As 2017 comes to an end, I’ve been looking back at my adventures this year and have decided to throw together some of the highlights of this year’s travels. While these aren’t the only places I visited this year, these are the ones that I had never explored before, arranged in a countdown to my favorite trip.
If I were giving my trips superlative awards, my weekend excursion to Kentucky would win “Trip that Most Exceeded my Expectations”. Having grown up in the southeast and traveled a decent amount throughout the eastern US, I figured I had seen my share of the woods and mountain scenes that I would find in Kentucky. Nevertheless, it was a good location for a weekend trip, so off I went to do some hiking. I didn’t expect the beautiful natural arches that I found in Daniel Boone National Forest. Now that I realize this beautiful area is just a few hours from my home in Ohio, I just may spend some more time there.
Of course, when I decided to go to Minnesota, I looked forward to seeing lots of lakes. However, on my visit, the lakes were overshadowed by the rivers in the state. Between the Mississippi River flowing through downtown Minneapolis, the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park, and the rushing Temperance River in Temperance River State Park, I was amazed at the beauty and variety of Minnesota’s rivers. Lake Superior also did not disappoint, though its vast size makes it hard for me to think of it as a lake. A boat tour of the sea caves and other formations that form Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin certainly gave me a sense of the lake’s size. While they appear close together on a map, the boat tour showed how spread out they truly are. I’m certainly glad I chose to explore them by riding a ferry instead of kayaking between them!
This year was the first time I’d visited California for more than just a layover, and I finally saw what I’ve been missing. My trip included several stops in central California. I loved the picturesque coastal views I found in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Farther inland, hiking in Pinnacles National Park showed me a side of California I didn’t expect, with rocks jutting out of mountains and views spanning far into the distance. My last stop was San Francisco. Though I wasn’t there long, I was able to see some of the classic attractions like Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
2. New Mexico
New Mexico was a close contender for the #1 spot of my countdown. In reality, the only reason the trip ranks lower is because I didn’t spend nearly as much time exploring the area as I would like to. It has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of things to do in New Mexico. The state offers an incredible blend of historic, cultural, and natural attractions. My favorite historic and cultural location, Taos Pueblo, allows visitors to tour a village that has been occupied for 1,000 years. The residents keep traditions alive, living without many modern conveniences. Natural wonders are spread all over the state as well. White Sands National Monument, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, and Bandelier National Monument are just three of the stops I made to explore the outdoors in New Mexico. Though they lie within a few hours of one another, each is drastically different from the others.
Finally, my top trip of 2017 was a 12-day trip to the Pacific Northwest, during which I explored a good portion of western Washington and a small segment of Oregon. The views of the Cascades were nothing short of phenomenal, especially at Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park. The alpine atmosphere made me feel like I was wondering through Europe rather than the western United States. I also thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of Olympic National Park, with its shores, rain forest, lakes, and mountains. Finding anemones, starfish, and other sea life in the tidal pools of Rialto Beach made me downright giddy. I even made it all the way out to Cape Flattery, the farthest northwest point of the continental US.
While I’m fully satisfied with my travels this year, I also look forward to more trips in 2018. Though I don’t have destinations picked yet, I have many in mind and can’t wait to see where I get to explore next!