A Fall Road Trip

Roadside grasses, turning end-of-summer beige, are punctuated with blossoming wild sunflowers and goldenrods.  For a few more days just before sunset we can watch hundreds of Chimney swifts fly in from all directions, circle above the opening of their evening roost, and then disappear.  Monarchs are nectaring in waystations before their great migration to Mexico.  Fruits of the Osage oranges still cling to their life source, soon to break free and scatter beneath their canopy.

It’s time for a fall road trip.

Dalton Highway sign.  Photo by Kim

Dalton Highway sign. Photo by Kim

After exploring the Kenai peninsula and Denali National Park, last year’s late summer road trip began in Fairbanks, Alaska where sandhill cranes feed in meadows during the day and the aurora borealis keeps you awake at night.

From Fairbanks the destination was the interior of Alaska via the Dalton Highway, which crosses the wide Yukon River and heads north to the Arctic Circle, eventually leading to the spectacular Chandalar Shelf and Atigun Pass at mile marker 244, both skirting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in the rugged Brooks Range.

For almost 250 miles the Dalton Highway landscape features mountains, tundra, boreal forests, winding rivers, and of course, the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Fireweed and wild blueberries grow along the path to Finger Rock, a well-known landmark with a stunning backdrop. Another 170 miles from Atigun Pass and you’re in the North Slope region of Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, and finally the Arctic Ocean.  Getting to the “end of the road” requires additional planning as there are travel restrictions for tourists. That’s next time.

Two-lane roads beckon me north again this year, but closer to home just across the border to Nebraska City’s orchards.  A peaceful drive to the Apple House Market at Arbor Day Farm for their diverse selection of fresh-picked apples and to sample their sweet apple cider slushes is becoming an early fall tradition.

Where are you going this fall?  If you’re a spur of the moment, get in the car and take off kind of person, go for it.  If you’re a planner, explore eBooks in Overdrive or visit the Travel Neighborhood where you’ll find scenic byway resources for other states, road atlases, and regional travel materials such as the Kansas visitor guide, the popular Kansas travel bag, and Marci Penner’s 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook.

Route 66 book coverFor inspiration, sample a travelogue.  Here are some of my favorite “on the road in America” stories:

Blue Highways: A Journey into America
The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean
Route 66 Lost and Found
The Most Scenic Drives in America
Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip

As a Public Services Specialist, in addition to Reference work and serving on special project committees I enjoy promoting and coordinating nature-themed programs for adults and families. My interests include hiking trails locally and in National Parks, reading about and traveling to Alaska, Sandhill Crane migration, Monarch waystations, and volunteering as a certified K-State Extension Master Naturalist (2014-present). Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country is my all-time favorite novel.