The question we’re most often asked is: “What was your favorite place?” This question is impossible to answer, because we didn’t have one favorite place. I usually reply by listing a few places I loved, then pretty soon I find myself throwing out just about every single place we visited that I didn’t hate, while the questioner, having long ago lost interest in the answer, stares blankly at the ground. Now that we’re in one place and I’ve had time to sort through my thousands of pictures, a clearer, more ordered list has started to form…but it’s still a long list. I’ve cut it off at ten (with links back to our original posts):
1. Death Valley National Park, California
Let me be totally corny for a minute: I left my heart in Death Valley. Or maybe my soul. Either way, a significant piece of me is still there, still climbing the unnamed washes, enjoying the endless sky, and mining for borax.
2. Zion National Park, Utah
Oh, OK, you’ve got me. The backpack is the same, but that is a 2009 Paul, not a 2012 Paul. Here’s a new image.
Zion is like no place I’ve been. I can’t decide whether it’s my favorite place or my second favorite place — more research is required.
3. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands feels mysterious and unknowable. It’s layered and twisted and covered with deep canyons. It takes serious effort and time to explore, but it offers huge rewards to those who are prepared and persistent.
3a. Lee’s Ferry, Arizona
Because I promised myself I’d keep this list to ten places, I’m going to cheat and squeeze in another spot right here…that would be Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Come on, the Colorado River runs through both Canyonlands and Lee’s Ferry! Totally fair.
4. Agua Caliente State Park, California
Agua Caliente is a magical oasis, complete with hot springs. I know I really liked a place when annoying things happened (like the Boy Scout invasion and possibly-related broken bathrooms) but the place still ends up high on my list of favorites.
After Death Valley, we spent the most time at Catalina State Park outside Tucson. It was such a strange mix of wilderness and urbanization — in the morning, we could hike into the wilderness area and away from civilization, then, in the evening, we could go across the street to the shopping center and eat at In-N-Out Burger (which we did…often).
6. The Lost Coast/King Range National Conservation Area, California
A remote, sparsely-populated stretch of California coast…enough said.
7. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida
White sand, warm ocean, local seafood…and, you guessed it, few people. This is a fabulous place to relax (and pretend you own beachfront property) in the Florida panhandle. Even better, your visit here will have a lasting impact — you personally will be responsible for feeding generations of noseeums!
8. Jalama Beach County Park, California
Like Agua Caliente, our visit to Jalama wasn’t perfect. There were early morning helicopter fly-overs, less-than-charming campsites, and a shower so cold I shivered so uncontrollably that it would have been funny if it wasn’t horrible. But the great things more than compensated for the bad…the drive to the park is amazing, the beach might as well be endless, the tidepools are thriving, and the burgers are fabulous.
9. Hot springs in Idaho
Whatever your desired hot spring experience, you’ll find it in Idaho. Take a short drive through the mountains and you’ll find springs that are clothing required or clothing prohibited, hike-in or drive-up, developed or primitive, way too hot, too cold, and just right. The fun is in finding your favorite one.
10. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
The only reason White Sands is so low on my list of favorite places is the White Sands Missile Range. I know it needs to go somewhere, but why is that somewhere here?
Wow, that was tough.