07 Jan Our Favorite Moments of 2018
For us, 2018 was full of highs, lows, and everything in between. The first seven months of the year were filled with Wander The Map projects and a few personal trips thrown in the mix. We were often moving from one project to the next with barely 24 hours at home to unpack and repack before heading out again. The last five months of the year were filled with back to back projects for Micah’s production side of our business. He was working on what seemed like a never-ending stream of commercial photo and video projects—a couple of his clients were Explore Minnesota and Under Armour. In the middle of all that we had a couple more Wander The Map projects, we helped my parents move into their new house, and I also took a couple of trips on my own.
It has been one of our busiest years to date. After tallying it all up, I spent a total of 1/3 and Micah spent a total of 1/4 of the year at home in our own bed. We traveled to Canada, Mexico, Hungary, Slovenia, and 17 US states: Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. We also spent quite a bit of time traveling around our home state of Minnesota. To finish up the year, we spent time at home celebrating the holidays and ringing in 2019 with family.
Every year we create a recap of some our favorite moments (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012). We love thinking back and reflecting on our year. We find that highlighting the best moments of the year makes us extra thankful for both the highs and also what we learned from the lows. So, with that, here are our favorite memories from 2018:
Hiking “The Narrows” in Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah is one of our favorite national parks. We’ve hiked several trails in the park, including Angels Landing, and this year we had the chance to revisit the park for another epic hiking adventure: The Narrows. The Narrows is a trail that runs into the canyons of the park—much of the trail involves wading through ankle to waist deep waters with towering canyon walls on either side of you. We hiked the trail in the winter, so dry suits were a necessity to stay warm. Thankfully, the suits kept us warm and the chilly weather kept the crowds away. We made it a little way past the Wall Street section of the canyon, which meant we hiked about 7 miles of the trail in total. It was an amazing day full of mesmerizing scenery!
Zip Lining in Spokane, Washington
One of the adventures we experienced in Spokane, Washington, was zip lining at Mica Moon Zip Tours. Our late afternoon tour started with an extremely bumpy (and exciting!) UTV ride along old moonshiner trails. We flew our way up Mica Peak to the first of nine zip lines, and then we zipped our way back down. Our tour included nine zip lines, two hikes, and one suspension bridge. The views along the way were absolutely incredible—the longest zip line was over 3,500 feet (that’s over 0.6 miles!) and it is one of the longest zip lines in the world. It took about 1.5 minutes to fly from one end to the other, and we were able to see forests, mountains, rivers, and a stunning valley below. It felt like the ride was never going to end, and we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces!
Canyoning in Slovenia
Over the years, Micah and I have done quite a bit of rock climbing, cliff jumping, and waterfall rappelling. One thing we haven’t tried? Canyoning. Basically, canyoning combines all of these activities and more as you make your way from one end of a canyon to the other. It sounded like an adventure that was right up our alley, and we couldn’t wait to get started. After an early morning wake up call, we made our way to a canyon called Grmečica. The canyon was around a 40-minute drive from where we were staying in Bled, and thankfully, we were the first group to arrive for the day. Even better, we were the only people on our tour. It felt like we had the entire canyon all to ourselves! We spent the next couple of hours hiking to the start of the canyon and then jumping, swimming, and rappelling our way back down. This was by far our favorite adventure during our road trip around Slovenia!
White Water Kayaking in Slovenia
We’ve wanted to white water kayak for quite some time, but it has always been intimidating—we weren’t quite sure if we were skilled enough to manage river rapids on our own. When I was researching things to do in Slovenia’s Soča Valley, white water kayaking came up and I figured we’d book one of the easy river kayaks with some small rapids. Well, I think they put us on the wrong tour…the photos didn’t match up to our trip at all. Instead of easy rapids during a small portion of the trip, we were going down some pretty crazy rapids and dodging large rocks the entire way. At first, we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into, but by the end of the tour we were so glad we ended up on this tour. It was an absolute blast and challenge all in one and now we really want to give it another go someday!
Paragliding over Lake Bohinj in Slovenia
Another adventure we couldn’t resist in Slovenia? Paragliding from Mt. Vogar. Flying high over the bright aqua waters of Lake Bohinj and past lush green mountains of Triglav National Park, was a magical sight to behold. The take-off point for paragliding from Mt. Vogar sits at 990 meters (3,248 ft) in elevation. We had actually booked the higher paragliding tour which takes off from Mt. Vogel at an elevation point of 1,682 meters (5,518 ft), but the weather just wasn’t cooperating and we had to “settle” for the smaller mountain. Either way, running off the edge of a mountain, no matter how high, was a bit intimidating. However, once we were flying in the air, we were surprised to find out how calming the ride back to earth was; minus the time when both of our instructors decided to do some spiral spins that had us dropping at an accelerated rate! Paragliding was equal parts exciting and relaxing and the views surrounding us were undeniably top notch!
Boating through Xoimillico in Mexico
As part of a mini-reunion from our Galapagos trip, we met up with our friends Max, Oksana, and Steph in Puebla, Mexico, where Steph lives and so graciously offered to host us. On a side trip to Mexico City, Steph suggested we all spend an afternoon at Xochimilco, and we are so happy she did! Xochimilco is a borough of Mexico City and it is known for its vast network of canals. You can grab a group of friends (or even go on your own if you are so inclined) and rent a vibrant and colorful boat called a trajineras. While riding down the canals, we sipped on Micheladas that we ordered from passing boat vendors. We even had a Maraichi band hop on our boat to play us a tune. You can order food and buy souvenirs from passing boats, as well. It was a blast and an awesome day out on the water.
Golf Carting Our Way around Isla Mujeres in Mexico
After spending some time in Central Mexico visiting Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca, we made our way to the beach for a couple days of sunshine. We spent our time in Isla Mujeres lounging on the beach, eating delicious food, browsing shops, and we even randomly bumped into our friend Megan while walking around town. One of our favorite adventures, though? Renting a golf cart and exploring the island for a day. Even though our golf cart happened to be excruciatingly slow (even when we were flooring it!), we loved feeling the breeze on our faces and scoping out some beautiful beaches, cliffs, restaurants, and beachside bars complete with swing barstools. Having a relaxing day riding around Isla Mujeres was a wonderful way to soak up the sun before heading back home to winter in Minnesota.
Snowmobiling at the North Pole in Alaska
Our second trip to Alaska was last January when we visited Fairbanks. It was quite comical actually—when we left Minnesota the temperatures were around -30ºF, and when we arrived in Fairbanks we were greeted with more of the same weather. Despite the cold, we spent the week enjoying the outdoors by hiking, searching for northern lights, visiting ice museums, and one of our favorite adventures: snowmobiling. North Pole is a small town located about 20 minutes from Fairbanks, and it’s where our snowmobiling tour began. We dressed in a multitude of layers to keep warm, but our GoPro wasn’t so lucky. The GoPro battery died within 30 seconds of us turning it on—it was that cold! Thankfully, our GoPro Karma Grip was able to give us enough battery to record some of the ride because it was spectacular. The trees were heavy and dripping with snow and we spotted several moose while we were flying down the trails. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a freezing cold day in Alaska.
Soaking at the Chena Hot Springs in Alaska
Another one of our favorite adventures in Fairbanks, Alaska, was visiting the Chena Hot Springs. The Chena Hot Springs Resort offers a wide range of outdoor activities, and we checked out quite a few of them. We started out with a tour of the ice museum and a drink at the ice bar. Then we went on a northern lights tour, but unfortunately, we didn’t spot any northern lights. And for the highlight of the day, we braved the -30ºF temps and soaked outside in the steaming hot springs. We spent over an hour floating in the toasty pool with lights glowing around us. With each passing minute, ice and frost built up on our hair and eyelashes. By the time we got out of the hot spring, our hair was pure white—much whiter than you can see in our photos from earlier in the evening!
Snorkeling at Devil’s Den in Florida
There are plenty of wonderful snorkeling opportunities in Florida, but one of our favorite snorkels to date was at the Devil’s Den Spring in Williston. We arrived at the spring just a little over an hour before closing time. I was worried that we would feel rushed, but it actually ended up being better timing than we could have ever imagined. The spring is accessible via a stairway that descends into the sinkhole. When we first caught glimpse of the spring, we were a tad disappointed. It was BUSY! But since the water is on the chilly side, people weren’t sticking around too long. One by one the spring started to clear out until we were the only ones left. We had the last half hour to ourselves and we swam through the crystal-clear water as we admired the scenery around us. It was magical.
Jet Skiing in Key West, Florida
Even though we’ve been to Key West more times than we can count, we had yet to go jet skiing there. That all changed when we were working on a video project with Visit Florida and iExplore this past spring. We joined a jet ski tour with Fury and spent a couple of hours flying through the water. Part of the tour allowed us to go wild and crazy in a nice patch of calm waters, and the rest of the tour was spent sightseeing as we made our way around the entire island of Key West. We had wanted to take a jet ski through those waters for years, so it was fun to finally hop on one and explore the water around Key West.
Canoeing at Ham Lake near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
We grew up in Minnesota and have explored a lot of our home state, but for some reason, we have yet to go on a multi-day kayaking trip in the Boundary Waters. It’s another one of those things we have had on our “to do list” for ages. Thankfully, this past summer we got a small taste of canoeing in the area. It was absolutely amazing. We were working on a project with Cook County in northern Minnesota, and part of our trip sent us to the Gunflint Trail. We spent the night in a cozy cabin at Loon Lake Lodge, which ended up becoming one of our favorite spots to stay of all time. After a delicious breakfast at the lodge, we made our way over to Tuscarora Lodge and Canoe Outfittersto pick up a canoe for a morning of paddling on Ham Lake. We were outfitted with gear for the day and set out on the water. To reach Ham Lake, we paddled along rivers and lakes and portaged (aka carried) our canoe over the land in between. We made it right to the edge of the Boundary Waters before we had to turn around and head to another exciting adventure (zip lining!) that afternoon. It was a perfect introduction to what a longer adventure in the BWCA would be like and we are definitely itching for a return visit!
Seeing Lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
I’ve been wanting to visit Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park since I was a little kid. Lava has always fascinated me, and I wanted to see it up close and in person someday. Well, this past year I finally had my chance. We went to the “Big Island” of Hawaii to visit Micah’s sister, who was living in Kona at the time, and the three of us decided to take a road trip over to the national park. Our plan was to hike out to the lava field for a close up view of the lava flow, but as luck would have it, our timing was off. The lava flow changed a couple of days before our visit, and it was inaccessible when we arrived. I was super bummed that we were so close yet so far away. But it wasn’t all over quite yet. We still managed to see lava in the Kilauea Caldera from the Jaggar Museum Overlook. We arrived just before sunset and the lava level was quite high and active—we watched the crater for over an hour and saw lava shooting up over the edge of the rim. It was a fascinating sight to see! Unfortunately, the major volcano eruptions in the park this past year took place less than a week after we left Hawaii. Many of the sights we visited, including the Jaggar Musuem and Overlook, are now closed either permanently or temporarily due to earthquake damage and instability after the eruptions. It was fascinating to catch a glimpse of the lava, but it really makes you step back and think about how powerful nature can be. While we look back at our visit with fond memories and a childhood dream realized, we also feel pangs of sorrow for everyone on the island who was impacted by the eruptions. It is bittersweet indeed.
Spending a Long Weekend in Winnipeg with My Mom and Aunt
I think this one might have been my favorite moment of the entire year (sorry, Micah!). For my birthday this past September, I took my mom and aunt to Winnipeg, Canada, for a long weekend vacation. They live a short 4-hour drive from Winnipeg, so it was the perfect spot to head for a road trip. We spent the weekend eating at a ton of delicious restaurants, soaking up the Nordic thermal cycle at Thermea, learning at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, looking at art during the all-night Nuit Blanche festival, watching a play, and singing our hearts out at a Paul McCartney concert. We even woke up to snow one morning…in September! It was a weekend full of more laughs than I could count and wonderful quality time with two of my favorite people.