Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Virginia. The Most Unique Hidden Gems in Virginia.

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include a link to our favorite boondocking area(s), some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.

While Justin served on active duty we were stationed in Virginia. It’s funny how life can change from the plans you made. We bought a house, settled in Chesapeake, and he planned to get out of the military. Within a couple of years, we were offered orders to Germany, which we accepted, and we ended up finishing out 20 years of service.

FUN FACT: Virginia is home to the world’s largest Slinky (Richmond). 

Virginia is such a beautiful, fantastic state. It’s a state you just have to take your time in. The popular, tourist attractions are still unbelievable and amazing! So check them out!!

The Natural Bridge

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This really used to be unpopular and left alone. I think more and more it’s becoming something to see, but definitely visit this amazing place if you haven’t. We visited in the “Winter” (January) and couldn’t have been happier we did. It was in the 50s on the day we hiked the 2-mile trail to the waterfall. We might have seen a total of 20 people all day long. Very quiet, and peaceful. Virginia’s Natural Bridge is an enormous natural limestone arch. Carved by Cedar Creek over thousands of years, the arch was created when an ancient cavern collapsed leaving only the bridge. It is the largest natural land bridge on the North American continent. Don’t forget to go see the Hidden J.R.R. Tolkien Quote. Lines from a walking song are etched into a rock in Natural Bridge State Park.

Barboursville Ruins

We love the history behind ruins, and the architecture of some, for the times, is just breathtaking. Usually, there are mysteries and unanswered questions. We love that stuff. The ruins of this Thomas-Jefferson-designed mansion have been left to crumble since the Christmas Day they burnt down. The Mansion is available for visiting when the winery is open (10-5 every day, closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). It is an enjoyable 1/4 mile walk from the winery, or you can drive to a parking lot adjacent to the ruins. 

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We highly recommend this book on your travels! We don’t carry too many books with us but love this one, and have really gotten some great information from it. 

Kiptopeke’s Concrete Fleet

Nine of the 24 concrete ships were contracted by the U.S. Maritime Commission during World War II. In 1948 the ships were brought to Kiptopeke Beach in order to bring protection to the terminal during severe weather. The ships lie, partially sunken, about a quarter-mile off of the shore near the fishing pier. Kayaks are available for rent at the pier if you want to get up close and personal with the ships and the many nesting birds that live on them. We did not see if we could launch our own kayaks from the launch pad, but we are assuming you can. What a great historical thing to see! Can you imagine – ships made out of concrete?

Great Channels of Virginia

Wait! Slot canyons in Virginia? There sure aren’t many, if even more than just this one! If you read my blogs regularly, you know there are two places in the world I feel most at peace with everything. Slot canyons and waterfalls. They are all so very different, and yet, so much the same. This maze-like slot canyon is a unique gem within an already fascinating area. A roughly 6.5-mile hike leads explorers through their many twists and turns. The channels are near the summit of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain, so hikers are rewarded with gorgeous vistas of the surrounded nature preserve.

meGreat Channels of Virginia

Patowmack Canal

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Today the Patowmack Canal is largely in ruins, though better-preserved portions are visible as part of the Great Falls Park. Great Falls Park is a section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The entrance to the park is located off of Old Dominion Drive, about 15 minutes off the Washington DC, beltway. Entry to the park is $10/car or $5/person without a car.

The Ghost Church

This is just something fun and unique, but also plays games with your vision and mind. Easy to get to and check out since it sits on the side of a rural road in Mechanicsville, Virginia. But what locals call the “ghost church” is more of a suggestion of a building. The white beams that comprise the structure were built on the site where the historic Polegreen Church once stood. Open sunrise to sunset!

Museums

Virginia is a state that is just full of historical museums if that’s your thing. We do go to some, but we really love outdoor things to do. Hiking, kayaking, and exploring. There are some fun and unique museums so if you are a museum hopper, make sure you do some research. 

KAYAKING

If you’re boondocking at the above Dismal Swamp CoE kayak an 8-mile there-and-back into the Great Dismal Swamp. Start at the state boat ramp on US 17 near Ballahack Road. Paddle your canoe or kayak south through the Dismal Swamp Canal then west on a feeder canal to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural freshwater lakes in Virginia, part of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Continue west on the feeder canal to reach cypress-ringed 3,000-plus acre Lake Drummond, a Virginia legacy.

We are asked a lot about how we travel in 39 feet with 2 full kayaks. Easy! They are inflatable. We do not have an affiliate with Sea Eagle Kayaks. We are simply very happy customers. We’ve traveled 3 full years with these and love them! Click here to see which kayaks we have.

Exploring Virginia

There is so much more exploring to do in Virginia! We hope to be back in Virginia at the end of this year to add more hidden gems to this list! Do you have your own hidden gems to share with us? We’d love to hear about them!

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay while you’re traveling in Virginia? Check out our ever-changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Virginia!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Looking for some more states in our RV Camping series? Check out the links below!

Plus! Here are some more blogs we think you’ll enjoy!

Thank you for checking out our little corner of the internet! We appreciate each and every one of you! We’d love to hear from you!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Michigan. Top Hidden Gems We Found in Michigan!

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our favorite free camping areas, along with other RV camping we’ve done in the state

Crisp Point Lighthouse

This is a beautiful lighthouse to visit, but consider yourself forewarned, the road to get there is like no other we’ve traveled. When they sell a t-shirt in the gift shop that says “I survived the road to Crisp Point Lighthouse”, they aren’t kidding! We did it in a dually, so I know everyone can do it, but it is long and tedious, but worth the sights (and you might actually want to buy a t-shirt when you get there). A lot of people travel there on a side by side or off-road toys. We actually visited several lighthouses on the “lighthouse tour”. You can pick up a guide at the visitors center. Makes for a fun “truck hike” day. YES … this funny (funny because it turned out good) sign is actually on the road in! Let’s hear it for Girl Scout Cookies saving lives!!! 

The Tridge – Midland MI

Located in Chippewassee Park, this isn’t the only triple bridge in Michigan, but if you’re near the area, it’s a beautiful walk, and something pretty unique. There is also a farmers market, a skate park and a dog park if you’re interested. 

Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide

Assignment

Located in Thompsonville. It’s basically a huge water slide without the water. You take a chair lift to the top of the mountain and jump on a specialized sled to ride one of the two slides that are each 1,700 feet long. Make sure to check dates because the slide is only open seasonally.

Electric Forest

I’m adding this because it’s on my bucket list. We have not gone here (yet). But highly recommend at least checking it out. It looks really amazing and fun! Click here for information. 

Most everyone knows about the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s not an “off the beaten path” choice, but if you go to Michigan, DON’T MISS IT!!! It’s a breathtaking but very popular tourist place. We went! We loved it, and if you have any questions, let me know. The hiking and kayaking are amazing there!!  I did want to mention that once or twice a year, if you’re lucky, the wind is blowing just right and the garnet in the rocks washes up on shore and causes the sand to turn a vibrant pink. It only lasts a couple of hours to a couple of days. We were lucky enough to catch it! Go into the visitors center and ask about it. 

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Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors

We find this a little creepy, (we like this kind of stuff Ha!) and quite entertaining and interesting. Have you heard the story behind these?  You can actually pick up a tour brochure to show you where all the fairy doors are. Pretty creative! 

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Here’s a little history I found: “In 1993, While Jonathan B. Wright was renovating his century-old home, his young daughters made a delightful discovery: itty, bitty, six-inch doors scattered throughout the space. When opened, there were tiny railings inside that led to other miniature doors. There were even windows springing up, where lights inside would magically turn on and off. By 2005, Jonathan had become a full-fledged Fairyologist, documenting the little doors that were now springing up all around town – obviously, they were fairies, what else could they be? His website has documentation of over two dozen doors from these “urban fairies.” 

Blooming Mystical Lavender Labyrinth

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Who knew? This is on a farm in Shelby Michigan, called Cherry Point Farm and Market. The fruit and farm market has been in operation since 1961. In 2001, owner Barbara Bull started work on a lavender labyrinth, which can be seen on Google Earth. Don’t forget the amazing cherry pie and other fantastic fruits and homemade yummy things from this farm and market. 

Manistique Boardwalk and River Walk

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The Boardwalk runs down the Lake Michigan shore in the town of Manistique. Go for an early morning walk or take an afternoon and picnic in the park. You can view the Manistique Lighthouse or ships passing by. It is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can spend as much or as little time there. It’s really beautiful to walk out on the jetty to the lighthouse. As you can see from the picture, the sunsets are incredible. Highly recommend early Fall if you’re wanting a more peaceful, quiet time. 

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

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This doesn’t fall into a typical off-the-beaten-path place, but I just had to mention it. We visited this area in September on a weekday. It was almost empty! We actually went twice in one day. (We wanted to get some pictures later in the day.) TIP: Paradise is actually a very small, very expensive little town. We made the mistake of running out of propane and having to fill up there. It was the highest propane cost we’ve ever paid. So gas up, fill your propane tanks, and arrive with everything you need or you’ll be paying extremely high prices there. 

Kayaking

Want to do some Kayaking (one of our favorite things to do) Here are two of our top picks (other than the Pictured Rocks National Seashore area which is not an Off the Beaten Path area)

Bete Grise Sea Arch

Bete Grise

Bete Grise is a nature preserve on Keweenaw Peninsula, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A quiet and scenic kayaking destination on the Keweenaw Peninsula’s southern shores. The Bete Grise Bay is an amazing destination on its own.  There are miles of shoreline and waterfalls. Make a point to check out Keweenaw Historical Ruins too!

TIP: Launch your kayak or canoe from the Bete Gris Beach and paddle east, keeping the shoreline on your left side. After a couple of miles, natural rock sea stacks and sea arches rise from the shockingly clear water of Lake Superior. You can float through the arch and hang out in the shade. Please watch the weather. Lake Superior can be brutal in a kayak!

Turnip Rock

So, I was thinking this was a pretty popular thing to do. But when I started talking to people last year, no one had heard of it.

So we’re including it on our list. This unique rock formation is a favorite destination of those kayaking in Lake Huron, as it’s only accessible by water. The land on Turnip Rock is privately owned but you can still access this by water (kayak, boat, etc) Another option is to wait for Lake Huron to freeze and walk your way out to Turnip Rock.

Hope you enjoyed the ideas! Thank you so much for visiting our little corner of the internet. We would love to hear what you find “off the beaten path” in Michigan. 

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay in while you’re traveling in Michigan? Check out our ever-changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Michigan!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Here are some of our top blogs we think you’ll love!

Thank you for checking out our little corner of the internet! We appreciate each and every one of you! We’d love to hear from you!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in South Dakota. Best Kept Hidden Secrets in South Dakota

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates. 

South Dakota is the state we chose for our domicile as full-time RVer’s. We decided we should probably know a little about the state since it was now our state of record.

Fun Fact – Did you know that South Dakota purchased the building designs from Montana for their capital building for $15? So the capitol building in Pierre is exactly the same as the capitol building in Montana. 

Our Top Picks for the 9 Hidden Gems in South Dakota. 

South Dakota has a ton of amazing, popular wonders to see. Don’t miss the Badlands! I won’t go too much into this as it’s a very popular place, but can I just say WOW! To think about the early settlers coming upon this area and trying to cross it is remarkable. Imagine what they thought as this area came into sight. It is one of the most scenic places of color, beauty, and history. 

Wall Drug

Do you know the story behind this place? Wall Drug started simply enough when Ted Hustead purchased the South Dakota town of Wall’s drugstore in 1931. But it was Ted’s wife Dorothy who hit upon the idea that changed not just the drugstore, but the entire 231-person town of Wall. The idea: ice water. In an attempt to attract people, Dorothy Hustead put up a sign advertising free ice water to parched tourists on their way to the attraction. It was a big hit. From then on Wall Drug grew under its own strange power, adding a bizarre assortment of fiberglass animals, including the iconic Wall Drug jackalope, giant dinosaurs, and an array of taxidermy jackalopes.

Wall-Drug-Jackalope

Wall Drug now has billboards as far away as 500 miles. If you are a honeymooner, veteran, priest, hunter, or truck driver, you can also get free coffee and donuts. They still give out ice water too. Some 20,000 cups a day. Though we don’t personally travel with our kids anymore, as they are now grown adults with their own lives, this is a super fun place for kids. Every 30 minutes the dinosaur inside comes to life and gives you a little show. Seriously make sure you spend a day in this little eclectic town. The little unique shops are really fun! 

Corn Palace

It happens to be raining when we decided to visit. The Corn Palace is built out of concrete, not corn. However, each year, the entire exterior is redecorated in murals made out of corn and various other local grains and grasses. These decorative facades are redesigned annually around a different theme created by local artists.

Decorations from years past are displayed inside the building itself. We didn’t venture inside, but it’s a pretty cute little town surrounding the Corn Palace. We were there in May of 2017 and it is all about Rock of Ages. Super cool! 

Roughlock Falls State Nature Area

Spearfish Canyon – This trail is handicap-accessible and winds its way slowly to Roughlock Falls, a breathtaking waterfall that flows into Spearfish Canyon from Little Spearfish Creek. Spearfish Canyon highlights an outdoor wonder that is impressive and unique to the Black Hills. From Spearfish, take 14A (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway) to Savoy. The trail begins near Spearfish Canyon Lodge and is signed and accessible from the lodge parking lot.

Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Speaking of Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway – This is a breathtaking 19-mile stretch of US Highway 14A. Gradually climbing from the town of Spearfish on the northern edge of the Black Hills, this canyon is one of the gateways into the heart of an ancient mountain range. Spruce, pine, aspen, birch, and oak trees cling to the hillsides. Spearfish Creek flows along the canyon bottom, acting as a natural guide for the scenic byway.

Getting There: To start at the northern end of the byway, take either Exit 10 or Exit 14 off of Interstate 90 to Spearfish and hop on 14A. To find the southern end, take Highway 85 east from Wyoming or west from Lead/Deadwood. When you come to the Cheyenne Crossing junction, head north on Highway 14A and let your scenic drive begin. Before you go, check out some of the reviews on where to pull off and what to check out on the Byway. It’s different depending on the season you go. 

Devil’s Gulch

You just must take a drive here!! Located in Garretson – The ravine where Jesse James supposedly performed an impossible jump to evade capture. We just think it’s an amazingly beautiful area.

Thunderhead Underground Falls

A waterfall 600 ft. inside a mountain is a spectacle of nature. Unfortunately, this place closed down in May of 2017. Seriously just days before we were there. We’re keeping it on our list though!! Keep it on your radar to see if it ever opens up again. It’s one of the most unique and different things to see for sure. 2021 Update: We’re looking to visit this again, and it appears it’s still closed. I hope it does open up someday!! Please let us know if you hear of it opening up!

Awesome for kids (and kids at heart) Splash Central Waterpark in Huron with plenty to offer with its water slides, pools, and lazy river.

Falls Park / Sioux Falls

We think this has become popular, but it’s definitely a place to put on your list. Falls Park (or Sioux Falls). We highly recommend spending a few hours here.

The waterfall, one of the best in South Dakota, is the crown jewel of the 123-acre park. Falls Park also protects some of the city’s oldest and most historic buildings. The falls themselves are about 100 feet tall, and 7,400 gallons of water drop over them each second. 

Hippie Hole

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Hippie Hole (funny name, right?) This is one of the most amazing hikes in the Black Hills (we think) You can approach the waterfall from two directions, a short hike (our choice) down Battle Creek from the small parking area found off of South Rockerville Road or from an extremely strenuous hike off of Hwy 40. Once you reach the water from either direction, it is all worth it.  You can jump from the waterfall, float in the pool, or just sunbathe on the rocks. The hike is about 1/3 of a mile, and it’s a great place for playing in the water, jumping off of a cliff, and taking in the scenery. From Rockerville, head south on S Rockerville Rd, or head north if coming from Highway 40, until you come to Foster Gulch Rd (gravel). Drive about a mile until there is a marked road to the right and then another right about a mile later, after the next cattle guard. Stay right on all forks and the road comes to an end at a parking area.

Have you visited a hidden gem you’d love to share? We’d love to hear it! Please share your favorite off-the-beaten-path places with us!

Looking for the best RV Camping in South Dakota? Check out the epic places we found by clicking the button below!

Here are some more blog posts we think you’ll love!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Thank you for visiting our little corner of the internet! We hope you found value in our information, and we’d love to hear from you!

Hidden Gems in Iowa
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Iowa. Exploring the Our Top Hidden Gems.

Wait – Do people go to Iowa? I hope so!! I never see anyone talk about the beauty in Iowa, and there are so many amazing things to see! You’ll love it! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. If you love boondocking, you’ll find a suggestion or two at the end of the blog.

Fun Facts – Did you know that Iowa is home to the world’s largest Bull named Albert?  And Iowa’s largest frying pan? Does that mean there is another “largest frying pan” somewhere else? I mean, who knew? 

Exploring our Top Hidden and Most Unique Places to Visit in Iowa

There are some really interesting and popular things to see in DesMoines. So if you’re going to Iowa, you’re probably heading there. But also check out our list of Off the Beaten Path places. 

Masquoketa Caves

Located in the state park with the same name, you’ll fall in love with the beauty here! Opened back up in April of 2021! With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions. And you’ll love the campground at Maquoketa Caves State park! This little state park is definitely grand when it comes to caves and you’ll learn about the cave history, and explore the gorgeous area. It’s well worth a day trip (or make it two).

Ice Cave Hill Park

ICE HILL

Decorah’s remarkable ice cave is located near Dunning’s Spring. While Iowa enjoys four seasons, you will find that the ice cave is frozen all year long, due to its glacial location. It’s a short hike up to the cave, and while the cave is small, it is a sight to see. Even in the Summer heat, be prepared to be cold in there. I wouldn’t even suggest taking a jacket though, as you’ll be in and out of there pretty quick.

Devonian Fossil Gorge

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This once hidden gorge was revealed by the floods of 1993, and it’s a fascinating place to stop if you’re in the Iowa City/Coralville area. Bring your cell phone!! You can take a free guided tour. There are instructions on a sign in the beginning. The gorge is actually a 375-million-year-old ocean floor with incredible fossils that are older than the dinosaurs. To get there, take I -80 Exit #244, go north for 2.6 miles on Dubuque Street NE, then east 1.3 miles on West Overlook Road to the Coralville Lake and Dam.

Dunning Springs

Located in Decorah, Iowa. There is a 200-foot waterfall located just minutes from downtown. Not a long hike at all, and bring your lunch. It’s beautiful!

Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge

A warning to the weak-kneed: This narrow bridge does its swinging eight stories high.

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Directions: Columbus Junction is about 35 miles south of Iowa City, down Rt 218. Take a left onto Hwy 92 which turns into Oak Street when you get to town. Turn right onto Third Street (there’s a bright blue sign pointing the way), and the bridge is on the right where the road bends.

Historic Squirrel Cage Jail

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No, this isn’t a jail for squirrels. But this is a super great concept. This rotating jailhouse in Council Bluffs is one of the only jails of its type left in existence. Tour the inner workings of this unique jail built in 1885 and learn about the prisoners it held.

Wildcat Den State Park

We really love to explore state parks. The natural beauty of Wildcat Den State Park in Muscatine will truly take your breath away. The park features an extensive trail system, with 75-foot cliffs and amazing rock formations. The park also has several historic structures to explore. Located at 1886 Wildcat Den Rd., in Muscatine

Fenelon Place Elevator

Fenelon Place Elevator

When you get to the top of the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, you’ll be able to see not one…not two…but THREE states! Take a ride on the shortest, steepest railway in the world that elevates passengers almost 200 feet in the length of one city block.

The High Trestle Trail

The High Trestle Trail is a nature lover’s paradise and a work of art. It is a half-mile, the 130-foot-tall bridge gets bathed in blue light at night. Bike, walk or jog across the bridge, located near Madrid, for a one-of-a-kind experience. The 41 steel “frames” over the bridge represent support cribs within a historic coal mine. 

High Trestle Trail

After dark, the bridge comes alive as blue lights illuminate a section of the steel cribbings, which mark the location of the main river channel below. From April through October, the bridge is lit from sunset until midnight. From November through March, the lights turn off at 9 p.m.

Matchstick Marvels Museum

Located in Gladbrooke, Iowa. If you’re looking for something to do inside that is different and unique, this is the place! Patric Action of Iowa has been building detailed scale models with wooden matchsticks for nearly 40 years. In that time he’s created around 70 elaborate designs, from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Wright Brothers’ Flyer. Each model is comprised of hundreds of thousands of two-inch matchsticks, which Acton has spent hours shaping, warping, and gluing together with careful precision in an impressive one-man operation.

This is such an amazing art form. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 12, and under 5 is free. The museum is open from April 1 through November 30, seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is handicapped-accessible.

Roller Coaster Road

Are you up for a wild ride?

If anyone gets car sick in your group, definitely skip this one! Just outside of Harper’s Ferry in Northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County is Roller Coaster Road (Yes, it’s actually named that!). These thrills are typically reserved for the theme park, but here you can try it out in your car. Just remember to drive safely!

Boondocking

  • Big Creek Lake WMA (Polk City). We love Wildlife Management Areas. We also stayed at one in Colorado. Don’t pass these by: GPS: 41.819025, -93.756061
  • Hawkeye WMA. GPS: 41.792561, -91.71432 Gravel road is about 3 miles long but totally accessible. Big rig friendly! 

Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Tennessee. 11 Hidden Gems You Can’t Miss.

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include some great lists of RV camping areas. Both free and paid!

Tennessee has so many fun and unique things to do! We love caves and have you seen the cave systems in Tennessee? WOW! Just Wow!

Lost Sea Cave

The Lost Sea is America’s largest underground lake, located in Sweetwater, TN. Once you reach the lake you are able to board a flat-bottom boat and ride around on its smooth, glassy surface.

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There are also tours that allow visitors to spend the night in the cave and explore some of the lesser-seen parts of the enormous cavern. This could be popular in the summer and even more so during the summer on weekends. I’d suggest Fall. Have you seen Tennessee in the Fall? Absolutely stunning!

The Forbidden Caverns

FORBIDDEN

Located in Sevierville, TN these caves stretch for a half-mile and feature eerie and arresting mineral formations, echoing grottoes, silent reflecting pools, and a clear cool stream fed (most likely) by a nearby underground lake.

Ruby Falls Cave

Ruby Falls Cave has all the geological features one would expect (stalactites, stalagmites, etc.) with one magical addition: an underground waterfall. Until humans tunneled into the cave in the 19th century, the water had been trickling undiscovered beneath Tennessee for roughly 200 million years. Ruby Falls is the tallest underground waterfall the public can visit. This is a lantern-only tour.

Fall Creek Falls State Park

State Parks are some of our favorite places to go.

I won’t give too much information about it other than to say it can be a pretty popular place to go. But this waterfall has been featured in movies due to its beauty! 

Window Cliffs State Natural Area

We totally stumbled upon this while visiting a friend near Cookeville! The hike is steep at the beginning but a beautiful hike with amazing views.

Spaceship House

spaceshiphouse

If you are in the area of Signal Mountain, you must visit the Spaceship House. If you read my blogs you know I love the crazy and different houses, castles, etc. As of 2008 after several private owners, it was purchased by Signal Mountain and is now a vacation rental property. Super fun to just drive by and get pictures in front of though! 

Fun Museums

There are a ton of museums that are fun. Teapot Museum in Trenton, International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga and don’t forget … the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. 

Tuckaleeche Caverns

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Located 32 miles from Knoxville, in Townsend, TN this mile-long cave system is near the Great Smoky Mountains. Visitors come here to see both the strange and impressive geological formations, but also the crystal clear stream that flows through the entire system of caverns.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns – Chattanooga, TN More than 5 miles of underground passages. This is still on our list of things to see for sure!

Twin Falls Waterfall – Rock Island State Park

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Not a natural waterfall, but very beautiful to see! 

Patricks Pub and Grill

Well … depends on which side of the restaurant you sit on. You might be in Georgia, or you might be in Tennessee. You might park in Tennessee and eat in Georgia.

Super cool little bar and grill where the state line runs right through the middle. No alcohol on the Georgia side though! You can certainly have a drink served to you just a few feet away on the Tennessee side though.

Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Most beautiful hike!! Near Palmer, TN. Probably not exactly a slot canyon, but some of the hiking areas are amazingly similar and just as beautiful! This park is filled with waterfalls and bluffs that are just so unbelievable. The Stone Door trail is incredible!

Check out the stairs built right into the cliff. The Laurel Falls Loop trail leads you to a beautiful waterfall by the same name. There is another amazing waterfall that falls into a pool you can swim in if you want, called Greeter Falls. You’ll feel you’ve left the USA when you look at the turquoise pool. 

Savage Gulf Natural Area

What have you found while exploring Tennessee? We’d love you to share your own hidden gems with us! Here are some other blogs we think you’d love!

RV Camping in Tennessee

Click the button below to be taken to our list of the best free boondocking and paid campgrounds we’ve stayed at!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Colorado. Our Top 10 Hidden Gems in Colorado!

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and taking the road less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to share your own off-the-beaten-path stories. Each series will include a link to our favorite boondocking locations!

Here’s a fun video we made! Take a couple of minutes to explore the Midland Train Tunnels in Buena Vista! 

Twin Lakes – Twin Lakes is like no other. Incredible boondocking area (check out our boondocking link below for all the information), beautiful scenery and we met some wonderful people. The lake is incredible, with amazing kayaking and fishing. Leadville is a quaint town to visit that is pretty close.

Leadville’s Abandoned Silver Mine

There is an abandoned silver mine with wrecked and twisted structures. It’s like you’ve walked back in time. It’s interesting and eerie at the same time. Make sure to stop and soak in what might have been so long ago! And don’t miss out on the actual town of Leadville! Did you know it’s the highest incorporated town in America?

Swetsville Zoo

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Ok, so don’t expect the living, real kind of animals here! Ha! This “zoo” is a cross between a junkyard and a sculpture garden, featuring animals you won’t see anywhere else. Alongside the classic dragons and trains are aliens and dinosaurs, and some things you’ll just have to ask the owner what they are. Super fun and interesting place! This is located in Fort Collins, CO. 

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Paint Mines

No doubt this was a place where ancient people collected clay to be used as war paint on their bodies, or paint for their pottery  The weird stone shapes were formed by water, wind, and erosion. The spires come in shades from creamy white to orange, purple, gray, rust, and dark brown. Another ecosystem thrives there. So please read up before visiting. Another place that pups aren’t allowed. But, well worth the sites. 

Bishop’s Castle

This was by far the most bizarre place I’ve ever been to. Seriously EVER. My recommendation is to read the history of this place before going. We wrote a blog about it! Exploring Bishop Castle – The Most Unique and Bizarre Find in Colorado!

Cano’s Castle

Cano's Castle

Another bizarre castle. Well … if they build them, we will come! Another self-built castle where the towers are built largely out of beer cans (yep, you read that right) and other metal “things”. Cano’s Castle is actually four separate structures. “The king”, “the queen”, “the palace” and “the rook”. Located in Antonito, CO. On the corner of State St and E 10th Ave. If you’re around that area, you just gotta drive by. Tell me you aren’t speechless! Ha! 

Hanging Lake

Yes, the picture is real! Beautiful, right? Hanging Lake is a crystal-clear, travertine lake located high atop the cliffs of Glenwood Canyon. The hike is only a mile, but it’s steep with lots of rock scrambles. If you normally use hiking poles, I wouldn’t here. They can be cumbersome.  I added this to our list because of its amazing beauty and wonder. Hanging Lake is a geologic wonder. They ask that you not touch the lake at all. Not even dip your toe in it. It’s a perfectly balanced ecosystem. When you get there, you’ll see! Please make sure you follow their rules. No animals are allowed, so leave your pup home on this trip. UPDATE: In an effort to help keep control of the number of people, this hike is now by reservation only. So do your research. You can find more information here.

Flying Saucer House

Yep … another one! Ha! But where else can you see all these strangely built houses? If you’re in the area, it’s worth a drive-by. It’s been featured in several movies and episodes of “strange” homes on TV. The house is not a personal home today but is used for private events. Location is West on Highway 70 (away from Denver) – GPS: 39.7009, -105.2771

Geyser Spring Trail

Have you heard of this? I hadn’t either. Colorado’s only true geyser is hidden within the San Juan National Forest. Trailhead: 37.7573, -108.1278. US Forest Service says this is the only true Geyer in Colorado. If you wait around for a while, you’ll likely see it erupt but all that means is you’ll start to see it boil over the sides of the pool and overspill, so to speak. Not super impressive in comparison, but it’s still worth it since most likely you’ll not see a single soul there the entire time you’re there. You’ll most likely have it all to yourself. Pretty cool! The pool is about 82 degrees and bubbling. It’s also very stinky! Apparently sulfur is good for your skin, but no thanks! 

Independence Pass

You have to take a day and complete this drive. It’s incredible. It might not be a hidden gem, but it is truly breathtaking. If you drive it in August as we did, it’s as close to perfect weather as you can get. Here’s a short video we made, with some of the rules driving this pass.

Here are some more blogs we think you’ll enjoy!

I know I could have added about 10 more things to this list. Colorado is full of “off the beaten path” things. Please comment below if you have a really cool place to share in Colorado. 

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay in while you’re traveling in Colorado? Check out our ever-changing, always updating the list. Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Colorado!

We hope you enjoyed and find value in our information. We’d love to hear from you! Have you seen something unique and off the beaten path you’d like to share with us? Please let us know!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series

Off the Beaten Path in Florida. Our Top Hidden Gems!

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As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each post will also include a link to our free camping locations.  

Our Top Pick of the 14 Most Interesting Hidden Gems in Florida

Last week we had more people contact us through our blog than any other week in the past. Most said they had received a link from a friend. So we want to thank everyone who is sharing our blogs! It truly means a lot to us, and we are glad you’re liking them enough to share.  If this is your first time, welcome! We look forward to getting to know you all. 

Before we get into our tops picks, here are a few super amazing things to see that are not on the roads less traveled or off the beaten path but definitely must see’s while you’re in Florida. Dry Tortugas, Manatee Springs and Devils Den are our top pics for the popular places.

We love the amazing beaches and clear waters of Florida like everyone does. But if you’re looking for something just a little different to do, here’s our picks. 

Crystal River

Crystal River is a coastal city in western Florida. Kings Bay, which is fed by springs, is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, sheltering manatees year-round. Boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge offer views of the marine mammal and the natural springs. This is an awesome day trip! I was a little taken back that you can’t just walk into this place on your own. We had to buy a $10 trolly ride in. I didn’t question it, as it wasn’t that big of a deal. But well worth the trip!

Kayaking in Florida

Check out or 2021 kayaking at Weeki Wachee Spring here!

Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River are a paddler’s paradise with 16 miles of continuous, crystal clear spring water that will take you for a meandering ride to the St. John’s River and beyond. Canoes and kayaks are at home in this vast, natural wonderland of birds, bees, and subtropical forests. Bring your camera. FYI: There is no access to Rock Springs Run or Wekiva River from the Rock Springs Run State Reserve.

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Tubing/Kayaking at Rainbow River – About 2 hours north of Tampa, you’ll find Rainbow River. I mean just look at this place!! You can bring your own tube, or rent one, but it’s a super fun float experience for you and the kids. Kayaking this is great too! It’s more of a float though. 

Bioluminescent Kayaking

If you do nothing else water-related, do this!! Super cool Kayaking trip at night!! This night tour takes you to Florida’s Indian River Lagoon to see that waters light about with a bright blue-green glow.  You light it up with the splash of your kayak paddle.  Some companies offer regular kayaks, family rafts, and the spectacular clear kayaking bioluminescence experience.  Tours depart every night throughout the year. 

When Justin was stationed in Puerto Rico, we had only been married for a few months, and I took off work and flew out to spend our first married Thanksgiving together. There was a similar lake there, and it’s definitely something to see. 


  • We get so many questions on our kayaks I wanted to share the ones we have. These fit behind the theater seat in our RV and are the size of a large hiking backpack. Very small and we’ve truly enjoyed them!! Click HERE to see what brand and model kayaks we have. 

Bulow Plantation Ruins

We love history, and especially the kind of history we can see and touch. There are several Sugar Mill ruins in Florida.  Bulow Plantation Ruins The ruins of this antebellum sugar plantation are the end result of a Seminole attack during the Florida Wars of 1836. More than 20 years before Florida became a state, a South Carolina man named Charles Wilhelm Bulow bought up almost 9,000 acres of land bordering a tidal creek along the central coast, not far from present-day Daytona Beach.

If you’re a diver, check out Vortex Springs. Justin is a certified diver, but Stacy is not. We’ve heard this is an unbelievable place to visit. 

Washington Oaks State Park

Located in Palm Coast – Florida is known for the flat, white sands as far as you can see. The Rocks is a mile of unusual geological formations, caves, nooks, and crannies in the water-worn coquina rock.

meThe Rocks

Whether or not the rocks appear depends on the recent weather and tides. If there has been a number of nor’easter-type storms, then you can be pretty sure that the rocks will appear.

Coral Castle

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Located in Homestead – This may or may not be on the more popular side of things to do, but I had to include it. A mysterious castle built as a monument to lost love. The castle contains many wonders including a sundial, a stone rocking chair, a 500-pound heart-shaped stone table (a “Valentine” for his lost love), and a 9-ton gate made to spin with just a light touch. It’s just a really unique story behind this “Castle” (plus, if you have kids, I think they’d love this unique place). When Ed Leedskalnin was jilted by his sweet sixteen the day before their wedding, it was to send him on a mysterious and marvelous path of creation.

Cruger-DePeyster Sugar Mill Ruins

meCruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill Ruins

Don’t bother trying to pronounce this. Or maybe it’s just me! Do you like ruins as much as we do? So because so many of our blogs have ruins listed. We love the history and stories behind them. Despite being made of a seashell mortar, the crumbling remains of this historic Florida mill are still standing. 

Ghost Town of Ellaville

We love the mystery behind abandoned towns. What causes people to just leave an entire town? This really eerie ghost town is located on the banks of the Suwannee River. 

I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go see this, but if you’re traveling close enough to this area, check it out. Again, the story and the history behind this place is fascinating and sad. Directions: On the western side of the Suwanee River. Drive west on Highway 90; the sign for Ellaville can be seen as you cross the river.

The Lewis Spring House

The Lewis Spring House

Who doesn’t love the artistic houses of Frank Lloyd Wright? The Lewis Spring House is best known for being one of only two pod-shaped houses designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well the only private residential home in Florida designed by the famous architect. What’s more, this unique residence is directly tied to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Check out the Fallingwater House in PA too. We listed it on our blog HERE

Falling Waters State Park

Waterfalls are hard to come by in Florida, but this state park is home to Florida’s tallest natural waterfall, which rushes 73 feet down the wall of a massive sinkhole. If you’ve read my blogs you know waterfalls are my favorite places. Plan your visit to coincide with recent heavy rain, so there will be lots of water. Don’t underestimate State Parks as being some of the most amazing places to visit. 

Ravine Gardens

meRavine Gardens State Park,

Another State Park – Located in Palatka – This little-known park in North Florida doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This park with manicured gardens, footbridges, and trails created in the 1930s is magical during the springtime when thousands of azaleas are in bloom.

Here are some more blogs we think you’ll love!

There are still so many places we want to explore in Florida and hope to do that after the holidays this year. Please share your own Off the Beaten Path places with us. Looks like we’re heading back the winter of 2020/2021 so come back soon! More exploring to find!

Looking for the best boondocking or paid campgrounds to stay while you’re traveling in Florida? Check out our ever changing, always updating list! Click the button below to see our best RV Camping in Florida!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It means a lot to us!

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet! We truly appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read our blogs. We’re honored you spent the last few minutes with us!  If you aren’t signed up to follow us, please do! You’ll be notified of our new blogs when they go up. 

Finding the hidden gems in Florida
Boondocking / Dry Camping, Rv Solar, RV Tips, Tricks & Lessons, Travel Destinations & Stories

Our Top 7 Free Camping Spots and Boondocking Tips

When we pulled out of that driveway in 2017, we had no idea what was ahead of us. But one thing we knew, we wanted to boondock in some amazing places, stay within a small budget, and oh, did I mention we’re towing a 39-foot fifth wheel? We were met with a lot of negativity about how we’d never be able to boondock in a larger rig. I’m here to tell you that’s not true!

For the entire year of 2018, we spent a total of $48 in camping fees. We challenged ourselves to do it for a year and spend less than $100, but the catch was, we wanted to find the most epic, unbelievable, incredible places. Not just a parking lot, or truck stop. Not only did we find amazing spots, but places where we would look at each other and couldn’t believe they were free. I mean seriously, we’d even pay for some of the views we were getting. 

Check out our blog here titled: Boondocking – How we spent $48 in camping fees for the whole year

So we are here to share with you that YES you can boondock in a big rig. And YES you can see some of these views too. 

Our Philosophy

Our philosophy on boondocking is that we “just live”.  We’ve purchased some comfort items. Do you need them? Of course not! But when we started this journey in our life, we wanted to Just Live. We wanted to concentrate on the journey. We didn’t want anything to be frustrating or hard or different. Life, in general, can get challenging on its own, and we wanted to try to alleviate any hardships we could. We wanted to just live our life like we always did, but in a house with wheels. I often say “it just works”, and I am so thankful for Justin’s knowledge in putting our system together safely, and efficiently. Here are a few things we purchased to make our life simple. 

  • Water Bladder – We have the 60-gallon one, but they make them smaller (or bigger) depending on your needs. This was a game-changer for us! And it folds up and fits in a box slightly larger than a pie box. We’ve been able to stay in an area longer because we can just go get water and bring it back. Again, allowing us to just live normally. We shower every day, we do dishes when needed and we simply just live. 
  • Water Pump – This allows us to pump the water from the bag, into the RV holding tank. 
  • Water Thief – This helps us get water out of a spigot that might not have a regular thread for a hose. (Aug 2020 – I realize this is out of stock on Amazon. If you add this to your wishlist, Amazon will notify you when it’s back in stock)
  • Speaking of water, I’m a little picky about water. We purchased a fantastic water filter system from Clear Source Again, a game-changer for me. My water is filtered going into the bag, and again our drinking water is filtered through an under the sink ceramic filter. We’ve had it installed now for about 4 years now and couldn’t be happier with it. Check out our blog all about this water filter with comparisons and information: The Best RV Water Filter
  • Anderson Levelers – When you’re off-grid and off-road, these have made our life so easy. They are small to store and easy to use. 
  • Buddy Heater – Again, we try not to be in places where we would use this often, but being that our daughters live on the East Coast, and we gather with them during the holidays, well … you get the picture! We save so much money on propane used by our furnace by using this little guy. 
  • De-Humidifier – We don’t use this often, but when we do, it’s wonderful! We try not to spend too much time in humid weather, but it happens. And when our pictures were falling off the walls in West Virginia, it was time to do something about it. 
  • Generators – Thankfully we actually hardly use these! We have 2. I think we went about 8 months without using them. We can go 3-4 days of no sun before we have to pull these out. 
  • Making the change to Battle Born Lithium Batteries was the best thing we did. Hands down! Expensive upfront, yes, maybe, depends on how you look at it. But in the long run, we’re saving money because of the life of the batteries, and the fact that we can use 100% of our battery capacity, which you can’t do with typical lead-acid batteries. We often refer to our batteries as “magic”. We love our “Battle Born magic” for sure. Again, they “just work”. 

We had so many more than 7 amazing free boondocking spots during the last few years. These were just a few of our epic finds. You can do this too! Let us show you how! We are happy to help answer questions and make you feel more comfortable getting away from the pedestal. Check out our videos below too. 

We’d love to hear your favorite finds! And what works for you. Remember, your journey is epic, and your story is special!

Here are some more blog posts we think you’ll love!

So – You’re shopping on Amazon? I mean who doesn’t, right? Please consider using our link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it gives us a few extra pennies. Click below to use our link and then just shop like normal. Don’t forget ~ check out within 24 hours so we get credit! Thank you!! It really means a lot to us!

Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, RV Camping, Travel Destinations & Stories

17 Hidden Gems in North Carolina

As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different, and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures, and all with GPS coordinates. 

North Carolina is home to the world’s largest chest of drawers, and of course the world’s largest hammock. But wait! There’s more! 

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I won’t lie! Driving the very small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was absolutely stunning! We actually ended up between two closed ends of the Parkway. It was closed for the season, but we entered from a camping area that we were at and drove both ways until the barriers. 

North Carolina has the most waterfalls we’ve ever seen. I’m a waterfall junkie. As I’ve mentioned in so many of my other blogs, two places make me feel the most me, and the most at peace. Waterfalls and slot canyons. Especially the ones that are less popular. 


Our Favorite Waterfalls


Soco Falls

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This is a breathtaking double waterfall between Maggie Valley and Cherokee. Off Hwy 19, you’ll see a sign and a small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck, or you can take a short walk down to the falls. 

Juney Whank Falls

Located in Deep Creek, this is a lesser-known waterfall.

There is a footbridge to get up close and personal. It can be accessed from the Juney Whank loop trail at the Deep Creek Entrance. The 90-ft. fall is named after Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who’s rumored to be buried somewhere in the Deep Creek area, particularly near the fall.

Crabtree Falls

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Blue Ridge Parkway. Crabtree Falls, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, is a popular attraction located in Nelson County, just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 27. Crabtree Falls features a series of five major cascades and a number of smaller ones that fall a total distance of 1,200 feet

Dry Falls

There is nothing dry about Dry Falls. Dry Falls is also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls and is a 65-foot waterfall located in the Nantahala National Forest, northwest of Highlands, North Carolina.

Grassy Creek Falls

Many visitors to the DuPont State Recreational Forest have visited Wintergreen Falls on the Grassy Creek. However, most are not aware of another waterfall on the same stream, named Grassy Creek Falls. These falls are nearly 2 miles downstream of Wintergreen Falls, not far from High Falls Covered Bridge.

Secret Falls

It’s an easy half-mile hike, but there are no signs to the parking area. So, this remote area is mostly visited by locals.

Secret Falls

The trail is blazed with blue rectangles on trees and is easy to follow. There’s one lone stake in the small parking area at the start of the trail that says “Secret Falls.” The wooded hike is easy enough for the entire family. There are 2 easy creek crossings (one has a log bridge), a brief uphill section, and a series of stairs after you reach the falls area. Just 6.5 miles from busy downtown Highlands is this hidden oasis that is definitely a secret to many. Secret Falls (also known as Big Shoals Falls) is a gorgeous 50-ft. waterfall on Big Creek that cascades into a serene pool, deep in the Nantahala National Forest near the Georgia state line.

Clingmans Dome

Located in Bryson City – A concrete tower with a spiraling walkway winding 375 feet to the top crowns the highest mountain in the Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s definitely sad to see what we think is Pine Beetle damage though. Still an amazing view.

Historic Fort Fisher

You can visit this awesome place without any sort of military ID. It’s open to everyone. And it’s free! We really enjoyed walking around the grounds, and on this particular day, the fog really started to roll in which was pretty cool to watch. Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. We really enjoy all the history we’ve learned as we travel.

There is a small little campground located on the actual military facility that we stayed on. It was very reasonably priced ($25 per night). Beautiful, large paved spots, and very clean.

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Located in Bird Island – According to most stories, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox was first erected after the Kindred Spirit saw a mirage of a mailbox on the shore during low tide.

Although the vision wasn’t real, they were inspired to plant a mailbox with a communal notebook so that visitors could leave proof of their having been there. The use of the mailbox quickly caught on and visitors flocked to the island to sit on a nearby bench, look out over the water and write their own personal message inside the mailbox’s journal.

The House of Mugs

House ofMugs

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way for this, but if you decide to go, bring a coffee mug!! A cabin completely covered in coffee mugs, where visitors are welcome to leave one of their own—if they can find an empty nail. There’s no charge to see the Sisk’s collection, but donations are welcome. To see the Cup House, follow NC Route 90 north/west out of Collettsville for about half a mile and turn left onto Old Johns River Road.

Clyde’s Critter Crossing

If you happen to be in or near Pittsboro, you might not want to miss Clyde’s Critter Crossing. It’s a bit eclectic and bizarre but definitely check it out if you’re in the area, or passing through. I won’t spoil it for you. But the kids will love it. 

Emerald Isle

Yes, I realize this is a very popular place – in the summer! But we visited in December, and as you can see from our picture, it was pretty warm still and the beach was virtually empty. Though we know this isn’t much of an “out of the way” place, we highly recommend visiting off season. It was amazing!

Chimney Rock State Park

State Parks are really under-rated. We love them! This is a beautiful state park, and you just gotta see the views from Chimney Rock. Wow! There are a lot of steps to the top but you won’t regret the view once you make it to the top!

Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain has two distinctive features, named Big and Little Pinnacle. Big Pinnacle (also called “The Knob”) has high and colorful bare rock walls, with a rounded top covered by vegetation, reaching approximately 1,400 feet above the surrounding terrain. Visitors can take a paved road to the park visitor center and campgrounds, then up to a parking lot on the ridge. 

Fort Macon

This is also a state park. Another really awesome part of our history. I have to say, as soon as I sent the first picture to my daughter (who is spiritually sensitive) she immediately felt lots of death. Without even knowing where we were. The Battle of Fort Macon was fought there during March and April 1862. Fort Macon is made up of 2,379,546 bricks – more than any other U.S. fort. Five-sided Fort Macon is constructed of brick and stone. Twenty-six vaulted rooms (also called casements) are enclosed by outer walls that are 4.5 feet thick. This is open year-round, but again, we tend to travel off-season to many places that would typically be crowded. We saw one person coming in as we were leaving in early December.

Helen’s Bridge

Located in Asheville – Legends have it that the mansion was once home to Helen, a woman who lived here with her daughter.

A tragic fire claimed the daughter’s life and when Helen couldn’t bear the misfortune, she committed suicide by hanging herself from the bridge. To date, the bridge is known to be haunted by her spirit. Personally, we just think it’s a really scenic bridge.

Great Flat Water Kayaking

Merchants Millpond State Park

MEMerchants Millpond State Park

Southern swamp and hardwood forest mingle at Merchants Millpond State Park, adorning the landscape with massive bald cypress trees, beech groves, Spanish moss, and exotic wildlife. Please be forewarned, there are gators and snakes and … and … and … Ha! The cypress trees and quiet and frogs croaking and birds singing is just one of the most peaceful flatwater floats. 

Here are a few more blogs we think you’ll love!


BOONDOCKING


Our first pick isn’t technically FREE boondocking. But it is dry camping none the less. It cost us $2.50 a night, we were backed up to a beautiful stream we could listen to, and it was really epic!! Here is our video with some more information. In fact, there are several places in the Pisgah National Forest to boondock. 

  • We are very fond of horse camps. All the ones we’ve been in have had plenty of room for us. Hence the horse trailers must be able to fit too! Badin Horse Camp is also located in Troy, NC. GPS: 35.442526, -80.04055. This area can get a little crowded on weekends due to horse owners wanting to ride the trails. 
  • Yates PlaceTroy NC National Forest campground – GPS: 35.364606, -79.989031 – Open all year, great Verizon and ATT service. Beautiful forest views. 
  • 2020 Update! We boondocked at Oyster Point Campground. It is true boondocking with no hookups, but it is a managed campground with a camp host, water on site, and pit toilets. It does cost $10 a night, but we really liked the location. The sites are huge! Here’s a picture of our site from the front and then once we backed in. Awesome Verizon and ATT signal.

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Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Pennsylvania. Cool and Hidden Places to Visit in Pennsylvania

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers, we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. We also love finding the road less traveled and taking it. But, we certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories with us. Each series will include our favorite free and paid RV camping areas in each state.

When Justin retired from the military in 2010, we moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania. We bought a home, settled in a beautiful area, and started our path to what everyone perceives as “normal”. The rest of the story can be found on our About Us page. We lived in Lehigh Valley, and if you haven’t been in that area, there is so much to see and do just in Lehigh County. 

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The history in PA is stunning! But It’s hard not to stop, giggle and take a picture with some town signs in Pennsylvania, with names like Intercourse, Blue Ball, Provocative, and Virginville popping up across the countryside. Another favorite is “Bird in Hand” located near Lancaster, PA. Not to mention just the crazy, hard to pronounce, city names. Very dutch, that’s for sure! 

Fun Fact: Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the banana split.

Gettysburg

If you haven’t been to Gettysburg it’s full of history and beauty. Highly recommend it!! It’s not really an unpopular or unknown place, so I won’t go into too much detail but it’s a beautiful place to walk around and for the kids to learn the history. Did you know you can download a driving tour app on your phone for $10? Totally worth it! It’s the best interactive historical information I’ve seen in a long time.

Saylor Park

Coplay (Lehigh Valley). Loved this little “park”. There is such great history on these cement kilns. The 90-foot kilns were a marked improvement over prior methods and helped make Lehigh County the center of the Portland Cement Industry at the time. Portland cement enabled the construction of bridges, subways, and buildings that transformed America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is open year-round and has a beautiful, paved walking trail that goes for miles. We walked to the train bridge, which is no longer in use here at the park, but another great piece of history. This is a great day trip option and free to check out.

Bethlehem Steel

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If you like the history of the old Bethlehem Steel company, you’ll love walking around this area. Many photographers come to take wedding pictures, engagement photos, senior pictures, or family pictures here. Makes for an amazing backdrop. 

Presque Isle

Like most people in and around Pennsylvania, most are not aware of the beach just outside of Erie called Presque Isle. Presque Isle is a peninsula that stretches along the shore. While you may generally think of driving south to head to a beach, you may never consider driving ‘north’. Well, now you can, especially considering that Presque Isle has everything to offer that any other popular beach would have, such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

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When you can’t get away for too long, you can drive a short distance and spend the day at Presque Isle. Relax on the beach or enjoy yourself by immersing yourself in all that is offered to you at Presque Isle. Imagine just going a short distance for the day only to return home refreshed and rejuvenated.

Columcille  Megalith Park 

This place was so amazing we did a whole new blog post about it. A land of myth and mystery located in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. A park rooted in Celtic spirituality and inspired by the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland …. Click here to read more

Mutter Museum

Located in Philadelphia if you aren’t into odd and strange you might want to skip this. We happen to have a daughter who is double majoring in Forensic Science and this is really right out her ally. The museum consists of thousands of medical tools, along with, pathological and anatomical specimens, which have been preserved.

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Some might find it too gross to stomach, and others (like us) find it absolutely fascinating and informational. The human body is remarkable. Many of the tools and specimens once belonged to influential people in the medical and science fields. Even though you may not have a particular interest in medicine or science, one thing is clear, you will not be able to say this museum was dull. 

Eastern State Penitentiary

Thrust into the middle of urban Philadelphia is what looks like a great castle, a massive and haunting building. However, these walls weren’t built to keep Crusaders and robbers out, but to keep them in. This castle is a prison. I would highly recommend the self-guided tour. They give you some headphones and you are thrown into the story of the penitentiary. We also took the regular guide-led tour but preferred the self-guided, pre-recorded tour. Really fascinating. This is also where Al Capone’s cell was. This place was one of my favorite places to photograph.

Centralia

Have you heard of this town even? A toxic ghost town sitting on top of a massive coal fire that has been burning since 1962. As of 2007, Centralia had nine residents. When we were there, we saw no sign or residents who seemed to live there. Also, we didn’t see smoke coming up from the main street now known as Graffiti Highway. We are not ok with any sort of vandalism, but this particular highway is one of those abandoned iconic places where it is truly a work of ever-changing artwork. We would have liked to see the smoke coming up from the big crack in the middle of the road. I hear it’s intermittent and possibly the fire has put itself out after burning for over 50 years. We also read somewhere that this street was featured in the horror movie Silent Hill. 2020 UPDATE – Sadly, we just found out this place was having some major crime events, and therefore has been buried in dirt, and is no longer available to visit. I hope you got there before this happened. It was a great part of our history!

Fallingwater House

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Over the years, I think this has gotten more popular, but I still run across people who haven’t see this or haven’t ever even heard of it. Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic home dangles over a Pennsylvania waterfall. 

Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle

This is not your typical boring museum. Take the kids!!!! They will LOVE this place. Hanging from the ceilings are baby buggies, and boats along with about a million other oddities. It’s a very strange, and unique type of “museum”. This Eccentric concrete mansion and museum designed and built by hand from the inside out. This place is nothing shy or sensory overload.

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It’s absolutely impossible to see this place in one visit. Or at least to remember seeing everything there is in there. The story on why it was built completely of concrete is kinds of interesting too. It’s a fantastic place to take family or senior pictures, so if you’re interested in photography, it’s definitely an amazing place for portraits. I’ve had both my kids here several times to take photos. 

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Mercer Museum

Penn’s Cave

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Penn’s Cave

Another place that has definitely gotten a little more popular, but again, still worth a mention if you’ve not heard of it. Boats take visitors through Penn’s Cave, a quarter-mile subterranean waterway with ornate limestone formations and a bat colony, all underneath a working farm. Penn’s Cave is located in Centre Hall, PA.

Longwood Gardens

I believe this place is amazing all year round, but I’ve only ever been at Christmas. If you haven’t ever been here, and you’re going to be around during the Christmas holiday season, make sure you put this place on your list. 

Archbald Pothole – Worlds Largest Pothole

So I put this on the list because it’s definitely off the beaten path and strange. I, personally, wasn’t real impressed. In fact I couldn’t find any pictures that I took to share even. Ha! It was just a big hole in the ground, where most people are now throwing trash. But since it’s different, and something interesting to see, if you’re in the area, you can say you saw it. Ha!  The pothole is believed to have been formed around 15,000 to 20,000 years ago by whirling glacial waters combined with sand and stones.

Lehigh Valley and all through PA you will find Covered Bridge self guided driving routes. Take one!! You’ll never see so many covered bridges! 

Jim Thorpe

The town of Jim Thorpe. Absolutely, 100% my favorite town to visit. I’ve been there numerous times, in every season, and I love it there. We’ve done white water rafting there, a train ride, bike riding, and just exploring the unique, one of a kind shops in the town. You can drive up to the top of the town and look out over it. It’s just a beautiful, old town and an amazing place to spend the day. There is the Old Jail Museum there which I have not visited. But there is a handprint on Cell #17 that they have tried to wash off, paint over and it still keeps coming through. Haunted? You be the judge. If you’re going to Jim Thorpe, take a hike up to Glen Onoko Falls. We have not been up there yet, but it’s definitely on our list. Make sure you drive (or walk) up the trail that overlooks the whole city. Incredible views looking down on the whole town. There is also an amazing bike path, an old steam engine train ride, and of course, white water rafting in the summer.

UPDATE! We hiked Glen Onoko Falls! Beautiful, but dangerous hike. This trail has been closed several times for deaths relating to falling. Please be aware of your footing, and always wear appropriate shoes. I can’t tell you how many people we saw hiking in flip flops, and taking chances here you just should not. There are a few rock scrambles on this trail. Also, there are two trails. We took the harder trail up, and the easier trail down. Do your research to find what is best for your skill level. This steep, tree-covered path for hikers features multiple waterfalls & scenic views. Definitely worth the hike!!

Have you seen our other “Off the Beaten Path” blogs? Please check them out and please share!

Have you seen some unique and wonderful places in PA? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts below, share our content with your friends, and don’t forget to check back often. We are always updating our blog!

RV Camping in Pennsylvania

Click the button below to see our favorite RV camping, both free and paid, in PA.

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