White Line Fever

by Steve, August 19th, 2007

I grew up road tripping family style. Starting with a coast-to-coast odyssey in a playpen in the back of a VW Microbus, and working my way through car, train, bus, truck and plane trips of all sorts through most of the United States and Mexico and parts of Canada and Europe.

San Rafael Reef, Utah

My traveling days, along with my ability to live out out of a backpack for months at a time, ended when I had two children. Or so it seemed. This summer, with the little ones getting bigger and with the aid of such niceties I never knew — like air conditioning and DVD players — we embarked on our first epic family road trip across the iconic landscapes of the American West. Twenty-six hundred miles of desert, forest, rock, canyon, mountain and gorge.

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

The joy of going overland is that the journey becomes a major part of the trip, rather than an annoyance to put up with on the way somewhere else. I love seeing the landscape change as I go.
Our first stop, after driving all night out of Portland, was Twin Falls, Idaho, Shoshone Falls and the Snake River Canyon.

Snake River Canyon, Idaho

Speaking of snakes, the highlight of the entire trip for my five-year-old son was this little snake my Mom’s neighbor found.

Stickers the Snake, Littleton, Colorado

The highlight for me was being in the Colorado Rockies, my ancestral stomping grounds (I’ve got roots all over western Colorado, from Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Eagle, Durango and Leadville, and across the great divide to Evergreen, Golden and Littleton). These three shots are of the Gore Range (north of Vail) and Mt. Holy Cross (south of Vail).

Gore Range, Colorado

I love the Cascade Range for it’s majestic volcanic peaks soaring above the low green mountains, but there’s something special about the Colorado high country that I miss.

The Gore Range

I’ve been on top of at least a dozen of Colorado’s “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 feet high), but I don’t think I ever did this one, Mt. Holy Cross (the snow that makes the cross is gone this late in the summer). My Mom probably climbed it, though.

Mt. Holy Cross, Colorado

This was my first summer trip to the Colorado high country in several years, and it was heartbreaking to see all the damage from the Mountain Pine Beetle. All across the rockies on I-70, massive damage was visible in the form of brown pines. (In this picture, the areas of soft green are Aspens.) You can see that closer to the ridge top, where it is colder longer, the damage isn’t as severe. Mild winters have helped beetle populations flourish. The fire risk is huge, and the future of Colorado’s pine forests is bleak. We’ve got some pine beetle damage in Eastern and Central Oregon, but I’ve never seen it as bad or as far distributed as I saw in Colorado.

Pine Beetle Damage, Vail Valley

On the way home, we came through Road Runner territory, the San Rafael Desert of Southeast Utah. Southern Utah deserves it’s own trip, but driving through at 80 miles per hour is certainly better than flying over. We dodged thunder storms all the way across Utah.

We hit the human stain of the Provo/Salt Lake/Ogden megalopolis at what should have been well after rush hour on a Thursday, but were afflicted with brutal traffic and aggravated by a hyper-aggressive ass hat in a 4×4. We put as much distance between us and Ogden as fast as we could, and stayed the night back along the Snake River in Burley Idaho.

San Rafael Reef

There is no better welcome than coming home through the Columbia River Gorge at sunset. While I miss spending more time in the rockies, it’s always a joy to return to the verdant beauty of Western Oregon. The Gorge didn’t disappoint.

Sunset on the Columbia River Gorge

Now it’s back to the grind. Stay tuned for all the latest on the Winter Hawks training camp, the replay screens that weren’t, and the tragi-comic soap opera that is Portland Public Schools. (Wacky Mommy, who is my hero for having done most of the driving, has more on our road trip here and here, and will have more later, I believe.)

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