Thursday, 26 May 2022

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Top Ten Adventures of 2021

Top Ten Adventures of 2021

What would a New Year be without a countdown of the previous year’s favorites? With that tradition in mind, here are my top ten sites, attractions, and adventures of 2021.

TEN: Sinks Canyon State Park outside of Lander, Wyoming is home to a fascinating geological feature. The Popo Agie River disappears into a limestone cavern and reemerges a quarter mile down the canyon in a pool filled with massive rainbow trout. The Sinks Canyon area is also a spectacular place to camp, hike, bike, climb, fish, and enjoy nature.

NINE: Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment, Wyoming is truly a hidden gem. The museum has an amazing collection of historical buildings displaying artifacts interpreting the timber, mining, and agricultural history of the Encampment valley at the turn of the 20th century. The buildings are locked, but during business hours, museum staff are happy to open them up. We got a personal tour which added to the overall experience.

EIGHT: Medicine Lodge Archeological Site is a prehistoric Native American archeological site where the petroglyphs and pictographs cover the face of a 750-foot-long sandstone bluff. This state park also has multiple interpretive exhibits, a campground, corrals for those who bring horses, and special activities in the winter.

SEVEN: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Montana preserves the headquarters of a once 10-million-acre cattle empire and interprets the role of cattlemen in American History. The site contains numerous ranch buildings to explore, but what makes this place special is the living history which is part of the site’s interpretive program. There is a working blacksmith shop, guided tours of the ranch house, wagon tours, and we even had a cup of coffee at the chuckwagon brewed over an open fire.

SIX: Legends Rock State Petroglyph site contains amazingly well-preserved rock art. At Legends Rock more than 92 prehistoric petroglyph panels and over 300 petroglyphs cover a 1,000-foot-long near vertical cliff.

FIVE: Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming has several options for experiencing the hot springs including large swimming pools with fun slides which are great for kids, but we prefer the free state-run bathhouse for a quick and quiet soak. The park also has geothermal features visible from the boardwalk, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a bison herd roaming the hills.

FOUR: Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the largest known limestone caverns in the northwestern United States, and it’s one of the most highly decorated limestone caverns in North America. Cave access is by guided tour only, which often sells out in the summer, and tours are currently closed for the winter. Along with touring the amazing caves, there are also abundant hiking trails and camping.

THREE: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best zoos I’ve ever visited. The exhibits are constantly being upgraded to provide the best experience for the animals as possible. The 160-acre complex includes a massive dessert dome, the Lied Jungle, and an aquarium with a seventy-foot-long shark tunnel. I love the ecosystem-specific approach to exhibits rather than the species approach, that is, there is no “snake” exhibit, but rather snakes can be found with other plants and animals sharing the same habitat. I always encourage visitors to Omaha, Nebraska to make time for this well-done zoo.

TWO: A huge surprise was a visit to the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming. Generally, I’m not a huge museum fan, but this place blew me away. The 140,000 sq. foot museum opened in August 2020, and it’s still evolving. The facility contains nearly 475 fully restored military vehicles, a large firearms collection, and other military equipment dating from 1897 to present. Its world-class exhibits tell the story of, and educates visitors on, the American experience in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This museum is masterfully designed with interactive exhibits and well worth a visit even though it may be a bit out of the way.

ONE: The biggest highlight of 2021 is undoubtedly, Iceland. The country is blessed with so much natural beauty that it would be impossible to single out my favorite part of Iceland. From the country’s capital of Reykjavik, to magnificent waterfalls and geothermal features, to witnessing the divergence of two tectonic plates, we found excitement around every corner. The people and cultural resources added even more to our visit to this amazing country.

I hope you had a great 2021, and here’s to many new adventures in 2022.

Columnist: Kim McMahill

Picture Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. She started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense and adventure fiction. After living in eight different states and enjoying a rewarding career with the National Park Service, she has returned home to Wyoming to focus on her writing and spend more time with family. She has published ten novels, over eighty travel and human-interest articles, and contributed to a travel story anthology. Find out more about Kim by visiting her blog and connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter @kimmcmahill

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