One of the most common questions I am asked (second only to how exactly did you get Karen to marry you) is what is my favorite place visited this year? Since we have finished our travels for the year, I thought it would be timely to put this list together.
I struggle with this question, because we have been to so many great and beautiful places. Yet as I reflect on the past year I think it makes sense for me to put together a list of my top 10 places visited, if only to remind myself of how fortunate we are and how beautiful this country is.
For this list, I ruled out home, which because of our great community, wonderful neighbors, and comfort from our front yard swing and fire pit would have been on my list. And I did not include trips to see our kids, although obviously those were highlights of the year: seeing Drew up in Michigan and visiting Michela in Durham, NC after returning safely from Iraq. Those visits trump any beautiful places we may have been to.
So buckle yourself in for the most arbitrary and subjective Top Ten list you will suffer through in the next few months. Oh, and if you find any of these areas of further interest, type a key word (like, I don’t know, Death Valley) into the search function on this blog (over there on the top left side of this page) and it will magically find other related posts by yours truly. Drum roll please.
Top 10 Places Visited in 2016:
- Damascus (VA). Virginia in general is another beautiful state, with beautiful places like the Shenandoah Valley, a rich tradition of history, and houses over 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Damascus is at the southern end of the state and sits right on the AT. It is a really cute little town, supports lots of pass-through hikers, and is a good base camp for the Virginia Creeper – a roughly 20 mile (downhill) bike ride that transits an old railroad line from the mountains into Damascus.
- Upper Peninsula (MI). We only became familiar with the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan because our son started going to school there. Not many miles after first crossing onto the UP I asked my bride how come we had not been here before. It is SO beautiful, and rugged, and different, and in most places sparsely populated. Between the Keweenaw Peninsula, Pictured Rocks, and an endless list of beautiful places on the UP, this is a “must see” destination.
- Palm Springs (CA). When we first visited Palm Springs I thought I would hate this place; white golf shoes, plaid pants, hoighty toighty attitude… you get it. I quickly got an attitude adjustment. This place is great! With mid-century modern homes, a cool vibe to downtown, beautiful scenery, and the best farmers market – this place has it all going on.
- Niagara Falls (NY). I visited this location solo and without our trailer – in route from Boston back to Ohio. Again, this is a place I have been to before but had kind of forgotten. The force and power of the Niagara River and the falls is simply astounding, and visiting it in November avoided the crowds. Just stunning.
- North Shore (MA). That’s north shore as in Boston’s north shore. People may be familiar with Boston or Cape Cod, but fewer visitors are familiar with the north shore – towns like Salem, Beverly Farms, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex, Rockport… If you want delicious views and a taste of New England living, spend time on the north shore.
- Big Sur (CA). This is the place that has drop-dead gorgeous views that take your breath away. And every curve you take on CA Highway 1 makes you think you have just seen an even MORE spectacular view. And maybe you have. The views are nothing less than spectacular.
- Sedona (AZ). Part of the magic of Sedona is (for me) less about the town, and all about the gorgeous surroundings. We boondocked (camped with no power, water, anything) on a basically unnamed road with stunning views, hiked a number of hikes, and yearn to go back – there is just so much beauty to see – it never gets old.
- Vermont. Yup, that’s right, the whole state of Vermont. As a born and bred New Englander I am very familiar with Vermont. Yet this trip caused me to re-think just how beautiful this state is. Forget going to one place – you need to take the time to really enjoy this great state – top to bottom and side to side.
- Morro Bay (CA). This place was a surprise for me. Yes, I know it is on the California coastline and should be beautiful, but the town itself is quaint, the state park is just great, there is a ton to do (biking, paddling, golfing, walking, shopping etc.), and the scenery is to die for.
- Death Valley (CA). While I don’t think I would want to visit this place in the warm months (you know, the other 10 months), this place is just stunningly beautiful in so many ways. Think of the Grand Canyon if it was a valley or desert. Maybe this should be renamed the Grand Valley.
Hope to see you somewhere down the road next year!