Struck by Southwestern beauty
It's okay if this stormy shot stirs your spirit with holy awe: They call this wind-carved edifice Church Rock for a reason. Surrounded by an enchanting Southwestern landscape, it's a sight that almost invites you to get lost out here—and if you look at a map of these parts, you'll see that's not too hard.
We're in the 'checkerboard' region of western New Mexico, where patchwork borders separate sovereign Navajo Nation grounds and private land from that administered by an alphabet soup of federal, state, and local agencies. (For its part, Church Rock was the crown jewel of a state park before it was returned to the Navajo in 1989, while the city of Gallup now maintains the nearby parkland.) Maybe it's simpler to think in terms of a more ancient boundary line: The Great Continental Divide, marking the border between North America's Atlantic- and Pacific-destined waters, crosses Route 66 just east of the checkerboard.
A rock in a wild place
Here in the high desert of Central Oregon, Smith Rock beckons rock climbers from around the world with its cliffs of tuff and basalt. Considered by many to be the birthplace of American sport climbing, it's home to nearly 2,000 climbing routes of all levels of difficulty. For those happier with their feet firmly planted on the ground, Smith Rock State Park offers the usual range of outdoor activities, including biking, hiking, and watching for wildlife including prairie falcons, golden eagles, and mule deer.