Five Favorite Places for 2016

Last year I wrote about our five favorite places for 2015, so I thought I would begin a tradition of writing about our five favorite places again this year.  Of course, I had to wait until the last day of the year to post it, because you can’t know what your favorites are going to be until you get to the end.

In 2015 Tom and I went east and west.  In 2016, Tom and I went more north and south.  If you look at our map for 2016, you can see that we spent a lot of time in a line between South Carolina and northern Minnesota.  Each of the dots on the map represents a blog post and you can go directly to that post by clicking on the tag.  So, of all the places we went this last year, what were our five favorite places for 2016?

  1.  Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota.  The most northern part of Minnesota was a wonderful surprise to me.  I didn’t expect it to be so remote that we had to drive an hour to the grocery store.  I didn’t expect mountains, northern lights or gorgeous sunsets over Lake Superior out the window of our RV.  We loved living in the community of Grand Portage and working with the volunteers and staff at the Monument.  We also loved working at the monument and learning how to live in the 1790’s.  The summer weather was perfect with only one day over 80 degrees.  Lake Superior kept everything cool and the breeze off the lake kept the majority of the bugs away.  We were able to do lots of hiking and exploring the area on the local trails.

2.  Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina.  Kings Mountain is a busy little park that takes its mission to educate and connect with the public seriously.  We had more school groups at Kings Mountain that at any other park.  Because we love working with kids, this suited us very well.  We had all kinds of collateral duties that added to our fun.  We made a topographical map, developed lesson plans, led demonstrations, led battlefield tours, set up museum displays, and spent lots of time working at the Information Desk.  Our boss encouraged us to take a hike around the battlefield every day and spend time talking to the people on the trail.  There aren’t many staff members at Kings Mountain, so we felt like we got to know them very well – they are all terrific – and we even got loaned out to help at other parks on occasion.

3.  The State Parks along Minnesota’s North Shore between Two Harbors and the Canadian border.  There are eight state parks along MN 61 that are right on the shore of Lake Superior and they are all beautiful with wonderful hiking and spectacular views.  We especially enjoyed the variety of waterfalls.  Some were gushing rivers with a current so strong it would knock you over.  Others created gentle pools perfect for wading.  The Gitchi Gami Trail runs along a good part of the highway providing a natural path for getting up close and personal with the scenery.  Temperance River State Park, Judge CR Magney State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Gooseberry Falls State Park are all worth more than a quick visit.  We went to Grand Portage State Park most often to hike to High Falls – the highest waterfall in Minnesota.

4.  Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks in South Carolina.  For the most part, my days of backpacking and camping are over, but these two parks, connected by the Foothills Trail, are so beautiful that I would be willing to hike it to spend more time in the parks.  Caesars Head has the spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  Jones Gap runs along the Middle Saluda River with lovely waterfalls and soothing pools.  We only spent one day at these two parks and they left me wanting more.

5.  Ohio.  As I mentioned last year, as long as our family is in Ohio it will be always be one of our favorite places to visit.  This last year we got to explore some places around Columbus with John and Jackie.  We had some adventures with Mom and Dad at places a little further afield.  Our favorite was the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.  I also really enjoyed the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.  I was very interested in learning about the Wright Brothers.

Those are our five favorite places for 2016.  Have you been to any of them?  What was your favorite place to visit in 2016?