American roadtrip

ESPN Outdoors photographer James Overstreet frequently travels across the country to cover fishing, hunting and other outdoors events. Heading out to California for the recent western swing of the Bassmaster Elite Series, Overstreet stopped along the way to document the journey.

Somewhere near Mile 2,700 on my trip to California, I stood shoulder to shoulder with 20 people, eyes straight ahead, nobody speaking a word.

As we shared the stunning "Tunnel View" of Yosemite Valley, there were no words needed, there were none that would suffice.

This was one of those rare events when human beings share a collective moment of reverence. It didn't matter that we were from Asia, Europe, Montana, New Jersey and Arkansas. That place of great beauty on this earth belonged to all of us.

I quietly set up my tripod and camera, knowing this was another impossible task. Not unlike my previous futile efforts along the way to capture a worthy image of the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park or Monument Valley.

I remember several times thinking landscape photographers must be a miserable lot. I'll take my task of capturing men catching fish, ducks taking flight or lumberjacks with loud chain saws any day over the frustration they must suffer.

You can't bend over a camera, stare through a viewfinder and aptly record the feeling of awe while standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or the feeling of small while standing under a 300-foot redwood tree.

But given the choice, these moments of futility are why I rarely fly to events. I want to see America, and you'll never see it from 30,000 feet in an airplane.

Matter of fact, you can rarely see it by following the blue lines on a map that mark the interstates. The small black and red lines on the map are where the natural wonders and the great beauty of our country reside.

It's easy to know when your travels take you to one of those reverent places. Try explaining what you have witnessed to your spouse or a friend when you call home at night. The words won't come. Then you'll know.

Naturalist John Muir said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

Maybe each of us is meant to be inspired by these places in a very individual way, and only by being there.

The resulting photo gallery is a sampling of more than 4,000 plunges of the shutter button from my cameras. Not one of them suffices. Similar to the words, they could never describe the America I have seen.