I saw some incredible things for 282 days on the road. Met some even more incredible people. Took countless pictures of all those things and people and priceless experiences.
For this week’s #RunningTo memorial, I figured I would TRY compiling my 11 favorite Instagram images from my continental road trip. I literally looked at every single picture and picked about 50 candidates.
It was kinda devastating condensing this list to just 11 entries, but I feel good about this group. These 11 pictures carry precious stories with them, and these are the 11 images that jump out most whenever I reconsider the wandering whirl that was.
I hope you enjoy this pictographical trip down memory lane!
#11: Pinnacle Mountain | DAY 123
Little Rock, Arkansas
The one-mile hike up Little Rock’s illustriously named Pinnacle Mountain took me totally by surprise. A friend told me it’d be epic, but upon reaching the summit I had no idea innocent little Arkansas would look quite like this.
#10: Sunrise Point | DAY 42
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
I camped at Mount Rainier because that ethereal peak beckoned me closer from Seattle’s shores. It was the first time I’d ever camped out in the snow — in the middle of July, no less. One particular spot within the national park is called Sunrise Point, named for its advantageous look at Rainier. I’m so glad I woke up at 4am to hike over and catch her glowing physique.
#9: The Heidelberg Project | DAY 195
Detroit has been in rough shape for a while. Driving around the Motor City, I’d never seen a large city with so much graffiti and so many boarded buildings. But Detroit taught me you can find beauty anywhere the deeper you dig. Such was the case with an artsy residential area called The Heidelberg Project. Because if you’re dealt a hard hand, you might as well craft something uniquely beautiful from your mess.
#8: The Dubinskys | DAY 63
Los Angeles, California
A couple years ago I happened upon a blog belonging to a wanderer named Max. He’d just completed a cross-country road trip, fleeing Los Angeles in search of faith beyond church doors. By trip’s end he’d gained an epic adventure and even a wife. Max and Lauren Dubinsky were such huge inspirations for my own road trip; to stay with them and their two cats in Los Angeles was a surreal full-circle moment. I’m so grateful for their adventurous loving example, and I hope to host my own future wanderer someday.
#7: Symmes Chapel “Pretty Place” | DAY 233
Camp Greenville, South Carolina
I was in a Maryland art gallery when I saw a picture of a giant wooden cross anchored atop a majestic valley. It was a real place in South Carolina, “Pretty Place,” and I determined to find it when my road trip took me south to the Palmetto State. A few weeks later, I magically stepped into that portrait.
#6: Camp Ridgecrest | DAY 152
Ridgecrest, North Carolina
If you’ve read Struggle Central, you know how much a little place called Camp Ridgecrest impacted me. I left Camp’s gates in August 2012 teary eyed over the wild summer ride, clueless whether I’d ever return to these Blue Ridge Mountains. In October 2014, I reunited with Camp and embraced her gate’s mighty prayer all over again.
#5: Times Square | DAY 214
New York City, New York
It started as a playful idea, but within 24 hours turned into ridiculous reality. On December 31, a friend and I boarded a train from Trenton Station to Penn Station in New York and rang in the new year with a million of our most irritating friends. Waiting ten hours for that ball to drop in 29-degree Times Square was one of the longest, most miserable experiences of my life. And yet it was the perfect way for my road trip to transition from 2014 to 2015. I’ll never dare do it again, and yet I glow whenever I think back on the actuality of that event.
#4: Walnut Street Bridge | DAY 148
I have two of the greatest siblings one could have. They’re both younger than me, and they’re my heroes. Combine our blessed siblinghood with as picturesque a city as Chattanooga, and you have this awesome image. Look for our self-titled album Zuniga Tres dropping later this year.
#3: Bearden Park | DAY 231
Charlotte, North Carolina
Little did I know that standing in the shadow of Charlotte’s distinct skyline I’d be foreshadowing my future home. Actually, this picture from that rocky ledge in Bearden Park did give me a funky feeling. As the days progressed and I met some great people, I started wondering if I’d really move here upon my road trip’s conclusion. It’s fun looking back on this picture, because the secret really was with Charlotte.
#2: Grand Canyon | DAY 3
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon was the perfect christening locale for my road trip. I basked in every moment of my 7-mile hike down to the canyon floor, and I camped there overnight like Donald Miller did in Through Painted Deserts. The next morning, a fellow wanderer snapped a picture of me before trekking the 9 hard miles back up. My clean-shaven face sparks an innocence before the bulk of this road trip had yet to happen. I smile every time I look at this one.
#1: Crater Lake | DAY 55
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Not an image blazes more brilliantly in my head than this overlook of Crater Lake in southern Oregon. The beauty of Crater Lake — aside from the obvious — is the story of my arrival there. I had no idea this place even existed until several Washingtonians and Oregonians started describing it to me. The national park happened to lie directly on my southerly route back to California, so I figured why not see what all the fuss was about? I didn’t Google any images of Crater Lake or research the place at all. I kinda just showed up.
And this — this is what I saw. Without filter.
And there you have it! What a journey. Been to any of these amazing places? Do you have a personal favorite image from my road trip?