A Place Onto Its Own

Until late in 1966, when I took a train from Cleveland to Los Angeles, I had never been farther west than Detroit. My only notion of the American Southwest came from watching Roadrunner cartoons. Then, early one morning late in December of that year, the El Capitan went through the Mojave Desert. It was d-r-y, yet there were little puddles beside the track that were frozen over. It was the beginning of my adjustment.

More than half a century later, I am still adjusting. Where back East, rain was a frequent occurrence, here it was rare, though occasionally tumultuous. In our last rain, some 17 people in Santa Barbara County were buried in mudslides when a heavy rain hit an area that had been affected by the Thomas Fire.

If you have never been “Out West,” you won’t get the picture over a short weekend. There is an element of time in the deserts of this Earth that has to be experienced. It’s not like Woody Allen breezing into town and complaining about mashed yeast and the legality of making right turns at stoplights. Experiencing L.A. will probably involve some discomfort. This ain’t no Paradise, nor yet is it Valhalla.

Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park

What helps is to travel around the Southwest to see the variety of strange scenery, from the Grand Canyon to many of the other National Parks—one vastly different from the other.

After all these years, I’m just getting started on the road to understanding what life here is all about.


The Most Scenic Highway in America

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

Of all the road trips I have ever taken in the Western United States, the most spectacular is Utah Route 12, which runs from a point along U.S. 89 between Hatch and Panguitch to the town of Torrey. Along the way, you will find Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a scenic stretch known as “The Hogback,” Anasazi State Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Nowhere else in the U.S. will you find 122 miles of concentrated scenic beauty equivalent to what you will find here. And, what is more, you are within hailing distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and Hovenweep National Monument.

Below is a map of the route:

Map of Utah Scenic Byway 12

Map of Utah Scenic Byway 12

For the full detail, you can consult a 23-page Adobe Acrobat PDF file by clicking here. In it, you will find that I left out at least half of your destination options.

Martine and I took this highway about six years ago. We considered it probably one of our best trips within the U.S., and certainly the best in the Southwest. Along the way, we visited several other National Parks and Monuments and tourist sites, including a spectacular museum of taxidermy (of all things) just outside of Bryce. We even stopped to see the “original” London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.