From artists to eccentrics, UFOs to the nation's best hamburger joint, the West is filled with surprises. Follow Peter Fish down the back roads

Peter Fish,  – September 16, 2008

Dine in heaven’s kitchen
Great food is a regular pleasure in Yountville,California.

Christmas Tree Lane
December2007: In Fresno, California, the spirit of Christmas triumphsonce again.

100 years of hamburgers
November2007: Hudsons Hamburgers celebrates a century of Huddyburgersin Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

In the swim in Hawaii
October2007: Get wet in Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa’sWailea Canyon Activity Pool.

Flowers for Alcatraz
September2007: In the middle of the San Francisco Bay, visitors canexplore the gentler history of the world’s most famous prison.

The lost tree
July2007: Eucalyptus on display in Santa Rosa, California.

To market in Seattle, WA
June2007: Pike Place celebrates 100 years in business.

San Diego: a city of canyonlands
April2007: Besides beaches and pandas San Diego also offerscanyons.

Defending our Pluto
February2007: A visit to Flagstaff, Arizona’s Lowell Observatory, wherethe (former) planet was discovered.

Christmas Tree, USA
December2006: No matter where you find your Christmas tree, chances areit came from Clackamas County, Oregon.

Wine country’s roots
November2006: Toasting Sonoma, where wine country began.

A light on the Oregon coast
October2006: Lighthouse after lighthouse has gone dark. But not theUmpqua River Lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Its story is a uniqueone.

Jump in, the sand’s fine
September2006: No ocean? No problem. Learn to scuba dive in the middleof the Great Salt Lake Desert.

Maynard Dixon and the West
August2006: Through magazine covers and a rich portfolio ofpaintings, Maynard Dixon’s view of the American West became ourown.

The wonder of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings
July2006: You may think you’ve visited Mesa Verde National Park, soubiquitous are its cliff dwellings in textbooks and museumdioramas. You imagine you won’t be awestruck when you see them inperson. You’re wrong.

Open space: an endangered species
June2006: California’s Tejon Pass ― and wide-open spaces likeit ― may be as endangered as the condors that call ithome.

Eichler redux
May 2006:Rebirth of the cool: Eichler architecture returns topopularity.

Chaparral gets no respect
April2006: When it comes to California flora, the world lovesredwoods and palm trees, but not chaparral. That is a shame.

Brokeback Mountain mystique
March2006: You can’t find Brokeback Mountain, the setting of theacclaimed movie, on any Wyoming map. But there is nowhere elsewhere it could have been set.

Salt goes upscale
February2006: Salt isn’t just salt anymore, and a Utah salt mine ispoised to take advantage of that fact.

The fine wines of New Mexico
January2006: Amid the yucca of New Mexico lurk Chardonnay and PinotNoir grapevines, destined to yield sparkling wines from the mostunlikely of places.

Meditation in the mountains
December2005: Jumping on the meditation bandwagon, at one of themovement’s hot spots in Colorado.

The road not traveled
November2005: You can get to Juneau by ferry or airplane, by kayak orhelicopter. But you cannot get to Juneau by RV or car ― atleast not yet.

Bozeman’s je ne sais quoi
October2005: What makes a town suddenly hot? Whatever it is, Bozeman,Montana, has it.

Hawaii’s Lost hot spot
September2005: It’s easy to get lost in the lore of Kualoa Ranch, one ofthe Hawaii locations for the TV series Lost.

The wolf in the west
August2005: Our complex relationship with the wolf.

Water, the ultimate Vegas show
July2005: In Las Vegas, water is used like a magician’s cape or ashowgirl’s spangles: It teases, it seduces, it fools.

Rev up the combine
June2005: America has always loved its internal-combustionvehicles. Flip through your cable channels and here they come: Monster Garage! American Chopper! Pimp My Ride! But theseare nothing compared to the live, in-your-face spectacle that isLind, Washington, which might be called Pimp My Combine or Mad Max Meets Old MacDonald.

Oh! Alpaca!
May 2005:Good-bye, ostrich! ¡Vaya con dios, llama! The alpaca is the exoticlivestock of tomorrow, conquering the world through sheer cuteappeal.

A Sideways look at the Santa Ynez Valley
April2005: Paradise viewed Sideways: the Santa Ynez Valley’s wine country

Get the spa treatment in Scottsdale
March2005: America has spawned the spa nation. And if one place canbe crowned capital of spa nation, it’s Scottsdale, Arizona.

Love, luck and Vegas
February2005: Las Vegas, the city built on luck, may be the perfectplace for a wedding. Isn’t a successful marriage the biggestjackpot of all?

A humorous view of the aquatic world
January2005: Ray Troll is famous, in a certain way. If you’ve evervisited Alaska, you’ve probably seen Troll’s works: brilliant,funny, eerie depictions of the watery natural world.

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