It’s hard to believe 2016 is drawing to a close. And it was quite a year when it comes to outdoor adventures, both close and far. With a three-week road trip all the way to Los Angeles, lots of camping with family and friends, my first solo trip and endless microadventures, it is next to impossible to narrow down ten best. But I’ll still try.
The best experience of the year: my first solo trip
Usually, it is hard to pick the best trip, but this year there was a clear winner – my first ever solo canoe trip in Killarney. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but never actually got to it. This year, though, I had a special reason – I was turning forty and felt it required a special celebration. It took weeks of planning and hesitation, but in the end it was the most amazing trip of the year. More about it here.
The best backcountry trip of the year: Canoeing in Killarney
Our best backcountry trip of the year had all the necessary ingredients: the beauty of Killarney, a secluded campsite, family, my friend Fancy Boots and a tiny bit of excitement as we braved the waves at the end. Read the story in two parts here and here.
The best camping trip of the year: Easter in Algonquin
It was the second time we went tenting in the winter and again it was a big success because it is impossible to have a bad time in Algonquin. Sure we had to pack in freezing rain and it took us weeks to dry up all the gear, but it is all part of the fun. Read the full story here.
The best glamping trip of the year: New Year’s in Killarney
Ringing in New Year around the campfire has now become a well-established tradition. This year we were lucky to book a brand new cabin in Killarney, so new in fact that we were its first visitors. Add to that beautiful winter vistas, lots of snow (which was in short supply in Toronto), great trails, campfire and lots of board games – and you’ve got a perfect New Year celebration. More photos and a full story here.
The best microadventure of the year: Geocaching at Crawford Lake
With a new microadventure almost every Saturday, you’d think it would be hard to pick just one. However, when we started discussing the Best of 2016 list, Crawford Lake was flagged right away. Why? This conservation area has a lot going on for it: 19 kilometres of trails, including the Bruce Trail, beautiful views from Niagara Escarpment, a reconstructed Iroquoian village, and a rare meromictic lake. Most importantly, though, it was our son’s birthday and we managed to find 15 geocaches. A full story here.
The best new discovery of the year: backpacking on crown land
Here is my confession: I am not good at booking campsites. I constantly miss reservation dates and we end up looking for last minute openings. This year we discovered a great alternative: camping on crown land – no reservations required. Our destination was a beautiful park with the most inappropriate name – Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands, as if Queen Elizabeth would ever go camping. Read all about it here.
The best hike of the year: Angel’s Landing Trail at Zion National Park
The name says it all: the final destination of this five-mile trek is a perch high above Zion Canyon with heavenly views in every direction. The best part of the hike, though, is the trail itself: endless zigzags up the canyon wall culminating in a mile of climbing up a narrow rocky path with drop-offs on both sides. Quite a thrill! Easily the best hike of the year if not all time.
The best campsite of the year: Monument Valley
There is nothing like waking up to Monument Valley’s awe-inspiring red rock formations looming in the distance. Sure thing, setting up in a sand storm the night before was no fun, and I did question my decision to book a campsite instead of a hotel room as we tried to pin down our tent, a task that required all hands on deck to prevent it from flying away. But the view in the morning made up for it ten times over.
The best views of the year: Grand Canyon
It was a year full of magnificent views; however, with Grand Canyon in the mix, all the other places didn’t stand a chance. And it’s not just the beauty but also its sheer force, the overpowering landscape, a reminder of how small and insignificant we humans are. It’s also an immense thrill as you hike down the canyon’s walls traveling back in time, descending into the bowels of the earth.
Honorary mention: Bryce Canyon
I couldn’t not mention Bryce Canyon with its giant pink and orange sandcastles. Grand Canyon’s scale was awe-inspiring for sure, but Bryce Canyon carried magnificence of a different kind – mind-boggling landscapes that make you question whether you are still on Earth.
Finally, the park of the year
That honour goes to – drum roll please – Killarney Provincial Park. In spite of all the travels to some of the most beautiful sites in the world, Killarney continues to occupy a very special place in my heart. This year, I visited it four times. In addition to the three trips mentioned above, we also camped there in October so I enjoyed the view from the Crack in almost every season.