Official Scenic Overlooks (OSOs), as in those which our State and/or Federal government fund, build and maintain, effectively represent a place or “waypoint” from which something of significance11Something of Significance: Typically we’re talking about a natural wonder/feature which when paired with some amount of historical or geological or topographical or cultural context is interesting and therefore significant. Or, something so big and so obviously pretty in a typical, nearly-platonic and/or universal sense, it’s significant for simply existing. can be observed. OSOs exist in National Parks and State Parks, on Scenic Byways, Highways and on various rural roads throughout America. They’re called Scenic Overlooks, Lookouts, Observation Points, Overlooks, Vista Points, etc. Sometimes they’re nothing but a gravel turnout. Sometimes they’re a paved parking lot with parking spots and a gazebo-like structure for shade and to picnic under. Sometimes on a pedestal of sorts or built into a low stone wall there is historical plaque, or a map, or a diagram with information about a geological formation or the existence once, in the valley below, of an Indian Trade Route. Apparently, the only standard feature-function or common denominator among OSOs (FDA recommended vantages) is that they serve to encourage us (travelers) to stop what we’re doing for a minute, and observe something of significance, i.e. something Pretty & Important.Hey buddy, quit speeding down Going-To-The-Sun Road and check out this really big mountain we're calling Mt Oberlin. It's pretty cool it's an 8,180 foot mountain located northwest of Logan Pass in the Lewis Range in Glacier National Park. Just below it's summit, water and melting snow spill into a 492 foot waterfall called Bird Woman Falls. Anyway, you should stop.”- YJ
While Un-Official Scenic Overlooks (UOSOs) like a sudden break in the trees on a switchback half way up a mountain trail, or the top of a double-overhead boulder on the side of desert fire road, lack signage, bureaucratic validation and amenities of the concrete kind, their existence and function, while sometimes temporal and impermanent, is no less important, relevant and valid. In fact, because USOs are a found and/or user-generated situation, they can be more personal, more memorable, more rapture-producing, more conducive to nature-inspired epiphany, etc. And you get to write your own plaque.
In either case OSOs and UOSOs are an opportunity to stop, observe and consider significant (remarkable & contextualized) examples of the natural world.