USA: Road Trip Through the Scenic North West, Part II

This story is part two of my trip through five states in the northwestern United States. I started off in Seattle and went to do some hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, but I had to abandon my initial plans due to bad weather conditions. My next stop led me through an impressively boring part of Oregon, with miles of literally nothing apart from some brown rolling hills that went on for ages until finally disappearing into dusty brown flats dotted with bushes and shrubs. I think you can probably tell, I was not very fond of this portion of the trip. I had to drive for 9 hours to get to Boise, Idaho, where I stopped for the night and got supplies for my upcoming stay in the Sawtooth mountains. With a trunk full of goodies and a sunny forecast, I slowly started to make my way through Boise National Forest towards the Sawtooth range.

Need for Speed

At this point, I have probably driven well over a thousand miles. My GPS was responsible for a few unplanned detours and some especially scary moments, like the time when it sent me straight into a one-way road with oncoming traffic, or when I kept circling around a KFC, or when the app crashed right in the middle of a massive intersection. But in the end it always got me there. On my way to the Sawtooths, I began to grow impatient, which made me drive recklessly. I kept getting lost because there was very little signage and since it’s not a national park, it doesn’t have the entrance where they give you a map, which I hadn’t accounted for. The road was long and winding and I was already fed up with driving such a long distance by myself and listening to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’  on the radio for the hundredth time. I was also quite tired, which altogether sounds like the perfect recipe for a disaster. And it almost was. I came very close to causing a traffic accident when I was passing a car and two motorcycles while trying to make a right turn. The woman in the car wanted to report me to a ranger, but when she saw that I was alone and tired, her motherly instincts kicked in and she walked away with only advising me to take some rest. I realized how dangerous my behavior was, so I stopped at the nearest lodge to rest and ask for directions. Needless to say, this could have all been avoided if I had done that in the first place. The lesson here is: when you are driving alone for a long time, take frequent breaks every two to three hours, stay hydrated, and if you start to feel tired, just pull over. It is not worth it to risk your own or someone else’s life.

Fishhook Creek Trail

After much needed reflection, I felt very bad for losing most of the day on driving around instead of enjoying the outdoors, so I decided to go for a short evening hike. I pulled up in front of Redfish Lodge and started trudging along Fishhook creek. The bubbling stream and golden sunlight shining low through the trees felt very relaxing and calming. Unlike Mount Rainier, the weather in Idaho was already way into spring, with snow remaining only at the highest elevations. Blue wildflowers were blooming along the trail, fading gradually into tall grass as the trail winded into an old forest. I remember listening to Foo Fighters in order to keep a quick pace, as I had to make it back to the car before sunset. In less than 45 minutes, I have made it to a wide opening, giving way to a beautiful view of the mountains. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay there for long, because the opening was right next to some wetlands with swarms of mosquitoes. I took as many pictures as I could before finally escaping from their pesky stings. I managed to make it back safely before dark.

Into the Wilderness

The next day, I was prepared to spend the whole day on the trail. Since I only had a limited amount of time at each destination, I preferred to take longer trips in order to see more of the countryside. The friendly and helpful cashiers at the lodge gave me tips on some of the best hikes, and along with some reviews on the internet, I chose to hike up to Sawtooth Lake first. This hike requires a wilderness permit, which can be obtained at the beginning of the trail from a wooden box. The first part of the hike goes through a forest that slowly turns into rocky overlooks. Then it starts climbing up on a white mountainside and at the top you will get a view of the gorgeous deep-blue Alpine Lake. It is possible to take a detour which goes straight to the lake shore if you follow the sign at the fork. As I gained elevation, the rocks started to get covered in thawing snow, which made it difficult to stay on the right path. When I arrived to Sawtooth Lake, I found that it was still frozen. It was sitting in a cauldron of mountains on each side behind a small snowed up hill. I ate lunch with the presence of a curious squirrel companion and then I turned back. The snow was thick enough for me to be able to slide down in some of the steeper parts. I also stopped at Alpine Lake along the way back. The whole hike was about 9 miles long and took me under 5 hours to complete.

Sawtooth Lake

Sawtooth Lake

Around Redfish Lake

The next day, I felt confident enough to try and do a roundtrip hike instead of going one way and having to turn back again, so I decided to hike around Redfish Lake. The weather in the morning was cold and there was a light drizzle, but eventually the sun came up. I had my hiking high on and I was going as swift as a mountain goat. I took a detour to go see Bench Lakes that were only three quarters of a mile away, which proved fruitful, because I captured an amazing picture of a young deer. Yellow sunflowers were lining the trail from both sides and I had a good view of the mountains and Redfish Lake. As I got to the middle of my hike, the weather changed rapidly and suddenly I was caught in the middle of a rainstorm. The wind was very strong and cold, so I stopped at a campground by the lake and spoke to some rangers who were just servicing the public restrooms. From what they told me I gathered that it would probably be best to turn back at this point, because I have already hiked around 8 miles and there was at least another 16 more to go. Luckily, there’s a boat that takes hikers and rangers back to Redfish Lodge on the other side of the lake and they invited me for a ride with their bin bags. I went to have lunch by a nearby lily pond and waited for the boat to arrive. The lake was very choppy, which made for a thrilling ride and the rangers seemed very impressed when I told them about my adventures. After getting back to the car, I began to plan my trip to Grand Teton National Park, which you can read about in part three of my road trip round the north west of the US.

 

Part three of my roadtrip coming soon!


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