Breast Cancer Awareness|Guest Blog Helping Mum Fight Across The Miles!

The following guest blog I wrote for CancerCare Parcel, a resource that offers comfort, support and inspiration to those dealing with or affected by cancer.

MUM, CANCER AND ME:  HOW I HELPED MY MUM FIGHT BACK FROM ACROSS THE MILES

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It’s Probably One Of The Worst Things For Someone To Be Told: “You Have Cancer,”

It can be devastating for a spouse or family member to hear it as well. I admit it, I felt my stomach fall to my feet when my mother called me on the phone to tell me the horrible news that she has breast cancer.  I felt intense emotions of fear, sadness and guilt because I lived over 2000 miles away from her. I held back tears as she told me she had Stage 4 breast cancer and will be having a mastectomy and up to 9 lymph nodes removed. So, some of you may be thinking well this isn’t too big of a deal, there are people learning they have cancer every day. But you see, this is my mother; my mum, a sweet, kind, and gentle soul.

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Umpteen Reasons Why You Will Love North Dakota

The beautiful state of North Dakota might be more known for its friendly people and open hearts. And you might be expecting to read another blog article about beautiful big buildings and structures, exquisite eateries and foodies, or glimmering art galleries. But this article is about more than that; it’s not of something tangible or aesthetically beautiful, but more of extraordinary experiences, places that touch your soul, and discovering a gratitude for life that is magical!

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I am born and raised in a very small town in North Dakota, and do try to return and visit as often as possible, because most of my family still live here. On my recent visit, I explored new areas I have not yet explored and discovered incredible rich beauty and culture.

Since I am one of 5 kids in my family, we were a family that lived on a budget while growing up. My parents worked hard and did the very best they could to give all of us kids a good life while growing up. So there was no such thing as a vacation, no high tech gifts, and no name brand or fancy clothing in our house. But one thing there was plenty of… Love! There are, however, a few cool places I do remember visiting as an adolescent, this is closest to a vacation that I can recall. They include the following:

  1. Attending a circus event in Jamestown, N.D.
  2. Medora, N.D. Musical and driving around the South Unit in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (My memory is very vague)
  3. Visiting the giant Buffalo in Jamestown, N.D.
  4. Road trip to Montana to visit relatives. (This one’s a big one, it seemed it was a day’s long drive)

Since my adventure and exploration was a bit limited as a kid, I made it a point to seek and explore more of my home state on my recent visit to see my family this summer. There are a handful of unique things that make North Dakota not your average ordinary vacation destination. Nope, in fact it is an all around, peaceful, wide open spaces, beautiful and wonderful place to experience! Here is why:

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North Dakota Heritage Center
Mostly, the people who live here are just common folks who work hard, care about others, and enjoy time with family. Speaking of spending time with family, I recently had the opportunity to visit the North Dakota Heritage Center along with my mother and her friend. We enjoyed learning about the Native Americans that populated the area many years ago, as well as the prehistoric creatures that lived across the plain states and nearby areas.

 

 

 


Some of the fossils displayed at the museum are actual findings as the one below with the attempt to preserve it and the dirt it was discovered in.

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ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com
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ND Heritage Center Fitlifeandtravel.com

This exhibit is very interesting as the fossil still has some of the outer layer of skin preserved. The center offers static and rotating exhibits as well as a café inside; The James River Cafe. Check out more information here: www.statemuseum.nd.gov

 

 

 

Let’s not forget about street art and other beautiful art pieces around town.

 

 

The beautiful Missouri River, downtown Bismarck, open spaces and farmland.

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

This national preserve is packed with rugged beautiful bluffs infused with red and sand colored landscape where you can get up close and personal with roaming wildlife.
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The North Unit is a 14-mile scenic drive through badlands where you might encounter bighorn sheep, elk, and even wild buffalo. This is the perfect destination for those looking for a unique kind of adventure, history, and bison!

 

 

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According to the Medora 2018 Adventure Guide; Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Medora for a buffalo hunt in September 1883 and fell in love with the land. After his experience in this area, he became alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and wildlife.

*Although you can get quite close to the wild animals, there are warning signs posted stating the buffalo are dangerous, so enjoy them at a distance.

 

 


Roosevelt later pursued interests in conservation when he established five national parks, 51 federal bird reservations, four national game reserves and 150 national forests. “I have always said I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.” Says Roosevelt. (Source: Medora 2018 Adventure Guide) There is so much more to see and explore, learn about this gorgeous national park here www.nps.gov/thro.

 

 

 

 

Medora

Medora, North Dakota is a town located at the far Western part of the state and is home to the infamous Medora Musical, and gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I visited this place with my parents many years ago in 1983 and I remember I did not appreciate it then because I was so young. My parents have attended this several times over the years. This musical is performed live outdoors on a stage setting surrounded by a 2900 seat Burning Hills Amphitheater under the beautiful Badlands sky! The performance usually is dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelts’ time in the Badlands and to the Spirit of the West. Talented performers come from all over the world along with live horses make this high-energy musical show to be like no other. I look forward to my next visit and seeing this show again in the near the future. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is also located near Medora as well.

There are tons of other things to do in Medora as well, such as golfing at Bully Pullpit golf course, hiking, biking trails, camping and cabins, horseback riding, and a cowboy cookout. Find your own adventure at Medora.com.

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Photo by Thomas on Pexels.com

Jamestown

Home to the world’s largest buffalo and the city where I was born. A quaint historical city where historical author writer Louis La’Mour walked the streets and gained inspiration for one of his novels called ‘A Walking Trail’. The Stutsman County Fair has made Jamestown home over the 4th of July for many years and one event I’ve enjoyed as I was growing up. Jamestown is also known for their Stock Car Races, which always makes for intense excitement and family fun! Jamestown is also known for the World’s largest buffalo monument.

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World’s Largest Buffalo Monument, Jamestown, ND

Elks Camp Grassick

One of the best summer jobs anyone could ever have! I worked here for three summers along with my sister and we experienced some of the most magical times of our lives. As you drive into the entrance off the gravel dirt road leading to the camp there is an exterior sign that states; “Elk’s Camp Grassick, A Very Special Camping Experience.” This is exactly what it is.

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Elk’s Camp Grassick is owned and operated by the Elk’s of North Dakota and is a camp that serves children and adults with various special needs and disabilities. My experience working at Camp Grassick was extraordinary. My sister and I worked as Kitchen Staff, but we were still able to participate and be engaged with the camp participants. Here are some of the unique memorable things we experienced while working here:

  1. Enjoying time with special needs children, witnessing their improvements and making new friends. Learning to smile, laugh, and believe in themselves!
  2. Participate in Recreation events such as a costume party, seeing the campers dancing, laughing, and having fun.
  3. Attending the Stutsman County Fair where each staff member was assigned to tend to a camper and assist them so they can too enjoy the fair and feel like a regular kid.
  4. A peaceful canoe ride on Lake Isabel in the evening with other kitchen staff members, who have become lifelong friends.
  5. Making new friends with counselors, campers, and creating a special friendship with Camp Directors, Dan M. and others.

Learn more about his extraordinary camp and its quest to continue to helping those with special needs improve their lives. http://www.elkscampgrassick.com/

Here is a great article recently published about Dan, the Camp Director, and his remarkable dedication to this camp.

https://inspiredwomanonline.com/2018/08/24/oh-man-dan-mimnaugh-the-dearest-camp-he-knows/

Hometown Fun: The Tappen Derby

The small town of Tappen, North Dakota is so small that if you blink as you drive on Interstate 94, you will miss the exit ramp. This town with a population of 250 give or take a few; is the town where I lived, attended school, and played piano for the small white church on the corner street located across from the school (there is only one school). There were not very many events or activities happening in this small quiet little town, but the one event the entire town looks forward to is the Tappen Demolition Derby.

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This event is action packed and full of hot rods and junkers that crash into each other to compete for the trophy and other prizes. There are only a few vendor stands; there might be T-shirts and food sold. However, this event was free to attend in the past, but recent years, there is a fee now. Many folks from all over North Dakota attend this event, and this year’s show did not disappoint. Attendees bring their campers, lawn chairs, or large pick up trucks backed in as they sit and watch the crashing and demolition derby action. This is a great event for affordable, family fun. Here are a few captions.

 

 

 

A great event for family fun. Tappen, N.D. had celebrated its 125th Year Quasquicentennial Anniversary in 2003, and it was quite a celebration. The entire town was looking like something in a picture book of green manicured lawns, gardens and flowers, and tidy as far as I could see. I remember the 100th year Centennial Anniversary and found some old photos in my parents photo albums.

 

 

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According to the centennial book, Tappen was a hopping, busy little town. Today, however, it has remained its quiet slow pace, farmers are abundant, and several of the old time buildings have been either torn down, dilapidated, or removed from Tappen and taken to Bismarck. A replica of a small midwest town called Buckstop Junction, has been re-created in Bismarck, using original old building and structures from various small towns. Learn more about this historical place:   https://website.buckstopjunction.org:89/

Tappen may be small, but there are a few businesses that help make Tappen a great place to live or stop in and visit this small town USA.

  1. Roadhouse Bar and Grill: Offering a hometown fun and friendly place to enjoy cocktails and food. Occasionally, they will feature a live band.                      Roadhouse Facebook page.
  2. Marlins Standard: Gas and Auto. (We used to buy candy bars from the station as kids).
  3. Several Organic Farm businesses
  4. Tanning N’ More
  5. Tiff’s Hair Garage

Of course, some of these businesses are somewhat new and were not around when I lived there. I didn’t appreciate the simple good living I had growing up in North Dakota at the time. I do now, however realize how much I miss those wide open spaces, quiet lazy days, and forever sunsets. Everyone knew everyone; my classmates were like my brothers and sisters.

But I was a small town girl with big time dreams, I had goals to achieve, and it was difficult to leave home. I had the drive and curiosity to go out and experience the world that I was so shielded from as an adolescent. I am happy with the choices I’ve made in my life, I gained lifetime of experience and wisdom that is priceless. And although I miss my family tremendously, I do visit them and see North Dakota a couple times a year, which gives me a break from the busyness of life.

So if you have an opportunity to travel or planning on traveling in the future, you might consider adding North Dakota to your list. Read more here: www.NDtourism.com.

Thank you for reading! Do you miss your home town or state? Comment and let me know where you are from, I would love to hear from you!

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A Day At La Jolla Cove! Views, Whales & Seals!

Recently, there have been several spotting of killer whales gracing the coastal regions in Southern California. Whales have been known to roam in the southern Pacific certain times of the year. I’ve also seen several local news outlets capturing video of these majestic animals and their calves as they search for food in these waters. So, of course, seeing this inspired me to go out on a little adventure and do some of my own searching. I hopped in the car and cruised my way over to La Jolla, California.
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La Jolla, California is a quintessential smaller coastal community located in San Diego County. It might be one of the most beautiful beach towns I’ve ever seen. DSC_0043_WEB
I have perused around this quaint community several years ago, but I was too focused on this short road trip to browse around the shops and boutiques again. I was in search of whales and surfers, since it was officially California Surfer Day.

I spent the afternoon pondering the coastal walkways and sidewalks, staring and glancing for hours out at the mesmerizing blue green waters.DSC_0076COVE 2 WEB
It was getting late, and with disappointment and frustration, there were still no whales or surfers in sight. I did however, have a great time capturing all the beauty and wildlife that make these coves home. There were seagulls, pelicans, and seals soaking up the sun everywhere you looked.DSC_0092 _ WEB
Take a preview of what my day at the office consisted of below.  Enjoy!

 

The park here in La Jolla Cove area is beautiful and peaceful to enjoy a quiet afternoon or a lunchtime break. DSC_0044_WEB

More gorgeous scenic captions here. DSC_0085_WEB

Did you know that La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California?

If you look close, the small rock island is covered with seals and birds lounging as they soak up the sun and relax.
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Sealife is an abundance here at La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores area.

If you are visiting the San Diego area, you might consider adding La Jolla Cove to your itinerary, it will certainly not disappoint. This was my office for the day.
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Directions to La Jolla Cove.

Thank you for reading! Check out more of my San Diego adventure and remember to subscribe and follow me on social media to see more adventure and exploration!
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Potato Chip Rock *Mt. Woodson San Diego

There are so many beautiful hiking trails and nature walks throughout San Diego County, but one of San Diego’s most popular and well known hiking spots is Mt. Woodson. This hike will offer you plenty of nature viewing pleasure and scenic landscapes.


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But the point of interest that captures many hikers is Potato Chip Rock. This narrow, thin looking piece of rock might appear somewhat risky and scary. 20180506_150631This is the most popular selfie and photo taking spots on the trail. Here are my captions from this gorgeous San Diego hiking trail.

Mt. Woodson: Backside Trail: 4.1 Miles Elevation 1220 feet  DIRECTIONS

The backside trail is one of two different trails to hike to get to the Potato Chip Rock area. We decided to take the backside trail to see what Mt. Woodson was all about. 20180826_105432Especially since we wanted to enjoy a more moderate level trail and not over do it for the weekend.

 

This was a beautiful trail and we were complimented with a gorgeous sunny afternoon too. Parking for this trail is actually along CA-67; and it can be busy so be careful and be patient in looking for a space to park.
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The trail starts off nice and easy with neat walkways and shrubs and treeline paths. 20180401_153548Then there are some steep incline areas as it reminded me of being on my stair stepper at the gym. I definitely encountered some heavy breathing, but that’s my kind of workout.  20180826_120555Once you reach near the summit, you will see some radio antenna equipment and towers. 20180826_113644Just slightly past that area is the infamous Potato Chip Rock, and if you hike during the weekend you may encounter a waiting line to step onto the thin appearing but steady rock piece that looks like a potato chip. 20180826_115046
San Diego has such a vast array of things to do, including the beaches, nightlife, amusement parks, and more. 20180826_104304_Burst01But if you just want to take a few hours and explore the outdoors and keep it simple, go check out Mt. Woodson near Poway, California.
Directions

 

Beginning of trail from the backside path, (parking off of Highway 67).

 

Beautiful views from Mt. Woodson.

Read about more incredible hiking adventures.

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8 Ways To Make Epic Memories In Mammoth Lakes, California!

Making memories can be one of the most extraordinary things a person can do. It usually does not involve material items; no hand held gifts, or any fancy cars or clothing. It can however, bring unbelievable happiness and be extremely humbling. Actually, this might be exactly how I would describe my first time weekend road trip to Mammoth Lakes, California. Amazing and more!

But Mammoth, with its neighbor being Yosemite National Park, is not only a place for such incredible outdoor activity and stunning natural beauty, it’s also a place where one might enjoy grazing across the lake in a fishing boat with your father and brother. Or indulging yourself in the fresh air as you and your sister reach the summit of a mountain trail. And even taking in those remarkable landscape and mountain views with your sweetheart.

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Twin Lakes at Mammoth, CA

The amazing beauty in Mammoth is what I remember only hearing about it from friends. They told me how much fun there was to be had at Mammoth and where it is located. I’ve only heard about the incredible amount of activity that one can do there; such as hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, boating, and surrounding yourself with total nature! And of course, people were always bragging to me about how beautiful, quiet, and serene it is in those mountains.

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Hence, the mountains were calling..(-John Muir) and then we go. A friend of ours had already planned her weekend road trip to Mammoth and she asked if we wanted to join her; and we said of course, we are all in! So we packed our bags and prepped the car and planned to maximize our weekend filled with incredible hikes, mountain vistas, and relaxing kayaking. Check out these great ways to make your own memories of which you may want to add to your own
Mammoth Mountain itinerary.

  1. Seven Lakes Point Loop: Hiking Trail and Views
    A. Elevation: 2372 Feet gain, starting at Twin Lakes Campground, it will take you by the bottomless pit and Lava Tube. (This hike is considered risky and dangerous due to the soft and loose gravel).
    B. Spectacular views of at least 5 or so lakes.
     

     

     

     


    2. Lava Tube: Hiking and History

Lava Tube is a conduit where lava once flowed, cooled and created a cave-like hole in the rock above Lower Twin Lake. This geologic formation is commonly referred to as “Hole in the Wall.”

 

 

Down In The Lower Valley Areas: Reds Meadow Valley
You will need to have access to the lower areas into the valley of Mammoth Mountain via shuttle down to these following areas.
DSC_0272The shuttle route begins at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s Adventure Center and makes several stops throughout the valley and begins operating when the Reds Meadow Road opens in the summer, and continues through Labor Day weekend. The price per person is $8 / ticket per day. The Reds Meadow/Devils Postpile Shuttle has provided transit service into the Reds Meadow Valley and to the Devils Postpile National Monument for over 30 years! The parking area fills up quick.

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The parking area leading to the ski lift adventure store at Mammoth.

3. Devils Postpile (Rainbow Falls hiking Trail) National Monument:
Devils Postpile National Monument is a National Monument located near Mammoth Mountain. The monument protects Devils Postpile, an unusual rock formation of columnar basalt. You will pass by Devils Postpile on your hiking path down to another spectacular main attraction: Rainbow Falls.

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Devils Postpile National Monument

4. Rainbow Falls: Hiking and Views with Waterfalls

Rainbow Falls is a waterfall in the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

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Rainbow Falls

Additionally, as you continue your hike you may notice the Pacific Crest Trail merging into the trail while passing through this monument. And you will also notice the National Monument lies within the borders of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

 

 

 

There is also the ‘Lower Falls’ that many folks do not venture further down below. This is a beautiful area where waterfalls are splashing into the stream of which some people enjoy a cool dip in the water or some are a little more adventurous and they jump off some of the lower rock formations. This area is a nice place to relax, enjoy a snack before the hike back up the trail to the top to catch the shuttle to return from out of the valley.

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Lower Falls near Rainbow Falls, Mammoth Lakes, CA.

5. Minaret Falls Trail: Hiking Trail to Waterfalls. Minaret Vista

This is a moderate trail located near Lake Mary, California with scenic views. This hike is enjoyable and great for walking and nature trips and bird watching.

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FITLIFEANDTRAVEL.COM * Steller’s Jay birds in Mammoth

The falls are very nice and can be a challenge climbing upward to be close to them.
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The Minaret Vistas

East of Mammoth Lakes area.
6. Convict Lake: Kayaking

Kayaking on Convict lake is incredible as you can enjoy the calm and peaceful aspects of quiet and serene lake surroundings, as well as the outstanding views of Laurel Mountain that hugs the lake. This place has an interesting history attached to it as well. Back in the late 1800’s several prisoners escaped from a Nevada prison and fled towards an area now known as Convict creek. Read more about it here:

 

 

7. Hot Creek Geological Site:

Pretty but dangerous, this Hot Creek Geological site is an active hot bed of nature in action. Boiling water is bubbling up from the creek bed. Amazing to look at & ponder, but I keep a distance. Located at the bottom of a large volcanic basin, this is an interesting place to see and visit, but you must keep at a distance because the hot creek is dangerously hot and can contain arsenic and other natural substances that can be toxic.
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8. The Village at Mammoth:

Enjoy a day of fun, shopping, music, and other events at The Village at Mammoth. Here you will find many events and fun! The weekend over the Labor Day, we attended the Rock N Rye event; of which we enjoyed a few live bands, vendors, morning yoga, and many other activities throughout the weekend! This area is the quaint downtown part of Mammoth and is the home of many highly visited restaurants. We had dinner at two restaurants located in this area (the tourist area), but we later learned that the really tasty dishes were found in food eateries located on the other side of town away from the tourist area.

 

 

In summary, if you think a collection of ‘things’ will give you the same reward of experiences of quality time with family or friends in a special place, think again. Memories can not be fabricated, bought, fall apart, or manufactured. I know I will always cherish this weekend with my wonderful husband, and our special friend; Sam who was so gracious in asking us to piggyback on her weekend trip that she planned out and arranged the kayaking reservation and other fun activities!

Do you have any special memory making trips that turned out to be more than you expected?  Please share in the comments your memorable trips and if you have experience in Mammoth, California!  Thank you again for reading and for all your support! Here are some of my other memory making trips!

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My Detour To The Valley Of Fire

Valley of Fire State Park is located about 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas off of Interstate 15. We passed this sign while on our road trip to Zion National Park in Utah. The sign definitely drew our curiosity and peaked our interest. It is a Nevada State Park, and there are two ways to get to the park. The fiery looking red sandstone cliffs were formed as a result of shifting sand dunes during the dinosaur age. The earth moving, uplifting and erosion has now created this present landscape.

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This park happens to be an unexpected detour for us and we consider this a hidden gem and enjoyed exploring this interesting park thoroughly. It was a warm and beautiful day on our return from an adventure in Zion National Park, so this was a great place to top off the end of our weekend road trip. We arrived to the park using the east entrance.

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Take a look at some of these interesting and beautiful sandstone rock formations as well as the stories behind them.

Mouse’s Tank:
This area is named after an outlaw who used this area as a hideout during the 1890s. This area is a natural basin and can hold rain water collections for many months.

 

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Entrance to Mouse’s Tank
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Mouse’s Tank

On the hiking trail to arrive at Mouse’s Tank, you will find large boulder/rock areas that have prehistoric petroglyphs. The prehistoric wanderers were the Pueblo peoples. Their approximate span of occupation has been dated from 300 BC to 1150 AD.

 

Seven Sisters area:
Several beautiful rock formations easily seen from the road as you journey through the valley.
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Other cool rock formation areas to explore and visit in the park. A must see include:
Beehives
Arch Rock areas
Firewave
Petrified Logs
Rainbow Vista
White Domes

 

The Valley of Fire State Park also allows camping at first come first serve. There are two campgrounds and a combined total of 72 units. There are also RV Camping sites as well.

 

Rock climbing is allowed but is limited to designated areas within the park.

Thank you for reading!
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