2018: A Year in Review

Ah 2018. Another year of travel in the books with a number of firsts along the way. Looking back at the very beginning of 2018, we had no idea the experiences we would have and the new places we would visit. No doubt the year went by fast, however if you take the time to sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished and experienced, it makes the year seem more meaningful and richer than just living day to day. Without further ado, here was our 2018:

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

As an avid avgeek, I use OpenFlights to track all of our flights, which comes in handy when you need to look back at where you’ve been. 2018 was our most travelled yet, as we travelled to new countries, new continents, and marched futher towards our goal of visiting all 50 US states. Both working in finance, we love some great statistics, so here we go:

Miles flown: 124, 261 over 88 separate flights (full disclosure, this does include about 25,000 miles flown for work)

Time flying: 12 days, 4 hours, and 9 minutes

Longest flight: 6,529 mile San Francisco to Auckland, NZ

Shortest flight: 24 miles Stiegler’s Gorge Airstrip to Mtemere Airstrip in Tanzania

Countries visited: 12

New countries visited: 2

US states visited: 27 (+5 Canadian provinces!)

New US states visited: 10 (+4 Canadian provinces!)

 

Kyle’s Favourite Trip

 

For a number of years I had been dreaming of doing a camping trip through the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and completing the famous Alpine Loop, which you can read about here and here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

This past August we made the long trek from Chicago out to Colorado and were able to complete that dream. The high alpine views were spectacular and better than I had imagined.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also experienced the Great Sand Dunes, which you can read about our scary first night tenting here and Denver (read about our day in Denver here) on that trip and had an absolute blast!

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Bettina’s Favourite Trip

 

Although we were only in Cancun for less than 48 hours, it was the most relaxing trip all year (get my full review here).

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Having heard other people rave about Mexico and the temperature in Chicago still freezing cold in April, I couldn’t wait to spend some time at the beach and enjoy the sun.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Staying at the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, the trip was everything you could imagine – pristine beaches, warm water, a beautiful pool area, and more guacamole and chips that I could eat.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Should winter be just as long as last year, we might escape to Mexico for a weekend again!

 

Other Highlights

 

Tanzania

One of our most recent, and most exotic, trips was to Tanzania which was also amazing. Going on safari was a definite highlight and better than we could have imagined! We thought we’d be lucky to see one giraffe far in the distance running away, but instead, we saw hundreds far and wide. You can read about our safari here and here and our exploration of Dar es Salaam here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

New Zealand

Of course, how could we forget our first trip venturing into the Southern Hemisphere! Heading down to New Zealand (for only four days no less), was a trip we will not forget about anytime soon, and is a place that we have pegged to visit again in the near future.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We had a great time exploring the beautiful countryside, which you can read about here, as well as Auckland (read about here), and everything in between (Geothermal Wonderland and Lake Taupo).

 

Eastern Canada Roadtrip

Lastly, we spent the fourth of July on a great American road trip – to Canada – and explored the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

The weather was great, the people were friendly, and we covered a lot of ground, however we are most proud to have eaten seafood and ice cream on each day of the trip! You can read about our trip here, including Prince Edward Island, historic Peggys’ Cove and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, and the impressive Bay of Fundy here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also thoroughly enjoyed a weekend in Paris, a few days in Bruges, a family get together in Venice and the Dolomites, visiting Montreal, exploring Charleston, and eating our way through New Orleans!

 

The Next Trip in 2019

 

We’re not wasting any time in 2019, starting the year off in Switzerland our first flight will be heading back to Chicago on January 2nd. Shortly after, we will be heading back to Iceland for a weekend in January hoping to catch some Northern Lights. Looking further into the future we hope to round out all 50 US states, so that means trips to hotspots like Hawaii, Alaska, and North Dakota (?), as well as Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, and New Mexico. We will likely also have a small handful of trips to Europe and hopefully somewhere else warm and sunny! Stay tuned for more adventures on The Next Trip in 2019 and thank you for being here!

 


 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

After a restful sleep, we took our time getting packed up, cleaned up, and walking along the river. This was the first time on our trip we put our fancy new camping shower and with pop-up tent to use. Despite pouring a pot of boiling water into mix with the “room temperature” (ie. freezing cold) water we had with us, the water flowing out of the shower head was frighteningly cold, causing fits of giggles to laugh off the pain. It was probably one of the least enjoyable, yet most satisfying showers I have ever had. After camping for a number days it felt great to have a fresh start to the day.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We used this Green Elephant outdoor shower tent, the Nemo Helio outdoor shower, and this cute Nemo Helio green floor mat.

 

                                       

 

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Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Not far from our campsite was Animas Forks, a ghost town and relic of the heydays of mining in the San Juans. The first buildings were constructed in the 1870’s, and by the early 1880’s the town was home to 450 people, complete with a post office, general store, saloon and a telephone.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

The great thing about exploring Animas Forks is that you can walk inside all of the buildings to get a real sense of how it might have been to live here back in the day. Some buildings still had preserved wallpaper or ornate woodwork, but most had substantially succumbed to the elements.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

The crown jewel of the town is the grand, two-storey Duncan Residence, built in 1879 to withstand the long cold winters. Previously, most residents of Animas Forks spent the winters a bit further south in Silverton (which you can read about here). The Duncans were one of the first families to brave the full winter in Animas Forks where the snow would easily bury the first floor of the house!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We enjoyed exploring the town, though didn’t see any ghosts, and were soon headed towards our final, and highest offroad pass of the trip: Engineer Pass. We zig-zagged our way up the shelf roads with plenty of multi-point turns to get around the corners.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop - View of Animas Forks

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We own a Toyota Tacoma and were extremely happy with its performance throughout the trip. This post is not sponsored by Toyota but we can highly recommend them.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

We came to a breathtaking viewpoint, “Oh Point”, with an almost 360 degree view of the mountains and valleys around us. We must have taken hundreds of pictures trying to capture the moment and the beauty of our surroundings.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

After what felt like an eternity, we reached the 12,800 ft (3,901 m) summit of Engineer Pass and stopped for a ceremonial picture before quickly jumping back into the car to escape the wind and the cold and head down the other side.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

No sooner had we started our decent and there were a few locals blocking the road and getting in our way!

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It took us a couple of days and with a few detours, but we finally completed the famous Alpine Loop. This was something I had on my bucket list for a number of years and I was glad to have successfully completed the loop, taking in all the magnificent views along the way.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

It wasn’t the end of our driving day though as we had a few hours of highway driving to reach our next campsite! However, compared to the last days of offroading, highway driving was a welcomed change. We arrived in the dark at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It was a beautiful warm summer night and we enjoyed sitting in front of the stars and taking it all in.

Not knowing what to expect of the Canyon because we arrived in the dark, we set off the next day and enjoyed our coffee with some prime canyon views.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is famous for its dramatic views, as it is especially deep, narrow and steep compared to some of the more famous canyons around. Why is it called the Black Canyon you wonder? It's because some parts of the canyon are so narrow and deep they receive only 33 minutes of sunlight each day.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

 

As we were having coffee, we made friends with this little guy who was hoping for some breakfast.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 

The Canyon was our last stop before going back to civilization and at this point, we were both looking forward to a real bed. We had camped for five days in a row which was certainly pushing our limits. (Did you read about our nights in the Sand Dunes, in Silverton, and Ouray?) I'm not sure I'll be able to convince Bettina to go on another camping trip anytime soon but the trip was a dream of mine for years and the entire adventure made it all worthwhile.

 

Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop

 

Have you completed your dream road trip yet? What was your longest camping trip?

 


 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

Ouray is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to set up our tent in full daylight which was a nice change.  Once again we were warned of bears in the area, but at least this time it was a proper campground with other people all around, for better or worse. Read about our bear scare during our first night here.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Sometimes our laziness gets the best of us and since we were so close to downtown Ouray we decided to head into town for dinner. The charming town really just has one main street, but it is bursting with places to eat and drink. We chose Ouray Brewing Company for the great rooftop patio views!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

The food and beer also lived up to expectations and were delicious! With full stomachs we settled in for an excellent night’s sleep, but not before some stargazing! The wilderness of Colorado provides an amazing opportunity to see more stars than you have ever seen before! It has been quite some time since Bettina and I have seen the Milky Way, but it was back in force under a clear Colorado night.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

The next day we arose early as we had a full day of driving ahead of us with three main passes on the agenda. Bettina couldn't resist posing next to the 'Switzerland of America' sign!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

First up was Corkscrew Pass, living up to its name by twisting uphill between the creatively named Red Mountain 1 and Red Mountain 2. The road was steep and surprisingly busy as we encountered a number of modified Jeeps and ATV’s, making our stock Toyota Tacoma from Illinois look slightly out of place.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Red Mountain 1

 

At 12,257 ft (3,736 m) high, the top offered expansive views of the surrounding alpine area.  We didn’t hang around for long though as the wind negated all the warming effects of the sun. We continued on climbing slightly higher to Hurricane Pass at 12,730 ft (3,880 m) and then climbed further still across the laid-back California Pass at 12,963 ft (3,951 m).

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Hurricane Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - California Pass

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Unfortunately, even though the road was relatively flat, it was very rough with a lot of large rocks, so our progress was slow.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

As we noted in our Silverton post (which you can read about here) this area experienced a mining boom in the late 1800s and you could see remnants of old mines scattered amongst the mountains, even at seemingly impossible locations.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

We came across the impressively preserved Sound Democrat Mill which has been maintained and preserved as good as possible in a remote area like this.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill was built in 1905 to process the mineral-rich ore mined from the surrounding hills.  The ore was transported by a network of aerial trams and then processed through this gravity-fed mill to be crushed, stamped, and stripped of all the valuable minerals.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Shop Bettina's Travel Look

 

 

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

The mill ceased operations in 1914, having never turned a profit. Being able to walk inside the mill and climb to the various levels on rickety ladders was a humbling experience. Even though the massive old machinery has been sitting here for over 100 years, you definitely get a sense of the difficulty and hard-work involved to keep this mill operating.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Sound Democrat Mill

 

Soon we were back on the road, or the vague imitation of a road, that was California Pass. It was incredibly rough, and we were driving at less than a walking pace. Luckily we didn’t have much further to go before setting up camp along the Animas River.

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado

 

There was a truck parked nearby with an older woman sitting in the cab the whole time we were setting up our tent and preparing dinner. Curious to hear her story, we walked over to talk to her as it was getting dark and she appeared to have no tent or other items with her. Chatting for a few minutes, we learned that she was waiting for her husband to arrive who was hiking to this point and had set off from Ouray that morning. We were confused – we left Ouray that morning as well and had spent over eight hours driving to get his far. Surely we misunderstood?

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Animas River

 

We went back to preparing and then eating our dinner. Another hour passed and there was still no sign of her husband. The sun was long gone, the sky was getting darker, and the air colder by the minute. Then off in the distance, there was a man walking along the road, with a stick in hand, making his way towards our group. Sure enough, it was her husband who she was very happy to see arriving with a smile and all in one piece.  Eager to get the full story, we went back to chat with them and confirmed that he had in fact left Ouray that morning just before sunrise and had hiked over a handful of almost 13,000 ft mountain passes to get to the same point it took us all day to drive to! The man was very cheerful and seemed to have enjoyed every minute of it – so much so that he was going to do it all over again the next day. Oh, and he was well over twice our age – definitely putting us to shame!

 

Ouray and California Dreaming in Colorado - Milky Way

 

Would you rather hike across a pass or offroad like we did? Let us know in the comments below!