On a long and winding road | AspenTimes.com

On a long and winding road

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The Oregon coast beacons from below while on a hillside hike.
Scott Condon/scondon@aspentimes.com |

I just completed a grand tour of the West and Northwest that was the kind of trip I dreamed about while staring at the map as a kid growing up in Iowa.

I went with my daughter and a friend of hers on a journey that featured an exhausting two-day bike ride between Seattle and Portland, hikes around spectacular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, a trip-defining jaunt along an Oregon coast hillside and beach and forays into the heart of the Northwest’s two signature cities. The generosity of a friend enabled us to see an outdoor concert by Paul McCartney, who shows no signs of slowing down at age 71.

It was one of those vacations you don’t want to end.

I love seeing the vast spaces and majestic places of the western U.S., so I didn’t even mind the driving. And drive we did, putting 3,400 miles on my Subaru through six states. Four of the 12 days we were gone were devoted solely to traveling to and fro. We took the most direct route out, going through southern Idaho, northeastern Oregon and south-central Washington. Nothing against Yakima and Boise, but we were determined not to take that route again. We sacrificed time for a change of scenery on the way back. We cut across Washington and into the panhandle of Idaho, stayed overnight at Butte, Mont., and then on the last day headed south through Pocatello to Salt Lake City. Yes, it was longer, but it was well worth it.

Spokane to Butte featured spectacular scenery that fueled my visions of the Old West’s intrepid explorers, cowboys, ranchers and lumberjacks. We saw helicopters emptying buckets of water on a nasty wildfire just east of St. Regis, Mont.

Soaking in all the scenery made us realize how lucky we are to live in the West, a feeling punctuated while pulling into the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley.