Today I am going into the magical west and possibly never returning. Just kidding. Sort of. The seeds for this trip were planted around a year ago when I heard one of my besties decided to go and get married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which in itself has been on my travel bucket list for a while. I haven’t spent much time northwest of Telluride, CO except for California, so I knew immediately I wanted to make an actual trip out of it. I knew I wanted to see as much as possible while out there before the wedding. Enter: the fascinating world of car (SUV) camping. I toyed with the idea of going alone for a few months after asking friends and getting no takers. Then, one day someone walked into my life that likes quirky travel as much as I do, has unlimited vacation days, and has much more camping and hiking experience than me. Jackpot. (Thank you, Universe.) I pitched him my aggressive itinerary and he didn’t even think twice. So today is the day (and we may be insane, we will see) that the details have settled nicely, and it’s looking something like the below itinerary after flying into Salt Lake City from KC tonight. It also just so happens that the National Parks are turning 100 this year, and I love birthday celebrations. Basically, I’m picturing this trip as one big SUV camping-trail hiking-mountain viewing-Western clothes wearing- extravaganza party. I plan to fully document this crazy western journey so follow along on @watchusroam ‘s Instagram if you want! (You should.)
– Day 1: Drive to Arches National Park in Southern Utah. Hike the natural arches all day, then camp night one in the Devil’s Garden campground inside the park. Enjoy the uninhibited night sky over the desert.
– Day 2: Drive to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho and enjoy the hot springs in the evening. This night we are cheating on our SUV by staying in an old tiny minor’s AirBnB cabin nestled into the side of a mountain, in an old mining camp turned into a goat farm near the natural hot springs. Aka quite possibly my heaven. I couldn’t pass it up.
– Day 3: Drive to an undisclosed location East of Yellowstone’s boundary to spend a night with a real live cowboy and his wife and go on quite possibly the best trail ride of our life. It’s a long story, but I got lucky when I got the number of Val Geissler, one of the stars of the amazing documentary, Unbranded. If you haven’t seen it, go do that immediately. This day still doesn’t seem like real life. I. Can’t. Wait.
– Day 4: Drive into Yellowstone. Camp the night in the Bay Bridge, Yellowstone campground and hike all the things.
– Day 5: Hike and soak in as much wildlife as we can around Yellowstone, then drive to Jackson Hole, Wyoming that evening to the wonderful lodge we are sharing with five of my sorority sisters and their dates.
– The next 6 days will be spent exploring the Grand Tetons, Southern Yellowstone, and the Jackson area, hiking, telling jokes around campfires, taking so many pictures my eye cramps from squinting through my viewfinder, sipping cocktails with friends, dancing, wearing our best fancy Western wear, and sending a beautiful best friend couple into wedding bliss. As we make our way back to Salt Lake City, we plan to stop by Bear Lake just to end on a gorgeous note.
To say I’m excited is an extreme understatement. I actually have a fear I am going to love it so much in this part of the country that I will not want to come back. The West has always intrigued me. The mixture of roughness, backwoods, clean outdoor activities and lifestyles, the love the people have for the land and animals, and the culture that exudes its own look. My hands are itching to feel the roughness of those red Utah rocks and I’m beyond ready to slip into a natural hot spring. The fact we get to meet and stay with Val is still blowing my mind and totally doesn’t feel real. I have so many expectations for this trip, but I feel that even the highest ones are going to be blown out of the water. The magic that this area of the country holds for me is hard for me to fully explain, and I am counting the hours until I can physically get there; touch the dirt and the land and the animals and hike the mountains that are such a huge part of what makes America great to me. And possibly throw a raging dance party for the Parks’ 100th.
Cheers to going West young women ~ Amanda