Top Eleven Favorite Places from My Three Year Long Road Trip

As many of you know, I’ve relinquished my “full-time road warrior” status in order to be closer to my parents in my hometown of Longview Washington. Here, I am within minutes of my Dad’s house as well as my Mom and Stepdad’s, and all four of my brothers and their families live within a few hours. I always envisioned finding my way back to the northwest, and would most likely have been here sooner if not for my “grand adventure”. THAT was a very spontaneous decision, and one I will never regret!

It has taken me some time to find a place to call home, get settled in, and put my writers cap back on. Sorry for my silence, but it was all necessary before I could continue here with my usual sense of enthusiasm. As I’ve said before, this is not the end of my journey, just another fork in the road. I still have much to share, and the adventures will continue!

After three years and more than 80,000 miles (motorhome and tow car combined) through all forty eight of our continental states and a good portion of Canada, it seems fitting that my next post be a tribute to the fabulous places I’ve experienced.

While camped in Florida two years ago, after my first full year on the road, I answered the most frequent question posed to me on my journey, “Where were your favorite places???” In that post I struggled to keep the list to the top five. Now… two years later, I’m trying to whittle it down to the top ten. (As of this moment I’m not yet sure if that’s possible.)

For simplicity sake I am “refurbishing” my original post because the thoughts shared leading up to the list have not changed and are still significant. The top-five favorites remain on my new list, and I have since revisited two of them!

Now, after all those miles and all those years… on the road, on the trails, and on the water… I am still extremely grateful. I am grateful for the gift bestowed on all of us of this great land. I am grateful for the spirit it took to put myself out there. And I am grateful for the vision to see and capture the stunning vistas, and incredible animals, and memorable moments… to share.

Picking my favorites is a much harder task than you might imagine, for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s limited to places I’ve been on my journey. The choices may also be skewed by other factors… weather, season, how much time I had in any given place, and what I was able to do with that time. I mentioned in my original post that there was no doubt in my mind I was yet to see some of my favorite places, and that some of the places I had already seen might have been favorites if only I’d had good weather, or more time.

Since I have too many images to share in one post, I’m sharing only a few… along with the links (in blue) to my writings about these places. By following the links to the pages you will not only see more of the beauty, but you can read about the experiences as well.

I also decided not to limit myself to one “stopover” point, one town, or one park, but rather “areas” that I feel comfortable grouping together as “a place”.

Keep in mind also, that I grew up in Washington State and lived in California for more than fifteen years. Both are incredibly beautiful states, and I spent an extensive amount of time in each on my journey, but they are far too large and diverse to call “a place”. They are both well deserving of top honors though, and if you read my posts about them you’ll understand why. (Just type Washington or California in the search bar at the top of the page. And keep in mind there is MUCH more to come about Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest.)

So… here we go… in random order;

 

Utah National Parks… All of Them!-

In all my travels no state came as a more pleasant, awe-inspiring surprise than Utah. Understandably, five of our tremendous national parks are there! (Surpassed in number only by Alaska and California.) I took the time to visit all of them at different times on my journey, with some getting more of my time than others, and some in stormy weather. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few other places worth seeing while there. They are not within the parks, but near Zion in the southwest corner of the state…  Coyote Buttes, Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Dinosaur Tracks, and “The Wave”.

Zion National Park, Utah

The “Big Bend” of Zion, White Throne looming in the background

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

First rays of light shine on Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Hikers on Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon

Utah

Capitol Reef National Park

Utah

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

 

Utah

Canyonlands National Park

 

Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 1)

Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 2)

The Magic of Bryce Canyon

Return to Zion

Two Days of Rock and Roll (day 1)

Two Days of Rock and Roll (day 2)

“Return to Arches National Park” is yet to be written

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Columbia River Gorge-

So close to my home town, and yet until a few years ago I’d spent little time along this gorge. There are numerous hiking trails on both sides of this section of the Columbia River, but most of the gorgeous waterfalls are on the Oregon side, not too far east of Portland. Since it’s so close I’m making it a goal to hike as many of these trails as possible! Be watching for those stories.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Punchbowl Falls, Eagle Creek Trail

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah Falls

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah-Wakeenah Falls Loop Trail

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Weisendanger Falls, Multnomah-Wakeenah Falls Loop Trail

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Fairy Falls, Multnomah-Wakeenah Falls Loop Trail

 

 Hiking the Columbia River Gorge

Several more Gorge hikes to come! Please check back!

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Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park-

What a gem this place is! While traveling I made a point of asking people I met along the way for suggestions on places to see. Cades Cove was recommended frequently enough to make it a priority while traveling north through the Smoky Mountain area. In fact, I went a fair distance out of my way to get there, but I am very thankful that I did.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Sunrise in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Grazing horses in the cove

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Momma Black Bear and cubs

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Cantilever Barn

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Abrams Falls

 

My tales from this lush cove…

Another Gem… Cades Cove, TN

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Upstate New York- [edited] I traveled into New York State through the southern tip of Canada (Niagara Falls area), and almost hate to admit how astonished I was as I made my way across the state. From Letchworth State Park, through the Finger Lakes region, and into the Adirondack Mountains. The landscape was lush… the lakes and waterfalls gorgeous! The following spring I went back for more, my route taking me up the Hudson River, through the Catskills, Lake Placid, and Thousand Island Region before crossing into Canada.

New York State

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park

New York

Watkins Glen

New York

Enfield Creek, Robert H. Treman State Park

New York

Tupper Lake

New York State

Ausable Chasm, Ausable River

 

Crossing Into New York

Come Along on a Walk with Me!

Where Fairy Tales are Born

Trips and Trails and Puppy Dog Tales

And from my return…

New York- Hudson River, Catskills and Lake George

New York- Lake Champlain, Lake Placid, Ausable Chasm and Brasher Falls

New York- Thousand Islands Region

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Yosemite National Park-

Understandably, Yosemite is one of the most iconic places on earth. I’ve been there five times… twice on my journey… and it never fails to thrill me. During my two most recent trips there, winter and spring, Tioga Pass was closed so my visits were limited to Yosemite Valley and Wawona areas.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Vally from the Tunnel Viewpoint, with El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls

Yosemite National Park, California

Bridge over Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Yosemite National Park, California

Vernal Falls

Yosemite National Park, California

Upper Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park, California

Merced Valley from Yosemite at sunset

 

Tales from my brief stay in winter, and my return in the spring…

Yosemite

Return to Yosemite

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Oregon Coast- Having grown up in Washington, the Oregon coastline was not entirely new to me, but I had not seen it since I was young and never in it’s entirety. I did a multi-day side trip to see the northern part of this coastline while I was home in Washington visiting family. Cannon Beach was the first place Jazzy and Sadie ever set foot on a beach and they LOVED it. They ran and romped and played gleefully in the soft sand and cool breeze.

I traveled the southern part of this coastline when I continued on my journey after more than a month in Washington. My camp spots were almost always within the sound of the surf. The peaceful sound of the waves rolling rhythmically into shore is something I’ll never grow tired of. And of course the dogs loved our crisp morning walks in the sand. I did ride out one of the most brutal storms I’ve endured on this journey while camped along the shore in Gold Beach, but by morning the skies were beautiful and everything was even fresher than the day before!

Cannon Beach

Sunset at Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

Oregon

Great Sand Dunes, Oregon

Oregon

Storm over the Oregon coast

Oregon Coast

Rugged Oregon coast

 

The Oregon Coast

When I Think it Can’t Possibly Get Any Better…

Stormy Weather

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks- [edited] Where do I begin! Between the stunning vistas, the many hiking trails, and the amazing variety and abundance of wildlife I was in paradise between these two parks. Not just once, but twice (Make that THREE now!) I traveled there on my journey. It was so hard to leave that I pushed back my second departure three days in a row. :-) To put it simply… mountains, lakes, rivers, bison, elk, antelope, and moose. Lots of ‘em!

Wyoming

Bison and Old Faithful

Montana

Osprey bringing fish home for dinner

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Young male moose siblings

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Near the top of Paintbrush Divide

Wyoming

Old barn and the Grand Tetons

Wyoming

Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons

 

Lots of goodies to see and read about here!

Sunrise on The Tetons

Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

The Road to Yellowstone

Tetons… Way Beyond Grand

Full Circle Through Eden

Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks Revisited… Again

Slideshow of my twenty-one mile day hike over Paintbrush Divide (10,700′ elevation). It’s spectacular!  A Day Hike in the Tetons 

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Grand Canyon National Park-

Before the spring of 2014 I had been to Grand Canyon only twice. Once more than twenty years ago while I was pregnant and miserably sick from the short flight in a small plane out of Las Vegas, and once to the north rim in November of 2013 on a day that was so socked in with snow clouds I couldn’t see the canyon. I was thrilled when my daughter decided that’s where she’d like to meet me for her spring break in 2014. We had gorgeous weather (albeit near freezing at sunrise) and enjoyed some great hikes and spectacular scenery while there.

I hope to return someday soon, hopefully for an extended period, because there are many trails I’d still love to experience!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Near sunrise, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Break of dawn, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Enjoying sunset with my daughter at the Grand Canyon

 

See more of the grandeur of this remarkable canyon here…

Grand Canyon National Park

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Upper Peninsula of Michigan- I’d always heard how beautiful the “U.P.” is, and I swore one day I’d get there. When the time finally came I wasn’t disappointed. I’m glad I allowed myself ample time to experience this place from west to east. My only regret was leaving before the turning of the autumn leaves. All the more reason to go back some day. One thing I will always remember is that I kept having to tell myself, while watching the waves crash ashore on Lake Superior, “This is not an ocean!”

Michigan

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior

MichiganPictured Rocks along Lake Superior, Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior

Michigan

Gateway of trees, Michigan

Michigan

Cascading falls on Tahquamenon River

Michigan Upper Peninsula

Yakin’ with Jazzy and Sadie on Tahquamenon River

Michigan Upper Peninsula

Crisp Point Lighthouse

 

Pure Michigan- The Upper Peninsula (part one)

Pure Michigan- The Upper Peninsula (part two)

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The Waterways of Florida- I’m writing this post a day after departing Florida for the second time on my journey. Spring of 2012 I spent a month traveling throughout the state, mostly under a storm cloud. I made camp in numerous places between the western gulf shores, the Keys, and all the way up the east coast. This time around (winter 2012/ 2013) I spent more than four months hovering south of “old man winter”. Most of that time was spent camped in one place… Nature’s Resort in Homosassa. Before my arrival in Homosassa the longest I camped in one place was a week. (My average stay was 3-4 days!) It was not my intention to stay in one place, but the price was right and there was no shortage of beautiful places to see!

Florida

Kayaking on Ichetucknee Springs

Florida

Egret takes flight over Ichetucknee Springs

Florida

Sunset from Grassy Key, Florida Keys

Florida

Playful Manatee, Homosassa Florida

Florida

Great Blue Heron takes flight

Florida

Bonding with wonderful new friends on the waterways of Florida

 

No shortage of images and adventures in these posts!

Rolling Into Spring

New Sights and New Routines

Bird is the Word

Between Spring Showers

Final Days in Florida (2012)

Florida Take Two

The Warmth of Homosassa

More Beauty Around Homosassa

Friends Along Florida Waterways

Memories of Florida

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Although I managed to keep my list of favorite places visited on my journey across the U.S. to ten, there is one other place I cannot leave out, and it happens to be in Canada!  And, honestly, it is quite possibly my favorite place of all… for the striking natural beauty in every direction, as well as the variety and abundance of wildlife…

Banff and Jasper National Parks and Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada-

Banff  National Park, Alberta Canada

Johnson Lake and Cascade Mountain, Banff

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake with Mounts Bowlen, Perren, Allen, and Tuzo in the background

 Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Mother Grizzly and cub

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Athabasca Falls

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Young Elk romp playfully through the campground

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Big Horn sheep crossing a steep slope

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Talbot Lake

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Maligne Lake

 

Banff National Park (part 1)

Banff National Park (part 2)

Oh Canada! Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park

More of Jasper National Park

Warning! Wildlife Beyond This Point (Jasper National Park)

Oh Canada! Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park

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There were several other places vying for the top spots here, and well worth mentioning. As stated, Washington State… in particular the North Cascades, the Olympic Peninsula, and the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. California… the northern coastline, Redwood Forest, Yosemite, Big Sur, and Sonoma Valley. Glacier National Park… WOW!  Colorado… the entire western two-thirds!  Sedona, Cumberland Island, Valley of Fire, Death Valley, Alabama Hills, Hocking Hills, Grandfather Mountain, Silver Falls!! I could go on and on. (Follow the links and/or use the search bar at top to check these places out!)

While working on a slide presentation of my journey I was reminded not only of the beautiful places I have been, but also the unforgettable experiences I’ve had along the way. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones will always be at the top of that list. But the list goes on… kayaking amongst groups of dolphin, swimming with Manatee, getting up close with the mountain goats in Glacier National Park, an amazing wolf encounter that left me breathless, witnessing the birth of a baby Llama, rescuing and holding a hawk, and not only sharing more than 80,000 miles on the road, but hiking hundreds of miles of trails and shores with my “roadies”… Jazzy and Sadie.

And of course… spending time with my daughter, Elissa, at numerous beautiful spots across the country is one of those special blessings I could not have done without.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Elissa on the trail in Grand Canyon

Kayaking with my girl!

 

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12 thoughts on “Top Eleven Favorite Places from My Three Year Long Road Trip

  1. Fran,

    These are so beautiful. You did a great job. What a trip that most will never do in a lifetime. I hope you have a wonderful day.

    Darren

    • My journey was not only an experience of a lifetime, it was one of the greatest blessing of my life as well. Thanks Darren, for your encouraging words along the way!

    • Thanks Mike! All are definitely worthy of road trips, including my list of “honorable mentions” at the bottom. Writing this post made me want to go back and do them all again… which I may do. Be sure to make your way to the U.P. some day!

    • There’s plenty to see just digging back through the pages Walle, but I will be sharing much more in the weeks to come as well. Thanks!

  2. Looking at these majestic and serene places reminds of the days …..living in my pick-up truck with canoe on the camper shell, reading about Thoreau,Francis Parkman, John james Audobon, John Muir…avoiding cosmopolitain areas like the plague…..and traveling along uncrowded roads where ever my fancy led me….Fill up the gas tank and mange on a sandwich were my only worries……what a wonderful voyage you have done Fran…Hat’s off to you….most people just dream of doing this….Bravo…your friend Tom

    • I remember hearing you tell some of those stories Tom. I never took off to travel the country… see the world… hike the PCT… backpack through Europe as I dreamed about when I was young. I guess I’m proof that it’s never too late to live your dream. :-) Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot coming from you my friend. Europe next maybe?

  3. Fran,
    My family feels blessed to have crossed paths with you during your stay at Nature’s Park, Homosassa Florida and later have you come visit us during one of your trips into Canada. Since we have met I have been following your journey. You have been on a great journey and have taken fantastic pictures. I love nature and animals so I always enjoyed seeing the places you have explored. We miss your warmth and bright smile. We also miss “the girls”. Here’s to meeting up again soon. Love your Canadian Friends…Gina, Gary, Brent, Brooke and Brownie.

    • How very sweet of you Gina. As mentioned in the post, one of the greatest blessings for me was meeting new friends along the way. It’s been a pleasure knowing the Semeniuk family, and staying in touch. Warm thoughts and hugs to all of you!

  4. Great list Fran! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and AWESOME photos with all of us! It is so fun to hear your stories and thoughts!

    • It has been my pleasure Michelle. All those amazing experiences would not be quite the same if I didn’t have someone to share them with. In the case of Yosemite, it was even more of a pleasure sharing it in person with you and Sue!

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