By John Finley
Song writer Todd Grischke said it best. “The dirt road ends now at the edge of the highway, but if you look hard you can see for years. It carried the loads and it carried the weight, it witnessed suffering that allowed us to stay.”
As a photographer I love a good dirt road. When you first stop and look at one, they appear a little foreboding. What may be down there, where does it go, is it safe to drive. But a good explorer will always turn the wheel and drive into the unknown. Dirt roads are wonderful and provide a picture into the marvelous world of rural American and all the images that this can provide. Some of the interesting dirt roads I have found; Northern Maine with thick forest, small ponds and moose, Vermont with old farms and barns, forest and Beaver ponds, and Florida dirt roads through mangroves to view birds and bird of prey. Nantucket Island dirt roads travel through miles of moors and heather. Montana and Wyoming dirt roads take you over great mountain ranges, some interesting ghost towns and an abundance of wildlife. In South Dakota you will find exciting roads through the badlands and very narrow canyons in the Black Hills.
The dirt roads around Mt Rainer in Washington take you to incredible mountain meadows, cloudy, foggy, misty peaks, deep rain forest and rushing rivers and streams. In New York’s Adirondacks, the roads deliver you to some of the most beautiful small lakes anywhere. Kansas dirt roads go for miles and miles providing a glimpse of rural America. The dirt road over the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming will give travelers a day of wondrous sights.
There are many, many dirt roads in New Mexico that take you to Indian ruins, colorful deserts, wild horse herds and blizzards in the mountains in October. One of my most memorable roads took me high into the Rockies of Colorado only to end over-looking large mountain peaks. Suddenly dark clouds moved in and the thunder roared and echoed throughout the range. It made me realize how small I was. I returned to my car, a bit frightened. It does not matter where you live or travel; seek out the dirt roads that still crisscross our country providing exceptional views of nature, rural life and often, wildlife. I have always found a moose here, an elk there, a bear over there and once a lost old graveyard with a resident Barred Owl.
Every state, every county in that state will have a few good dirt roads where adventure awaits. Get out, take a drive and partake in the beauty of a dirt road going out into the unknown. Don’t be afraid, just turn the wheel.