Years ago I made a list of the most scenic roads in America that I’d experienced. You have heard of most of them and been on some of them.
Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona, AZ from the north, an hour of red rock cliffs, was my clear choice for number one.
I wouldn’t argue if you chose Going to the Sun Road over Logan Pass in the south end of Glacier National Park in Montana, where a tall, thundering waterfall diminishes to a twinkling thread when seen over your shoulder at 17 miles
The Blue Ridge Parkway, the only highway that is a National Park, and its connecting companion to the north, Skyline Drive.
The highway into Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The overseas highway that flies as a magic carpet the length of the Florida Keys.
They were my five until today when, in Eastern Arizona’s Tonto Forest, they all got blown away. Along a section of the Apache Trail between Roosevelt, the settlement associated with the dam and the lake, and Tortilla Flat, is twenty-eight miles of cliffs that rival downtown Manhattan for neck-stretching verticality. Billion-year-old rock sculpted by Nature’s erosive tools into cracks and fissures and canyons. Boulders, the marbles of the gods, and caves that belonged to lions and bears not so many hundreds of years ago.
I have learned how to use the Panorama feature of my camera– like the two pix above. Photographing panoramas is the curse of the traveler. We must take pictures the size of jigsaw puzzle pieces and lose the grandeur of the vista. The setting allows you to take three adjacent pictures and then it will stitch them together for you. Still, is it merely three jigsaw pieces and they ought to be shown on a 45″ computer screen. When cameras are ready to capture the 150-degree field of human vision, we will need 18-foot curved computer screens.
Tortilla Flat was a stagecoach stop which retains its authentic look while thriving as a tourist attraction. Tortilla Flat will be the subject of another blog.
The road surface is as awful as the panorama is breathtaking—unpaved, it is the worst washboard I’ve ever asked tires to tangle with. Do the trip in the luxury a well-sprung car throttled-down to twenty miles an hour or so and experience the homogenization of your body juices. Or do it in a pickup truck if you are practicing for a rodeo event.
While much of the road is two lanes wide, there are plenty of narrow constrictions, sheer drop offs, and 180 degree switchbacks. If your driving skills are up at professional muleskinner level you might wrangle an RV over the road. I wouldn’t recommend a motorhome over 30 feet (nor a trailer over 15 feet) and expect to throttle down to less than ten mph.
However you do it, it is worth every bump and bounce.
This road is my new number one and I am sticking to it. You have your list. Care to nominate your favorite? You know me, I never met a scenic suggestion I didn’t like.