Road Trip Nation: On The Road To Adventure

Summer has finally arrived, which means it’s time to hit the road in search of adventure.

Hyannis, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hyannis, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So get out there and make some memories as you travel this beautiful country of ours.

But before you go, there’s the planning. Don’t just hit the road. Choose right.

The road trip is one of North America’s grand traditions—a chance to travel and see things from ground level. And with thoughtful planning you’ll avoid the “are we there yet” blues often associated with family vacations.

Where to road trip? Here are four road trips that will awaken your senses and make you glad to be “on the road again…”

Highway 6, Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Cape Cod is an arm-shaped peninsula located on the Easternmost portion of Massachusetts. It is a well-traveled tourist and vacation area, featuring miles and miles of beaches, natural attractions, historic sites, art galleries, restaurants, and a variety of campgrounds and RV parks.

Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Scenic Byway 12 travels through some of the most diverse, remote and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Allocate some time to explore this charming 117-mile route that wends through Cape Cod. You will go through forests, past saltbox homes in colonial villages, tidal ponds, and eventually end up at the Provincetown harbor. Don’t miss the towering sand dunes and beaches.

Along the route you can enjoy a bike ride along the sandy shores or bask in the sun before finishing the day munching on a plate of delectable, fresh seafood. But be prepared to spend a lot of time on stops in quaint Cape Cod towns like Hyannis, Easton, Wellfleet, Truro. You will have good chowder. See sand dunes. Drink some craft beer. Hear the slapping Atlantic Ocean. Maybe buy some antiques. This is Americana.

Word of advice: stick with weekdays.

Scenic Byway 12, Utah

Highway 12 is one of the most scenic highways in America, receiving the designation of All American Road in 2002. The highway has two National Parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, at each end and many other scenic points in between.

The route goes for 124 miles at significant elevations (9,000 feet) through forested mountains to the amazing bald mountains in Boulder. From there the road begins following a narrow ridge along the red canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

The Green-backed Heron, the smallest Florida heron, is found along the Tamiami Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Green-backed Heron, the smallest Florida heron, is found along the Tamiami Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around each bend, there are surprises: eroded towers and ramparts, dense forests of aspen and fir, pinyon and sagebrush, rolling slickrock, variegated buttes and mesas, snaking canyons, and rock walls varnished with mineral stains.

Part of the challenge of a road trip on Scenic Byway 12 is deciding which of several beautiful side trips to take: Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Calf Creek Falls, Burr Trail, and Capitol Reef National Park.

Tamiami Trail, Florida

Take a scenic road trip through the Sunshine State, enjoying a route that connects historical Florida with its modern counterpart. A National Scenic Byway, the Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41/State Road 90) is 264 miles of warm sunlight, salty breezes, and lush vegetation. The highway is described as the Beauty and the Beast of Florida roadways by the St. Petersburg Times, winding its way through the Florida Everglades, hammock oaks, and sandy pines.

Passing through Ruskin, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and Naples, the Tamiami Trail connects Tampa to Miami. It forms a portion of the northern boundary of Everglades National Park and provides access to Shark Valley Slough and observation tower. The road is the only way to access the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center and Headquarters.

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Discover Okanagan Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Now, let’s go RVing to the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Osoyoos? Okanagan? Oh, and how do you pronounce that again?

The northern most point of the Sonora Desert is British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley.

Located in the southern interior, the Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The mountains are lined with ponderosa pine, which give way to cacti, tumbleweeds, and fragrant sage brush. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 150 miles from Osoyoos in the south to Vernon in the north.

If you’re not familiar with this pocket of British Columbia, then think, peaches and beaches, wine-tasting, foodie-filled, great outdoor experience and fun in this, Canada’s only desert.

The pairing of some stellar Okanagan Valley wines is all part of the experience.

And that’s the beauty of the Okanagan Valley region, and Osoyoos in particular. Grapes grow alongside desert-like dunes; low-lying golf course greens huddle between mountain peaks.

Worth Pondering…

Free again! All it takes is a clean windshield and a full tank of gas, and you feel a terrible craving to be “on the road again”. Let’s see what’s over the next hill complex. Is that Willie Nelson singing. For real, there’s the music of this friendly engine pushing you along with the lyrics of the road.

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Red Rock Scenic Byway Signage Goes Up

The Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest will soon commence construction of six Red Rock Scenic Byway sign structures, several informational kiosks, and some trailhead improvements along a 7.5-mile section of State Route 179. The work is expected to take several months to complete.

Scenic Byway signs will be constructed at the north and south ends of the 7.5 mile stretch of SR 179, and at Courthouse Vista, Little Horse Trail, Bell Rock Vista, and Yavapai Point Vista.

Various improvements at Yavapai Point Vista will also occur, including the construction of a pathway to vista points, and the installation of interpretive panels. A temporary 60-day closure of Yavapai Point Vista will be in place during the construction period; all other sites will remain open, reports US Forest Service in a recent news release.

The Scenic Byway signs will be constructed of natural red rock and rustic appearing steel to blend in with the surrounding landscape and local architecture.

This section of SR 179 is special because in 2006, the US Dept. of Transportation recognized its uniqueness by giving it All American Road status, the highest designation within the National Scenic Byways Program. To date, this section of 179 remains the only All American Road in the State of Arizona.

Nationally, there are 125 National Scenic Byways in 44 states, but only 36 of the Byways, including the Red Rock Scenic Byway or “Gateway to Sedona”, have additionally earned the prestigious All-American Road designation.

This project is being funded through the National Scenic Byway grant program and was awarded to the Red Rock Ranger District.

The public may experience some inconvenience during the construction period, in and around construction sites.

Details

Red Rock Scenic Byway

Length: 7.5 miles

Time to Allow: Take 20 minutes to drive, but allow several hours to include all activities along the byway.

Website: redrockscenicbyway.com

Coconino National Forest

The Coconino National Forest is one of the most diverse national forests in the country with landscapes ranging from the famous Red Rocks of Sedona to ponderosa pine forests, to alpine tundra. Explore mountains and canyons, fish forest lakes, and wade in lazy creeks and streams.

Website: fs.usda.gov/coconino

Red Rock District Coconino National Forest

Location: 8375 State Route 179, Sedona, Arizona (just south of the Village of Oak Creek)

Address: P. O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341-0429

Administrative Offices: (928) 203-7500

Visitor Center: (928) 203-2900

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on the Red Rock Scenic Byway

Part 1: Exploring Red Rock Scenic Byway

Worth Pondering…

God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.

—New York Times, 1997

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Exploring Red Rock Scenic Byway

The National Forest/Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center

Your first must-stop is the beautiful Forest Service Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center, located just south of the Village of Oak Creek on SR 179.

This is Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get maps and tons of Red Rock Country “fun things to do” information, as well as your Red Rock Pass for trailhead parking. Learn all the stories and history of this amazing area, like how the rocks and mesas were formed and named.

Red Rock Crossing on Oak Creek

As you leave the Visitors Center driveway, turn north (left) on SR 179 and you’ll see a major intersection with a stoplight. Turn west (left) onto Verde Valley School Road and drive 4.7 miles where the road dead-ends at the Red Rock Crossing parking lot. Do not park anywhere but the parking lot. This road travels through residential areas so be aware of the 30-35 mph speed limit; also, for the last 1.2 miles, the road is unpaved as well as curvy, hilly, and subject to flooding after excessive rains.

From the parking lot, it is a very short walk to the pathway that will lead you down to the unique red rock banks of Oak Creek.

Don’t forget your camera, because you’re at one of the most photographed sites in the country as well as one of the most naturally beautiful settings in Sedona.

If it’s a Saturday, chances are there’s a small wedding taking place at the north end of the crossing. Most days there will be artists painting or photographers setting up their shots or people just soaking up the inspiring view.

Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If the creek water’s low enough, step across the red rock stepping stones, which is the crossing, to Red Rock State Park situated on the other side.

Bell Rock Vista and Pathway Southern Trailhead

Turn east (right) out of the Red Rock Crossing parking lot and take Verde Valley School Road 4.7 miles back to its stoplight intersection with SR 179, where you will turn north (left).

Proceed straight, through the Village of Oak Creek, and just past the next stoplight, on your right hand side, will be the entrance to the Bell Rock Vista and Pathway parking lot.

Here’s where you’ll discover the size and power of the red rocks; this is a travelers up close experience with mystical Bell Rock and mammoth Courthouse Butte. Feel the red rock energy and enjoy the views.

There are many pathways to choose from, all going to or near Bell Rock that can be done in a half hour or as long as you feel like walking.

Little Horse Trail and Bell Rock Pathway Northern Trailhead

Turn north (or right) out of the parking lot onto SR 179; proceed straight and be on the lookout for signs that say “Little Horse Trail” and “Bell Rock Pathway”; entrance to this stop’s parking lot will come up fairly quickly, on your right.

Discover a little serenity among the glorious hiking and biking trails that meander to hidden washes and breathtaking red rock panoramas.

Little Horse Trail is a local favorite, rated moderate, and 6.5 miles if you do the full round trip. Remember the rules of the trail, and have fun!

Also at this stop, view the “Three Nuns” with the renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross perched below.

Finished in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Officially, the scenic road ends just beyond this point so after your hike, and before resuming your drive, take a moment to look west and gaze upon famous Cathedral Rock, a huge rock formation with multiple red rock spires. Whether it is silhouetted against a glowing sunset or shining in the midday sun, it is considered one of the most beautiful of all the red rock formations in the Sedona area, and surely a fitting way to end your day of Red Rock Splendor.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Red Rock Scenic Byway

Part 2: Red Rock Scenic Byway Signage Goes Up

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

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Chill-out on Utah’s Patchwork Parkway

Weather alert: “A heat warning for daily high temperatures above 100 degrees has been extended for all desert areas.”

At an elevation of 10,350 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument is the highest national park in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweltering heat is typical for the Southwest desert region this time of year. With triple digit temperatures the Southwestern standard, how do you deal with this incessant heat?

Load up the recreational vehicle and escape the scorching summer temperatures with a road trip to the cool mountain air of southwestern Utah.

Utah’s Patchwork Parkway (Scenic Byway 143) beckons travelers to enjoy a change of scenery and a drop in temperature. This scenic byway serves as the western gateway from the arid Great Basin of western Utah to a breathtaking route across Utah’s high plateaus, connecting to Heritage Highway 89 and Scenic Byway 12, Utah’s first All American Road.

This dramatic 55-mile scenic course links the historic pioneer communities of Parowan and Panguitch where early Mormon pioneer settlement and culture abound and follows a course over the Markagunt Plateau. The entire original Panguitch town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This byway weaves through a patchwork of geologic formations, forests, streams, lakes, cultural sites, beautiful meadows, and diverse wildlife. Nearby major attractions include Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

The historic community of Parowan is situated just off Interstate 15 and is the western gateway to access Patchwork Parkway. A charming small town with big history, Parowan is southwestern Utah’s oldest settlement and offers historic museums and markers related to the Native American and pioneer inhabitants of the region. Pioneer museums, an historic cemetery, and numerous historic sites are available for visitors.

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High on the western slope of the Patchwork Parkway you’ll find the resort community of Brian Head. At 9,600 feet this is Utah’s highest community.

Enjoy the scenic 20 minute Sky Lift at Brian Head Resort. Take in breath-taking views from the lift as you glide to the top of Giant Steps. From there one can bike, hike, sit down, relax, and take in the views at 10,000 feet. The clear vantage point at the top presents stunning vistas of several mountain ranges, red rock, and clear mountain air. New in 2011 is a self-guided interpretive and activity course along the Dixie National Forest’s scenic Vista hiking trail.

The Markagunt Plateau is a broad expanse of forest and open spaces. Alpine meadows offer astounding displays of wildflowers from early July until late summer.

On the topmost edge of this plateau you’ll find Cedar Breaks National Monument.

The 2,000-foot-deep Cedar Breaks amphitheater with its vibrant hues of pink, orange, red, and other coral colors is carved from the Claron Formation and spans three miles. Colored by the presence of iron and manganese oxide, this limestone Clarion formation is made up of intricate ridges, pinnacles, and buttresses. From sunrise to sunset, in blazing sun or cloudy periods, the rocks of Cedar Breaks display a rainbow of warm hues.

Very few routes in the U.S. exhibit a 4,500-foot elevation change that crosses six major life zones in 51 miles. On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. The word Panguitch actually means ‘big fish’ in the Paiute language.

On the east slope of the plateau, the route skirts lava flows only a few thousand years old before passing Panguitch Lake, a spectacular, large mountain lake renowned for its excellent fishing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Panguitch town site is the eastern gateway to the Patchwork Parkway. During their first winter when pioneer settlers ran out of supplies, seven men were sent from Panguitch to Parowan for grain. They struggled to walk in the deep snows, but made better progress when they began to use their bedding, actual quilts, to walk on the snow. This event has been memorialized as the famous Quilt Walk and is the source of the name—The Patchwork Parkway. Such quilts are reminders of the patchwork of the byway’s unparalleled scenery, vibrant history, and natural beauty unequaled across the country.

Special Considerations

Parowan is at 5,990 feet; Brian Head Peak is 11,307 feet. The byway doesn’t climb quite that high, but it does climb to over 10,000 feet. Take precautions if you are not accustomed to high elevation.

Restrictions

Parts of the route have 13% grades and some sharp switchbacks. Large recreational vehicles are not recommended. In winter, the section of road from Parowan to Brian

Head Ski Resort is kept open; the rest is closed. Snow tires or chains are advised during winter months.

Best Time to Drive

Summer is the best time to drive the byway, since it is open in its entirety. Autumn allows travelers to experience historic sites in gateway communities and an astounding display of fall colors set against Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Worth Pondering…
The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

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