Scenic By-Ways were something we discovered in Montana. Sure we had seen a few on our atlas and we had highlighted a couple before take-off, but we didn’t really grasp the scenic by-way awesomeness. Pre-trip we were pumped. We told everyone about it, everyone knew. Everyone we talked to was so happy and excited for us. Our traveling friends wanted to give us their tips and must-sees.
One afternoon at work, a co-worker comes up and tells me her table claims to have known me for my whole life. Sure enough, it is a couple who have known my parents since grade school. Naturally I told them about the trip. Katie told me to see Jenny Lake at Grand Tetons (check that, we hiked around the whole thing). Jim said if we could, we should take the pass through the Beartooth Mountains. They’re his favorite mountains in the country. This is saying something.
When we ended up a day ahead on our trip, I convinced Zach that we should indeed take the Bears Tooth Scenic By-Way and enter Yellowstone via the Northeast entrance (also a bonus because we entered into the Lamar Valley, land of all the wildlife and thousands of buffalo).
Wow! It was our first scenic drive and one of my favorites (I can’t help it, Escalante was completely different and amazing too). It was storming just before we entered the by-way. The clouds parted though as we started. The road was tight, hugging sharp curves and turns, pinning you right next to the rock of the mountain or a guard rail. We switchbacked and continued to climb higher and higher. Close to the highest elevation we ran into hail. I was extremely happy Zach was driving. But once it passed and the sun streamed through to light the mountains, it was beyond breathtaking. There were too many views that I kept requesting stops for. And then the slight disappointment when a picture is too small to capture the grandeur. And incapable of capturing the experiencing and sheer perfection of God’s creations. It was a pretty long by-way, along the way we experienced 40 degree temperature changes. As well as the changing weather from sunshine to rain or hail, back to sunshine. It was completely stunning.
After that, anytime we saw a scenic by-way, we knew we had to take it. We took one in Utah to get around Salt Lake City. It was crazy, we found ourselves entering Utah swarmed in traffic and surrounded by cars everywhere, but the moment we got on the scenic by-way, it was us on open road. We drove through a state park and came through one of the most beautiful cities (at least that is my opinion), Herber. Big lakes, nestled against mountains, with picturesque coloring and light.
And then there is Escalante……oh my goodness, no words suffice the awesomeness. It was unlike anything I had seen before. I have no pictures, despite the fact that I kept revolving around in my seat unable to keep my mouth closed because I was in awe at every turn or telling Zach to look somewhere. What is also mind-blowing, is that we only touched a tiny portion of it. On the map, Escalante and the Grand Staircase are HUGE. We drove through a tiny portion. The cool thing about Utah, as I’ve hinted to, is that it is constantly changing. I would be so sleepy, my eyes just begging me to close them, but the landscape changed so much and I had no clue what was coming next. I had to stay awake. I had to look and see and be in awe and try to take it in. My head spun. The colors. The rocks. The sheer perfection.
One thing I realized on our trip is that God definitely knocked it out of the park when he created the US. I mean are whole trip, I was in a constant state of awe. My tiny self could not fathom what it was I was trying to behold. When you are surrounded by such beauty you can only be happy. I felt this way when I lived in the mountains. It is impossible to live in such a beautiful place and world and not be happy. And when tiredness tried to trick me into grumpiness, Zach would look right at me and tell me to snap out of it. Look around. Look at where you are. There is no time for that. Such is life. Time is short and so very precious. We do not know when our time is up. From the time we are born, we only move closer to death, it is inevitable. This physical experience is so fleeting. There is only time to be happy and joyful. And we are provided with such beautiful opportunities and sceneries. Enjoy. Enjoy what and who are in front of you, today……now.
Before we left, we checked our route with my cousin who has been living out of an RV. Her only change to our initial plan was a by-way leaving Moab before we got on I-70. We actually stayed at a campsite on this road. Stunning, once again. The Colorado River flowing and winding down the center. Canyon walls engulfing us on either side. It was perfection.
AlAnd then there are the Black Canyons at the Gunnison in Colorado. We were early, so we figured we could take another route through Colorado, rather than just speeding across it on 70. My mother had told me tales years before about this drive. That is was terrifying and breathtaking at the same time. I will confess this made me a little nervous. And somehow we did not end up on the by-way. However, we did go through the park. Super dope and unlike anything we had seen as well.
So if you are planning a road trip anytime in the future. I strongly suggest you take a scenic by-way when the opportunity presents itself and a sign appears. Go through Gunnison, Colorado. Take a drive through Escalante (maybe you’ll get to stop for cowboys and a cattle drive like we did), and behold Capital Reef on your way out. And if you are going to Yellowstone, take the Beartooth Byway and enter through the Northeast entrance. Get off the beaten path