I love the mountains. I spent a good part of my life in the mountains – New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona. These are the BIG mountains.
Having lived in Kentucky for the past 25 years, I hear of people that live in “the mountains of Kentucky” or heading to “the mountains of West Virginia.” In my perspective these are more like hills. But, by the broader definition, there are mountains in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Maybe even Tennessee.
When I take trips to the Western US, I always try to make an effort to get to the REAL mountains….the kind over 10,000′ tall. I love the fresh air of these mountains. I long for the spectacular views…both from below and on top.
My first ventures into the mountains were as a young boy living in New Mexico. My Dad also loved the mountains and we often took rides up to the Sandias. We would hike, take picnics and my dad always took pictures. He always took slides because he thought they were better quality.
In 1968 we moved from Dallas to Denver. While in Denver, my Dad would take us on various drives up to Rocky Mountain National Park, Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak and other mountains. As a junior high school youth I went with him for the intense hike up Longs Peak, near Boulder. This mountain hike was a first for me. I never made it to the top (since we were bogged down by a massive hailstorm in the middle of summer). But my Dad left me at the stop station and continued up with a couple of friends.
Later in life I had the opportunity to take a trip up to the top of Mt. Evans (by car). It had changed over the years, but still had the mountain goats and the thin air.
Living in Bozeman, Montana in the mid 1970s was the final straw. We actually lived up in the mountains south of Bozeman. I was hooked and still am. My goals have always been to visit America’s great mountains, mountain ranges and parks. I have been blessed to have been able to do so.
Over the years I have been to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, the Colorado Rockies, the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, the Beartooth Range and scenic drive in northern Wyoming and more. I have even been to the eastern mountains of Shenandoah, the Alleghany Highlands in Virginia (where I am as I write this!), the Ozarks in Arkansas and Missouri and the Adirondacks. They have their own wonderful scenery.
The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.
The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.
I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.
When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.
Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.
Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night. The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon. In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument. It is just one more canyon in Arizona.
Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.
Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.
But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.
I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.
Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.
Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.
The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.
But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.
I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.
With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.
I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.
So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.
During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The R Towns
Roswell, New Mexico
How can I do a post about towns that start with the letter R and NOT include Roswell, New Mexico? I can’t!! Roswell is perhaps the most out of this world town in the United States (I’ll cover Vulcan, Alberta as Canada’s out of this world town in the V Towns post next week). On a return trip from Arizona, my daughter, son and grandchildren drove through Roswell and then home through Texas. I didn’t write a post about this trip though I do have a number of photos from the trip on my Pinterest and SmugMug pages. Roswell is a fun place!
Regent, North Dakota
Regent, North Dakota is the southern Gateway to the Enchanted Highway, one of the most amazing offbeat and quirky drives in the United States. The 32 mile drive features a number of pieces of the unique (and massive) artwork of retired Regent, ND school teacher Gary Greff who has taken on this effort in order to keep the small dying town from becoming a ghost town. To me, this is a Top Ten Road Trip Destination. One of my most popular posts on this blog is my complete photo/travel review of Regent and the Enchanted Highway. Check it out – complete with maps, descriptions, mile points, satellite photos — its right HERE.
In 2012 I took a three day trip to Wisconsin with one of my daughters and her daughter. We visited Jurustic Park (see my M Town Posts), Green Bay, Egg Harbor (see my E Town Posts) and also made our way north on US 51 until we hit US 8 and then headed east toward Rhinelander, also known as the “Heart of Hodag Country.” What, pray tell, is a Hodag? There is a great unique writeup HERE. According to the Rhinelander website, the Hodag is a mysterious woodland creature that makes its home in the Rhinelander Area. Why the Hodag is only found in the Rhinelander Area is not certain. However, many people believe that it is the clean lakes, dense forests and incredible natural beauty that ties the Hodag to the Rhinelander Area. See more about this trip HERE.
Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
One of the country’s uniquely named towns is a small Ohio River town known as Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. According to the Rabbit Hash website: “The town’s name, “Rabbit Hash” is said to have originated during the flood of 1847 when the abundant local rabbit population was driven to higher ground and became a food staple in a special stew called “hash.” Little documented history of Rabbit Hash actually survives, primarily because devastating Ohio River floods in 1884, 1913 and 1937 deluged the little town and ruined many records.” See more about my 2008 visit to Rabbit Hash. A fun side trip for anyone! Read it HERE.
Raton, New Mexico
Head south on Interstate 25 out of Trinidad, Colorado, cross into New Mexico and you come into the throwback touristy town of Raton, NM, which is also at the intersection of US Highways 64 and 87. The town is dotted with 50s and 60s style neon signs and motels, a nice retro downtown area and a great Visitor’s Center. You can see more about my Colorado/New Mexico trip and my visit to Raton HERE.
Red Lodge, Montana
Red Lodge, Montana is one of the gateways to the Beartooth Scenic Highway (US Highway 212), perhaps one of the most scenic and splendid high mountain drives in the country. The town itself is beautiful, though touristy as it also promotes itself as a Gateway to Yellowstone National Park as well. Read about my 2014 Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge experience in more detail HERE.
Riverside, Iowa (Honorable Mention)
If you are a Star Trek fan than you know about Riverside, Iowa. It is most likely the only town you can find that is the FUTURE BIRTHPLACE of someone, in this case, Captain James T. Kirk, who is scheduled to be born on March 2, 2228. Touting itself as the place “Where the Trek Begins,” you can find some Star Trek memorabilia, a Starship replica and more.
Rugby, North Dakota (Honorable Mention)
You may think North Dakota is in the northern climes, but, actually, when considering North America, it is almost in the middle. In fact, the small town of Rugby IS the Geographical Center of North America. Not too far off of US Highway 2 in North Dakota, its a good photo opportunity. See more about my US Highway 2 Zip Trip across North Dakota HERE.
Rudyard, Montana (Honorable Mention)
Further west on US Highway 2 in Montana is the town of Rudyard. They claim to have 596 Nice People and 1 Old Sore Head as can be seen by the sign above. Even though the town is small, they also have a small museum, which apparently has some dinosaur-related things. You can read more about the town and surrounding towns on Montana’s Hi-Line (US Highway 2) — HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.