U.S. 395, the California Highway Least Traveled—and Its Most Epic

California is a really long state. In the north-south direction, drivers traditionally traverse the state on either U.S. 101 or Interstate 5. Highway 101 is more picturesque, going through seaside towns and redwood forests and boasting gorgeous coastal scenery and mild weather. It's also slower. Travelers wanting to make haste take I-5, but south past Redding the penalty... Continue Reading →

Exploring New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula

How is it that a hilly, almost mountainous peninsula that is an ideal environment for lush forest, surrounded on three sides by the ocean and composed of mineral-rich volcanic soil, seems almost devoid of it? Any drive through the Banks Peninsula reveals a landscape that is tussocky with very few stands of trees. What isn't covered... Continue Reading →

View to the West (Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA)

Part of the scenery in and around the Methow Valley is the spectacular arrangement of mountains and valleys. Looking westward from Sun Mountain Lodge, you can see the steepest peaks in the distance, eroded hillsides in the middle and glacial valleys in the foreground. Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions covered this entire region with... Continue Reading →

On the Trail of the Pacific Northwest’s Ice Age Floods

One of the biggest surprises about Northwest natural history is that there were many catastrophic floods during recent geological times that dramatically altered the landscape of Washington state. Almost half the state was inundated. This hypothesis was first put forward by geologist J Harlan Bretz in the 1920s. These floods are thought to have swept through the state... Continue Reading →

City of Rocks State Park (Faywood, NM)

Our final night of camping on this road trip was spent at City of Rocks State Park, north of Deming in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert, a unique, surreally beautiful area where every campsite is nestled among huge boulders. City of Rocks features a wide field of boulders created 35 million years ago when... Continue Reading →

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM)

Neither of us has ever been to Carlsbad Caverns. We set aside three whole days to explore it since its remoteness in the southeast corner of New Mexico makes it unlikely we'd ever have an opportunity to return. This remoteness is the reason that, although its wonders are many, far fewer visitors show up than... Continue Reading →

Viewing the Rio Grande Rift (Taos, NM)

There is no indication as you're driving northeast along Highway 68 to Taos that the Rio Grande River will reveal itself in the middle of one of Earth's biggest geologic rifts. About halfway out of Espanola, the river at this time of year was lazy. Several rafters were making their way down river near Rio... Continue Reading →

Smith Rock State Park (Terrebonne, OR)

North of Redmond, rock climbers flock to Smith Rock State Park to scale the spectacular vertical walls of hardened volcanic tuff. We made a brief stop here on the way home, even though I was under the weather with chills and body aches. Probably against better judgment, I decided we should take the brief hike... Continue Reading →

Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

Petrified wood is a mysterious byproduct of geological processes. A petrified log looks just like wood on the outside but is usually a jumble of colorful quartz on the inside. How did this come to be? Here too in Petrified Forest National Park is the Painted Desert, the name given to the “badlands” whose outrageous... Continue Reading →

Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park (UT)

There is a gaping hole in the earth at the end of the west fork of the Island in the Sky scenic drive. An enormous crater lies ominously in one section of Canyonlands National Park. Upheaval Dome (above) was long thought to be a collapsed salt dome, but many geologists now feel that it is... Continue Reading →

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