If you’re already in Idaho, chances are you’ve already had your breath taken away at the hand of your surroundings. But the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, also known as Idaho State Highway 21, will make you fall in love with the Idaho landscape if you haven’t already. Beginning in Boise, the “City of Trees,” this road is carved within the Boise National Forest and the scenery here is unbelievable. Flat pastures will merge into green hills that will remind you of photos you’ve seen of the Irish countryside. The highway begins at 3,000 feet above sea level. You’ll see the Boise River, the Boise River Diversion Dam, the Lucky Peak Dam and much more on this drive. Rocky mountains, summits good for stopping and taking in the fresh air, rushing waters and densely packed Pines make this drive worth the trip. It’s best to avoid driving this route in the winter. High elevation points throughout the highway are often closed during the winter because of snow.
[flickr image via bmarmie]
The days I spent driving down U.S. Route 101 in Oregon through Highway 1 in California were some of the best days of my life. Admittedly, I was malleable for the molding. I had just gone through a breakup and was getting ready to start a summer-long tour alongside the ex. I decided to take a detour on my way from New York to California, where the tour began. I drove across the country to Seattle and then down to Portland. I went west from Portland until I hit the Pacific and then I drove south and didn’t stop driving south until I hit San Diego. I pulled over at just about every lookout and inhaled the fresh scent of pine. Hardly developed at all, the journey down the 101 and the 1 is dotted with plenty of scenic lookouts.I picked wildflowers and stretched beneath the perfect West Coast summer sun. The hills were steep and a new picture-perfect landscape seemed to await me at every turn. The waves crashed violently against the rocks below. I listened to my favorite songs on repeat and forced myself to keep my eyes on the road ahead, rather than the views of the ocean to my right. I set up a tent and camped overnight at Harris Beach State Park. I woke up shivering without care, awe struck by the beautiful ocean before me. I saw Redwood Trees for the first time in my life. I walked through them, shaded by their enormous branches, one afternoon. I crawled inside of one in disbelief. Taking the long way to California for this trip was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. The bliss that accompanied me on this route never entirely left. When I think of my happy place, I often reflect back on the images I will forever hold from this trip.
If you make this drive, stunning scenery is inescapable. You’ll pass through or beside dozens of National and State Parks and Forests. Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Humbug Mountain State Park, Prehistoric Gardens, Rogue River National Forest, Redwood National Park, Humboldt Lagoons State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Arena Rock Marine Natural Preserve, Point Reyes National Seashore, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Los Padres National Forest to name just a few.
I met up with a childhood best friend of mine a few years ago in Boston. From there we drove to an ocean-side, dog-friendly resort in Maine that we’d decided to vacation at for a few days. Before we began our drive back to Boston, we realized we had all day to kill, so we chose our route back accordingly. Highway 1 isn’t just a West Coast thing – it’s pretty great on the East Coast, too. We took US 1A alongside the Atlantic Ocean down from Maine and through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At different points in time, 1A connects with US Route 1. The names change along the way – in New Hampshire, it’s technically called NH Route 1A – but the direction is clear: follow the road that runs alongside the ocean at every given opportunity. What would have been an under 3-hour trip for us on the highway from Maine to Boston wound up taking nearly 7 hours on these small roads, but it was all for a good cause: gorgeous scenery.Cliché as it is to say, the journey is what matters, not the destination. Quintessential New England beaches and architecture make this drive worth it. Stop in any number of towns for New England staples like salt water taffy or chowder.
You’ll drive straight through Rye Harbor State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, Odiorne Point State Park, Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, Seabrook Back Dunes, Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Salem, Massachusetts.
My first drive down Highway 1, properly called State Route 1, was during the summer of 2007. My two best friends and I constructed a loft bed in our van and we took off driving down the coast… from the tip of Oregon and, eventually, down to San Diego. Images from the trip, in my mind and in my photo albums, have regularly sent me into a west coast reverie. Now that my most recent birthday is fresh under my belt, I think I spent the celebratory weekend well: driving up Highway 1 this time.
I didn’t get to go far, but the picturesque drive is one for the savoring, no matter how short. So I savored what I could get. My first attempt at driving up the Highway 1 was cut short because of flooding. When I approached the highway the second time, I nervously drove my uninsured rented car through a foot or two of moving water and I crossed my fingers, hoping that’d be the last of the flooding. And, for the most part, it was. And then I spent a day driving up the coast, trying to keep my eyes on the road.
For the sixth day in a row, incessant rain had been predicted. But the sun came instead of the rain that day and photographer Ben Britz and I drove. And we stopped to take photos. And we continued driving and stopping until the sun went down. Here are some of the photos from the trip.
Photos by Ben Britz