It’s that time of the year for retrospection.
After posting my Top Ten Songs of 2019 and Top Ten Books of 2019, I’m following the pattern that I established last year, turning my attention to hikes that I’ve been privileged to enjoy in the past year. Hiking has remained one of my favorite ways to experience the world, and to experience intimacy with God. And this year was special because I got to visit several new (and familiar) U.S. National Parks, plus several other places of exceptional natural beauty around the world.
So anyway — without further ado, here are my Top Ten Hikes of 2019, in ranked order:
- Chasm Lake, on July 7th
- Delicate Arch, on July 15th
- Vaxholm’s Eriksö, on May 13th
- Taughannock Falls Rim Trail, on June 1st
- Loch Moraig to Carn Liath, on March 7th
- Headlands / Lakeside Trails, on October 10th and 11th
- Camp Asbury to Hiram, on September 13th
- Ute Trail, on June 29th
- Arizona’s Slide Rock State Park, on July 17th
- Buttermilk Falls to Columbia Run, on December 19th
And again, for those who would appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:
#10 – Buttermilk Falls to Columbia Run, on December 19th
After the completion of my quest to hike the entirety of the Northeast Ohio Loop of the Buckeye Trail, I started spending more time at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park again. Neither Buttermilk Falls nor Columbia Run are official trails — or official destinations — in the park (though I used a portion of the Buckeye Trail that runs through there). I mostly found my way by following natural draws up the hills and animal trails through the woods. It felt like being a kid again, “discovering unknown places.” I liked it.
#9 – Arizona’s Slide Rock State Park, on July 17th
Linda Kitchen is one of our oldest and dearest friends from Amsterdam. So it was extra special to visit her new home in Northern Arizona, back in July. We only got to spend a day with her, but we actually did a couple of hikes in a couple of very unique settings. The most unique setting, though, was the river canyon that’s been designated as Slide Rock State Park. The red sandstone has been eroded smoothly, and a thin layer of moss has grown in the river bed — so there’s a sort of natural water-slide running down through this beautiful canyon in Arizona. It was a really fun place to visit. Especially since we got to enjoy the experience with Linda.
#8 – Ute Trail, on June 29th
Probably the best cost:benefit ratio of any hike I can remember! The trail-head is high above tree-line, just off Trail Ridge Road (we were lucky to find a parking place). So right from the beginning, there are spectacular panoramic views of the Rocky Mountain National Park. There’s also a minimum of elevation change over the course of this hike, as it mostly follows a plateau — so even though the air is thin it’s not too hard to handle, physically. Since it’s an out-and-back, hikers can also choose how far to hike. It’s a pretty ideal way to experience the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park.
#7 – Camp Asbury to Hiram, on September 13th
This was part of my Buckeye Trail quest for the year. It’s one of my absolute favorite hikes in Northeast Ohio! It includes a beautiful bike path (built on top of a former railroad) tunneling through trees, a beautiful little waterfall, Aspen groves, and lovely rolling hills with farm fields.
#6 – Headlands / Lakeside Trails, on October 10th and 11th
Also a part of the Buckeye Trail system. These sections of trail were so beautiful I had to go back — two days in a row — even though it took longer than an hour to drive, each way! The Headlands section (the Eastern part of the lake-front trail) had the best forests and marshlands. The Lakeside section (the Western part of the lake-front trail) had better lake views. When I get the chance to do it again, I’ll park by the Mentor Harbor Marina and then hike all the way to Headlands Beach State Park and back.
#5 – Loch Moraig to Carn Liath, on March 7th
I got to travel to Scotland with my brother Jay in March. It felt like we had the country to ourselves — especially on this hike up our first Munro (peak at 3000′ above sea level, or higher). It was super-windy on the day we completed this hike, but that made it all the more memorable.
#4 – Taughannock Falls Rim Trail, on June 1st
Marci and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary around (and in) the gorges of Ithaca, New York. Even though the weather wasn’t cooperative, we decided to do some hiking together. Taughannock Falls was the most spectacular site that we got to see while we were there, but all of our meals and walks and talks together were lovely.
#3 – Vaxholm’s Eriksö, on May 13th
I don’t know what to say about this hike except that I encountered God on the trails of this small island in Sweden. I already wrote a whole story about my experiences on Vaxholm — and they still don’t do the experience justice! This hike will always have a special place in my heart for the spiritual journey that took place. But it was also just a beautiful, serene walk — and kayak ride — through whispering groves of Aspen and lakeside solitude.
#2 – Delicate Arch, on July 15th
This was the hottest hike of the year — even with waiting until sunset to go out on the trail — but it was a great experience of an entirely-different landscape from what I’ve previously hiked. Arches National Park was beautiful. I hope we get to go back and explore it more thoroughly at some point in the future.
#1 – Chasm Lake, on July 7th
My new favorite hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park! Wow! The last mile of this trail includes some of the most spectacular scenery that the Rockies have to offer: craggy cliffs, roaring waterfalls, glaciers, lakes, and snow-capped mountain-tops. So beautiful! I got to share the experience with my friends Dylan, Peter, Laura, and Kaitlyn. It was a great way to cap our family’s time at Estes Park Leadership Training this summer.