Best of 2020

We thought long and hard about whether we wanted to feature a “Best of 2020” post this year. We haven’t done one of these since 2017 (mostly because we’ve been rubbish about updating this blog in general – the last few years have actually been chock-full of adventures!), and we weren’t able to follow through on the vast majority of our travel plans because … well, you know why. But as we looked back on the collection of photos in our phones a few weeks ago, we were reminded we had indeed gone on some truly amazing journeys over the past 12 months – journeys worth celebrating, even if the year overall was a difficult one, to say the least.

Some of the adventures below occurred before COVID-19 entered our collective consciousness, while others were an effort on our part to practice self-care in the great outdoors, in accordance with public health orders. We remained 6+ feet away from others, wore masks religiously, practiced good hygiene, and observed stay-at-home orders and travel advisories. We drove to each and every destination and steered clear of crowded locations. You’ll likely notice that many activities also took place at unusual hours – typically around sunrise or sunset – to avoid coming into contact with others. Out of an abundance of caution, and respect for stay-at-home orders in our region, we have not traveled outside San Diego County since mid-September.

You’ll also likely notice that, much to our disappointment, Tito is missing from many of these adventures. He had a busy schedule at sea for the majority of 2020, and wasn’t able to join us often. We’re hoping we can arrange our travels in 2021 to include him more frequently, as they’re never quite as fun or memorable without him! Due to his absence on most of these treks, this post is narrated entirely by me (Brooke).

Without further ado, please enjoy our favorite journeys of 2020!

Laguna Beach, CA

We started our year on a high note with a New Year’s Day visit to one of our favorite Southern California communities: Laguna Beach. Our destination was Heisler Park, a tropical oasis perched on a bluff over a picture-perfect sandy beach, ideal for sunbathing and playing in the surf as a family (dog included!). Even in January, the weather was sublime, and we loved every moment of this rare family outing in 2020!

Pacific Grove, CA

Our second journey of the year was to the Monterey peninsula. This is an area my family has spent a lot of time in over the years, so we didn’t hit up any tourist sites or places we’ve previously visited. Instead, we slowed down a bit to enjoy the simple things: poking around in tide pools and strolling along Pacific Grove’s coastal path at sunset.

Pinnacles National Park, CA

Despite spending a lot of time in Monterey on past visits, this was our first foray into nearby Pinnacles National Park. We arrived at the trailhead of the Balconies Cave Loop Trail just after sunrise on a frigid January morning, and loved having this area of the park entirely to ourselves as we hiked. Even absent a pandemic, solitude on the trail is a beautiful thing!

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, CA

These side-by-side national parks have been on our bucket list for ages, and we were delighted to finally make the journey to Sequoia and Kings Canyon in late June of this year. Our first stop was the General Sherman tree – the world’s largest, by volume – before I embarked on a solo hike through the giants of the Congress Trail.

Heart Lake, CA

My dad, little A., Griffey and I made the trek to Heart Lake – a little gem of a loch with spectacular views of nearby Mount Shasta – at sunrise one morning in late June. This hike packs a lot of beauty in little distance – just two miles! – and was the perfect way to enjoy this typically crowded area of the Castle Crags Wilderness in total isolation.

Crater Lake National Park, OR

Our visit to Crater Lake National Park was short on time – too crowded, with few observing social distancing or masking guidelines – but full of sweet memories. To avoid coming into contact with others, we spent most of our visit playing in a snowfield away from the viewpoints of the lake, which made the experience an unexpected delight for little A.!

Smith Rock State Park, OR

No drive through eastern Oregon is complete without a stop at breathtaking Smith Rock State Park. We arrived at sunrise, watching the morning light spill across craggy peaks and listening to songbirds welcome the day. We can’t wait to get Tito here soon for more family adventures!

Olympic National Park, WA

Staircase Recreation Area – Little A. and I (plus Griffey and our cats) spent late-July and August in our home state of Washington while Tito was at sea, and took advantage of the extended stay to introduce our little boy to some of our favorite hiking trails and destinations. This trail, through lush forest along the Skokomish River in the Staircase Recreation Area of Olympic National Park, is such a family favorite that we’ve devoted an entire previous post to it!

Deer Park Campground

We had a few adventures in camping during our stay in Washington, but this journey to Deer Park Campground was one of our very best. We hiked, enjoyed our favorite camping foods (little A. tried his first s’more!) and marveled at the breathtaking beauty of the Olympics.

Obstruction Point Rd. – My family has been hiking and exploring this area of the park since childhood, and a stop here is always a special occasion. We were delighted to find the wildflowers in such spectacular bloom during our visit in late July.

North Cascades National Park, WA

Maple Pass Loop Trail – This was the first of three solo hikes I was able to get in over the course of the summer (thanks, Gramma and Grandpa!), and is now one of my all-time favorites. The seven mile loop trail to Maple Pass, skirting the boundary of North Cascades National Park, was stunning from start to finish, and is destined to become a family hike when little A. can cover more distance comfortably.

Blue Lake – I set out on this solo hike to Blue Lake at sunrise the day following my journey to Maple Pass. An early morning start on a weekday was just the trick to beat the crowds on this popular five mile trek – there wasn’t another soul in sight at the lake. Perfection!

Salt Creek Campground, WA

We’ve visited the day use area of this campground near Port Angeles, WA, on several occasions, and were delighted to finally score an overnight reservation on a beautiful day in mid-August. Little A. adored throwing rocks into the surf and riding his scooter through the campground, and I loved the beautiful sunset and homemade treats around the campfire.

Mount Rainier National Park, WA

Burroughs Mountain Trail – This 10-mile hike to Third Burroughs Mountain in Mount Rainier National Park has been on my radar for years, and I was determined to make it happen this summer. I was so determined, in fact, that I slept alone in the cramped backseat of my parents’ Subaru Forester so I could hit the trail at 5am! It was worth every ache and pain, and highly recommended. The photographs below don’t do this hike justice – it is truly a stunner!

Moraine Trail – Our last journey of the year was on the spectacular Moraine Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. While the trails in this area of the park (Paradise) are typically some of its most crowded, we chose the relatively low-trafficked Moraine Trail to explore at sunset. We were shocked to find so many wildflowers still in bloom here in early September, and were wowed every step of the way by the gorgeous views in every direction. While we didn’t know at the time that this was our last journey of 2020, we can’t think of a better place to have spent it!

Thank you for joining us as we remember our favorite journeys of the year! Cheers to health, happiness and many more adventures in 2021! -The Junes

Next post: Journey to Antarctica

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