Travel, HCN-style

 

Note: This is an introduction to a special HCN magazine issue devoted to travel in the West.

My wife, Linda, and I try to avoid the expected when we travel. When our kids were young, for instance, we all vacationed for several days in Orlando, Fla., the site of Disney World. But we didn't spend a minute in the famous orchestrated amusement park. Instead, we visited the museum in the Tupperware world headquarters and perused the history of food containers.

On that trip, we also spent hours at Gatorland, a retro theme park that was like a time machine back to the 1950s. There we saw a shirtless sunburned guy "wrestle" an alligator that was half his size (even I could have pinned that poor little gator). We watched other Gatorland employees fling dead chickens into a pool of thrashing reptiles, and took snapshots of our kids climbing on the teeth of the gigantic gator-jaw sculpture.

To find quirky attractions like these, we read guidebooks and travel stories that devote a few paragraphs to travelers with our tastes. Thus, we also discovered a San Franciso Asian-fusion restaurant where the wait staff were men cross-dressing in sequined gowns, dancing on the bar while singing throaty tunes like "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend."

On a trip two months ago, Linda and I walked across a bridge over the Rio Grande and into Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua -- the drug cartel murder capital. At the Mexican end of the bridge, we met a friend who moved to Juárez for work-related reasons. He loaded us into his vehicle (travel tip: to reduce the chance that your vehicle will be stolen in Juárez, drive a rusty old pickup) and gave us a tour of the chaos, including the fortified but useless border fence. On one Juárez street, we spotted a roadblock ahead, where guys in black uniforms were doing something with automatic rifles, and our guide muttered "better turn off here" and pulled a hard left to avoid them.

In 1984, Linda and I spent our honeymoon getting blisters, backpacking in the Grand Canyon. On a recent Christmas day, with the temperature around zero degrees Fahrenheit, we drove snowmobiles into Yellowstone National Park, assessing the controversy over motorized winter travel while also enjoying the whole experience (travel tip: opt for the heated handlebar grips). On our wish list, we'd like to tour the spectacular Bakken oilfield mess.

I expect that many of you in the High Country News community also have quirky travel tastes, looking for meaningful explorations of the wild and the human condition, rather than just fun and games and getting skin cancer lying on some boring beach. So, in this second annual special travel issue of HCN, we're highlighting a wide range of unusual destinations and approaches to travel in the West.

It's worth noting that, among the writers in this issue, three are University of Montana journalism professors. Their presence indicates UM's emphasis on environmental and Native journalism, and HCN's interest in developing relationships with the West's universities.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes Land Trust, based in Bend, Oregon, seeks a collaborative and strategic Executive Director to lead us in pursuing our mission: to conserve and care...
  • DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
    Job Title: Development Manager Supervisor: Senior Director of Development Effective Date: May 17, 2021 Job Status: Full-time (40 hours/week), exempt Location: Within the Colorado Plateau...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Executive Director Reports To: Board of Directors Compensation: $75,000 to $80,000, plus generous benefits and paid leave. Funding for relocation expenses available. Classification:...
  • WATER DIRECTOR
    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Application review will begin on April 2, 2021 and will continue until the position has been filled....
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • VIRGINIA SPENCER DAVIS FELLOWSHIP
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is offering a fellowship for early-career journalists interested in...
  • COLORADO WILD PUBLIC LANDS VIDEO CONTEST
    Please submit your video of 30 seconds or less, taken on public lands, to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to win in one...
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...