I’m always thinking about all of the road trips I’ve taken over the past decade or so and smiling at how lucky I am to have those memories. In 2007, our spring break road trip opened my eyes to the country west of the Mississippi. In 2008, I saw the west coast. In 2009, we actually camped at Arches and saw the west coast. In 2010, I saw many things in southern Utah and Death Valley. In 2011, I moved to Texas and visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon In 2012, I saw my first Saguaro. In 2013 I saw the Oregon Coast again and everything in between there and Texas as well as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In 2014, I saw Big Bend for the first time as well as the Rocky Mountains up close. In 2015, I saw the the Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon again. In 2016, I revisited the west coast and spent some time under the mighty redwoods. This year, I will revisit Alaska, with more exploring, and I can’t wait.
While I know I’m lucky, fortunate, or whatever, my goal since our first road trip has been to stop and explore a little more. Our first trip was so unplanned and rushed, we drove through the Rocky Mountains, made a rest stop, and kept going. We drove right on by Arches and Canyonlands without even realizing it. On our 2008 trip, my best friend and I set out with our good friend at the time to head west wanting to see and do as much as we could. We got to the coast, but didn’t explore much. We went to the redwoods, but didn’t hike much. We went to Death Valley, didn’t do much. But, on the way home our third friend was insistent on going to some big name brewery. My best friend and I almost lost it – this guy was so unwilling to alter plans to hike to the coast in the redwoods or through Death Valley, but had to go to a brewery? So, from that point on, I vowed to explore more wherever I went – planning trips with like-minded adventurers. And, in following trips each year, I hiked more, saw more majestic views, and spent more time in all types of random places. I feel as each year went on, I took more time out during road trips to see and do various things. As the years clicked forward, my trips became more about exploring and less about getting somewhere.
The shift from 2008 to 2009 was simply being more adventurous, and making the most of the time we had. Back in 2009, we hiked to all the major arches in Arches as well as several short hikes in Canyonlands and Grand Staircase Escalante – this was all on our way to US 50 to drive, camp, and hike along the loneliest road in America before reaching Sacramento to pick up a friend at the airport. In that 2013 trip to Oregon, we stopped at Arches along the way and hit up the Rocky Mountains on the way home – just to see them! During our 2014 visit to Big Bend, we hiked as often as we could for as expansive a place as it is. In Colorado, we took some dirt roads through a national forest along a winding river to get home. Our 2016 trip to Redwoods included an abundance of scenic drives, hikes, and even a spontaneous trip along the Smith River up to Oregon Caves National Monument for a tour.
Not every road trip is going to allow extra time to stop and explore, or include the most adventurous people, but it doesn’t mean giving up. There is always a thrill in not fully planning a trip, but nowadays I will at least check the map before finalizing anything in case there is a spectacular piece of public land to explore or some attraction to see. All of this rambling is just a reminder to myself, and anyone choosing to read this, to slow down. Slow down, check stuff out, and enjoy every little trip you get. You can be efficient and adventurous all at once, I promise.