It's the end of the year and we had the opportunity to take in some outstanding spots in our travel this year. Our 2018 Favorites List contains places we visited during the past 12 months. These may not make anyone else's year-end list, but they are all worth a visit. May your travels in the new year be exciting and just a bit off the beaten track.
1. San Antonio Hot Springs - Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Jemez Springs is a small mountain town, located on Mew Mexico highway 4 at 6,300 feet above sea level. The road north continues up the mountain valley until it reaches the trail head for San Antonio Hot Springs at 8,000 feet. The hike from the trail head to the hot springs is six miles long, most of it along a poorly maintained access road. The trail works its way up the mountain, providing beautiful vistas and forests of pine and birch trees. In the last half mile the trail switchbacks it's way halfway up the east side of the valley. The water from the hot spring has been directed into four man-made pools that work their way down the mountain. The water is the top pool is about 110 degrees. The water then drains into each successive pool, making them a bit cooler as you move down. The pools are shallow but the water is very clear and the view is spectacular.
2. Robert Treman State Park - Ithica, New York
Watkin's Glen is much better known, and therefore much busier than this park. However, the parks are very similar. Enfield Gorge passes through Tremen State Park. There are a multitude of steps to navigate the gorge. There are also a multitude of waterfalls, the most impressive of which is Lucifer Falls. Upon reaching the top of the falls, the very tight canyon walls open up to reveal a vista that is almost vertigo inducing. Like Watkin's Glen the trails are well marked and well maintained. While this is not a better hike that Watkin's, it is a close second and much less busy.
3. Meow Wolf - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Meow Wolf is the most difficult thing to explain on this list. It's a massive, immersive, hands-on art installation. But a better description might be a "fun-house for adults". The House of Eternal Return was built by 200 artists over a two year period in a 25,000 square foot former bowling alley. According to the story, what appears to be a normal home has undergone some type of incident that may or may not have altered the space/time continuum. Secret passages lead to rooms from other dimensions and the dreams of the residents. No two rooms are alike but they all somehow tie into the over-arching story. If that sounds confusing, it's because it is. Meow Wolf is also wonderful and unlike any art exhibit you've ever been to.
4. Wine and Beer Tasting - Finger Lakes, New York
The 11 Finger Lakes in upstate New York are so deep and long that they create their own micro-climates along their shores. This bodes well for those wanting to grow grapes and hops, as there are more than 100 wineries and dozens of breweries in the region. Most offer tastings in rooms that overlook one of the lakes. The two largest lakes, Cayuga and Seneca, boast the largest number of establishments as well as the most variety. The touring taster can tickle their palette with a Cabernet Franc at a vineyard and then go next door for a hazy wheat beer. There are organized tours, but it's easy to do the tastings on your own, just make sure you have a designated driver.
5. Garfield Park Conservatory - Chicago, Illinois
The Conservatory is one of the top facilities of its kind in the country. Six greenhouses and two exhibition halls stretch out over 185 acres. Hundreds of different plant species are on display and categorized by type into the different rooms. The main entrance leads visitors directly into the Palm House, a soaring room full of a tremendous variety of palms. Next comes the Fern Room, which looks like it could be part of the Jurassic Park jungle. Other rooms include the Desert House, Aroid House, Show House, and Horticulture Hall. Next to the Children's Garden is a separate room called Sugar From the Sun that shows how the energy from the sun is used by plants and eventually humans. Additionally, there are outdoor gardens that can be visited in the warmer months.