir.

Serve with tortilla chips (Chuck likes to crush his in the bottom of his bowl and ladle the soup on top), sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

This recipe is pretty forgiving so put more or less of things to your liking. I think next time I’ll put in 2 chicken breasts and save the second one to make chicken enchiladas the next day. Yum!

Bears Oh My!

It was our first day at Glacier National Park. We had arrived at the crack of dawn (well, ok, 8:30, but it felt like dawn), circled the campground like vultures and scored a sweet campsite. Some of the sites are just parking spots on the side of the road, but we managed to find a big pull through site with a nice outdoor space and a bit of view through the treetops up to the sky and tree covered slope beyond. We set up the trailer, cleaned the dust off the solar panels from that awful Tally Lake dirt road, ate lunch and read the park brochure they handed us at the entrance.

Figuring the visitor’s center would be a good place to start exploring, we jump on our bikes and head for the bike path. On the signpost is a bear warning sign. Hmmm, wonder what that’s all about.


Arriving at the visitor’s center, we happen upon a ranger doing a presentation on wildlife encounters. Hey, I wanted to listen to this one. Little did I know I would really be needing it.


The ranger tells us to stay 100 yards away from bears and explained that the yellow sign on the path means a bear has been spotted in the area. In fact about 15 minutes ago a bear was seen on the very same bike path we had just ridden down. He told us the best thing to do is make noise when you are moving through bear areas. You don’t want to surprise them. A bear bell isn’t enough, you need to talk loudly or clap. Bears usually avoid you if they hear you coming.

But what if you do see a bear? Talk softly to it, give it lots of space and watch to see what it does. Usually they will move away. The chances of being attacked are about the same as winning the Powerball (really???). Do not run because that triggers the bear’s chase response and carry bear spray just in case.

So as we ride back to camp (no bear spray in our possession yet) I’m asking Chuck, how are we supposed to see the bear 100 yards away through all these trees and curves in the path? Well, I’ll just make a lot of noise and hope for the best!

A few days later we decide to take the bike path into West Glacier, just outside the entrance to the park. We overheard the clerk at the rental place tell some folks it was a good ride and you could stop for pie at the restaurant there and I’m always up for pie :). It’s about 2.5 miles of paved path in each direction so we figured it wouldn’t be too bad for our down day recovering from a recent hike. Turns out that when it’s hot out and you have a bit of adventure along the way it can really take it out of you.


We ride the path which heads through the pines, greenery sprouting up below and sun peeking through from above. The shade feels good and even though there are a few ups and downs we’re creating our own breeze on this hot afternoon and it’s not too bad of a ride. We arrive at the entrance sign and snap our official picture. Then in West Glacier we check out the Alberta Visitor’s Center, mail off some postcards, look through a couple of little shops and decide we’re ready to head back (being good we decide against pie).

First off, there’s a steep hill climbing up from the river’s edge to the main path. Surely that should have earned me some pie! Then as we’re riding through the woods Chuck says he saw something next to the path up ahead and to keep an eye out. So my heart is pounding more as I’m looking but we see nothing and he says it must have just been a shadow. Then all of a sudden he stops and  I nearly ram into him as I squeeze the brakes hard and my rear wheel flies up and my whole bike nearly tips over into a little ditch as he points to the bear about 15’ off the path from us. Back up he’s saying, and I’m trying to get my bike upright so it will go backwards without making too much commotion as the black bear is staring right at us. Hmmm, that ranger said always stay 100 yards away from bears. Now what?

Well not really remembering what the ranger said to do we are frozen and staring right at the bear totally forgetting we’re supposed to talk quietly to him and not stare directly. Another couple on bikes stops behind us. “Whatcha looking at?” she says loudly. Shhh! “A bear,” I whisper. We stay still and he moves just a few more feet into the trees. Chuck decides it’s time to take off. I see him leaving and decide he’s got the bear spray and I’d better follow!

It all happened so fast I really didn’t have time to be scared, but later as we’re talking about it is when I feel my heart start racing. Whew, that was a close one. Forget pie, I deserve a drink!

Virgin Mojito

Into a tall glass squeeze several lime slices (about 1/4 lime) and drop them in the bottom. Add 10 or so mint leaves. You can add a teaspoon of raw sugar if you want. Use the end of a wooden spoon to smash and muddle it all together. Add ice cubes or frozen watermelon chunks. Fill half way with club soda and the rest of the way with filtered water. Stir and enjoy! If you have recently come face to face with a bear and need something a bit stronger, add a shot of white rum. 🙂