USA: Road Trip Through The Scenic North West, Part I
In June of 2016, I have decided to go and explore more of the western coast of the United States. I have already been to some of the southwestern states, so this time I wanted to see what the northern part had to offer. My main focus was to visit several national parks and to go on as many hikes as possible. I also wanted to stop in certain cities along the way so that I could visit some of my local friends and get supplies for camping. I planned my route carefully beforehand and the overall statistics were jaw-dropping: if I wanted to make the most out of this trip and visit everything I intended, I would have to drive over 4,000 miles with a rental car through five states in two weeks – by myself.
Even though I was a little scared, I have decided to take up the challenge for the sake of adventure. But if I wanted to make sure that I would enjoy this trip and not worry too much, I had to plan ahead as accurately as possible. Obviously my main problem was limited budget, as I didn’t have the luxury of sharing the costs with anyone else. Before you start wondering – yes, I did try to find someone to go on this trip with me. I had some promising offers, but they all went down the drain. So I had no choice but to try and make it on my own. I was living in England and working as a Housekeeping Supervisor for a four star hotel at the time and I was also saving up for a long-term stay in New Zealand, so I had to figure out a way how to cut costs.
Doing the Math
The cheapest flight ticket from London I found got me as far as Vancouver, so I had to figure out a way how to get to Seattle effectively. I probably looked up every type of travel imaginable, but the best one still turned out to be a bus going from the Pacific Train Station to the train station in Seattle. The only downfall to that was that I had to pay a taxi from the airport, because I didn’t have enough time during the transfer to use public transport. I booked the cheapest hostel in Seattle that I could find, which had a convenient location close to the train station where I would arrive, and it was also within walking distance of the car rental place. The hostel turned out to be very nice and I would recommend it to anyone – it’s called Hostelling International. The car rental place I chose was offering amazing prices for an economy car compared to booking it directly from the airport in Vancouver, which is why I preferred not to get the car straight away and save some money instead, although it would obviously be a lot quicker to go straight from Vancouver to Seattle by car, but that’s just one of the many compromises I had to make. After I summed up these costs along with personal allowance, the total cost of the holiday ended up being around £1,200.
Ready For Take-Off
After some last minute touches, I was finally ready to get on the plane and embark on my adventure. I arrived to the hostel and the next day I went to pick up the car. According to my booking I was expecting something small like a Kia Rio, but when I saw that they pulled a gorgeous beast of a car called Chrysler 200 in front of me, the only words I could mutter out were: “Oh my god, is that mine?!” Coming from a middle class European family, I have never even seen a car like that before. It took me five minutes before I figured out how to turn the engine on. After that I went to pick up my bags from the hostel and I was finally on my way.
On The Road
My first stop after Seattle was Mount Rainier National Park. The main attraction there is a massive supervolcano called (surprisingly) Mount Rainier, which can be seen from Seattle on a clear day. I was excited to see it with my own eyes, as the pictures of the mountain surrounded by colorful meadows looked absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, the weather there during that time of the year is still quite cold, so I woke up to a fresh layer of snow after my first night of camping. I hastily put my tent back in the car and I went on my first hike. Seeing as the higher elevations were still covered in a lot of snow, I chose a short hike to Comet Falls to familiarize myself with the conditions of the terrain. It was misty and the air was very humid. It took me around 45 minutes to reach the falls. My journey on the trail was quite uneventful, but I managed to get a glimpse of a pika peering out of a rocky pile next to the road. Even though I was highly skeptical if I would even be able to see anything during this weather, I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw an absolutely enchanting waterfall stretching down from a tall cliff side in front of me. It was sitting in a small valley surrounded by snow-covered trees with a narrow stream passing through a rocky ravine. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it, it had that magical winter atmosphere to it and I simply couldn’t get enough. After thorough documentation, I turned back to my car. I was the first person to hike the trail that day.
Next Stop: Paradise
After the hike, I decided to try my luck and go to a place called Paradise, which has a visitor center sitting right at the foothill of the volcano. Soon after I started reaching a higher elevation, I realized that my luck was not with me that day. The clouds were hanging very low and I could only see the base of the volcano. On top of that, it also started to snow again. Slightly disappointed, I went inside the visitor center to look at the exhibits and then I pressed onward. I stopped at two other places before getting to the conclusion that early June was simply not a good time to visit the park. I gave myself a promise that I would return here again one day, but a lot further into summer. I turned on my GPS and typed in my next destination: the Sawtooth mountain range in Idaho. You see, I’m a bit of a mounthusiast – a mountain enthusiast, someone who feels drawn to the mountains, but lacks the physical stamina of being allowed to call themselves a mountaineer. If you would like to follow me on my adventure and read about other places with breathtaking scenery such as the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, keep your eyes peeled for part two of my road trip through the northwestern US.
Continue reading Part II here -> USA: Road Trip Through the Scenic North West, Part II