(A slightly delayed dispatch from the road trip to AK)
Each year we drive up to Alaska from Colorado; it’s cheaper, more convenient, and more fun than flying or taking the ferry, and we usually take our time and make a good road trip out of it. After two years of driving back and forth from CO to AK, I’ve learned something that is perhaps rather obvious: We live in a pretty amazing country. And in my recently-formed opinion, the best way to see that is with four tires on an open road, a sleeping bag, and a few good playlists.
I grew up in a family that loved traveling locally, whether it was a long day hike a few hours away, a week-long camping trip in Southern Utah, or maybe a couple weeks on the Atlantic in my dad’s home state of Rhode Island. In college and the years after, my desire to travel internationally started to grow—Iceland, Greenland, and Japan are just a few upcoming trips on my list. But as I plan all of these expensive-yet-exciting international trips, my dad reminds me constantly that there is still so much to explore in my own back yard. This last road trip from Colorado, up the west coast, and to Alaska made me realize that he is right (as parents usually are).
On our migration north to Alaska this spring, it seemed that our road trip kept unintentionally growing in length. What started as a “we’ll stop in Utah to drop off my car, then drive straight to Skagway,” turned into “Hey, let’s do a hike in Moab on our way through Utah. Well, we should spend a night in Tahoe to visit my friend. We may as well go for a ski tour while we’re here. Want to drive through the Black Rock Desert in Nevada? Hey, lets go to Crater Lake National Park! Grab a beer in Portland? Of course! I think we need to spend a night camping in Olympic National Park. Yep. Okay, we should probably get to Alaska and start working.”
Each place we’ve stopped on any of our road trips, the most common phrase uttered has been, “We need to come back here and explore more.”
Did you know that one of the largest, flattest surfaces in the world exists in Northern Nevada? And it’s beautiful—over 200 square miles of desert “playa,” the clay-like surface of a dried up lake bed.
Tahoe has some seriously die-hard locals, and a rolling range of mountains that jet up right next to the casino-ridden desert of Reno. And the snowpack is much more stable than Colorado’s (not saying much, though).
Crater Lake in Oregon is one of the purest and deepest bodies of water in the world, and it was formed by an imploding volcano. That’s neat. Also, this place gets an average of over 500 inches of snowfall per year. It was basically a blizzard the day we went to the park, so we didn’t even see the lake. Late April and the Visitor’s Center was still all but snowed in.
The Pacific Northwest in general has a great beer and coffee scene. Sorry, Denver; you’ve got some competition.
And Washington? Mountains, glaciers, rain forests, and good coffee pretty much sum up the place. The Olympic Peninsula has a fascinating logging history behind it; but that’s only a side note from the glaciers that hide deep in Olympic NP, behind all the moss and lichen-covered old-growth trees.
Moral of this blog post: We live in a pretty damn amazing place. So make a few good playlists, pull out an atlas, and plan a road trip in the US. Throw specific plans out the window, pick a place that sounds cool, and drive there. Stop for a good beer or maybe a locally-roasted cup of coffee (probably better for driving) on the way. I promise it will be worth it.