This week we’re celebrating 20 years of traveling together across the US! Wow! It’s been an exciting adventure together, and all the more exciting that we’re still (more or less) able to travel all together in the big green van (which is the follow up to the Big Maroon Van and the Big Blue Wagon!) Hiking, driving, exploring, we’ve had times of our lives and memories to last a lifetime. We’ve also racked up some statistics that blow my mind:
48 – the number of state’s we’ve visited. We’ve never been to Alaska or Hawaii, and, ironically, our final contiguous state actually bordered the one we live in!
7 – the number of Canadian provinces we’ve visited. I’m still dreaming of Newfoundland, though.
41 – the number of cross-country vacations we’ve taken; 31 of those trips were to destinations west of the Mississippi (can you tell that we love the western US?)
1,700 – the number of miles we’ve hiked in the last 20 years. That’s like walking from New York City to Denver, CO. Oh, and that doesn’t count the number of miles we hiked around our hometown…
202,000 miles – the number of miles we’ve driven in the last 20 years on vacations alone. That’s like driving around the equator 8.1 times!
282 – That’s a low-ball estimate of how many US parks we’ve visited. Plus about 12 Canadian parks…
3 – the number of National Parks in the contiguous US that we haven’t visited and that you don’t need a boat to get to.
But I digress…
It all began back in early 1995, when my dad’s boss told him to “be a man” and take all six weeks of vacation he’d accrued. My mom wasn’t sure that we, as quite young children, were ready for a cross-country adventure, but she, as well as my dad, had no interest in spending all that time around the house! And besides, we might not remember it, but we’d know what was worth doing when we took a second trip several years down the road, right?
So in June we set out on a three week adventure, figuring that at the very worst it wouldn’t work, we’d turn around, and come back home. It was meticulously planned – but then we accidently left the plans at home. Oh well, my dad (the vacation planner on our house until I came along) knew it pretty well, anyway, so we picked up our very first Golden Eagle Passport two days later in Badlands National Park. I think we still have that passport, tucked in the pages of a photo album from the trip.
Well, we didn’t turn around, and we enjoyed it so much, in fact, that as the end of the year drew near, my dad approached his boss about taking those last three weeks of accrued vacation time. The upshot was traveling to the southwestern US, just in time for the government to shut down the park service! So we ended up spending a few days on the beach in San Diego until the parks reopened!
Throughout the 1990s, we took a big trip about every other year; but as the 2000s dawned and the younger children became better hikers (and my dad got more vacation time), we began taking at least one trip every year, more often two, and, in 2008, we took five one week trips…too crazy, but it was what worked into our increasingly crazy schedules!
There have been so many highlights; so many people who have blessed us; so many destinations that blew our minds and became a part of our hearts. I thank God for every trip and each adventure that comes along. So I’ll dedicate the rest of this post to exploring 28 of our favorite hikes from these trips (we always take a poll on favorite hikes / destinations after every trip). Enjoy!
Cinder Cone, Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
Green Butte, Mt. Shasta, CA
Sandstone Peak, Santa Monica Mountains, CA (didn’t post about this…)
Fitzpatrick Peak, Tincup Pass, CO (Note that we didn’t actually ascend the peak; just walked along the nearby ridgeline)
Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty, NJ/NY (I never review this (can you believe it???), but here’s a link to enjoying the Staten Island Ferry which passes near Liberty Island.)
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, SD (Note that this was back when tours were free – they’ll start charging in 2016)
Ottawa Tulip Festival, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Here’s to another 20 years…or something like that 🙂