It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on the past year, while looking forward to what comes next. 2021 didn’t bring as much travel as I hoped. The pandemic rages on and now Omicron brings us new travel concerns. But I need to travel in order to maintain sanity, and we still found our opportunities in 2021. We even jumped on a few planes for the first time in over a year, taking trips to St Croix and Seattle. Road trips were still a big part of 2021 for us, and we drove to Southern Utah 4 different times. There is lots to see in that part of my home state, and the pandemic continues to direct me down there. So, after some end-of-year reflection, here is my Favorite Food and Travel of 2021.
Favorite Site of 2021
Buck Island Reef – St Croix
My favorite site this past year was Buck Island Reef – part of the Buck Island Reef National Monument in St Croix, US Virgin Islands. Buck Island is small uninhabited island located about 1.5 miles off the St Croix coast. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of underwater beauty featuring one of the largest and best preserved reefs in the Caribbean. It’s a site that can only be appreciated by snorkeling in the open ocean. And that’s part of what made it my favorite site of 2021. I don’t swim, and had never successfully snorkeled prior to our trip to St Croix. So seeing the underwater beauty in person for the first time – the 250 types of tropical fish and the various different kinds of coral – added to the grandeur of this site for me.
In order to see the reef, you must go as part of an organized tour. I chose Big Beards Adventure Tours and they did a great job supporting this non-swimmer through the whole experience. Click here to read my post about our afternoon snorkeling Buck Island Reef.
I don’t have pictures of the reef to share. An iPhone isn’t the best choice for underwater photography. But take my word for it. If visiting St Croix, don’t miss out on visiting the Reef
Favorite Travel Experience
Canyoneering a Slot Canyon in Orderville Utah
My favorite travel experience of 2021 was canyoneering through Ladder Slot Canyon in Orderville Utah with East Zion Experiences. As in 2020, most of our traveling this past year took place within our home state. Southern Utah has the world’s highest concentration of slots canyons. Many are not easily accessible, and some can only be explored with a guide.
Canyoneering is a combination of rappelling, hiking, scrambling, jumping, and sliding while exploring a canyon. I had never rappelled before, and this journey through Ladder Slot Canyon required 6 rappels of various heights. The highest was 65 feet. Our guides with East Zion Experiences were great at teaching us the ropes….literally. We had a blast during this 4 hour adventure. And the slot canyon was beautiful! Click here to read more about our Canyoneering Adventure.
Petrified Dunes and Lava Flow Trails – Snow Canyon State Park
Because many of our trips in 2021 were to local national and state parks, hiking was again a major focus. We hiked in Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Red Canyon, and Snow Canyon. We also returned to last year’s favorite trail – the Queen’s/Navajo Loop down through the hoodoos of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater.
My favorite first-time hike this year was the Petrified Dunes & Lava Flow Trails in Snow Canyon State Park. Snow Canyon is located just outside of St George Utah in southwest Utah. Here, a valley runs down through a beautiful canyon of red and white sandstone cliffs. In the center of this valley, sits a series of large petrified sand dunes. And if that’s not enough, a nearby volcano deposited a field of lava millions of years ago which also runs through this valley. And within this lava field, lies several underground lava tubes. The petrified dunes and the lava tubes are easily explored along an interconnecting trail system. You can click here to read more about these great trails in Snow Canyon.
Cottages by the Sea – Frederiksted St Croix USVI
This selection required no thought whatsoever. Our favorite lodging in 2021 was unquestionably Cottages By The Sea on the island of St Croix, US Virgin Islands. A small family run hotel, comprised of small updated cottages, located on a perfect stretch of sand, with few crowds. What more could you possibly want on a beach vacation? We would walk a few steps each morning to eat breakfast on the beach, then float in the calm Caribbean waters for a bit, before heading out for mid day adventures, then returning in time to take in the spectacular sunsets. Perfect!
Favorite Travel Meal
Sego – Kanab Utah
Two courses into our dinner at Sego in Kanab Utah, I told Mrs TT – if the chef keeps this up, we may be eating the best meal of the year. And chef Shon Foster kept it up. Sego is located inside a hotel in the small southern Utah town of Kanab – not far from the east entrance to Zion National Park. Its quality is not a secret, and fortunately, I made a reservation a couple of weeks in advance. The flavors in every dish were balanced and bold. I absolutely loved every bite. I wish I didn’t live 4.5 hours away. The Kanab locals are extremely lucky.
Favorite Local Restaurant Discovery
Los Tapatios – Salt Lake City
I love Mexican food, and Salt Lake City is blessed with a lot of great Mexican restaurants. This year, I was introduced to birria tacos by my daughter who took me to Los Tapatios for Father’s Day. She had been talking up their birria tacos for many months, and finally made sure that I tried them by driving me there herself. I’m so glad she did!
Birria is a stewed meat typical of the Jalisco region of Mexico. At Los Tapatios they use beef, and serve it up in crispy tacos accompanied by a rich consome on the side for dipping. I suppose it could be compared to a French Dip sandwich – but it’s much more flavorful. Click here to read my full write-up on Los Tapatios
Favorite Life Change
And at the end of 2021, I made a move that should open up more favorite food and travel opportunities down the road. After 25 years of practicing medicine, I retired. Just in time for Omicron. But ultimately, I look forward to having more time to follow this life-long travel passion of mine. And to continue sharing it with you! Europe…soon…somehow…please…