I designed the ultimate trip for 2023. The year start off with a weekend In Dallas because my goof (yeah, goof) friend Albert had his wedding and I needed some real BBQ. Then, the sparsely visited Quinault Rainforest in the southern portion of Olympic National Park. The 2023 Wonder World Tour kicks off in June in Iceland, where we tried to complete the Ring Road in one week. A small camping trip at Crater Lake, which we hide in the lobby of an elegant hotel from camping and being bitten by mosquitoes. To see more legendary hotels, we hiked nonstop in the hiking capital of the United States, Glacier National Park, for a week in August. Huge trees, historical old cities and beautiful beaches awaited us in Vancouver Island in September. And we capped it off going to the southern portions of Oregon just before snow sets in October. You would think Iceland will top the chart, but I guess you have to read on.
Even though Dallas and Ft. Worth’s public transport is non-existent, as far as I could tell, it is still walkable in certain parts of the cities. I had fun walking from my hotel to downtown Dallas and rode one of the oldest tram systems in the country. Since it was spring, I went to both Dallas and Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens (Ft. Worth is about 10x better in my opinion), caught some wild Blue Bonnets just outside of the city limits, and strolled around in the Ft. Worth stock yard (very touristy). Pretty fun for a long weekend.
Ironically, this might be closer to Portland than Seattle. If you like giant, old trees, this is a good place to hang out. On our way here, we stopped by Cranberry Museum (which we learn that Washington is one of the major producers) and Long Beach (one of the longest continuous beaches in the world, though I’m not sure how that’s calculated). Quinault is lovely – very quiet, feels like a world away from the bustling Hoh Rainforest. In my opinion, this is much better than Hoh.
Ah, the legendary country, home to the bestest fjords and landscape. We even chose to go during the longest days of the year, but all we were rewarded was rain, fog, wind and cold. I think we stayed wet the entire time until we board our planes back to the United States, and we had to walk onto the plane in the rain. There were some highlights. Blue Lagoon might be expensive, but it is worth every single penny with the unreal colors and world class treatments. Kirkufell is what I have wanted to see for years, and it was as beautiful as I imagined. Selfoss is hard to get to, but that roll of waterfalls is out of this world, and we saw an Arctic fox randomly walking around. Diamond beach is ridiculous – why aren’t they serving a shot with iceburg? Geysir might be dead, but Strokkur gives us wows. And who could forget the most friendly character in Iceland – the friendly piggy bank mascot of the Supermarket Bonus. That’s the only thing we could afford, and we stop every time we see that neon pink and yellow sign from kilometers away. That’s the highlight, as the rest were freaking long drives between places, miserable weather, and we had food poisoning from hot dogs at Ikea.
We went to a religious wildlife safari just west of the park. The cold season (I know right) was forcing a late start at the park. Most of the park was still snowed in, and the mosquitoes were just spawning. To make ourselves feel better, we play Catan at the historical hotel on Crater Lake with a stunning view, and dip ourselves in the hot Springs.
Waterton-Glacier National Park
It was too late – the glaciers have been long gone, and seasons of forest fires left ghost forests on the hills. Still, this is one of the best hiking places I’ve ever been, because it is so accessible with various difficulties, different beautiful scenes, and the free shuttle allows for point to point hikes. We even drove to the city of Waterton, since the park spans between United States and Canada, and took a boat back into the United States for a 30 minutes’ walk before heading back to Canada. Besides hiking, we did a tour of the historical hotels around the park and had high tea when we were at the Prince of Wales hotel. This is what hiking in a park should be, beautiful sceneries and amazing amenities.
Most people don’t know Vancouver Island exist, less people been there, even though it is literally miles away from Olympic National Park. We weren’t expecting much, and we were spoilt. Victoria was a stunning English city and have amazing food. The rest are just quirky stuff – hidden waterfalls, a tall lonely tree named Doug, more giant trees in groves, crazy waterfalls, and just nature. There are more, and we did not have a month to spend hiking through the entire island. Did I mention good food? And people speak with a thick Canadian accent, which is very charming. Definitely will be back for more.
I have been wanting to see some of the craziest rock formation in the state, but they are always too far from where we live. So, I plan to circumnavigate the perimeter of the State of Oregon (kind of). Made it to Lake Owyhee (dessert man-make lake), Leslie Gulch (gorgeous rock pillars), Steen Mountains (sheer remoteness, and extremely steep cliff), lots of hot springs, Crack-in-the-Ground (slot canyons in Oregon!), Fort Rock, and I finally get to hike up on Misery Ridge at Smith Rock. Lots of brown color unlike the usual blue and green in Oregon, and my sedan survived all kinds of gravel rock (very surprising). But I especially loved the solitude. We looked forward to every gas station outing.
I thought this year was going to be a banger. I mean, there is freaking Iceland and Glacier National Park. Staying in Oregon/Pacific Northwest have spoilt me, because I thought those were great, but not amazing, as you can see, I sounded more excited about Vancouver Island and Southern Oregon. Fret not, 2024 might actually be a banger year. Seriously. Should I hype myself up? Yes. Totally.