2016 was a great year for me and travel. I have declared 2016 the Year of the Pyramids. I saw the temple pyramids of Mexico as well as the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. I managed to visit 5 US states I had never been to as well as crossed 3 national parks off my list. My job allows me to travel so I spent much of my month on the road. It varies but on average I am on the road 3 nights a week. When I started looking how many flights I took this year, I couldn’t believe it. I started and ended my year of international travel in Canada and my travel year in New York. Here is my favorite 16 adventures from 2016 travel.
- 10 Countries visited
- 21 US States visited
- 2 Canadian Provides visited
- 1 5 US National Parks Service Units
- 70 airline flights
Climbing the Statue of Liberty Pedestal
I took a chance while in New York City for New Year’s 2015/2016. I got up early in the morning on January 1 and headed over to Fort Clinton National Monument. I kept my fingers crossed the whole time. I was hoping to get a ticket to the Statue of Liberty and Elis Island. I didn’t just get a ticket for the ferry; I got a ticket to climb the stairs of the pedestal. I wanted a crown ticket but they are sold out weeks if not months in advance but it never hurts to ask. I was just happy to be able to visit the two islands.
Hiking in the Bay of Fundy
I started my international travel with a visit to Nova Scotia, Canada. I flew up to Nova Scotia for a long weekend. The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s largest tides. The tides can swing 90 feet from high tide to low tide. I drove across the island from Halifax to Wolfville to see the tides. I arrive at low tide. I hiked out into the Bay. I walked about half way to the water line. I returned to this sport at high tide. The 8 ft staircase I used to walk into the bay was now covered with water.
Photographing the Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park
I drove 5 hours from Phoneix, AZ to visit Joshua Tree National Park in California. I spent two days hiking in the park. I hike out to several old mine shafts or mining operations. On one hike, I spent some time talking with a local artist who was making an oil painting of the rocks. My favorite part of this trip was watching the sunset behind the Joshua Trees. The colors were amazing even if the skys were too cloudy for me to see the stars.
Flying with a California Cond0r Pinnacles National Park
I made a trip to California for Memorial Day weekend. I planned to spend the weekend in America’s newest national park, Pinnacles National Park. I can still remember the day Pinnacles was elevated to a national park. I was upset because the addition to Pinnacles mean I was no longer halfway done visiting all the USA national parks. After my three days in the park, I am in agreement that this park deserves it’s new status. I hike the high loop across the ridgelines. I hoped that this would allow me to see one of the parks nesting California Condors. I was so excited while eating lunch when a bird flys over. I can see the radio caller and number. It is condor 340. He is male and he has just hatched a chick in the park (The chick has survived. She took flight October 2016. She is the first chick to have been born in the park and lived since 1890s. Does a happy dance for this endangered species!!!)
Exploring volcanic activity at Lassen Volcanoes National Park
Lassen Volcanoes National Park was my third national park in California this year. I spent two weekends in this mountain park. I was horrified to discover that I need a new national park pass for my visit to the park. I explore the many volcanic areas of the park. I hike out to several of the volcanic mud pits including Hell’s Hole. I spent time napping by the alpine lakes and doing some small hike around the mountain. I walked through the areas of the early 1900’s explosion of Lassen Volcano.
Climbing the Temple Del Sol
For all my travel, I had never been to Mexico before 2016. I decided to fix that during Labor Day weekend. I booked a last minute flight to Mexico City. I then took a bus from the city out to the pyramids. I took my time to hike up all three of the major pyramids plus explore the surrounding temples. It is amazing to think that these massive monuments were built before the great Aztecs civilization.
Visiting all the Tombs of the Valley of the Kings
One of the most exciting parts of my trip was getting to visit the Valley of the Kings. There are no photos allowed in the Valley of the Kings. As in, I had to check my camera at the gate. The way the Valley of the Kings works in that certain tombs are almost always open and others rotate being open. An entrance ticket to the Valley of the Kings provides entrance to three tombs excluding Tutankhamun, Rames VI and Seti I. There were 14 tombs open while I was in the valley. I had to buy 3 regular tickets ($32), and 3 special tickets (Tut and Rames were $5 each and Seti I was $53). Visiting Seti I was a treat. Seti I’s tomb had been closed for the last 30 years for restoration and protection of the tomb. Seti’s tomb is one of the most elaborately decorated tombs. It was worth the $50 buck to go see.
Entering the Great Pyramid at Giza
My last stop in Egypt was the Great Pyramids of Giza. I both loved and hated this historic site. It was full of sellers whose main goal was to part me from my money. It was not an enjoyable for that reason. I liked getting to see the pyramids and the sphinx. The engineer in me love imagining the effort and work it took to build these monuments as well as align them with the stars.
Seeing the rest of the Elgin Marble in Athens, Greece
I had a short 7-hour layover in Athens, Greece. I couldn’t let that time go to waste. I got off my flight and quickly made my way out to catch a taxi. I had the unfortunate experience to get caught in the Athens Marathon. The marathon shut down most of the major roads in Athens. My very nice cabbie dropped me off at a subway station and gave me direction on which line to take to the Parthenon. I spent my time exploring the Parthenon and the surrounding museums and area.
Exploring the former hiding place of my favorite Dutch writer
I finally made it out of the Amsterdam Airport and into Amsterdam. I had two things I wanted to do visit the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank House. I had not made reservations for either. I planned to walk up and buy tickets. I was told that I would never get to do either without a reservation. I managed to do both in one day. I did have to get to the Anne Frank house at 2:00 pm to hopefully get in during the 3:00 pm until closing walk-up time slots. I got to visit the Anne Frank house for over an hour before making my way back to the airport.
Trying to get super powers at Chernobyl, Ukraine
One of the highlights of my year was my visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with ChernobylWel.com. I spent two days exploring to zone. I visited Chernobyl city, Prypiat, as well as several smaller villages. I walked under the Duga radar array. The cities were creepy but it was amazing to see what happens when humans abandon cities. I was super excited when we saw a fox while in Prypiat. It is nice to see some of the wildlife returning to the area.
Seeing the horrors of Auschwitz Concentration Camp
I made the several-hour journey from Warsaw to Oświęcim. I was there to visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I took the train to the city of Oświęcim and then a taxi to the camp. I did a walking tour of the work camp. It was like I could still feel the souls whose lives were lost during this brutal time period. I spent almost an entire day paying my respects to those who were killed and honoring the brave men and women who risked or lost their lives smuggling photos and details out of the camps.
Hiking along the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
It was early morning when I arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. The early morning fog had just cleared and I couldn’t wait to see the cliffs. I hoped to see the puffins but I knew they were out to sea for the winter. I hiked out along both sides of the cliffs. It was amazing to look down the cliffs. I would love to take a boat tour and see the cliffs from the water.
A private tour of Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
I was the first person at Giant’s Causeway when it opened. The tour guide gave me a private tour of the causeway along with the history and stories of the region. I loved the story of the giant of the causeway. I want to go diving at this site someday. The stones extend out into the ocean for several hundred feet and I want to see them underwater.
Exploring the start of the American Revolution in Boston, Massachusetts
The Freedom Trail is a 3 miles walking tour of Boston. The trail stops at many of the Revolutionary War sites in the city of Boston. There are three historical museums along the trail. I took two days to visit the trail. I walked through graveyards and saw the graves of many of the founding fathers as well as their supporters. I visited churches where meeting were held to plan the early events of the American Revolution.
Hearing the roar of Niagara Falls
I ended my year in Canada. I drove from Richmond, Virginia up to Niagara Falls, Canada. I spent the three day weekend exploring the falls and enjoying the views. The two massive waterfalls are an impressive site. It is hard to imagine that only 30% of the water is flowing over the waterfalls. The remaining 70% is being used for electrical power generation. I would love to visit someday and see the full power of the waterfall.
What was your favorite 2016 travel adventure?