by Rachel Figley
My younger sister and I spent 6 months researching, planning, and paying for an amazing trip to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Precisely 2 days before we were scheduled to fly out, BC went up in flames, along with all of our plans and the money spent on non-refundable tickets, reservations, and parks passes.
We kept our flight into Seattle, bought flights out of Denver for the following week, and just wung it in between. Here's what we learned:
1. Dropping a rental car off 3 states away from where you picked it up is unbelievably expensive.
Apparently, they'd prefer you don't drive their brand new 2018 vehicle through back roads in the mountains. So they charge you the equivalent of what I recently traded in my 2008 Dodge Caliber for. (Spoiler: we got it back without a scratch. Or at least not any that were noticeable.)
2. Park Passes are free for active U.S. Military
Unfortunately, we didn't find this out until after paying the $80 for our pass but hey, we love our parks and are happy to support them.
3. Beach camping on the Pacific is kind of a cool thing.
A Seattlite recommended we spend a couple days exploring the Olympic Peninsula and camp out on La Push beach. We parked and hiked a brief hike to the edge of the beach where we had to crawl over and around very large logs with 70L packs. I wasn't very good at it, but I survived.
The beach itself was gorgeous with massive rock structures, a sunset over the ocean, and even a couple poles someone had set up for hammocks. They didn't actually hold us but it made for a great photo before collapsing to the ground.
4. There are rainforests in the US of A.
Actual rainforests! The plants were amazing and the trees were ginormous. Pictures don't do justice, you just have to go see it.
5. The 2018 Rav4 hates winding roads.
Our entire trip was through beautiful winding mountain roads. I loved driving them except that anytime I'd drift over the center or right line, the rental car angrily beeped at me. Listen, I'm a pretty great driver. This car just needed to chill and I tried every day of our 7-day drive to figure out how to turn that damn beep off so I didn't have to listen to it judging my every decision.
6. Everyone should own an Atlas.
We figured out that you don't usually have cell service on remote mountain roads so after driving 45 minutes in the wrong direction, we took screenshots of our routes and decided to rely on our Atlas instead of our phones.
7. Idaho is my new favorite state.
First of all, I have a thing for potatoes.
Second, Sawtooth, Idaho is one of the most awesome places I've ever seen. Driving along winding roads (the beep is drowned out a bit with the windows down), no evidence of civilization in sight, a crystal-clear river keeping pace with us, a tight bend to the left and BAM there's a rock wall 100 feet in front of the car. Absolutely terrifying but so awesome once you realize you should probably drive under 70.
7. If you're going to sleep at the top of a mountain, don't leave your blanket in the car.
We'd originally planned to hike to Sawtooth Lake, but the trail was shut due to—you guessed it—a recent fire. So we settled for Alice Lake instead, and she did not disappoint. 1600-foot elevation, 6 miles, and 2 hours later, we stepped out onto the shore of a crystal-clear lake. We strung up our hammocks and spent the rest of the evening swinging in a light breeze and complete silence save for the occasional creature rustling nearby. It was perfect.
It was at about 8 pm and 42° that I found that I'd forgotten my blanket. My sleeping back was rated for 35°. The low for the night was 28°. I was nervous. So I layered. Luckily, I survived the night.
8. Tattoos are a great souvenir.
After an epic week of wandering aimlessly through the west, we googled local tattoo parlors and sealed the memory with matching ink.
All in all, I'd call this sister trip a success. And I'd highly recommend Southwestern Idaho for your next adventure.