I was going through some photographs and I came across a photo album that I put together from in 2008, the first year I hit the road One of the main reasons I take a lot of photos is to remember the places I visited. I looked through the photos thinking to myself, oh yeah, I forgot about that.
One of the top questions I get is, "Where is your favorite place in America?" Now, you know it's hard to choose just one place. I will answer their question with a list and by the time I'm finished, they've already tuned me out with that glazed look in their eyes. I don't blame them. I could go on and on with, "oh yeah, and there is that place, and this place!" People seem to enjoy bullet points, summaries and lists so I decided to compile a summery of ten places I love and tend to want to go back to. I am writing this from the top of my head and I am sure there will be a part two at some point but here you go...In no particular order:
My favorite National Monument and one of the very few which is dog friendly. There isn't car camping in the park so if you want to wake up in the sands to witness an amazing sunrise, get a backcountry pass and get assigned a camping spot. You can take your dog and it's only $3. Just remember that you have to pack all your supplies on your back and hike about a mile in the sand to get there. If you are unsure because of that, trust me, it's worth it.
I keep coming back to Southern Utah and finding new places to explore. Highway 12 is a must see to appreciate all of the diversity of the area. There are never-ending back roads to explore and I know I will be back to spend more time there. From Moab, Arches, Lake Powell, Natural Bridges, Capital Reef National Park, Zion, Pink Coral Sand Dunes... it has it all. There are more little remote places to see but what's the fun in it if I list everything? You just have to find new places on your own. Also, visit Best Friends Animal Society and volunteer. You can even have an overnight with a pet! Who knows, you might leave with a new family member.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to live on the pages of a coastal living magazine... this is the place. Watch the locals dressed up in their seersucker pants and boat shoes walking around Kennebunkport, or if you're lucky like I was, be a passenger on a lobster fishing boat and watch them in action. You can't go wrong with any of the towns along the coast and if you decide to visit, be sure to head up to Acadia National Park.
Sure, you'll be surrounded by hipsters, but one of the reasons to take a detour is to see (or stay at) El Cosmico. I park and camp there for a small fee. Taking a semi-private shower outside is an experience to remember. If you bring your bike, you can explore the entire town in a few hours (remember extra tires - I get a flat every time). Be sure to appreciate the art around town, take a Chinati Foundation tour and stay up to see the mystery lights. Be sure to take a detour to Valentine to see Prada Marfa.
There really isn't anything quite like it. Take your time, drive slow, pull over, explore, repeat. Plan a few days for a section, or weeks to drive the entire coast. Everyone loves Big Sur but I am partial to the coast above San Francisco. As I type this, I am just staring at my hands on my keyboard as my mind takes me back to the coast. It's really hard to put into words what it feels like. The redwood forest towards the end is like the surprise toy in your cereal. Don't dig around in the box, take your time and once you get there, prepare to be in awe.
Yes, the summer months will be crowded. I would suggest going in August. The kids are back in school and you are more likely to score a camping spot. If you haven't been, it's a sight to see. Year after year, it has been my favorite park. I am not a fan of crowds so if you look past that, you will see an amazing landscape full of wild animals and natural wonders.
Yes, this is an easy choice for the summer. Who doesn't like miles and miles of beaches to explore and you can even have a campfire right on the beach. As with Maine, "the cape" is a place you will never forget. From the cottages to the people... it's a must if you are in New England. Just beware of the drive on Friday and Sunday. For some reason, other people like to go there too.
I keep coming back to this "little" Texas city for good reason. It's pretty awesome. You may or may not know it but I love trailers and this city does not disappoint. There are dedicated blocks with food trailers scattered throughout the city. You might not know it but the town is also full of artists. Whether you want to see a local band, art walk, performance, or a new restaurant... there is always something going on. Check out the park, shop on congress, watch bats from the bridge, swim in the pool, or take a short drive to Hamilton Pool. Just to be sure to drink plenty of water because what they say is true... it gets HOT.
I will let you in on a little secret... nobody really knows about this park. Even Sunset magazine just came out with an article on Crowd Free National Park Getaways and didn't mention Lava Beds. In fact, I didn't see it on Instagram or hear about if from an insider. I just happened to be in the area, saw a sign and decided to make a detour. I am so glad I did! If you visit during the week, you may be the only person there. Go to the visitor center to grab a map of all of the caves, put on a headlamp, grab a flashlight and go explore! If you find that you have a cave all to yourself, I would recommend finding a spot to sit, turn off all of your lights and sit still for as long as you can. You'll see what I mean once you experience it.
Umpqua National Forest, Oregon
If you are going to visit Lava Beds, might as well drive up to tour around in the Umpqua Forest. I stumbled upon this magical place by accident (which happens most of the time) and I am so glad that I found it. Max and I had trails all to ourselves, a beautiful river to watch (you can raft down during summer months), and lush greenery all around. Also, the campground was one of the most pleasant experiences we've had. The people were polite, campfire wood wasn't overpriced and there are flush toilets and showers.! Although it's not in the National Forest, Susan Creek in BLM land was the area Max and I spent some time in and it was a nice break.
There you have it. A list of 10 of our favorite spots. It's a bit more than ten if you count the surrounding areas. I know there are so many other places that I have yet to explore and I've been to some pretty amazing places that I didn't list. I will update the list again to add more at some point. In my head right now I can think of a few honorable mentions. The point is to go out and find your own favorites. Many of the listed places weren't a final destination. I just happened to stumble upon the area and to me, that's the best way to find something. What place do you find yourself dreaming about seeing again and again?