I’d Love your input!  Please share tested recipes, ideas, hints and hacks for lunches at camp that have worked for you (and include photos if you’d like).  These blogs are ongoing and will be updated regularly.




Lunchtime on a road trip will find you in 1 of 2 places.  That’s right.  You’re either at camp, or…somewhere else.  If you are spending lunchtime at camp, you are probably taking it easy for the day and just relaxing.  You could also be just getting there and getting set up, or having a quick bite before heading off for the evening.  Whatever your agenda is, here are some great ideas for ‘lunch beyond the sandwich’ that are still easy but without the fuss – and the fire.

Okay!  To get started with ideas for lunches at camp, we’ll look at 7 different meal options


1). Camping Mac & Cheese, Celery and Carrot Sticks & Drink

2). 3 Bean Salad, Hard Boiled Eggs, Crackers, Fruit & Drink

3). Street Tacos, Fruit & Drink

4). Beef, Bacon & Bean Casserole, Marinated Cucumbers , Fruit & Drink

5). Sloppy Joes, Bagged Cabbage Salad (from grocery store), Fruit & Drink

6). Asian Skillet Stir Fry with Rice, Fruit & Drink

7). Chicken Pot Pie, Fruit & Drink

piles of fruit options for a camping trip
2-cup drink holder on a stick for camping

Fruit Options are endless!  Use fresh, canned, frozen, or visit the local Farmer’s Market!

Drinks are usually simple at lunch.  We always have our water bottles, but sometimes switch it up with tea or soda.


                                 So sit back, relax, or head out… but enjoy your day!  

                                                                 And don’t forget to send in your recipes HERE!

To read more about Health on the road, click HERE

To get to the Homepage for Road Trips and Tiny Trailers, click HERE


Baffled by the confusion concerning Little Guy and nuCamp trailers?

Here’s the scoop:

Once upon a time there was a camping enthusiast from North Canton, Ohio.  The love of his life was the little teardrop style camper from the 1930’s & 1940’s.


The idea to recreate, update and make affordable the teardrop camper trailer was presented to a couple brothers in Elkhart, Indiana in 2002.  There they began prototyping a 4×8 Retro trailer in their garage.

showroom-nc-300x225As the demand for these little gems increased. The construction moved out of the garage and into a manufacturing facility in Sugarcreek, OH.  Little Guy Trailers handled the designs, distribution and sales. Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers did the manufacturing.  Over the next couple years, production gradually and consistently grew from 2-3 trailers a week to a 3-4 a day.

Twenty or so trailers were produced that first year, but now thousands are  out on road trips with new travel enthusiasts! Teardrop Camper Trailers are the most identifiable, economical and modern trailers on the road today!

In 2016, as the contract between the companies ended.  As a result, the two teardrop entities went their separate ways. Pleasant Valley became nuCamp and is now headquartered in Sugarcreek, OH, while Little Guy continues its operation from Uniontown, OH.  Both companies have dealerships around the country.

(If you speak with reps from either company, you will get different stories of why there was a split, so we’ll just go with the reason being that it was the best decision for everyone.)

With the separation came the division of the different models. If you are looking at a used trailer that was manufactured before the fall of 2016, it will be a Little Guy Brand.  After the fall of 2016, the models fell into independent hands.

Little Guy Trailers now has:

nuCamp RV now has:

It gets more complicated…

The nuCamp T@G also comes with the Boondock Edge & Boondock lite off-road packages, as well as the Sofital  luxury package.

Also, models such as: the Silver Shadow, the Q-Max, the 5-Wide, the Tailgater, the 6-Wide, the Rascal, the Joey, and the Rough Rider (and probably a few others) are no longer being manufactured, even though they show up on the used market.

…and now it gets even worse

Both Little Guy and nuCamp will allow you to customize, modify or even design your own trailer!

Remember, too that most all major RV companies have their version of a mini or teardrop style model.   No wonder the sales lots are complicated!

Whether you choose nuCamp or Little Guy, know that they are both excellent in quality.cute_rv_vintage_teardrop_camper_travel_trailer_postcard-ra4f2474b8b484c698e79d332c217a3f6_vgbaq_8byvr_540.jpg The features you find vary from forced air and radiant heat, air-conditioning, window shades and screens, stoves, microwaves, on-demand hot water, refrigerators, entertainment systems, large beds, and lots of storage. The only way to really appreciate all they have to offer is to get down to your local dealership and take a look.  You’ll find new and used models at most RV sales centers, so stop in and see what the fuss is all about!


For a look at the new Little Guy models, click HERE.

For an look at the new nuCamp models, click HERE.


Welcome Teardrop Travel Lovers, Roadtrippers and Empty-Nesters……and Thanks for checking out my blog!  I am Janelle Brian. My husband Eddie and I are travel addicts from Colorado, and this is how we went from empty-nesters to teardrop lovers.13067392 (1)

We Cruise, we backpack Europe, and we especially enjoy seeing this big, diverse and wonderful country in our tiny trailer.

Eventually we decided that it was time to start sharing our experiences, mishaps and some of the travel hints and hacks we’ve learned out on the road.

Let me start with our personal story (I’ll try and keep it short!):

Dismantleing the camper (1)Like many Teardrop Travel Lovers & Roadtrippers, we took our time trying to decide which mode of travel would be best for our budget andcamper1 circumstances.  After seeing 5 kids fly the coop , Eddie and I are now ‘empty-nesters’ and have let go of the 5th wheel RV. We also sadly dismantled my dad’s homemade pop-up trailer.  It’s time now to be on our own!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe started with our experimental adventure to the rainforests of Washington State.  We packed up all the tent camping gear we had, and headed out in a rented Ford Fusion.  I doOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA carry some guilt for getting a used car salesman all excited when we went looking for a Fusion.  I can only imagine what he feared he had on his hands when we folded down the back seats and crawled into the trunk!  We had to explain that we wanted to see how sleeping in the car would work. We were considering some sort of a ‘bed-on-wheels’ to camp in.

Our time in the rainforest was perfect (and dry!). Sleeping in our rental car convinced us that we could get by with something really minimal.  We thought about converting a van, building something ourselves or maybe just putting a bed in our truck……and then we saw it.  A teardrop 20160313_150730trailer by Little Guy.  It had a queen sized bed and ample storage. There was also the ability to stand outside at a little ‘open-up’ kitchen in the rear.  It was truly ‘Love at First Sight’!  After some time and some serious searching to find a good used one (we decided against a new one), we finally found our first ‘Little Guy’ teardrop trailer.  It came complete with the “I Go Where I’m Towed To” sticker on the back.  I knew I’d never want another trailer.

We put over 25,000 miles on that first little trailer. It saw as much of the U.S. and Canada as our time and money would allow.  We got our ‘Set Up / Tear Down’ routine down to a science and I slept like a baby in our little nest.  At least, that is, until we found ourselves in Salem, MA.

Day 8 SALEM PORTSMOUTH(105)We were staying at the Winter Island RV Park in Salem.  After a full day in town we were strollingDay 8 SALEM FT MCCLARY(60) around camp enjoying the sights, and seeing who we could meet.  Eddie loves to meet new people and he  could visit with Day 9 SALEM (40)a stump.  So while I plan the next day’s events, he strolls.  On this occasion however, we were strolling together.  As I droned on about the Salem Witch Trials, Eddie stopped dead in his tracks, flung out his arm against my chest as if to protect me from sailing through some imaginary windshield and exclaimed, “WHAT IS THAT?!!!”

We found ourselves trespassing on another camper’s spot checking out his lovely T@B trailer. Although it was only 3’ longer than ours, one could stand up in it.  For the next 2 days Eddie literally stalked this camp sight waiting for the owner – who eventually did show up.  Not only did he not get out his shotgun, but Eddie’s new friend was excited to meet another teardrop owner! He came over to our site for a visit and to check out our rig.  After the grand tour of this gentleman’s T@B trailer, Eddie decided that we must indeed have one.  I was not so sure.P1030360

After we got home, Eddie began the search for our next teardrop trailer.  After several months of dedicated searching, LOTS of conversation (ok…probably nagging) and several thousand photos from a sales rep at the T@B factory in Ohio, Donny (the most patient rep ever) shipped us our gently-used-but-deeply-discounted T@B right to our door! (Read more about different types of trailers HERE).

Unloading was indeed a neighborhood event, and Eddie and I lived in our new trailer for the next 2 days.  I cried when the new owner of our first Little Guy drove off with our Logo: Eddie & Janelle with T@Bbaby in tow, but then I stepped back into our new home-away-from-home and I once again knew I’d never want another trailer!

Although this blog is primarily geared toward those on Road Trips with a tiny trailer, there will be tidbits for all travel enthusiasts.  We’ll tackle everything from choosing a trailer, to how to pack, how to plan a trip, what to eat, where to stay, how to preserve your memories, etc…etc… and just how to make the most of your travel.

I’ll also share info as we cruise and backpack across the World.

Stay with us as we share our tips, tricks, and experiences!

For the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE, & remember to subscribe and leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!



And then there was one……..


Because Eddie and I have been enjoying our new photography hobby so much, and have finally invested in some pretty cool equipment, we designed a new website where we can display and share some of our favorite shots.  Check it out!!


PLEASE TAKE A LOOK and feel free to leave comments, critiques and criticisms HERE


For the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE, & remember to subscribe and leave a comment. 



I’d sure like to blame COVID-19 for the fact that I have not written anything in so long.  After all, I do travel writing and the world got locked down for awhile.  That seems reasonable doesn’t it?

writers block head down on notebook

Truth be told, that’s really no excuse at all.  In fact, we’ve actually

 taken 4 roadtrips over the last 2 years.  So what’s the problem?  Let’s blame that age ‘ol problem of writer’s block.scrunched up papers around head holding light

  man with lots of cameras around his neck

Or Eddie.  I’m going to blame Eddie. 


In 2020 for our first trip to Hawaii, Eddie decided that it was time for me to finally let go of my trusty little Lumix point-&-shoot camera.  He had to pry open my hand, as I never wanted to be that guy with all the camera gear.  Not to be deterred, however, Eddie replaced my little Lumix with a Sony full-framed mirrorless camera.   Now here I am – with 2 camera bodies, 5 lenses, a giant bag of accessories, and a wish-list for more!  I would say that Eddie didn’t know what kind of monster he was going to create, but he is actually worse.  You should see us now, packing for a roadtrip and trying to find room in the truck for a 2nd pair of socks.

So that’s what’s been eating my time, attention, and money.  Learning the art of photography is a lifetime process, and the more we learn, the more there is TO learn. But man are we having fun!  And the digital age is sure a game changer for those of us who enjoy photography.  No more spending hundreds of dollars developing 35mm film shots of the ground, the side of my leg, or ones that are just black.  No more having the TSA at the airport look through all 39 rolls of film. Nope! This is awesome!

rh2010150100014And because I’ve helped myself to so many online images for this website, I felt that it was only right to give some back.

I know I haven’t even made it to amateur status -yet-, but I now have a few photos available online as Photostock.

You can check out our Portfolio HERE !

Thanks for taking a look…I will enjoy the feedback (I least I think I will)!timeless-amy-weiss

And as far as articles go…well, yes.  I’m back in that saddle & working on that too!  I’m in full swing with a couple of blogs that are in the works, so stay tuned.

For the Homepage of this Website, Click HERE, & remember to subscribe and leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!



If you’ve read any of my other Photography blogs, you’ll know that I have been a committed point-and-shoot camera disciple.

Well… life has changed.

Don’t get me wrong…I will still sing the praises of traveling with a point-and-shoot.  In fact, I will always have my trusty little Lumix in my pocket for those times when I just don’t want to miss something by fiddling with lenses and settings.

But recently my husband Eddie, bought me a Sony A7II, stuffed it in my hand, loaded meKEY PHOTO CAMERAS AND LENSES up with a few lenses and accessories in a photo backpack and told me we were going to Hawaii.

I must admit that, now that I’ve ‘taken the plunge’ I might be a little cash poor, but I’m also enjoyment rich!

So this blog is for any of you who, like me, are delving into the world of DSLR with fear, trepidation and almost no knowledge.  Here you will find a few tips with choosing your camera, and a few of the basic pieces of information that you’ll need to get started.  So now let’s get going!


a). My best two pieces of advice are:

  1.     Get yourself a go-to ‘Photo Person’ (PP). This could be a friend, relative, neighbor etc…, but its probably better to choose someone who works for a reputable camera store.  Whoever you choose, just make sure that really know what they are talking about.  Our ‘go-to’ PP is Carl from Mike’s Camera.  He helps us with ourPHOTO BASICS GUY WITH CAMERA understanding, and keeps us updated with new products.  It would be hard for me to list all the things Carl does for us, so I’ll tell you what he doesn’t do.  Carl doesn’t up-sell, or try and talk us into what we really don’t need or can’t afford.  He is also SO patient with all our questions and info, and he never gets irritated (at least not in a way that shows) when he sees us coming in the door.  So get yourself a Carl…or a Carla.  And try not to wear them out…
  2.    Know that the world is full of answers to all your questions, and resources like YouTube videos, online classes, actual classes and books are in full abundance.  Know, too, that most of these resources are not ‘fact-checked’.  When I go looking for information, I like to see the same advice from at least 3-5 sources.  Then I ask Carl.  And yes. You should ‘fact-check’ this blog as well!

b). There are SO many options for your first camera!  Just know that the quality of lenses you are working with probably make more difference in your final photos than the actual camera body does. There are, however, a couple of main things about camera bodies you should know at least a little about:

  1. Mirrors or no Mirrors:  A DSLR camera has a Digital Single Lens with a Reflex mirror to bend the light path to the optical viewfinder for framing.  With a Mirrorless camera, there is no reflex mirror. Instead, the imaging sensor is exposed to light directly.  There are pluses and minuses to both types of cameras, so ask your PP for more info.  To get you started, here are a few key comparisons to take note of:

                        DSLR cameras: are bigger and heavier, and so are their lenses.  The view finder is slightly more accurate, and there are more lenses and accessories available.  There is a little more ‘real feel’ of using a more traditional DSLR, and you can use your knowledge of settings a little more effectively.


                        Mirrorless cameras: are smaller, lighter weight and a little more versatile.  The viewfinder is electronic and displays directly from the sensor. You’ll find more info & tools shown on the screen to help you with your settings, and the lenses and accessories are smaller and lighter weight.  Mirrorless cameras are a tad more ‘beginner friendly’, and these are better for video or fast moving subjects.   Mirrorless seems to be the wave of the future as most manufacturers are making their version of a mirrorless option.


  1. Full Frame or Crop Sensor:  To understand the difference, think of cropping a photo on your computer with your version’s photo program.  Maybe you don’t want your neighbor waving at the camera in the family shot that was taken in your backyard. You select the part of the image that you want to keep, (cropping out your photo-bomber) and it brings the image in closer.  This end result is basically what a crop sensor in your camera does. There are different sizes of sensors, so the smaller the sensor, the more zoom effect you get.  It can however, potentially lessen the quality of your photo.  Here are a few of the differences:

                                Full Frame Cameras:  These cameras have more and larger pixels, so more light is let into the photo, potentially resulting in better quality.  This also means that there is more information for every photo you take, and more ability to alter the image later  with your photo program.  The sensor is 35mm, the same size as a film negative. (35mm has been accepted as the standard since 1909.  35mm film gave the best quality for the best price, and was the closest to what the naked eye actually saw.)  Full frame cameras perform better in low light and usually have less ‘noise’ (those discolored and distorted grainy spots on your photo).  Not all lenses work with a full frame camera, so be careful when purchasing lenses.

                                Crop Sensor Cameras:  These cameras have smaller and fewer pixels.  The smaller the sensor, the smaller you need to keep the final image for it to look good.  Cellphone cameras have the smallest sensors, so although they look great on your phone, you’ll never want to blow any of these shots up to frame as a wall hanging.  Using any sensor smaller than that 35mm area of the full frame, means that your sensor is simulating changing the focal length of the lens by cropping out the edges of the photo in your frame and bringing the subject closer.  A crop sensor can be great for sports photography and wildlife where you want more telephoto ability without having to change the lens.  These cameras are usually less expensive.

I hope this information has been helpful for you, and hopefully you won’t be completely overwhelmed in your first conversation with a camera salesman!


I also hope that you will take a little time and assess what your goals and needs are, as well as your budget.  There is really no ‘wrong’ choice…only a ‘wrong for you’ one.

I’d love to hear from you when you’ve purchased your camera!  You can let me know what you decided on and why HERE.  Once your new investment is in hand, it’ll be time to move on to this next section…so let’s dive in!



A photo is called an exposure.  An exposure is comprised of 3 primary settings: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  All these settings control light and have to work in balance with each other.


a).  ISO Setting:

ISO is basically the camera’s sensitivity to light.  The higher quality the camera, the more sensitive it can become.  The more sensitive it is, the more ‘noise’ you will have. (once again, ‘Noise‘ is a term used to describe visual distortion. It looks like grainy splotches of discoloration).  The most important things to know are:


  1. Levels of sensitivity are measured in stops: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, & up.
  2. Each stop doubles the camera’s sensitivity.
  3. The higher the quality of camera, the more stops there will be.
  4. The higher the stop number, the more light is let in.
  5. The more light that is let in, the more noise there will be.
  6. Make it easy on yourself: Use the lowest ISO stop possible to get the shot you desire.


b). Aperture Setting:



Aperture controls the opening of the iris in the lens, or depth-of-field, and determines how much of your picture is in focus.  The camera sees in 3-D, so it sees the depth of your shot. The wider you open the iris, the more of your shot will be in focus (for greater the depth of field).  The smaller you open the iris, the less of your shot will be in focus (for shallower the depth of field).  This is how you get those lovely, soft blurry backgrounds.  The most important things to know are:


  1.  The opening of the iris is measured in F-stops: F32, F22, F16, F11, F8, F5.6, F4, F2.8 F2, F1.4,F1.8BASIC APERTURE ILLUSTRATION AS PHOTO KEY
  2. The larger the F-stop number the smaller the opening, and greater the depth of field. The smaller the F-stop number, the larger the opening and the shallower the depth of field.
  3. The larger depth of field means more of the photo is in focus -The shallower the depth of field, the more parts of the photo are blurry.
  4. The larger the depth of field, the more light is allowed in.
  5. Max F-Stop settings available will depend on the lens you’re using.
  6. Make sure that what you want in focus is inside the focal brackets in the view finder.
  7. Make it easy on yourself: The More you want in focus the Bigger the number.  The Less you want in focus, the Smaller the number.


c). Shutter Speed Setting:


 Shutter Speed controls how fast the shutters in the camera open & close.  The faster the speed, the less light is let in, making the photo in sharper focus.  The slower the shutter speed, the more light is let in creating motion blurr.  This is how you get that soft, ‘cotton candy’ look to waterfalls and water in motion.  The most important things to know are:

  1. The speed of the shutter is measured in stops or fractions of 1 second: 1/2; 1/4; 1/8; 1/15; 1/30; 1/60; 1/125; 1/250; 1/500; 1/1000…
  2. Each stop halves the amount of each second of time.BASIC SHUTTER SPEED ILLUSTRATION
  3. Minimum and Maximum settings available will depend on the lens you’re using.
  4. Motion blurr begins between 1/50 and 1/125.
  5. Whatever focal length your lens is set to, the photo’s max clarity will probably be around 1/that focal length number – unless your focal length is under 50mm. Motion blurr begins around 1/50.  At this point, you’ll probably need a tripod.
  6. Make it easy on yourself: The Faster the stop, the Clearer the photo will be.  The Slower the stop, the more Blurry the photo becomes.



All three sides of the Exposure Triangle has its own unique part of the final exposure, and all 3 affect light. If you alter one setting, the other 2 need to be altered as well.  The most important things to know are:

A. Aperture and Shutter Speed are the two settings you’ll probably work with the most.

B. After setting your Aperture and Shutter Speed to where you want them, check and make sure the ISO is as low as possible.

C. All 3 settings will show on your screen or in your viewfinder.

D. If you’re working in Manual mode, and you alter either your Aperture or Shutter Speed, then adjust the other the same number of stops. Then make sure the ISO is as low as possible.


There are also 3 other settings or tools that can have a big effect on your photo:

E. There is a Composition Dial (+/- 0.0) to take note of, and you’ll find this on your screen or in your viewfinder.  This number will tell you if your shot is over or under exposed.  If the number is red, adjust the dial to where it reads 0.0.

WHITE BALANCE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION AS KEY BASICF. The other setting you’ll want to look at is the White Balance.  It can make a huge difference with your exposure.  You might need to check your camera’s manual to see where its located.  Start by looking in your menu.  Look for these symbols:

Then check this out:











G. The last tool to take note of (at least for now) is the Histogram. A histogram is a graph representing the pixels exposed in your image.  The left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows, the right side represents the highlights or bright areas and the middle section is mid-tones.  How high the peaks reach represent the number of pixels in that particular tone.  Each tone is from 0-255 (o=black and 255=white) is one pixel wide on the graph.  You will also find this graph, too on your screen.  It looks like this:


You’ll learn more how to use this tool as you learn, but to start with just know that you want the spikes to be in the center of the graph, and be as smooth as possible .



Although it is definitely a goal to become proficient in full manual mode, if you start with a partially manual mode you can learn a lot about how to make your settings all work together.  The most important things to know are:

A.  MODES are found on a dial on top of your camera.  Dials vary with the brandBASIC CAMERA MODE DIAL PHOTO name, but they all do basically the same thing.  The camera’s manual will help you learn all the settings.

B. Start in AUTO mode in any given situation, and pay attention to the settings your camera selects. This is a good ‘jumping off point’ for you to figure out where to start with choosing your settings in a particular lighting situation.  Then jump to a partially manual mode.

C. The best 2 modes to start with are A & S.  You’ll probably use A most of the time.

D. Select A if the subject of your exposure is still and/or you want to control the background or foreground around your subject.

E. Select S if the subject of your exposure is in motion, or the point of the shot features something or someone in motion.

F. The A on the mode dial sets the camera to allow you the Aperture setting you want, and then self-adjusts the Shutter Speed.  You still control the ISO.

G. The S on the mode dial sets the camera to allow you to choose the Shutter Speed you want and then self-adjusts the Aperture. You still control the ISO.

H. Pay attention to the settings that your camera chooses. Understanding this ratio or combination of settings will help you when you move on to full (M) manual mode.



When you look at the end of your lens, you’ll see  3 main pieces of information.  The Focal Length, the Lens Ratio (or Aperture opening range) and the Lens Ring Size of the filter that will fit the lens.

A. FOCAL LENGTH: Represented by ‘mm’.  It is the distance between where all FOCAL LENGTH ILLUSTRATION the light comes together inside the lens, and the sensor of the camera.  This matters because the focal length will tell you how much of the scene will be captured and how large a subject will appear.  The lower the number, the wider the field of view and the lower the magnification.  The higher the number, the narrower the field of view, and the greater the magnification.  The size of the sensor in your camera can affect these numbers.

B. MAX APERTURE or LENS RATIO: The range of numbers (often decimals) that tell you how small to how wide your aperture setting can go.  A single number means that there is only 1 setting that your aperture will do. This is a Prime lens.APERTURE EXPOSURE BASICS

C. LENS RING SIZE: A single number with a symbol (varies with the brand) that tell you the size you’ll need if you want to attach filters.



Most likely your camera came with a lens (just an FYI…your ‘kit’ lens is probably the bottom of the line. I just traded in the 28-70 lens that came with my set and upgraded it).  But as you develop your skills, you’ll want to add lenses to your collection that you’ll need for specific scenarios.  Here’s a basic idea of lens categories:

A. WIDE ANGLE LENSES: Typically, these lenses run between 24mm-35mm. (If the mm is lower than 24, then you’ll get distortion and that fun ‘fish-eye’ effect.).  It’s good to have a wide-angle lens for landscapes and tall / large architecture.

B. STANDARD LENSES: The 35mm-70mm lenses are very versatile and are the best ‘go-to’s for a beginner.  These lenses will produce photos that are the closest to what our eye see.  The lens that came with your camera is probably a 28-70 or similar.

C. TELEPHOTO LENSES: These usually come in the 70mm-400mm range. The lower number ranges are good for portraits and the larger numbers are for capturing things far away.  (If you have one lens from each of these first 3 categories, you’ll be able to do most anything as you get started).

D. EXTREME TELEPHOTO LENSES: With a focal length of more than 400mm, these are what you would choose for wildlife, birds, and where you need extreme magnification.

E. MACRO LENSES: Also called Micro lenses, these are for photographing tiny things or doing extreme close ups. They range in focal length from 40mm-around 110mm.  Be careful, though. A true Macro lens has a 1:1 ratio.  This means that the actual object you’re photographing is the same size as the image that shows up on the sensor.

F. PRIME LENSES: Prime means that the focal length is fixed and there is no adjustment. These lenses are usually better quality than zoom lenses, and although they are less versatile, they are cheaper.

G. ZOOM LENSES: With a Zoom, you have a more versatile lens with focal length options. They are like having several prime lenses in one.  Quality is diminished some due to their complexity, and the cost is much higher.

*One thing to note is that the Tamron manufacturer of lenses usually can offer you a lens for your camera that is less expensive and of equal or better quality.

   Lenses (and their prices!) can be overwhelming. Just stick to the basics and go slowww..


A. All the Lenses you will purchase come with hoods. You’ll learn when and when not to use it as you become a more experienced photographer.  As a beginner, though, just use it all the time.

B. If you are interested in macro photography,  (capturing bug’s eyes, flower petals, and water droplets etc…) check out Extension Tubes.  For a wayyyy smaller price tag than a macro lens, they can turn a lens that you already have into a macro lens by changing its focal length.  Check it out!

C. Filters:  There are some creative and fun filters out there, but I recommend getting a UV filter for each lens.  These filters protect the lens from getting scratched or broken, and can be exchanged for new ones when they get damaged.  It’s much better than having to buy a new lens!

D. Be careful to protect your camera’s sensor.  Get a good cleaning kit for it, and don’t touch it with your finger.  Anything that is on the sensor (dirt, fuzz, your fingerprint…) will show up on every picture, so don’t switch out lenses in the wind!  Also, many dealers offer once-a-year cleaning / inspection with your purchase.  Take them up on it.

E. If you decide to switch out or upgrade a lens or a camera body, check with the dealer you purchased it from.  Often they will give you a trade-in credit toward your next purchase if your item is in good shape and not damaged.  Always keep the box as it will give you a better trade-in value!

F. Always keep your point-and-shoot camera with your gear, so that you won’t miss special moments because your fiddling with your settings.


Well, from one beginner to another, this is my best advice on getting started with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.  Make sure you get these basics down…because there’s lots more learning to do!  C’mon now…we can do this!

Also, check out some of our favorite shots on our photo website!  Click HERE



Seeing the National Parks of America’s SW will expose you to canyons, rock formations and beauty you’ll not see anywhere else in the world!

It was springtime in the Rockies, and COVID-19 had my husband, Eddie, and I wondering just where we could go for this year’s vacation.  It turned out that we had purchased a National Parks Pass the prior year and had about 3 months left until the expiration date.  That made our decision easy.  We started looking at the National Parks of the SW, which sadly were almost in our backyard, and yet we hadn’t seen them!  So, we put a highlighter to a map and discovered that we could see 7 of those parks in less than 10 days.  It would be a bit of a marathon, but we selected our dates, packed up our little teardrop trailer, and off we went!  We chose to visit in April, and although we got some rain, the crowds were very light. Our National Parks itinerary looked like this:

Petrified Forest  *  Grand Canyon Zion Bryce  Capitol Reef   *  Arches  *  Canyonlands

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*A National Parks pass is good for 1 year and is much less expensive than paying the entrance fee at each park.  Get a pass and info HERE.*


Stop #1: The Petrified Forest National Park AZ

The Petrified Forest was designated a National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  It became a National Park in 1962.

It’s located about 3.5 hrs NE of Phoenix just outside of Holbrook.

The easiest way to see the park is to pull up a map and look at all the stops. Stop at the ones that look the most interesting.  There is about 1.5 hrs of drive time from the south entrance (start there at the Visitor’s Center) to the Painted Desert Rim on the north edge. If you take time at every stop (10 min average) that will add around 2-3 hrs.  There are also a few hikes, so this park can easily take up a full day.  We enjoyed the park, did 8 of the stops, and were there for about 4.5 hrs.  I loved this Park.  Perhaps it’s a ‘one-and-done’, but it is sure worth it once!  I was fascinated by the beautiful colors the minerals created as the logs petrified.  And yes, my new kitchen is now done in that color scheme.


*Annual visitation to the Park is about 800,000.

*The Park has over 221,000 acres, 50,000 of which are designated Wilderness.

*The Puerco Pueblo, built by the ancestral Puebloan people, was occupied between A.D. 1200 and 1400.Puerco Pueblo Petrified Forest

*The main enviornment of the Park is semi-arid steppe & grassland (‘steppe’ means ‘a large area of flat unforested grassland’).

*There are hundreds of species of plants & animals in the park including: pronghorn, Gunnison’s prairie dog, coyote, bobcat, bullsnake, Arizona tiger salamander, meadowlark & golden eagle.Agate House Petrified Forest


*The Agate House was built out of petrified wood & was occupied between A.D. 1100 – 1500

  *Covering 10,000 yrs of human history, there are over 800 archeological and historic sites.

*This is the only national park that contains sections of both the Historic Route 66 and National Old Trails Hwys.  Here you can see a Studebaker along old Route 66!

                             Minerals petrified in a Log

*The colors in the petrified logs come mainly from 3 minerals.  Quartz is white; Iron oxides go from yellows to reds to browns; and Manganese oxides are black, purple, pink & blue; and Copper, Cobalt, and Chromium give off a green-blue color.

Painted Desert Inn Petrified Forest




*The Painted Desert Inn was built in 1924, reconstructed in the late 1930s, and rehabilitated by 2006.  It is now a National historic Landmark.


*We stayed at the Holbrook KOA.  Not many trees in the desert, but the bathrooms were clean, and the place met our needs.  I give it a 7 out of 10. Check out their website HERE.

*Definitely start at the Crystal Forest Museum at the South End, and don’t miss the Rainbow Forest Museum at the Visitor’s center.  There’s a lot to learn, and you can’t see too many rocks..right?

*Don’t miss Newspaper Rock…it’s easy to do.  It’s located just south of the Puerco Pueblo, and it has petroglyphs carved on it.  See if you can figure out the local news in A.D. 1300…

*The Blue Mesa rock formation really isn’t blue.  It is, however worth a picture (add the blue with a little photoshop).

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.


Stop #2: The Grand Canyon National Park AZ

The Grand Canyon was designated a Game Reserve by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  Two years later it became a National Monument, and finally a National Park in 1919.

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona, and it’s South Rim Visitor’s Center is 60 miles north of Williams, AZ.

As far as big craters in the planet go, this one’s a doozey!  If you’ve never been here, the South Rim will give you the most to see and do.  Save the North Rim for a trip back.  If you are into hiking, there are 125 trails to choose from at the Grand Canyon, but only 12 trailheads are located at the North Rim.  There is the Skywalk at the North Rim, though, if heights don’t getcha….


We drove from the Grand Canyon Village to the canyon’s furthest southeast edge at the Desert Watchtower. We stopped at each scenic spot until we got back to the Village.  With an average of 7 minutes at each stop, we spent under 2 hours to see all 7 scenic views (east of the village) accessible by vehicle.


To see the west section of the canyon, we then purchased our transfer tickets at the Bright Angel Lodge, and walked up to the bus stop.  There are no cars allowed on Hermit Road (at least in April when we were there), and this hop-on-hop-off bus was the perfect solution.  Be sure to pay attention to the bus schedule, or you might get left hoofin’ it back to the village. (If hiking is your thing, the trail from the end point at Hermit’s Rest back to the village, is just under 8 miles and will only take you about 3 hours or so).  I had done some homework, and read that the best spots for sunset photos were at Mohave Point and Powell Point.  I planned it so that we could be in those locations at sunset.


*The Grand Canyon is so big, that it can actually create it’s own weather!

*An average of 5.9 million people visit the Canyon each year.

*There are an estimated 1000 caves, but only 335 have been explored.

*The most dangerous animal at the Canyon is the Rock Squirrel.  Its mostly because they bite dozens of visitors each year who try and feed them.  Don’t be that guy.

*The Grand Canyon is 692 square miles larger than the state of Rhode Island.


*From helicopter rides and hummer or safari tours, to trips to the bottom for kayaking the Colorado River, there’s so much to see and do here.  Check out tours that combine the Grand Canyon with some time at Hoover Dam as well.  Just make sure to watch your pocketbook…you really can see pretty much everything from the rim.

*We stayed at the Williams KOA.  The bathrooms were clean and really ‘interesting’.  It’s about an hour’s drive to the Grand Canyon.  I give it an 8 out of 10.  Check out their website HERE.

*The town of Williams is worth some time spent.  It was on the Old Route 66, and has many historic spots and shops to see, as well as some great restaurants.

*We packed a picnic lunch for our time at the park.  There are not many places to eat at the South Rim (and even less on the North Rim) and those are pretty pricey.

*Don’t try and do both the South Rim & North Rim on the same day.  They are about 5 hrs driving distance apart.

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.


Stop #3:  Zion National Park UT

 President William Howard Taft created the Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909, which became Zion National Park in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill into law.

Zion is located in the SW corner of UT.  The Visitor’s center is just a 20 minute drive north of Springdale.

Zion was, hands down, our favorite National Park of the SW.  It definitely had the ‘wow’ factor as we drove in from the east entrance.  As we drove along Hwy 9 into the park, we entered a whole different world!  A wet and rainy assortment of spiraled mesas glistening in the mist, greeted us as we drove through the Mt. Carmel tunnel.  The view from the west side of the tunnel was completely different.  What we saw there were pine trees nestled in a mountain landscape with sheer rock faces soaring into the haze.  What a reception all that rain and fog gave us as we made our way to the campground to get set up!

After a quick set up, we boarded the shuttle for our hike to The Narrows and back as well as the hike to see the Lower Emerald pools.  It poured rain the whole time we hiked, but the colors and the views were more than worth it.  No matter what the weather, any time spent in Zion National Park is time you’ll treasure.


Zion National Park*The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel is not to be missed. The 1.1-mile-long tunnel cuts through the vertical sandstone cliffs of Zion, and includes windowsZion National Park Mesas in the Mist to provide views of Zion Canyon. It was completed in 1930, and repaired in 2019.

*The Anasazi were the original inhabitants of Zion Canyon, a civilization that thrived around 1,500 B.C.. You can see the remains of their sandstone villages, and rock art throughout the park today.

*Zion Canyon is constantly being reformed by the Virgin River.  Each year, the river removes an average of 1 ton of sediment, deepening the river and widening the canyon.

*Zion is the 4th most busy National Park with an average of 4.3 million visitors each year.

*The California Condor is the largest flying bird in North America and can be found in the wild in Zion National Park. They have a wingspan of 10 feet from tip to tip, can fly as fast as 55 mph at heights of 15,000 feet.  They are also endangered.

*Zion’s canyon is approximately 2,000 ft deep.

*Zion has a subway. Not for vehicles, but rather a strenuous 9 mile round-trip hike through the left fork of North Creek. This challenging route requires orientation skills, creek crossing, swimming and scrambling over boulders. You must get a permit for this hike, which is subject to daily limits.

*Angels Landing in Zion has been labeled as one of the scariest hikes in America. It’s a 2.2 mile hike, and the landing stands at 1,488 feet above the Virgin River. You’ll hike many zig zag trails up steep hills, sheer drops and exposed edges. However, if you come prepared and take it carefully, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views 1,500 feet above the canyon floor.


*During most of the year, most of the park is serviced by a free hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus.  The Zion Canyon Line, or park shuttle, runs from the visitor center up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.zion hiking trail

*We stayed at the Zion Canyon RV Park.  It’s just outside the south entrance to the park.  It’s in a great location, the showers are clean, and we enjoyed it very much!  I give it a 9 out of 10.  Check out their website HERE.

*Be prepared for a wait at the Mt. Carmel tunnel. Length restrictions are 40 feet for a single vehicle and 50 feet for any vehicle combination.  Any vehicle that is 11′ 4″  or higher and 7′ 10″ wide or wider needs the one-way traffic control service which will cost you $15. Any vehicle 13′ 1′ inch high or higher cannot pass through the tunnel.

Centipede*If you encounter a fair amount of rain, watch out for centipedes.  They won’t chase you, but they can leave you with a nasty bite.  And….yeah. They’re just gross.

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.


Stop #4: Bryce Canyon National Park UT

Bryce Canyon National Monument was originally established on June 8, 1923 to preserve the “unusual scenic beauty, scientific interest, and importance.” On June 7, 1924, the monument’s name was changed to Utah National Park and it was transferred to the National Park Service. On February 25, 1928 Utah National Park was changed to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park  is located in the SW corner of Utah near the town of Tropic.  It’s only a 1.5 hr drive from Zion National Park.

What a day to spend in Bryce Canyon National Park!  As we made our way to our campground, we drove from snow into blue skies.

             Bryce Canyon entrance in the snow                      Bryce took my breath away. Farmland with blue skies and fluffy clouds

And it’s very easy to do in a day (unless your really into long hikes).  The best place to start after entering the park is the Visitor’s Center.  There are displays with lots of interesting information.  From there, head towards the Sunset Campground, pull in and park.  From here you can see Sunset Point and Inspiration Point just by walking the Rim Trail for a few yards.  This is probably the best place to see the most of what Bryce has to offer. 

From this point there are also number of great hikes.  We opted to head down the Wall Street Trail just to get a feel for being down among  the giant sculptures (called ‘hoodoos’).  From here we drove down to see the Natural Bridge.  Its only about a 20 min drive, but there are a few stops along the way.  Natural Bridge is definitely worth a look!  By starting our time at Bryce in the sunshine, we got to see the hoodoos lit up by the sun. But by the time we got back to the visitor’s center it was snowing heavily and pelting us with hail.  Stopping back in at Sunset Point for a few photos, gave us views of the hoodoos in the snow.  We absolutley loved this park and we’re coming back to do some more hiking!


Hoodoos*Although Bryce is called a canyon, it’s actually groups of rock formations called amphitheaters.Hoodoos in the snow

*The rock formations here are called Hoodoos.  Hoodoos are sandstone located in hot, dry areas.  They are formed by wind, rain, ice and gravity from sedimentary and volcanic rock.  Groups of Hoodoos make up the amphitheaters.

*Bryce Canyon N.P. has the largest collection of Hoodoos in the world.

*Native Americans believed that the hoodoos were actually people called ‘Legend People’ that had been turned into stone by Coyote – a god that liked to play tricks.

*It is possible to see 7500 stars from Bryce Canyon on a clear night.  This is more than double the visable stars in most other places in the U.S.

*About 1.5 million people visit Bryce Canyon each year.

GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:White Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon

*We stayed at the Bryce Valley KOA.  It’s a bit of a walk to the restrooms & showers, but its clean.  I give it a 7 out of 10.  Check out their website HERE.

*Check out The Pizza Place in Tropic and try some local beer.  They have FANTASTIC Pizza!!

*Bryce is easy to see in a day, so plan a picnic lunch and then dive down into the Hoodoos on one of many trails in the park.

*At the North Campground General Store near the entrance, you’ll find showers if you need them.

*Get up early and be at Sunrise Point (located near the Lodge Gift Shop) for morning photos & views. There’s a reason its called Sunrise Point!

Hoodoos in the mistHoodoos in the fog and snow at Bryce Canyonb

*Keep an eye out for the Astronomy & Geology festivals.

*Don’t be afraid of weather.  It changes quickly.  Get out and enjoy!

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.



Stop #5: Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Capitol Reef National Park was designated a National Monument on August 2, 1937, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the area’s colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths. But it was not until 1950 that the area officially opened to the public.  A bill was introduced 1970 to make the Monument a National Park.  That bill was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971.

Capitol Reef is located in south central Utah near the town of Torrey.

Red Sandstone Reef like CliffsCapitol Reef is an easy park to do in a day.  Don’t be misled, though.  There’s plenty to see, do and learn here at this beautiful little park.  We got into Torrey at about noon and got our camp set up.  After lunch we headed into the park.  We started with a very quick visit to the mini Visitor’s Center.   Our first stop was the Fruita Schoolhouse, but it turned out to be more of a drive-by than a stop.  We saw what there was to see by just rolling past and snapping a photo from the car window.

From there it was onto the petroglyphs.  Evidently, these stick figures were carved by the Freemont people over 1,000 yrs ago.  Ok. So far a little underwhelming.  Then we hiked to the Hickman Bridge which is the largest natural arch in the park.  The hike took about 2.5 hrs and was worth every minute!  Not a super easy hike, but a beautiful one for sure.   If you are into horseback riding or hiking, you can find many slot canyons and natural bridges.  What this park lacks in landmarks, though, it makes up for with its one-of-a-kind geology. The Waterpocket Fold makes this park unique from other parks in the area.  Click HERE to find out more about the Fold, what created this park, and more about the scenery you are looking at.sandstone cliffs at sunset

stars in dark purple skiesWe definitely saved the best for last!  After spending the evening back at camp, Eddie & I drove back up to Panorama Point for some sunset photos. Spectacular as that was, it was the International Dark Sky that we were really there for.  (Check out some important info on the Dark Sky HERE).  We set up our tripods and readied ourselves for trying our hands at some astrophotography.  It was a valiant first effort, but more than that we had to just sit back and stare at the sky.  There were so many stars – and layers of starsdesert sandstone at sunset – in the dark purple and indigo skies, that it created a 3-D type effect. 

Man & Woman doing night photographyWe’d never seen anything like this! Cold as it was in April in the wee hours, it was an experience we’ll never forget. We turned in about 2:30 am, cold, tired, a little hungry, but oh… so… content.



*Capitol Reef National Park gets it’s name from: the white domes resembling the dome on the U.S. capitol bldg (CAPITOL) & the Waterpocket Fold that looks like a coral reef (REEF).

*Annual visitation to the park exceeds 1 million annually.

*After 1,000 yrs of occupation by the Fremont people, Mormon pioneers came into the area.  At the Pioneer Register you can see where they, too, carved their names into the sandstone rock.  Check out that info HERE.

Sandstone Natural Bridge*Two business men from the early 1900s, organized a booster club to begin promoting the beautiful landscape around Torrey, Utah. In 1924, they hired a photographer from Salt Lake City, who came to the region and photographed what is now Capitol Reef. At the time, they called the area “Wayne’s Wonderland,” and using the photos, they began promoting the region and its natural beauty across the country.  They were Ephraim Portman Pectol and his brother-in-law (and Utah Legislative Senator) Joseph S. Hickman (thus the Hickman Bridge).

*More than 220 Species of Birds live in capitol Reef.

*Capitol Reef qualifyed  as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015.  This means that measures have been taken to reduce light pollution and programs have been provided to inspire star gazing.

*The Fruita Orchards, first planed by Mormon pioneers, are now open to the public.  During the harvest season, you can pick and eat your favorite treats.  For a small fee you can even bag some up and take them home with you.

*At Capitol Reef, you can take a tour on horseback or trek with a llama.  Click HERE for more info.


*We stayed at Wonderland RV Park just a few miles outside the western entrance to the park.  The owners here also keep the cattle that are kept next to the property.  This was one of our favorite RV parks.  It had clean restrooms and lots to see on the place.  I give this one a 9 out of 10.  Check out the website HERE.

*If you’re planning on doing some star gazing or astrophotography – which you sure should – bear in mind that there is a wait between sunset and dark sky.  It can also get cold.  Bring water,  snacks, and chairs.  Also, don’t wait and come in really late.  Your headlights will ruin it for photographers.

sandstone desert floor*The desert is an extreme enviornment, so make sure to carry enough water if you hike.  Unless its monsoon season…then just get out of the rain.  Always check weather conditions before venturing out.  Check HERE for flash flood info.

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.




Stop #6: Arches National Park, UT

In 1929 President Herbert Hoover created Arches National Monument, then in 1971 Congress designated Arches as a National Park under President Richard Nixon.

Hummer going up a sttep sandstone rockArches National Park is in east central Utah, just minutes from Moab.

We started our day in Moab with a Hummer tour up Hell’s Revenge near Slickrock.  If you’ve never done something like this before, its a ride you’ll never forget! I highly recommend this excursion as a fun addition to your time in Moab.  Not for the faint of heart, though.  Click HERE for some more info.

After our stomachs returned to their normal positions, we grabbed some lunch and then headed into the Park.  Arches is an aptly named National Park, and we saw as many of those arches as we could.  We started at the visitor’s center, explored Park Avenue, the Courthouse Towers,  the Petrified Dunes, the ‘Windows’ section, the Fiery Furnace, hiked the Devil’s Garden trail to Landscape Arch, and ended our day with sunset pictures at Delicate Arch.  Whew!  It was a beautiful day.  There are many hikes in the park, and my favorites were the ones into the slot canyons.  The pinks, oranges and purples of the canyon’s walls and floors were colors I’d never seen in sand.  It was raining by the time we arrived back at camp, so we were happy to had such pretty blue skies during our day at the park!


*There are more that 2000 natural sandstone arches inside the park.

*Landscape Arch has that longest span of any arch in North America, and is the 4th largest in the world.  It’s a beautiful hike to get there (only about 2 1/2 miles round trip), and there is some interesting info at the arch about how it came to be.

Bal*Over 1.5 million people visit the park each year.Sandstone mountain with sun burst

*Over 11 films have been made at Arches National Park, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Thelma & Louise.

*The park comprises about 119 square miles.



*We stayed at Canyonlands RV.  The camp was clean with decent bathrooms and showers.  It was a tight squeeze, though, and because there’s no walking path to the restrooms, people kept cutting through our site.  There is a great little store/gas station there that provided us with some pretty great ice cream!  I’d give this RV park a 6 out of 10.  Find there website HERE.

Pink, Purple, Orange Slot canyon*Even if you are not into hiking, stop and see one of the slot canyons.  Sand Dune arch is about a 5-7 min walk from the car, and it is beautiful!

*There is low light pollution here, so its great for night photography or stargazing.

*There’s lots to see in Moab, so get out and walk the town!  We loved the ice cream at the Moab Diner.

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.

*Edward Abbey, a monument employee in the 1960’s, is probably the most famous person associated with Arches.  His diary, Desert Solitaire, depicts stories of The Monument and attracted generations to Arches National Park.


Stop #7: Canyonlands National Park, UT

After many jeep tours in the 50’s & 60’s, and long discussions by campfire, Arches National Monument superintendent Bates Wilson finally convinced (the then Secretary of the Interior) Stewart Udall to advocate for Canyonlands at the national level.  Canyonlands National Park was officially established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Canyonlands National Park is located in east central Utah just 26 miles from Arches National Park.

The plan had been to get up early and drive into the park, hike to the Mesa Arch for sunrise photos, and enjoy a tailgate breakfast.  It was a great plan.  So…we slept in until 9.  Canyonlands was the last national park for this trip, and because we’d been dealing with the rain, snow, and wind the entire trip, we were a little weary.  As beautiful as all this weather was, it was a challenge to be camping in.  On this day, it was sunny and warm, and the skies were sapphire blue.  It was the first time we could enjoy some time at camp outside, so we just relaxed and enjoyed brunch.  Sunrise photos would have to wait until next time around.

For us, this delightful park was a one-and-done, and was easily done in a day – if – you pick either the north side or the south side.  The north side of the park is serviced by the Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center, and will treat you the Shafer Trail Overlook, the Mesa Arch, Buck Canyon, White Rim, Orange Cliffs and the Grandview Overlook.  On the south side of the park, you’ll find the Needles Visitor Center along with the Wooden Shoe Overlook, the Big Spring Canyon, and the Confluence Overlook.  Both areas are breathtaking, but we felt like there was a little more to see on the south side.

If you want to see both sections of the park on a day, it is doable, but you won’t have much time to take advantage of the many scenic hiking trails.


*Cathedral Point, on the south side in the Needles District, stands at 7,120′.

*The first people visiting the park about 10,000 yrs ago left behind rock art, which can be seen in the Needles District.

*Ancestral Puebloans, who lived in the park about 2,000 yrs ago, left behind graneries and dwellings that can also be seen in the Needles District.

mesa in a desert canyon*Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch gang had their Robber’s Roost hideout in the Maze District located on the north side.

*Most of the rock in Canyonlands today was formed by the breaking down of ancestral mountain ranges.  Upheaval Dome (located on the north side), however, has geologists stumped.  Is it the remains of a salt dome, or was it created by a meteorite impact?  Take a look for yourself and see what you think!

*About 400,000 people visit the park each year.



*We stayed a 2nd night at Canyonlands RV.  The camp was clean with decent bathrooms and showers.  It was a tight squeeze, though, and we felt right on top of our neighbors on both sides.  And because there’s no walking path to the restrooms, people kept cutting through our site.  There is a great little store/gas station there that provided us with some pretty great ice cream!  I’d give this RV park a 6 out of 10.  Find there website HERE.river cutting through a desert canyon

*Canyonlands National Park is separated by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  You can see where they come together at the Confluence Overlook on the north side.  The rivers separate the park into 3 Districts: The Island in the Sky and the Maze Districts in the north, and the Needles District in the south.  The Convergence of the 2 rivers in the north is often considered a 4th District.

Sandstone rock art*There is a standalone unit northwest of Island in the Sky called Horseshoe Canyon. From the parking lot its a mere 7 mile rd-trip (strenuous) hike to see the Great Gallery, one of the country’s best panels of ancient rock art.

*It is 107 miles (2 hrs drivetime) to get from one visitor’s center to the other.

*The Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center is 32 miles from Moab, and the Needles Visitor’s Center is 74 miles from Moab.

*For info and a park map to plan your visit, click HERE.

That concluded our ‘7 Parks in 9 Days’ trip to the American SW.  We came back with lots of photos, memories and plans for our return trip.

I guess the biggest question was, ‘what took us so long?!!’


This is Janelle Brian, and I am the owner & operator of Images Custom Framing in Littleton, CO.  I am excited to share with you all some basic things you should know about framing your photography!  Before we get started though, let me tell you a little more about myself…

        I have been  running Images Custom Framing for over 30 years now!

I consider myself very blessed to be able to make a living doing what I love from home.  I’ve worked in 4 different gallery/frame shops, and have had the privilege of working with some of the best people in the business!  I have loved working with art on the retail side, but nothing can beat working from home.  I get to set my own hours, and make time for travel.  (CHECK OUT MY IMAGES WEBSITE HERE)

I also have the website that I design and maintain called “Road Trips and Tiny Trailers”, which is an online road trip planner for those traveling in a tiny trailer. My love for travel, art & photography is a perfect package for me, and I  love turning that package into a career!  (CHECK OUT MY ‘ROADTRIPS’ WEBSITE HERE)



My husband, Eddie and I are travel addicts from right here in Colorado.  We now find ourselves in the phase of life called ’empty-nesters’, and we are making the most of it! We stay busy traveling in our tiny trailer, writing books, learning more about art & history, and taking photos!

We’ve recently purchased a couple of new cameras.  For Eddie, a Sony full-framed mirrorless was simply an upgrade from the one he had, but for me it was a head-first dive into the deep end of the lake with no knowledge of how to swim!   Although I’d been fairly content with my top-of-the-line point & shoot, Eddie gave me no option.  After all, we were heading to Hawaii for the first time, and my little Lumix just wasn’t going to cut it.  I didn’t want to be ‘that gal’, but I guess I was ready to move up to the next level of photography for my websites. And again, Eddie gave me no choice.

Between us, Eddie & I now have 3 camera bodies (mine is also a Sony full-framed mirrorless) and 8 lenses.  He bought me my Sony body with the initial kit lens, but I’ve been on my own ever since.  It is SO easy now to acquire G.A.S. (Gadget Acquisition Syndrome), and yep! – we’ve got it.  You probably have it too.  All our lenses are interchangeable, but I’ve learned that neither Eddie or I really like to share.

I’ve learned a great deal since snapping that first photo in the AUTO setting, but what I have yet to learn is absolutely never ending.  (For some Key Basics of Photography for the beginner, click HERE).  I suppose that’s true of most all photographers, but unlike me, many of you are probably ready to start framing and even selling your work if you haven’t already!

But before we tackle the nuts & bolts of framing your photos,  I should mention that there are also other applications that you can do with your photos.

For instance, you can create online photo albums with Shutterfly, Picaboo or Snapfish.  These photo books are a great way to pass down your family memories without worrying about the changes in technology that can create challenges with being able to view your photos.  (This is a service that I provide, so if you need someone to create an album for you, you can contact me HERE!)

You can create collages that are not actually framed, but give you a chance to show off your latest photos.  The ideas here are endless, but usually need to be a temporary display.

You can also mount a photo directly on foam board for an inexpensive way to display your work, and if you want to get super fancy, you can even paint it with acrylic gel (we call that a ‘master brush-stroke’) to create an oil-on-canvas effect.

If you are selling your work, you might consider offering some different standard sizes of your work, shrink-wrapped with mats.


Even if you are not a photographer, an artist of any kind can benefit from the information below!

   If you are ready to protect your art, or create a ready-to-display piece, then it’s time to think FRAMING…so Let’s dive in!


OK!  For basic matting and framing, we’ll start from the back and work forward through 4 steps.
For Step #1, let’s talk about BACKINGS!

example of paper damaged by lignin in cardboard

To begin, let’s talk about the thing you should NEVER back your photos with: Cardboard.  Cardboard (or any material made from non-acid free paper) is made from trees which contain an organic plant polymer called Lignin.  Lignin supports tissues and cells in wood, but will discolor your art.  It will create a sepia tone to the paper, and can even come through your photo leaving brown, stained spots on your work.

Now, let’s talk about what TO use:

There are actually a number of different types of backing that are used in framing, but we’ll deal just with the main one.  Namely,  FOAM CORE or FOAM BOARD (which are the same thing).

Foam Board comes in 2 main sizes:  32”x 40” and 40”x 60”.  The size you select depends on the size of your art.  (You can cut four 16×20 pieces out of a 32″x40″ sheet of FB).

Foam Board also comes in 2 main thicknesses: 1/8” and 3/16”.  The depth you choose depends on how deep your frame is.  I use 1/8” for about 80% of the art projects I frame.  (I’ll choose the thicker option when I need more strength for the project, or when it’s in a deep or shadowbox frame.)

Lastly, Foam Board comes in 2 different choices in quality: Regular and Acid Free:

  • Regular Foam Board is made of polystyrene foam covered on both sides with clay-coated liners.  It is considered ‘acid-light’ and is safe for most projects, including photo paper.  This backing comes in white or black.
  • Acid-Free Foam Board is made of a chemically inert foam covered on both sides with pH neutral acid-free liners.  This Foam Board is considered to be ‘Conservation’ or ‘Museum’ quality, and is more expensive.  This is what I choose when working with original art, limited edition prints or anything that is irreplaceable.  This backing is cream colored.

Regular Foam Board is fine to use with dry-mounting (which uses heat), or vacuum-mounting (which uses a spray adhesive).  Both Dry and Vacuum mounting are not used for valuable artwork, so you would not choose acid-free Foam Board to permanently mount a project.

Now that you’ve placed Foam Board on the back of your photo, let’s move on to Step #2: MATTING!

Using matting in your framing project is optional, but provides several benefits.  First, it keeps the glass from touching the photo (thus avoiding damage to the photo), and prevents those ‘oily’ spots you can get when a photo sticks to the glass.  Second, mats can add appeal to your photo by: drawing the viewer’s eye to the subject, popping out certain colors, and generally giving ‘space’ around your photo.  I generally choose two mats, but there are times when either one or three mats is appropriate.  Mats also give you the option to shrink-wrap unframed photos that you would like to sell.  There are quality differences with mat board, though, and you need to understand those differences before you make your choice.  For this blog, we will discuss the 3 main types of Mat Board available:

Paper Mat Board damaged by lignin

Discolored bevels due to lignin damage

The First option is: Regular Paper Mats.  Paper mats come in a wide variety of colors and are your least expensive choice.  But like cardboard, they are paper made from trees which contain that plant polymer called lignin that we talked about when we discussed cardboard.  These mats will eventually fade, and because the inside edge of a mat is cut at a 45 degree angle, there is a bevel that you see, and it will turn brown.  Lignin can also leave brown spots on the mat, but that takes some time. Regular Paper Mats can also leave a brown or discolored stain where they touch your art, which is called ‘foxing’.  Paper mats are also prone to fading, especially under regular glass.  They are, however a good option to protect and display your photos temporarily until they are properly framed.

The Second option is: White Core Mats.  White Cores are also paper mats with all the problems of lignin, but the cores of these mats are made with chemically purified wood pulp enhanced with optical brighteners.  The result is a nice bright white bevel which takes much longer to eventually discolor.  These mats are only slightly more expensive than regular paper mats, but are more limited with color options.  These, too, are great for temporary circumstances.

Lastly, the best option is: Acid-free or Rag Mats.  Acid-free or Rag mats are made with 100% cotton, and are my go-to for any art that is worth the cost of framing.  These mats keep their color (especially is used with conservation glass), maintain their nice white bevels, and won’t damage your art.  They are a little more expensive, but hey!…If your photo worth the cost of framing, it’s worth doing right!

Matting has many more options that your framer can show you.  Choices include: thicker cored, metallic, colored cores, black cores, mats made from linen or suede, and some really fancy ones!  There are also fillets (which are small decorative wood strips that go in between the mats).  Go have some fun!!

A word to the wise: If you choose against mats and are framing your photo, make sure to add spacers between the glass and the art. Know too, that 1/4″ of your art will be covered by the edge of the frame.  Also, don’t use mats without glass in a frame.


Now that you’ve gotten a little more familiar with matting your photos, let’s move to Step #3: GLAZING!

Glazing is a fancy framer’s word for Glass.  There are numerous options when it comes to glass (including different grades of plexi-glass), but for this blog we’ll keep it to the 5 most commonly used types.

Before we get started, though, let me say a word about the damage that light – esp UV light – can do to art.  Light is especially harmful to any type of art that is on paper.  Damage shows as the art takes on a sepia or brownish-yellow cast.  It can also fade ink, paint, and other art mediums.  The thinner and more fragile the paper, the quicker and more severe the damage can be.  Photo paper falls in the middle of the damage-risk scale.  To help off-set this problem, glass companies have developed coatings that go on the side of the glass that faces the art, and can help prevent the damage.  Personally, I think they are well worth the extra cost.

Please refer to the photo below as we discuss each type of glass:

On the far left of the display photo, you’ll see a pane of Regular glass.  Regular glass has the most reflection (as you can see, the lights on my ceiling are reflected onto the picture), and has no protection against light.  It is the most commonly used form of glass, and is the most affordable.

The 2nd pane of glass on the display photo is Non-Glare.  It has very little glare and is a good choice for inexpensive art that will hang in a room without many windows.  It is made by acid-etching one side of the glass to diffuse reflection, but that etching can intensify the damage that light can do.  As you can see, it also produces a milky, cloudy effect on your image.  Because of this, you should avoid using Non-Glare glass if your photo has matting (especially more than one mat!).  As the glass gets further away from the art with each mat, the blurrier it will make your photo look.  It costs just a little more than Regular glass.  (There is a Conservation Non-Glare glass available with the UV protectant coating as well, and it looks and performs the same as regular Non-Glare.)

The middle pane of glass on the display is called Conservation Clear glass.  Conservation Clear has the same reflection issues as Regular glass, but the UV protectant coating will filter 99% of the sun’s harmful rays.  This is my go-to glass for most art prints and originals.  Conservation Clear glass is roughly double the cost of Regular glass.

The 4th pane of glass shows us the new Museum glass.  Museum glass has the 99% UV protectant coating, but almost no reflection.  Looking straight at it, your art can look as if there is no glass on it at all!  It is fabulous glass, but it can be quite pricey.

The pane on the far right of the display is the new AR glass.  I love this glass as it has almost the same anti-reflection quality as Museum glass, but at a much lower cost.  On the down side, it’s coating only protects 68% of the sun’s damaging rays.

Obviously, there is much to consider when choosing your glass.  You need to really evaluate the needs of your art, and what you are going to do with it.  You also need to consider your pocketbook!   A good framer will help you with your choices.


Your photo now has a backing, mats & glass. So now it’s on to our final Step #4: The Frame!

The final (and most fun!) step to framing is the actual Frame itself.  I think of it as a moulding before it’s cut, and a frame after it’s cut.  Moulding runs in price from around $2 per foot to well over $25 per foot, which is a HUGE difference in price!  Do your framer a favor and never call asking, “How much would it cost to frame a 16×20 poster?”.  Without choosing a frame, a price quote is impossible.  Here are a few tips to remember when choosing a frame:

  • Moulding generally comes in wood or metal.  Both have great options.  Moulding is charged by the foot.
  • The most important thing to know first is, what you are trying to accomplish by framing your project.  Is the framing (frame & mats) part of the art?  In that case, choose a frame that really adds to the piece.  For example, I recently framed a collage featuring drawings of muscle cars.  We used a frame with the kind of flames you’d see on a car.  Man was that cool!  The framing was as much a part of the art as the art itself!
  • Most of the time, though, you will want the framing to accentuate and spotlight your art.  You’ll want to draw the viewer’s eye right to the heart of the composition, and have your work pop!  In that case, the frame you select needs to do just that.  If your eye moves out to your mats or frame, or distracts from your art in anyway, then it’s time to redesign.
  • Do you have a favorite part of the photo?  Choose a frame that leads your eye there.  Is there a color that you really like?  Choose a frame that pops that color.  The frame should not fight with the mats.  (I like to choose a secondary mat that coordinates with the frame in some way.)
  • Know your budget.  Keep in mind that when selecting a moulding, smaller doesn’t necessarily mean less expensive. Try and limit your choices to ones that are within your budget, and focus on the ones you picked first and trust your instincts.  Quite often, the one that is right is the one that got your ‘knee-jerk’ reaction.  Remember too, that if you are selling this piece, you’ll need to recap the cost of the framing when you sell.
  • If you have a large piece,  choose a moulding that is substantial.  If your frame is too narrow, you will risk snapping the glass.  Make sure your project is structurally sound.
  • Know what kind of depth you’ll need.  For instance, if you are creating a piece that needs room for memorabilia, or has multiple mats or fillets, make sure you choose a frame that is deep enough.
  • Make sure that the width of the mats is not equal to the width of the frame, or it can look like stripy.  Choose a frame that is either larger or smaller that the width of your mats.

With all the frame choices that there are, stand back from your samples and try and think ‘big picture’!  Make sure, too, to get an educated opinion.

And don’t hesitate to contact me with any comments or questions!  Contact me HERE

With so many fun and varied options, there’s nothing to keep your work of art from being a one-of-a-kind!!


The lake, according to the native Ojibwas, was called gichi-gami.  I love the native languages, they are so straightforward.  Gichi-gami means, ‘huge water’.  And huge it is!  Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world.  Lake Superior has a surface area of 31,700 square miles, is 160 miles wide and 350 miles long.  If you follow her shoreline, you’ll travel 2,726 miles.  She is so large, that this lake actually creates her own tide!  And Lake Superior, from Minnesota’s North Shore, features many unique and varied beaches.

(You can find more ‘bullet point’ details about Lake Superior & the other Great Lakes HERE.)Pictured Rock Sea Caves WI

In September, we drove the North Shore of this magnificent lake.  The North Shore Drive just out of Duluth, Minnesota, will treat you to 188 miles of shoreline from the Leif Erikson Park in Duluth, thru eight state parks to Thunder Bay.  We also followed Lake Superior’s South Shore from Duluth to Bayfield, Wisconsin where we took a tour of the Apostle Islands. (For info on an Apostle Islands cruise, click HERE).

Besides the shear size of this massive lake, the thing that stood out to us the most was that there were so many different types of beaches!  I’m sure that with enough research, we could explain away these geographical curiosities, but I choose instead to ponder nature’s little lessons.  In this case, I enjoy reflecting on the idea that although each of us as humans are individual, unique and exceptional, we are all still one humanity.


*The 1st stop on our North Shore drive was at the Leif Erikson Park and Rose Garden.

This lovely park travels along the shore of Lake Superior. It is a great place to walk around and enjoy some views of the lake from the gazebo or the balcony just off the stone-turret stage.  There is also a stunning rose garden where you can enjoy a romantic moment, or practise close-ups with your camera.  (For more on this Park & Gardens, click HERE).

Brown Slate Beach
Brown Slate Beach Lake Superior

        The beach here is made up of  brown slate-type rocks.

Brown shale beach

From here you can stroll the Lakewalk and see the historic railroad tracks.  Check out these other photos of the Leif Erikson Park!

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*Our 2nd North Shore Drive stop was at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

One could easily spend days here in Gooseberry Falls Park, as there is camping, showers and many hiking trails.  (Check out their website HERE).  For us, it was a quick trip to the Visitor’s Center and a short hike to see both the Middle Falls & the Upper Falls.  Agate Beach is a 20 min hike from the Visitor’s Center, and it’s where the Park meets the Lake.

beach sand at Lake Superior
Agate Beach Pebbles










The beach here is made of red and brown elongated pebbles with no sand.  Quite a massage for bare feet!

*The 3rd North Shore Stop was at Iona’s Beach.

Iona’s Beach is truly a not-so-hidden gem.  Not just because someone named Iona promised to keep coming back to her favorite spot on Lake Superior, but because the SNA (Scientific and Natural Area) deemed it ‘ecologically or geologically significant to Minnesota’.  From the car, there is a short hike to the beach, and we were fortunate to see this trail in fall colors! This lovely beach is a 300-yd salmon and pink colored crescent. It was created by lava which poured from a fissure in the earth’s crust called the Mid-Continental Rift.  When waves crash onto this beach, the rocks tumble against one another and create a high-pitched tinkling sound, thus earning Iona’s Beach the name ‘singing beach’.  (More more info on Iona Beach, click HERE).

Iona’s Beach is covered with salmon/pink colored lava rocks

pink lava rocks at Iona's Beach
Iona’s Beach pink lava rocks


Stop #4 brought us to Split Rock Lighthouse & State Park

Lighthouse on rock overlooking lake

We got to Split Rock Lighthouse just as the sun was starting to set and we were getting those ‘golden hours’ for our photos.  And Split Rock Lighthouse is iconic for a reason.  A lovely place to visit and so much to learn! (Check out more info on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park HERE).


      The beach at Split Rock is made up of large grey boulders and rocks.


 * Our final stop for the day was at the Black Sand Beach at Silver Bay

What a lovely way to end the day!  We were going to try and make Temperance State Park, but we spent too much time enjoying each stop and it was getting dark.  The rest of the North Shore Drive will have to wait for our next visit!  Here at the Black Beach we learned that it is the only black sand found at Lake Superior.  Evidently, the black sand is the result of taconite (having been dumped for years into the water by mining companies) washing ashore with the waves.  (To find out more, click HERE).  I love how nature can take waste and make something so beautiful of it.

Black sand at a beach on the lakeThe beach here at Silver Bay is a soft black sand.

What a magnificent lake is the gichi-gami…the Lake Superior.  She has seen the loss of more than 6,000 ships and some 30,000 lives.  Yet she continues to teach us, inspire us, terrify us and leave us breathless.

Next time you find yourself in the Northwest part of the U.S., don’t miss seeing Lake Superior from Minnesota’s North Shore Drive and it’s many beaches!



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Key Verse: Hebrews 5:11-14

Key Passage: The Book of I John

I love going back to Italy.  Having lived there, it’s always a ‘homecoming’ of sorts when I get the privilege of returning – especially to the northern areas.

This time, my husband Eddie and I were headed into Italy’s Lake District to see its largest lake, Lago di Garda.  This time I had chosen the little town of Malcesine (just a stone’s throw from where I had learned to windsurf) as our stopping point.  This lovely, small town sports a castle, and a bird’s-eye view of the lake from Mt Baldo, which is serviced by its funicular (a mountainside cable car).  Away from the ‘touristy’ area of the lake, I thought it would be a great place to spend a warm, sunny afternoon & evening.

Clearly, so did everyone else.

We had boarded the boat-taxi from the port town of Peschiera early, and had hoped to get in front of the tourist crowds.  It had been a good plan, but we stepped off our boat into a sea of people, and the dock was too crowded to even navigate across.

I was crushed.

My dream of having a quiet, peaceful afternoon sipping something yummy on the shore while the sun glistened on the waves, was absolutely dashed.  So much for smelling the lemon groves in the air, and watching the brilliantly colored sailboats glide by.Lake Garda from Castle window

The crowd pushed in on every side as we made our way to the castle.  As we waited in line to pay the ridiculous fee to see the castle ruins (from the inside), I took a breath and tried to adjust my attitude.  Eddie was in a much better mood, and he encouraged me to enjoy taking some pictures as he savored the breathtaking views of the lake.  I probably would have done better if I hadn’t had to wait in more lines for the best viewing and photo taking spots…

I then decided I would be happier above the crowd on the top of Mt Baldo, so off to the funicular that would take us there, we went.

We dove back into the mobs of tourists that were cramming the streets.  What caught my attention – and did absolutely nothing for my worsening mood – was the number of people yelling, complaining, and more concerned with their ‘selfies’ than what they could gain from their vacation.  Sadly, you don’t need to know a person’s language to know when they are not happy campers.

For a brief moment, I decided that these ‘tourists’ were frivolous and shallow, without a purpose for being here, and well, just needed to go home.

I took a little boastful pride in the fact that at least I was keeping my thoughts and my current disposition to myself.  I was also feeling a tad cocky about the fact that I like to travel intentionally, and consider myself a ‘traveler’ and not a ‘tourist’ (Eddie disagrees).  I do my research.  I’m prepared with all kinds of information of what I’m seeing and doing.  Rick Steves (the famed ‘Europe Through the Backdoor’ guy) would be proud.  I know what I want to get out of an experience and why I’m there, but mostly I look to know my God better.  I love getting to know Him more intimately through history, art, architecture, and on this day… the beauty of nature.

After getting my feet stepped on, and bumped into repeatedly, we finally arrived at the back of the line for the cable car to Mt. Baldo.  It was then that I noticed the sign that flashed a 3 hour wait time to board the funicular.  I’m not normally prone to open displays of temper, but everything inside of me wanted to jump up onto the nearest boulder and command every tourist there to “GET OUT OF MY CITY!”.

Not fully understanding how I didn’t see myself as a tourist, Eddie in his calm but firm way, took note of the steam exploding from my reddening ears and carried me by the arm back through the crowd, back out onto the dock, and onto the next boat headed north.

Sunset at Lake Garda

I was informed that we were going to enjoy the lake from the topside of the boat as we sailed the entire perimeter of the lake.  We made a couple of short but strategic ice cream stops, and it turned out to be a wonderful rest of the day.

After being given a chance to compose myself, I did have to explore the reason for such intense emotion.  I also took a deep breath and let God remind me that I’m in the wrong when I give myself over to a bad attitude.    I’m also out of line to label other tourists as ‘shallow’, and remember that we did, after all, take a selfie or two.  I felt humbled and repentant.

But I was also encouraged to remember that, although it’s contrary to His will to be judgmental,  it is right to have purpose with what I’m doing in my life and travels, and it is especially right to be ‘growing deeper’ in my relationship to Him.

Which brings us to our key passage for this week:

“11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Hebrew 5:11-14

To be growing deeper in our faith should be a daily prayer – an every moment striving. As we grow, we come to realize that God’s teaching and training takes place in the smallest details of everyday life, as well as the big events He doesn’t let us miss.

For this next week, take a look at the areas of your relationship with Christ that need some growing.  They will probably be related to the areas of the rest of your life that need a little of the same.


So, just what does it mean to be growing deeper with Him?  Let’s take a look at this little book of 1 John.  In 5 short chapters, John describes what ‘going deeper’ really means for the Christian.  He is simple and direct.

He also emphasizes that depth in Christ centers around:

 Right doctrine (truth); Right living (obedience); and Right relationships (love).

So…let’s get going.  Let’s grow a little deeper!



I John 4:3 sums it up: “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

In the age of ’whatever works for you’, God makes clear that there is only one way, one path that leads to eternity and relationship with God. That way is knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and God.  Jesus, the God-in-flesh who was without sin, died to rescue us from sin, was resurrected, and has ascended back to the Father.  Nothing else works.  Nothing else can restore what was lost through sin.  Nothing else is truth.

Are there any ‘truths’ that have you ensnared?  Time to weed them out!


            I John 5:11-12 gives us confidence: And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Now that’s a truth to hang your hat on!  There is so much un-truth that the world would have you believe.  But hang on to this one simple truth and it will be a foundational stone on which the rest of your life can be built.  A measuring stick that any other ‘truth’ can be set up against.  The divining rod that exposes lies.  Crawl up into the arms of Jesus where this truth not only sets you free, but gives you ultimately security!

It’s so easy to get caught up with trying to do ‘right’ things and avoid ‘wrong things’, that sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Savior just wants to be together with you and make you feel safe.


I John 1:1-4 ends with: “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full...

So how’s the JOY in your life?  Not the happiness, mind you, that comes and goes with your circumstances, but the joy that comes despite your circumstances.  Focusing on deeper intimacy with Christ brings joy to all parts of your life, because growing more intimate with Him means hearing His voice better.  When you begin to discern the voice of God, He will begin to work out His will for your life.  He will guide your choices and decisions, and joy comes from that intimacy.

This week, examine how you define joy.  Make sure it is the same definition as God’s.


I John 1:6-2:2 tells us that even though we are not without sin, He is.  And He gives His forgiveness freely.

Yikes.  We live in a world that doesn’t like to hear the word sin.  We make ‘mistakes’ and have ‘issues’.  We give sin labels and claim that it’s not our fault.  But here in our passage we find that we deceive ourselves when we refuse to call a sin a sin.  Depth in Christ requires living in Truth and right doctrine.  Fortunately, God forgives willingly.  His only requirements are for us to be in agreement with Him that our sin is indeed…a sin, and then asking for forgiveness.

Take a look this week at areas you might be unwilling to admit are wrong.  Let God ‘deep clean’ you from the inside out.  Submit to some internal ‘scrubbing’, and your intimacy with God will flourish.




In 1 John 1:5-7; 2:3-6; 3:7-10, we learn that we were made to live substantive lives in Jesus Christ.

The dictionary defines substantive as: ‘having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful, or considerable.  Having substance.’

This verse tells us that God intends our lives to be significant.  And not just our spiritual lives, but our whole lives.  From our home life and family relationships, to our careers and friends, hobbies, and even with our travels we are meant to live with substance.  With meaning and value.  When Christ is what everything in our lives revolves around, then everything has a purpose and life makes sense.  It’s an ongoing process, this thing of giving everything over to God, but the journey is a great one!


I John 2:28 gives us the ability to live with great hope and anticipation: And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before “Him at His coming”

That’s Right!  He’s coming again to gather up His own to be with Him forever!  What can be better than that?  There is no better way to live than with hope, security and anticipation in knowing that what we have now is not all there is.  How beautiful to live in the confidence that God has everything in His hands.  For your life, for the future of the world, for all that is, He is in control.

Are there things that have left you afraid? Insecure? Hopeless?  Time to leave them at the cross and cling to the truth that Christ offers you.


I John 3: 7-10 makes us understand that there is no room for compromise.  “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the idea that sin is fun, and therefore hard to completely let go of.  While it’s true that we will fall, it’s important to receive forgiveness and get right back up and onto the right road.  Giving in to sin and continuing in its evil path is not in the nature of someone who is on an intimate journey with Christ.  It’s a lie straight from the pit of hell, that sin is fun and the narrow road with Christ is hard and unfulfilling.   The pull comes from our sin nature, but the more we resist it, the more the spirit-filled life will feel abundant and full.  Remember, too, that the world judges God by what they see in us.  So let’s live lives that are meaningful, abundant and authentic.

Are there some things that are not in line with God’s first best for you?  Something that you think God might ‘understand’ about?  Pray about the things God is asking you to surrender.



I John 2:15-17 gives us a glimpse into the Father’s heart:  “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

God knows that we battle our sin nature, and He is forgiving.  What we don’t think about, though, is how much He is in love with us.  Just as we would be hurt if our spouse battled the desire for someone else, so does our Savior hurt when our desire is not first for Him.  Sometimes, just letting this truth sink in makes all the difference.  Let’s not be like the church of Laodicea who had lost their ‘first love’.  Let’s value and nurture our relationship with the Lord.  Let’s work at keeping Him in first position.  Let Him help you learn how to truly love Him.  He is the author of Love, after all…


I John 3:18-20 makes clear that when we have a right relationship with Him, it’ll show in our relationships with others:  “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence”.

God is all about relationships.  Love relationships.  God-honoring connections with other people – especially with those also in the body of Christ.  I love the way the Message version of the Scriptures translates this passage:

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves”

This translation makes me understand that it’s not only God’s will that we love others, it’s actually in my best interest!  It can make me more emotionally healthy.  Yes, God really does know what’s best for us, and He uses relationships to carry out His work and His will.

He also uses love and relationships to further the Gospel, and reveal Himself to others.  In verses 16-17 of this 3rd chapter of I John, the Message translation says,

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.”

Wow.  That’s pretty intense.  Can we really make God’s love disappear?  For someone else’s perception, I guess the answer is, “yes”.

I guess it’s time to understand that going ‘deep’ with God means going deep with other people.  This also means that the reverse is true.  When we truly love others, our intimacy with God grows.

I hope that your week will be full and rich as you seek to ‘Grow Deeper’ in Christ.


“Travel is more than seeing the sights.  It is a change that goes on, deep and five-prayers-god-always-answers-mojjgvas-c39603704b0bd283a73c61cc05982808permanent, in the ideas of living.”  –Miriam Beard

“There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.  When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.” –J.I. Packer

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A quick drive west on I-285 S from the Denver suburbs will take you right to the Compassionate Dharma Cloud Buddhist Monastery.  And a stop at this beautiful facility is even more rewarding than being able to pronounce their name!

Take a left off of I-285 S at Settlers drive and park at the fire department.  Follow the dirt pathway up the hill to the Monastery.  The restrooms are in the Blue building on the ground floor with an outside entrance.  Don’t judge at first glance…

Keep walking back and you’ll find the common area used for services and presentations.  It’s a lovely red brick platform with benches made from tree logs, and a statue of Buddha himself.

Even if you are not Buddhist, this retreat center is a great place to take a break, get some fresh mountain air, and enjoy a little peaceful quiet time.  The monks are very nice, and are happy to answer any questions you might have.  This monastery is home to a great many events and have regularly scheduled ‘Days of Mindfulness’ that are open to anyone of any faith.  Buddhist or not, mindfulness is a great thing!  You can take a look at their website HERE.

2 lion statues on pedestals along stone walkwayContinue on up behind the Buddha statue until youmountain stone walkway with white hanging ornament see a stone walkway.  It is flanked by two white marble lion statues.  Your trek up the stone pathway will reward you with a grassy, well landscaped, stone terrace that provides a stunning view of the valley below.  This is a great place for a picnic lunch, but be respectful and don’t leave any trash. scenic overlook from stone platform in mountains

Take some quiet time here and just walk around.  Ponder the Heart of Perfect Understanding statue, and be grateful to be in such a tranquil and peaceful place.  Enjoy the beauty of the terrace and the mountains around you, and don’t forget to be ‘mindful’!

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          tall white marble statue of Buddhist woman   stone platform in the mountains  grassy area in mountain retreat with flower filled wagon  stone walkway in the mountains




Visiting the whole town of Fairplay is far from a ’20 min’ stop along I-285, but having a picnic along the river and enjoying Front Street certainly is not!

Main street of Fairplay CO Black and White historic photo

view of South Platte River from Front St Fairplay CO

As you enter the town of Fairplay, take a right turn onto Main street.  Look to you left for 8th Street, and turn left.  Follow 8th until it turns into Front Street.picnic bench and flower pot high in mountain area

mining area in mountain town


Along Front Street in Fairplay, you’ll find gravel areas to rest your car and trailer.  Front Street runs along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River.  There are picnic areas here, places to use the restroom and quaint restaurants for a quick lunch.  After lunch, enjoy walking the tiny Olde Town and take a peek into historic South Park City.


Iron statue of a burro by mining cart in mountain town            Storyboard for town walking tour of Fairplay CO Grave site of Prunes the Burro in Fairplay CO

South Park City entrance sign Fairplay CO(If you have a few extra hours, get a $10 ticket  from the Library and see South Park City.  There are 40 buildings and over 600 artifacts to enjoy if you have the time!)


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COMO ROUNDHOUSE: I-285 S at Boreas Pass Rd

Just minutes off of I-285 S at Boreas Pass Rd, you will find the not-really-there-anymore Como Roundhouse.

Train roundhouse at Como CO

Once a repair shop for the Denver-South Park-Pacific narrow gauge Railroad, this 6 bay old decaying train carstone Roundhouse served the town of Como Colorado from 1881 to 1938.

There’s not much to see here now, but despite offering no picnic area or restroom, its worth a pause on your journey. This site has made it onto the National Register of Historic Places!  It’s a quick 10 minute stop.

The tracks leading from here carried people and goods to Denver via Kenosha Pass, to Leadville and Breckenridge via the Boreas Pass, and to Gunnison via South Park & the Alpine Tunnel.

railroad map Fairplay CO

By 1910, the town of Como and the Roundhouse had reached their peak, and theold train yard in high mountain valley Roundhouse had been expanded to a 13 bay facility.  The Alpine Tunnel connecting Como with Gunnison by train caved-in that year, crippling the Railroad’s use of the area.

By 1918, the Roundhouse was down to just 3 bays, and in 1935 those bays burned to the ground.

DSC01042 (2)The last train pulled out of Como taking up the wooden tracks behind it in 1938, and Como’s life as a railroad town was over.

All that survives of the Roundhouse today is it’s stone section, but work to restore the site began inold train car behind pine trees 1985.  I can’t say that there’s much to see at this point, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on in the future!


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view of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with green fields in the foreground and cloudy skies

Just before Johnson Village on I-285 S, you’ll find the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Overlook.  Its a great ’20 min’ stop with the best view of the Collegiate Peaks in the state.  Take a right onto Rd 304.  There is a $1 day use fee, but the views and clean restrooms are well worth it!

At the Collegiate Peaks Overlook you’ll also find picnic tables, a restroom, and a great place to walkview of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with greenery in the foreground and stormy skies around.  Stretch your legs and admire the views.  view of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range with greenery in the foreground and cloudy skiesFrom here you can also see the Chalk Mountains.  These ranges are beautiful in any weather, but we got to see them with storm clouds!

Read about the Peaks HERE.


Although this stop is for day-use only, there is the nearby Buena Vista KOA Journey campground if you need a place to stay overnight.  If you do stay, you can take advantage of the Cottonwood Hot Springs, west of Buena Vista on County Road 306.  It’s about 15 minutes away, and is a great place to soak with pools, sauna, private spas, and a cold plunge.


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ST ELMO: Near Nathrop

The St Elmo Ghost Town is not actually a ’20 min’ stop, but it was so much fun to pokeDSC01145 (2) around in, I decided to include it anyway!

You’ll need about 1 1/2-2 hrs for this excursion.

From I-285 S you’ll take the Chalk Creek / flowing stream with mountains in backgroundRd 162 exit toward St. Elmo.  The drive will be about 35 minutes to the town, but will take you through the scenic Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort along Chalk Creek.  With a great view of Mt Princeton on your right, and the Cascade Falls Viewpoint (get out your cameras), the drive alone is worth your time!white chalk mountains with green pine trees in foreground

When you reach the outskirts of St Elmo, there will be a place to park your car and tiny trailer. You’ll see the bathroom facilities here. The General Store is still available for a little shopping, but you won’t find any food. Explore the town on foot.  Enjoy being nestled in amongst the Collegiate Peaks, the Sawatch Range & the Chalk Mountains.

Try and imagine what St Elmo was like in it’s heyday.  Built in 1878 as a gold mining camp, St Elmo’s population peaked at more than 2,000.  It took on saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses.  In 1881, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad came through the area, and a station was built in St. Elmo. From here, the tracks continued through the historic Alpine Tunnel.  You can read more about St Elmo and the railroad HERE.

      DSC01150 (2)     DSC01144 (2)     DSC01139 (2)      DSC01135 (2)

There are a number of surviving ghost stories here in St Elmo, and exploring the locations of these sightings is entertaining.  Read about Annabelle Stark and other ghost stories HERE.

B&W photo CO mining town 1800's

Retrace your route to return to I-285.


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high mountain plains and rain clouds

Just before you arrive in Poncha Springs along I-285 S, you will find the Christmas 1806 Picnic Ground.  It’s a ‘don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it’ spot, but a significant one nonetheless.

views of highway going through high plain valley with rain clouds

It was pouring rain when we arrived at the Christmas 1806 Picnic Ground, so we decided to eat in Salida.  In good weather, however, its a great ’20 min’ stop for a picnic on a covered table, even though there’s no covered picnic table in high plainsbathroom available.

Zebulon Pike and his party of 15 attempted to climb Pike’s Peak on November 27, 1806.  They failed, but trudged on through South Park.  They were looking for the Red River, which was the southern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase.  The explorers eventually made their way past the Arkansas River, but with little food, they stopped near here to send out hunting parties.  They managed to shoot eight buffalo, and Christmas Day in 1806 was spent feasting on buffalo and repairing equipment.

So, take a quick breather, stretch your legs, read a little history, and enjoy theChristmas 1806 information sign high mountain plains and rain cloudsbeautiful views of this far western corner of the Arkansas Valley!

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I-285 travels right through the town of Saguache.  While your there, take a quick ’20 min detour’ to see Robertson’s Flour Mill.  It is the only U.S. water powered grist mill still left standing!

(If you have the time, you might want to take an organized tour.  To arrange for an appointment, call:  719-221-3869)

wooden grist mill in front of stream

As I-285 enters the town of Saguache, it will intersect with Denver Ave/ Z road.  Turn right heading west on Denver Ave.  Follow the road as it turns to Z road for 1.4 miles, and then turn left heading south on road 46.  In a few minutes you’ll be at the Flour Mill.  Here’s the tricky part:  You’ll need to leave your rig on the side of the road and walk up to the Mill.  It’s a very short walk and you can keep an eye on your vehicle.

grey grist stone on wooden chairGrains are ground into flour at a Grist Mill.  The Robertson Flour Mill (aka the Saguache Grist Mill) was water powered, and initially provided flour for the Indian Agency and settlers in the northern part of the San Luis Valley.

The original mill was built by famous Colorado railroad builder, Otto Mears, in the late 1860’s. Prospector brothers, Enos and Preston Hotchkiss, then replaced it with a three-story mill in 1873.  It later sold it to the Robertson Family, who ran the operation for many years.wooden grist mill

        The San Luis Valley is filled with fascinating history.   To learn more, click HERE.

Retrace your steps to return to I-285 South, and keep on truckin’!

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Just under 1 1/2 miles off of I-285 you will find the High Valley Mennonite Church.

Front face of church building with rust colored brick and tan siding

I must admit that I was excited to see this stop off of I-285.  I come from a Mennonite background, and most of the churches I knew are no longer in existence.  This particular church was a bit different from what I knew growing up, so it was fun for me to get to visit!

A quick 1 1/2 mi turn off of I-285 on Co Rd E led us through some beautiful San Luis Valley farmland, and right to the parking lot of the High Valley Mennonite Church.  The building isplayground equipment at church, gravel road and farmland brand new, and the rust colored brick with taupe siding made it look modern and updated.  The church also has a small connected school with playground equipment.

We parked the car and ventured in to the open building.  There we met Janice, the pastor’s wife, along with her little ones.  In between all of her responsibilities, Janice manages to keep the building in tip-top shape by cleaning up and doing small repairs.  She was very nice, and more than gracious with answering my questions. She even allowed us to use the restroom.  Janice also said that it would be find for someone to stop in, say ‘Hi’, side face of church building with rust colored brick and tan sidingand have a tailgate picnic.

Also called the ‘Church of God in Christ’, his particular church is of the Holdeman Branch of Mennonites.  The summary of their beliefs says, ‘We believe that all people can have salvation through Jesus Christ, who died to wash our sins away.’  You can read more about their beliefs HERE


Next time through we’ll make a point to be here on a Sunday, and possibly enjoy a service.  There is no instrumentation here, and the idea of listening to A Cappella hymns in 4-part harmony sounds like ‘music to my ears’! 

High Valley Mennonite Church Sign on building

After enjoying this delightful ’20 min’ stop, we were once again heading south on I-285, and “on the road again…”

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UFO WATCHTOWER: Hwy 17 at Hooper

Welcome to “The Bermuda Triangle of the West.”

metal watchtower with platform on top

The San Luis Valley boasts more UFO sightings than anywhere else in the country, and the area’s UFO Watchtower records sightings nearing the hundreds.  As a result, it receives anywhere from 2,000- 5,000 visitors each year.

To get to the UFO Watchtower from I-285, watch for Hwy 112 near Center. Turn left aliens at play sign near watchtower with mountains in backgroundheading east for about 16 miles.  At Hwy 17, make another left hand turn going north for 3 miles. Turn right into the parking lot, but don’t go over 10 mph!  They are serious…

man standing in area filled with memorabiliaThanks to owner, Judy Messoline, you’ll find camping spots, picnic tables, outdoor restrooms, a gift shop, and who knows what else might appear!  Since 2000, Judy has been capitalizing on the land that she owns, but that gets used by UFO Spotters, Extraterrestrial Enthusiasts and UFOlogists. She has also built a ‘watchtower’ that features a rock garden and healing garden, buffered by two “energy vortexes.” Here visitors can leave offerings, which include everything from children’s toys and garden tools, to shoes and Bibles.  You’ll find the gardens guarded by statues of aliens.

alien statue covered in memorabilia 2 alien statues under UFO craft      dome shaped igloo covered in white tiles    alien statue covered in memorabilia     
night sky with stars over mountains

Perhaps the most impressive sight of all, however, is the beautiful desert landscape.  The San Luis Valley contains the largest aquifer in the country as well as the largest basin.  This valley is beautiful by day, and even more impressive at night.  The night skies are dark purple and filled with bright twinkling stars. They’ll take your breath away, UFOs or not.

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Maybe not a ’20 min’ stop off of I-285, but the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park is more than worth the effort if you have an hour or so and an extra $20 per person (discount tickets are sold at the UFO Watchtower)!

man feeding an alligator

Traveling south on I-285, watch for CO 112.  When you arrive at the turn off, go left and head east on CO 112 for 14 miles (about 20 min).  Then turn right going south on CO 17 for 3 miles.  You can’t miss the signs for the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park, and the parking is great!

Large group of alligators in a pond

The Gator Park was initially established in 1977 as a tilapia fish farm.  They brought in the gators as garbage disposals for the dead fish, which now number over 100.  Since then the park has adopted many reptiles, birds and other critters, and has also acquired a number of rare albino gators.  The park has also become home to Morris the Movie Star Gator from ‘Happy Gilmore’!  Owners Erwin and Lynne Young take on unwanted exotic pets, teach the public about owning these types of reptiles, and take them to schools for educational purposes.

iguana on a branch      ostrich with black hair looking straight ahead      albino alligator in a pond      cockatoo in a cage  

There are picnic tables, a restroom and a gift shop here.  There is even a food truck that comes by on Wednesdays.  I might forego eating here as it is a little smelly.  The smell was only a little bit of a deterrent for me, though. I am a reptile lover and am disturbingly fascinated by gators.

tortoise eating a green branchEnjoy a little time wandering around the park, andwoman holding a caymen maybe you’ll get a chance to feed a tortoise.  If you hold a Caiman, you will be presented with a Bravery Certificate complete with a ‘stamp’ from the Caiman itself!caymen biting a certificate

To return to I-285, just re-trace your steps.  It’s best to go back the way you came so that you don’t miss the next stop!

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A quick detour from I-285 S in the town of Monte Vista leads you into the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

flying Sandhill Cranes with mountains in the background

As you enter the town of Monte Vista along I-285, stay on the Hiwy and watch as it turnsWelcome sign at Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge into Broadway, Gunbarrel and finally into Highway 15 South.  In approx 6.5 miles (from when you past 1st St), you will find yourself at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.  Watch for the sign at the parking lot.

At the parking lot there is information posted about the Refuge and the San Luis Valley.  There is also a restroom.  Take a few minutes for a tailgate picnic and then head into the Refuge.

moss covered lake on PlainsThe Wildlife Refuge is a 2.5 mi loop, along signs about water fowl in San Luis Valleywhich you’ll enjoy lakes, marshes, and many different kinds of waterfowl.  The are informational signs posted throughout where you can learn about this unique area.  Make sure to have your camera ready!


If you happen to be passing through in spring between mid-February and mid-April or in mid-October, check online for the Sandhill Crane Migration.  It is a sight you will never forget!!

     To return to I-285, continue on 15 South until you get to Hiwy 370 East.  Go Left on 370 E for 14 miles, and you’ll be right back on I-285 just south of Alamosa. 

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Although it’s far from being a ‘little-known site’, no trip through Antonito is complete without a stop at Cano’s Castle.

castle built with beer cans and aluminum scrapsBorn Dominic (Donald) Espinosa, the Castle’s architect & builder now goes by ‘Cano’ which is the Native American term for ‘reborn’.  Just like his new name suggests, Cano – a Vietnam Vet – has a new mission in life.scrap metal castle with aluminum front door and stone fence

Cano is looking for the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for a meeting with the President.  He wants to address the injustices done to his family.  He claims that the U.S. should give him the chunk of southern Colorado/ northern New Mexico land that was stolen from his family in 1921. He believes it was a gift from God to Cano’s uncle (who was murdered), and Cano wants it back.

'Jesus Lord of Kings' scrap metal entrance gateAs a ‘Thanks’ to God for sparing his life in Vietnam, Cano has built this castle for Jesus (who, incidently, has been living there since 1987).  Actually, Cano (pronounced CAH-no) will credit God for the building of his castle.  Evidently God is a master re-cycler, as this castle is built with countless forms of aluminum scraps.  It is, in fact, four structures in one: “The king”, “the queen”, “the palace” and “the rook”.  The four story “king” house, covered in glistening beer cans and hubcaps, is his crowning architectural achievement.castle built with beer cans and aluminum scraps

Cano says his main sources of inspiration for the Castle are “Vitamin Mary Jane” and Jesus.



As you leave the castle and are heading south out of town, there is a small, but cute park at the corner of 3rd and Highway 285.  The Water Spray park offers green grass, picnic tables and a port-a-potty.  There is also the opportunity to cool yourself off in the water features.


Cumbres & Toltec Railroad signAfter leaving the park, don’t forget to grab a look at the Cumbres & Toltec Train Depot.  There you will find the Narrow Gauge steam train that travels between Antonito & Chama, NM.  It crosses the border eight times during one of the most scenic train rides in the country!  Maybe next time you pass through, you’ll take a day and ride the rails. If you do, start (and stay) in Chama – it’s much prettier there.  For more info click HERE.

         Engine 495 of Cumbres & Toltec train       Cumbres & Toltec train

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Built in 1863, Our Lady of Guadalupe is the oldest and first permanent church in Colorado.

Catholic church with red brick in a Southwestern style

Heading south on I-285, this site is a quick one to see.  Look to the west at 8th street in Antonito and you can’t miss it. Turn west and you’ll find ample parking.

Ms. Guadalupe (read her story HERE) Our lady of Guadalupe statue holding flowersbecame the patron saint of this church first built by John B. stone signage cemented in rockLamy, the first bishop of Santa Fe. The first building was dedicated on Dec 12, 1863, and was under the Jesuit Fathers from 1871-1920. Since 1920, it has been under the Theatine Fathers.

The church was destroyed by fire on Ash Wednesday in 1926, leading to a rebuild. The current church was dedicated Dec 12, 1927.  The towers that you see (and a section in the back) were added in 1948.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is dedicated to the Catholic Faith and to the dead.  There are signs for you to read on the grounds.  This Parish is still being used today.

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Goodbye…goodbye…parting is such sweet sorrow

roadside chapel with grafitti

Heading out of Antonito on S-285, it is about time to exit the beautiful and ‘Colorful’ state of Colorado.  Before you cross the border into New Mexico however, there is a roadside chapel worth dropping in on.  Maybe you don’t need a full “20 mins” for this stop, but drop in anyway and reflect on your time in this ‘not-to-be-missed’ state.small painted chapel front with cross on top


There’s not a restroom or picnic area here, but this is a nice place to say a prayer, or enjoy a quiet moment of reflection – regardless of your personal beliefs .


story of 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' painted on plaster wallThere is also the opportunity to get to know ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ as you read her story here on the walls just outside the little chapel.  This is the Lady to whom this chapel (and SO many others) is dedicated. Although it is homemade and crude, the chapel has been lovingly used for years. Go inside and check out all the mementos that have been left behind, and feel the prayers said here. Maybe there is something you’d like to leave behind as well.                                                        
relics and figurines in roadside chapel

plaster wall of roadside chapel with christian symbolsAnd now it’s on into the Land of Enchantment!

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Tayler Water Wheel

Many visitors to the state of Colorado who make their way from Denver into the RockyP1070291.JPG Mountains find themselves traveling on I-70.  This highway makes its way into the heart of the Rockies.  Here you can learn about the Gold Rush, the Narrow Gauge Railroad and Buffalo Bill along with all that lives and has lived above 8,000 feet.

Along the way, only about 30-35 miles west of Denver, you’ll pass by the little town of Idaho Springs. If you do your homework, there is much to see and do here. There is also much history to be discovered.  If you are only passing through however, and have a few extra minutes, you can get a close up view of the famous (well sort-of famous) Tayler Water Wheel. It is a Scenic Lookout and Historical Landmark.

Take exit 241, head west to 17th St and then turn left.  At the end of the street you’ll be able to park your car and trailer right across the street from the tiny Anderson Park. There you can see Engine #60 and coach #70 built by the Union Pacific Railroad for use on the Narrow Gauge Line.  From the park, it’s a ¼ mile paved stroll along Clear Creek, where you’ll see the Charles Tayler Water Wheel.

The Water Wheel was initially built by Charles Tayler.  Charlie attributed his good health to the fact that he ‘never kissed women or took baths’. It powered his stamp mill in 1893.  It was moved to its present site in 1946 as a gift to the people of Idaho Springs from his estate.

This little excursion is a nice side trip along I-70. It is definitively worth the 20 minutes that it takes to see the water wheel. As an added bonus, see the lovely waterfall and enjoy the short stroll.

While you’re in Idaho Springs have lunch at historic Beau Jo’s Pizza!

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Are Colorado’s Bighorn Sheep calling your name?

big horn sheep looking at you

Iman fishing at lakef so, then pull off I-70 W at exit 232 and follow Alvarado Rd W until it becomes Argentine St.  You’ll find yourself at the Wildlife Viewing Area in Georgetown.  Here at the Viewing Area, you can relax on the shores of Georgetown lake. Here the fishing is good, the views are spectacular, and the dark-green waters of this mountain lake are even better.  Georgetown is home to one of the largest herds of Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, and they are protected here.  There is an observation deck where you can (hopefully) see them in their natural home.  There are information signs around where you can learn about the Bighorn and the other wildlife in the area.

So, use the restroom, have a picnic and just enjoy the Wildlife Viewing Area & the beauty of Georgetown Lake!

Lake with a family fishing

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Oooo…you’re in for a treat!

Green mountainside with snow covered peaks behind, reflected in a dark blue lakeDeep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishingAs you approach Exit 190, You’ll see signs for Shrine Pass Rd.  Exit there.

The Black Lakes Picnic Site is the reward you’ll find waiting for you just a few minutes off the highway!



Colorado roadside sign with rock frameContinue on to Black Lakes on Bighorn Rd/Ten mile Canyon Nat’l Recreation Trail.  It’ll take you about 5 mins or so to reach the Ten Mile Canyon Trail Parking – which you’ll find as you veer to the left.  Here’s where you can stretch your legs and use the restroom.  You can also read a little about Vail Country and the Mount of the Holy Cross.  You will find picnic tables, but I recommend pressing on.

From here, head back North toward the Black Lakes Picnic Site along ten Mile Canyon Trail Rd.  On your left you’ll come first to Black Lake Number 1.  Drive to the north end of the lake for theman fishing in mountain lake in blue inner tube boat parking lot.  This is a great place for a tailgate picnic!  Lake number 2 is just walking distance up the road, but it’s hard to get to the water’s edge.  I would spend my ’20 mins’ at Lake Number 1. This is a great place to hike around, do some quick fishing, or just enjoy the deep blue water, mossy green hill sides and the surrounding mountain peaks.  These photos were taken in mid summer, and snow was still visible on the more distant peaks. Deep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishing


Don’t be fooled though, by the path to the little out building…it’s not a restroom!

Deep blue lake with green mountain sides and a bridge into the water for fishing      mountain path to old outbuilding

Enjoy your stop here at Black Lakes, and take lots of pictures!

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Ah… A clear blue mountain pond on a sunny day in Colorado is always a feast for the eyes, but Gypsum Ponds are much more!

Gypsum Ponds is a State Wildlife Area, and an enjoyable “20 min” stop.  Here you can enjoy not only the pretty moss-topped ponds, but a variety of birds and other Colorado critters.  This area is home to Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Western Kingbird and other bird species.  At certain times of the year you might even catch sight of an Osprey or Bald Eagle. This area is included on the Colorado Birding Trail.

pond in grassy meadow with nearby hills                       mountain reflection in clear mossy pond

To find the Gypsum Ponds, take exit 140 off I-70 and head south.  Follow the traffic circle around to Trail Gulch Road.  (It’ll be parallel to I-70).  If you need to use the restroom, you can stop off at the Hi-Way 6 Store.  Better yet, spend a few minutes at the 10th Mountain Whisky & Spirits.  You can do a tasting of some of the best whiskey  or spirits around.  Because Colorado has such great water, distilleries & wineries thrive here! (10th Mountain is closed Mondays & Tuesdays).

From your bathroom stop, continue on Trail Gulch road until it stops.  There you can leave the vehicle (yes there are spots for turning around), and walk down the river to the Ponds.  You’ll find benches for a picnic-on-your-lap, and trails to walk around and take some photos.

Gypsum mine behinds trees and bushes

In the background you’ll see a Gypsum Fishing from a raft on the Eagle River near the Gypsum minemine.  Gypsum is the key ingredient in drywall and is a type of salt. It’s known to mineral collectors as selenite or desert roses; to sculptors as alabaster; and to kids everywhere as “Plaster of Paris.” Gypsum has some unusual properties that make it like ‘mother nature’s reusable glue’.  If you heat gypsum, it easily bonds  to water and cures to a solid state.

Next time you’re at Home Depot or Lowe’s, take a peek in the drywall section.  More than 80 percent of their drywall is made here in Colorado! We produce so much drywall that it’s exported by truck and by rail to many western and Midwestern states. The American Gypsum Company produces it so fast that it could pave a lane of I-70 from downtown Denver to Glenwood Springs in 24 hours!

Enjoy your stop, and make sure to do a little bird watching!

clear mountain pond reflecting trees and blue sky

mountain pond with floating moss  clear blue mountain pond reflecting sky, clouds and green landscapeTo use the “20 min in Colorado” Category, read HERE

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The Sopris Alpaca Farm, “Where Heaven and Nature Humm”

alpaca showing his teeth

Just off I-70 at exit 105 is where you will find that slice of heaven, at the Sopris Alpaca Farm!  From Exit 105, Follow Hiwy 6 for about 10 min and watch for the sign on your right.

Owned by Cory and Kim Wesson, Alpacas here on the farm are bred, shown, sheared andlog cabin in the trees with a man sitting on front porch LOVED.  Cory and Kim live here on the farm and have been enjoying the ‘Alpaca Lifestyle’ since 2012.  Check out their website HERE.

Dryer Balls made of alpaca wool on display in a gift shop  display of colored alpaca wool

In addition to caring for the Alpacas, Cory & Kim also run a small campground (with restroom facilities) that they advertise with Airbnb, and a gift shop/boutique featuring items made with Alpaca wool.


backs of 2 chairs in grass

view of mesas from grassy yard

So stop in, have a picnic, and spend some time with these adorable animals.  Then take a seat and enjoy the views and a visit with the Wessons!

  brown alpaca and white alpaca kissing


It’ll be a “20 min in CO” stop that you won’t forget!  group of resting alpaca near a teepee


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DSC00764 (2)      Field of Dreams      DSC00757 (2)

Dedicated to the men and women who served in the United States of America Armed Forces during the Vietnam War 1959-1975

At Exit 19 in Fruita you will find the Western Slope Vietnam Memorial, along with theDSC00760b Colorado Welcome Center.    Overlooking the memorial, is a TUH-1H Huey helicopter from Camp Robinson in Arkansas. The Huey is the symbol of the Vietnam Era, and the United States Army donated it for display.  You can read more about the helicopter and how is was transported HERE.

TaDSC00770 (2)ke the ‘Walk of Honor’ around the site. See the names, branches and other information about those who served, and those who were lost during the Vietnam Era.  The names of the men from the Western Slope who were lost have a special representation incorporated into the memorial.  Enjoy the ‘Welcome Home’ bronze sculpture, along with American & Colorado Flags, and Vietnam Service Ribbon displays. Check out the Park’s website HERE.

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Across the parking lot, you’ll fine the Colorado Visitor’s Center where you can have aDSC00777b picnic, use the restroom and run through the sprinklers (at least that’s what we did!).  There is also a number of placards with interesting info about Grand County and Butch Cassidy.

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Enjoy your ’20 min’ stop, and pay respects to those who served during the Vietnam Era.

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Take a walk on the ancient side…

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Just before you hit the Utah border, pull off of I-70 at exit 2 into Rabbit Valley.  Follow theDSC00703 (2) exit road until you get to Rabbit Valley Rd, and  turn right.  You will end up in the parking lot where the trail head is well marked.

If you have the time, the Trail Through Time is a 1.5 mi loop hike.  It is easy and will only take you about 40 minutes.  If you only have 20 minutes, then grab a quick tailgate picnic, and do a little exploring around the area.

DSC00719 (2)The Trail Through Time area contains an active dinosaur quarry.  It is still being excavated occasionally in the summer months.  The Mygatt-Moore quarry is worked and maintained by the Museum of Western Colorado and has produced a large variety of dinosaur bones. These bones include the Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Allosaurus. You can read more about this on their website HERE.

The trail itself is an easy loop that has signs along the way describing the landscape andDSC00717 (2) DSC00713 (2)history as well as pointing out various dinosaur bones.  If you don’t have time to hike the loop, there are signs available at the parking lot and just a few steps up the trail, that give you information about the surrounding areas and the Jurassic Period.

So stretch your legs, climb a few rocks, and enjoy this last ’20 min’ stop before you leave Colorful Colorado!

DSC00274 (2)    hiking trail leading into rocky mesa    rocky hiking trail    DSC00730b    DSC00748 (2)

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