In Search of America the Beautiful

Grand Canyon at Dusk

My years at Northeastern were spent in Boston for school and northern New Jersey for co-op. I alternated between these two environments that were, and still are, mostly urban.  One can only dream of America’s wide open spaces while staring out the dorm windows on Hemenway Street. Fifty years hence, I am retired and still have that wanderlust. In the fall of 2019, I went on an extended trip to the West in search of America the Beautiful.

I flew into Las Vegas, picked up a rental car and embarked upon a road trip that eventually would cover more than 5,000 miles in 18 days. I started in Nevada, visited Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho before heading back into Utah, Arizona and Nevada. I do enjoy driving and photography, so this was a great road trip, with many memorable moments and sights.

Grand Canyon at Dusk
Grand Canyon at dusk from the South Rim. As the sun gets lower on the horizon, the landscape turns redder, with just a touch of evening mist masking the distant hills in a cloak of mystery.
Midgley Bridge
Midgley Bridge spanning Oak Creek Canyon on the way into Sedona.
Painter Desert
When you visit Wupatki and its Native American archaeological sites, you crest a rise in the road and, all of a sudden, the Painted Desert lies below your feet! It’s a breathtaking moment.
Highway to Casper
Stretches of highway seem to go on forever with no sign of human settlement as far as the eye can see. This type of open space makes one reassess one’s position on this Earth, and just how wondrous our world can be.
Badlands National Park
Badlands is an underrated national park, in South Dakota, with some amazing sights. These sedimentary rocks made from deep alluvial and volcanic ash deposits have been eroded to reveal a layer cake effect.
Devils Tower
Devil’s Tower is just a column of solidified magma sticking out from the crust of the earth in northeastern Wyoming. It used to be one of the veins of a volcano, extinct for aeons. It is a striking object, though, the largest of its kind on earth.
Yellowstone National Park
Nez Perce Creek in Wyoming, not too far from the famed Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park.
Bison at dusk
Bison at dusk
Colter Bay, Grand Teton
The Grand Tetons from Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park, northern Wyoming
Goose Necks, Utah
It’s a geological formation that’s only 1½ miles wide as the crow flies, but the San Juan River meanders through these twists and turns for a more than 6 miles in Goosenecks State Park, Utah.
Monument Valley
Ah, Monument Valley! I have known this landscape since childhood from John Ford movies. What a thrill it is to see it in person. Turns out Monument Valley is part of Navajo Nation. I am grateful they welcome visitors to their land so we can experience such magnificent landscape firsthand.
Vermilion Cliffs
Fantastic rock formations at White Pocket, which is part of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. Scientists believe that an earthquake caused a slide of white beach sand over sedimentary clay that had not completely hardened. This liquefaction mixed the two elements into shapes and strata, subsequently hardening into the rock that we see today. How often do these factors coincide to produce these results?
Vermilion Cliffs
I think I have just scratched the skin of America the Beautiful. I think she is still holding out on me. Given time and patience, I hope to discover more details and gain more insight into this great land of ours.