When I finished my historical landmark quest last year, I thought my adventuring was going to take a major hit in 2017. Not so! Why, this year, I visited four new countries and added twenty-two national parks! I criss-crossed the US-Mexico border, came Seoul-close to Kim Jong Un, and even got to visit the controversial Bears Ears National Monument. But for me, the highlight of this year was going home to Incheon, seeing my mom and Master Sae for the first time in years, and having a fantastic road trip with Mom and my brothers!
It was a lot of fun looking back on this year’s photos, but it was so tough to pick just ten, that I wanted to do something a little different. I asked you to decide for me! After tallying up votes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, here are the winners (in chronological order)!
1. The Great Pyramid of Kukulkan! (33 Votes)
With all the rhetoric about Mexico at the start of the year, I knew I had to pay our southern neighbor a visit. Since the great Mayan city of Chichén Itzá was on my World Wonder list, I decided that would be a great place to start. It was a perfect morning at the pyramid! I joined an early access tour to beat the crowds, which meant clean and clear photos at one of the most visited sites in Mexico!
2. Una Siesta Muy Larga! (42 Votes)
I keep telling myself to take some breaks and soak in the scenery when I visit new places. When I visited the ancient seaside community of Tulúm, I couldn’t help but find a secluded patch of beach with some super soft moss and take a siesta between rain showers. Was this the most relaxing moment on my travels this year? ¡A que sí!
3. A Saguaro Storm! (26 Votes)
Action! Adventure! Danger! I visited southern Arizona during the rainy month of February, racing downpours and the blackest clouds! While chasing a sunset up Saguaro National Park’s highest peak, Mount Wasson, I caught a break in the storm, which spectacularly illuminated the giant cacti in the middle of the darkness! It made for some breathtaking contrasts that I enjoyed just long enough to have to finish my hike by headlamp!
4. The Vine-Choked Ruins of Ta Prohm! (18 Votes)
There is something special in the rain-washed ruins of Cambodia’s Ta Prohm Temple, where nature has reclaimed the work of human hands! The vine-framed doors are at once beckoning and ominous. Will they hold enlightenment and adventure, or certain death if you walk inside? There’s only one way to find out!
5. Holy Wat Phra Sri Sanphet! (17 Votes)
This was once the crown jewel of the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya, before it was burned to the ground by the Burmese. Though the gold has been scorched from their spires, the stupas of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet still stand after almost 600 years! In the late afternoon light, these bell-shaped memorials are a treasure for the eyes to trace and a quiet reminder of the resilience of beauty through destruction!
6. Westward Ho! (21 Votes)
Scotts Bluff was an important landmark on the Oregon Trail and one of the most beautiful parts of the Nebraska panhandle! The morning I visited, the sky was a brilliant blue, the light perfect, and the wagon ready to head west, so what did I do? I climbed aboard! It was a perfect welcome to the Midwest. I’d like to see more in 2018!
7. California’s Last Glaciers! (25 Votes)
With the climate warming and the glaciers melting, this icy tunnel is tough to find on a summer’s day in California. Up on the slopes of Mount Whitney, though, the tallest mountain in the lower 48, these last few holdouts from the Ice Age have held on to their frozen charms! At this point in the hike, I had just enough energy to duck under one of these icy overhangs and enjoy the coolness and the burbling of the stream flowing beneath it!
8. Red Rock and Roll! (23 Votes)
On our way to meet Mom and Woodchuck for our family road trip, my brother, Flatty, and I stopped at Wilson Arch, one of the most readily accessible red rock arches in San Juan County, Utah. Though right off the road and now neighbored by condos, for this brief moment, with only the wind breaking the quiet, the arch seemed like a portal to a new world. For me, it’s important for my spirit to visit red rock or redwood at least once a year!
9. Whole Hogan! (18 Votes)
My favorite family photo from this year! We took a private tour of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the Utah-Arizona border, where we explored some of the most beautiful and mystical pothole arches I’ve ever seen! Here we are under the rain-streaked eye of Big Hogan Arch, a sacred site and one of the most hypnotically beautiful spots in red rock country!
10. Crossing the Delaware! (34 Votes)
Some friends invited me to spend the holidays with them in New Jersey, but I found a better deal flying in through Philadelphia. That gave me the perfect opportunity to retrace the historic route of General George Washington, who crossed the Delaware River in 1777 to defeat the Hessians at Trenton and turn the tide of the American Revolution! I wonder how the famous painting would have looked if the Continental Army had used inflatable flamingoes instead of a boat!
In the new year, I want to explore more of America’s heartland, so look forward to more neat national park sites! I’m also planning a second March for History campaign to replace a historical landmark plaque! Stay tuned for more adventures, and I wish you a most exciting and unforgettable 2018!
Happy New Year!