If you've ever had a Kerouac-inspired desire to take to the open road but need a little formal direction, National Geographic's Driving Guides to America: Pacific Northwest will motivate you to pack the car and strike out on your journey. For each of 22 long drives in 3 states--Washington, Oregon, and Alaska--National Geographic provides the itinerary, general driving directions, and highlights of sights to visit along the way. Cruise the Denali Highway through Alaska's wild interior, get your feet wet in Washington's Hoh Rain Forest ("140 inches of annual rainfall"), or gaze at the jaw-dropping awesomeness of Oregon's Hells Canyon, "the deepest gorge in the United States." The suggested routes, which include mileage, estimated trip length, and the best time of year to travel, are perfect for planning your trek and choosing where you want to stop. Brief descriptions, complete with phone numbers and business hours of the various sites, correspond to highlighted points on the maps.
Sidebars offer background and share interesting details about the sights along the mapped-out itineraries. You'll learn, for example, that the deep blue of Crater Lake "stems from the lake's exceptional clarity and depth. As light passes through clear water, it gets absorbed color by color ... Crater Lake is so deep--1,932 feet, among the deepest in the world--that every hue gets absorbed except for that radiant dark blue, which is scattered back to the surface." Complementing the text are more than 120 full-color photographs, including one of magnificent Crater Lake, which measure up to National Geographic's characteristically high standards. A full index and an appendix with contact information for motel chains and tourist boards round out the reference. Next time you get the urge to visit the rocky beaches and stunning, jagged mountains of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, grab National Geographic's Driving Guides to America: Pacific Northwest and hit the road. --Heidi Robinson