Wandering Snapshots

by Mark R. Courtney

Virtual Road Trip 2020

The summer of 2020 was tough for travel, so this is a collection of photos from past years formed into a big virtual road trip for 2020 through parts of the U.S.

The route starts in Phoenix, loops up to the Rockies and back out through Utah before heading out to the California coast. From there, it roams up to Washington and then east before finally wrapping up in Denver.

The whole thing takes a few weeks. There are no speed limits on the virtual road trip, so it covers a lot of ground and hits plenty of U.S. national sites (parks, monuments, etc.) and other scenery along the way.

Prints of some of the photos included are available for sale at my photography site.

But mostly I hope people enjoy the ride.

(This initially rolled out during the first half of September 2020 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.)

Day 1

Hitting the road! Flew into Phoenix and heading north to start the trip.

First stop is Walnut Canyon National Monument, first of several Ancestral Puebloan sites over the next few days.

Onward to Petrified Forest National Park, which is quite true to its name -- lots of petrified logs. Plus some pretty cool scenery and traces of Ancestral Puebloans. Also found a little lizard friend wandering about.

Day 2

On to Chaco Canyon, site of Ancestral Puebloan ruins. Remote but really interesting to see.

A quick swing by four corners to see where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet.

Off to end the day in Colorado.

Day 4

Now heading back west through the Rockies. Bit of travel on tap before our next major destination.

Nearing Moab and the next destination, and the Colorado River looks quite different.

Into Arches National Park! So cool and well worth spending the rest of the virtual day. Stop include Devil's Garden, the iconic Delicate Arch (from the southern viewpoint), and the Windows and Double Arch area.

Day 5

Time to wend our way through scenic Utah.

We're hitting Bryce Canyon National Park for today's dose of dramatic Utah landscapes. Views from the rim are great, but also good to hike down a bit.

Day 6

Starting the next day by heading into Zion National Park and getting out for some scenery. More water than the last few stops.

Time to make tracks down to Arizona.

Now we swing over to Grand Canyon National Park for some splendid views.

And finally wrapping up the day by heading over the Hoover Dam and up to Las Vegas.

Day 7

Kicking off the day by leaving Las Vegas behind and heading into California.

Wandering the desert at Death Valley National Park, starting at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and up to Titus Canyon. Then taking a scenic loop in the virtual car and a final stop at Badwater Basin (282 feet below sea level) before escaping the desert.

Day 8

We've explored plenty of dry territory over the past several days. Now to the coast!

Reaching the ocean at Morro Bay.

Heading up the California coast on Highway 1 is a great way to appreciate how awesome the coast is and soak up the Pacific Ocean air.

Can also take a break from the virtual road to check out some elephant seal antics. Good mix of flopping and fighting.

Tearing ourselves away from the ocean long enough to see Carmel Mission Basilica. We'll end the day in Monterey and explore there tomorrow.

Day 9

We'll start the day poking around the Pacific Grove and Monterey coast.

Okay, now we're on a boat heading out of Monterey, so not really a "road trip" at the moment, but roll with it because... There be whales here! A breaching humpback and an unexpected sighting of a blue whale in Monterey Bay.

Video of the blue whale in Monterey Bay gives just a taste of its size.

We'll wind down the day with some relaxed seals hanging out near Old Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey.

Day 10

Starting with a visit to Big Basin Redwoods State Park for some nature before heading up the peninsula.

Sticking with scenic Highway 1 as we work our way north to catch a few more coastal views.

Hey, a city! Exploring San Francisco starting on the west at Lands End, then moving a bit east to the end of the Golden Gate Bridge and creeping further along the northern edge of the city until we've looped all the way around the rim of San Francisco to end the day on the east side near downtown.

Day 11

Today we head away from the ocean and haul out to the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe, and take time for a hike up to Cascade Falls which eventually feeds into Lake Tahoe.

Rounding out the day with a visit to the town of Truckee.

Day 12

Back on the move, bidding goodbye to California with a view of Mt. Shasta.

On to Crater Lake National Park. Good views but also worth a hike down to surface level at Cleetwood Cove.

Heading back west along the Umpqua River and wasn't expecting to see elk, but here they are as we near the Oregon coast.

Ah, back at the Pacific Ocean, this time in Oregon. With the sun setting, we'll end the day here and get back to exploring in the morning.

Day 13

New day! Some exploring around Yaquina Head in Oregon before hitting the road again.

Quick detour along the Oregon side of the Columbia River to see at least one of the many waterfalls feeding into the Columbia. Then across the Columbia into Washington, with a special appearance by Mount Hood in the distance.

Next we wander into the Cascade Mountains to first check out Mount St. Helens.

Finally on to Mount Rainier National Park to find snow in summer.

Day 14

Starting the day with a bit of a tease. Only swinging through Seattle on our way east.

A stop in the Washington mountains to hang around for a while in the Bavarian-influenced Leavenworth. Leavenworth also offers a nice stroll along the Wenatchee River to stretch the legs before getting back on the virtual road.

Then onward through the expanse of eastern Washington. New state tomorrow...

Day 15

Today we head into Idaho, and briefly through western Montana (unpictured).

The drive south along the Salmon River is quite nice. Then we hop over the mountains to Idaho's Sun Valley, including a rather nerve-racking drive down an unpaved mountain road.

And if ever in Ketchum, watch out for the meeting of the Seconds. Surely an ominous nexus of something or other.

On to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and its almost surreal landscape.

Day 17

Final day! Making our way through Wyoming and into South Dakota.

A quick dip underground to check out Wind Cave National Park, which has lots of cool ceiling formations.

Home stretch through western Nebraska and flying home from the Denver airport.


Well, all that's left is some post-trip bookkeeping...

If you enjoyed Virtual Road Trip 2020 or other things posted here at Wandering Snapshots, please follow on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and spread the word, comment on your favorites, share posts, etc. Always great to hear what people think of what I'm putting out here.

For folks who like numbers: The whole trip ran about 7,000 miles through 13 states. Total driving time, not including time to actually stop and see the scenery or sleep or deal with unexpected traffic, would be about 127 hours or 5 1/4 days of just driving.

Here are some other ways to support the work at Wandering Snapshots and my photography work in general:

Hopefully next summer we can be back to road-tripping for real.

Virtual Road Trip 2020