“Undiscovered America” – an 18,000 Mile Journey

“Undiscovered America”

When we first heard about Zack’s adventure, we had to know more. Zack Frank traveled 18,000 miles across the United States to uncover the beautiful parts of America that aren’t National Parks while shooting breathtaking photos.

We had the opportunity to interview Zack and hear about his adventures around America.

Photos Courtesy of: Zack Frank

Travefy: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, how did you get into traveling and why did you decide to drive 18,000 miles across America?

Zack Frank: I grew up in northwest Pennsylvania, near the Allegheny National Forest, but my family also traveled constantly. My first memories are from a trip to Yellowstone, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore when I was 3 years old. Ever since I’ve been obsessed with seeing everywhere I could. I spend a lot of time visiting National Parks, but I’d also see landscapes that I thought deserved to be parks, but weren’t. Over a few years I assembled a list of places that could become National Parks and launched the Kickstarter Project “Undiscovered America” to document these lesser-known natural wonders.

Wind River Range, Wyoming, USA

Travefy: What was the most amazing place you saw?

Zack: The Wind River Range of mountains in western Wyoming. The highlight of the area is a valley that rivals Yosemite in grandeur, although few people even know it exists. Square Top Mountian is El Capitain of this valley, and towers over the forests, hills and lakes below. In addition to the valley the range also boasts glaciers, rock formations, and abundant wildlife that stretches 100 miles along the surrounding prairies. Currently most of the range is managed as part of Bridger-Teton National Forest.

White Sands, New Mexico, USA

Travefy: What state do you think is the most underrated place to visit?

Zack: New Mexico by far. The neighboring states get all the attention when it comes to dessert, mountains, history, and just about everything else. Most people only visit to see Santa Fe, but they’re really missing out. New Mexico has it’s own food and art culture, as well as the best American Indian ruins (Chaco Culture, Bandelier, Gila Cliff Dwellings), biggest caves (Carlsbad Caverns) in the United States. It also has incredible history spanning Native Americans, Spanish colonialism, westward expansion, the wild west, and modern science. White Sands, Roswell, and the Very Large Array are places I’ve fallen in love with.

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls, Washington, USA

Travefy: Did you run into any problems along the way?

Zack: Largely no. I have a traveling background and I was in the Marine Corps, so I tend to plan fairly well. The biggest problem turned out to be that if you drive on too many muddy, dirty roads you can get mud impacted on the bottom of your car and it will shake violently. It was nice though to find out the I hadn’t busted the car and instead has just been driving on too many unmaintained roads.

Silver Falls, Oregon, USA

Travefy: What was your all-time favorite photo from the entire journey?

Zack: I wouldn’t say that this is the best photo I took on the trip, Silver Falls in Oregon, one of my favorites because everything in the photo is interesting to me. It was taken in autumn so the trees are perfect, and the fog and light coming through the trees gives it a great atmosphere. Most photographers would have used a longer exposure to capture the falls in a surreal motion blur but I like the choppiness and weight of the water in it. It gives it an interesting contrast between the powerful water and the serene forest.

John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon, USA

Travefy: What was one of the best, most eye-opening experiences you’ve had while traveling?

Zack: How little time my millennial generation spends traveling and just generally being outside. In a time where my peers champion climate change and being green, most of them still live and spend all of their time in the cities. As people get older they tend to get more outdoorsy and excited about seeing natural wonders, but it’s sad that so few of us take the opportunity to visit these places while we’re young and can make the most of them.

Travefy: What’s your favorite travel accessory/gadget/item? Why?

Zack: A good multi-tool is hard not to have… It does practically everything. I also bring a GPS, phone, lighter, and flashlight when needed.

About Zack Frank

Zack Frank is a 31-year-old photographer, writer, and Smithsonian Institution videographer, who focuses on the National Park Service and American landscape.

Follow Zack at UndiscoveredAmerica.org, on Facebook, Twitter, and follow his photography here