Cows don’t have hangovers, but some have rough mornings. Riding a horse across a valley dotted with junipers doused in a morning drizzle, I see one poking along with two dozen porcupine quills sticking out of its face—leftovers from an overnight tangle with a wrong local. “That’s going to be a chore, getting all those…

Biking Portland’s Icons

“The coffee isn’t delicious because of anything I do.” Liam Kenna runs a small tasting station that freckles a stark warehouse space with glazed concrete floors, an artful exhibit of historic coffeemaking tools, and a table of beakers to measure coffee pours with lablike precision. “My job as a barista is just not to mess…

Going West

“People came west to get away from the government. Now they have no place else to go, so they think of new ways of doing things.” That’s Bud Clark, the colorful ex-mayor of Portland, Oregon, talking to me recently over a Reuben sandwich at his tavern, the Goose Hollow Inn. When you go west, in…

“No problem. I’ll be up there as quick as I can get my pants on.” The morning rain has stopped and I’m standing outside a cute century-old red-plank train depot by a grain elevator in Midland, South Dakota. I’ve called one of the three seven- digit numbers listed on the depot’s handmade sign, and in…

Finding Space in the Black Hills

I’m in a wide-open field of grass. Hundreds of bugs the size of a pencil lead mark scramble across my shirt and arms. Pretty much what I asked for. “This is what the prairie used to be,” a silver-haired ranger had promised, pointing to the northeast corner of South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park—away from…

Meet Wyoming’s Bighorn

“Everything’s better in the mountains. Chicken soup, coffee with the grounds in it. It’s just better up here.” Scott Schroder has spots of gray in his big red beard, and wet pants. That’s only because he decided against waders and is walking in jeans through the knee-deep South Fork of the Tongue River. He’s leading…

The geologist hands me a homemade brownie wrapped in a clear baggie, then points across my lap and out the window. “This glacial environment makes up one of the nicer outwash plains we have. See that line of cobbles? Then a dip, and another line of cobbles? That’s where one of the braided streams went through…

I came to Estes Park, Colorado, to see purple mountain majesties, blue hollows, and flaming red alpenglow. Maybe get some taffy and a T-shirt. My guide is a marked-up copy of Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, a remarkable travelogue spun from letters the British writer wrote during her trip to Colorado…

“We bike and drink beer. And that’s pretty much it.” A barista in Fort Collins, Colorado, is describing local life here as she readies a hand-pour cup of an Ethiopian bean she calls “delicate, like a flower” (with a wink). We’re at Bean Cycle, a downtown café/printing press on a block of late 19th-century buildings…

Lyrically, “America the Beautiful” covers “sea to shining sea,” but at its heart it’s about where prairies and mountains meet. Katharine Lee Bates, a schoolteacher-poet from Massachusetts, wrote it in 1895, after a trip up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, where she looked east over the plains and soon found herself reaching for a pen.…