Once in the great time of American Transcendentalism-and later glorified by Aerosmith in the 90s- the renowned Henry David Thoreau claimed that, life is a journey not a destination. As a writer, over-analytical lit snob, and cliché-hating travel junkie, I asked myself, Self? Are they on to something? The idiom remains the homage to those who claim to appreciate the tunnel rather than the light, the scrapes and bruises rather than the victory, the sex rather than the orgasm ( I call bull s@#% on the latter). If people do, in fact, live by this endearing cliché, why plan a vacation around where one wants to end up, but rather ensure that the journey in route is half the fun?
So as far as clichés go, Im going to beat this dead horse. The following are some of my favorite American Northwest routes, proving that maybe life can, in fact, be about the journey and not the destination:
Start Point: Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
Final Destination: Devils Thumb, Wyoming
THE DETOUR: WY 111
How Much Time Does it Add? 13 min./ 2 hr 32 min vs. 2 hr. 45 min.
Who Recommended This Route to Me? A local climber sitting next to me at a bar (The Mangy Moose) in Hill City, SD over a beer served by a bartender with a parental advisory belt buckle and no fat chicks allowed tattoo.
The traditional route from Black Hills National Park to Devils Tower will vary depending on the starting point within the large park, but typically Google Maps or the travelers handy Garmin will map out 385 N to I 90W to W 14. My suggestion is to exit I 90W at WY 111 and go from there. The time-savvy, schedule-loving, up-tight and destination-obsessed traveler might ask:
Why the detour?
Heres why… This is pure Wyoming countryside with rolling green hills, cows, horses, golden wheat fields and an open sky. While the actual time difference is only 13 minutes longer, we stopped so many times for pictures, a cold drink in a small town, or to peruse a trading post, the drive took us hours. No distractions, Quik Marts, Billboards, or golden arches. Pure escape. The road trip would not have been the same without this day. Simple, free, and well worth it.
Towns you`ll pass through: Alva (population 50) Hulett (population 440) Aladdin . (population 376)
Start Point: Seattle, Washington
End Point: Vancouver, BC
THE DETOUR: Chuckanut Drive (WA 11 instead of taking I-5 all the way)
How Much Time Will it Add? 19 min./ 2 hr. 43 min vs. 2 hr. 24 min
Who Recommended this Route to Me? An Alaskan boat captain with an obsession with whale dialects and flamenco guitar, who thinks swimming naked in ice cold-glacier pools is perfectly normal but owning a T.V. will kill you.
Anyhow, this is a short detour from I-5. While heading North on I-5, take WA-11 (exit 231) toward Bow-Edison just North of Burlington. It will reconnect with I-5 in Fairhaven after about 85 miles.
Why the detour?
Lets assume there is a fork in the road and both end up in the same place. One is boring and congested, while the other runs almost entirely alongside beautiful bays and coves, farm land, and state parks. Youre catching on, I can feel it. Chuckanut Drive winds through Larrabee State Park and the Chuckanut Mountains on the East, and Samish and Chuckanut Bay on the West. There are a number of picnic spots to pull off and enjoy the view of the San Juan Islands, antique stores, restaurants, and for those not in any big rush, a number of bed and breakfasts.
Start Point: Banff, Alberta, Canada
End Point: Jasper, Alberta, Canada
THE DETOUR: Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) instead of HW 1
How Much Time Will it Add? 14 min./ 3 hr 48 min. vs.3 hr 34 min. (182 miles vs. 183 miles)
Who Recommended this Route to Me? The friendly lady at the Banff Travel/Tourism Center
Why the detour?
Because the detour is the whole reason for the trip. Not that I wouldnt recommend visiting the lovely town of Jasper, but it sure must help tourism having one of the most scenic routes Ive ever experienced running straight to the city.
Icefields Parkway runs parallel to HW 1 and connects Lake Louise and the town of Jasper. It runs through the snow topped Canadian Rockies and boasts Louise Lake, Moraine Lake, and Athabasca Glacier among many more. Go with a full gas tank, because as far as I can remember, roadside conveniences have no place here (I recall peeing in the woods once). As much as Id love to shower my readers with a slew of favorite travel writer adjectives exalting the beauty of this scenic route- tranquil, vibrant, rugged, transcendent, substantial, and very blue all come to mind-Ill humble myself by stating that its just hard to put into words. Make sure the camera battery is charged, pack a nice lunch, and keep a look out for wildlife.
In retrospect it seems that many of my travel memories occur between destinations, yes on the journey. And, as much as I love poking fun at clichés-especially ones eternalized by Stephen Tyler, Im not sure I can speak on the grand scale of life, but I can attest to a cliché that encourages a detour and embraces a journey on a vacation.
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Beth Yost is a twenty-something single female traveling the world the way the boys get to do it. In a world of traveling couples and vagabond boys.