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Mt. Rainer National Park

July 27, 2015

A big highlight of the trip was finally visiting the Pacific Northwest for the first time. This was actually something on my 30 for 30 list which is a list of goals to accomplish by my 40th birthday. My introduction to this region would be through Washington state. We drove in through the eastern side of the state with the city of Spokane as my greeter to the state. After days out in the sparsely populated states of Wyoming and Montana, getting off the highway and going into a Walmart to replenish supplies was a welcome change of pace for me. While I enjoy getting into nature for a few days out of the city one of the things I came to realize is that I definitely prefer living in a city.

We met T's uncle, who is retired and travels across the country visiting national parks, in Packwood just outside of the park. Packwood is a small town that you pass through on your way into Mt. Rainier. We found an independent coffee shop that made the best white chocolate frappe I've ever had  in my life. If you are ever in Packwood check out Butter Butte Coffee Company.

We spent 2 days camping in the nearby national forest (which are super dog friendly) and I swear my dog was in heaven with his first time camping. Compared to the campsite we had in Glacier this one was an upgrade for sure with a location right by the river. Mt. Rainer National Park is the the most glaciated park in the mainland United States. It also has an active volcano and 6 major rivers. One of the highlights of this park was hiking the Paradise trail despite it being foggy and a little chilly. This part of the park is filled with beautiful wildflowers and is just so peaceful. The Paradise area has its own visitor center that warrants a visit when you are at Mt. Rainer. This was definitely a great place to kickstart the Pacific Northwest portion of the trip. Sadly I didn't get a chance to visit Seattle on this trip, but I loved the time I spent in Washington.

Glacier National Park Montana

July 20, 2015

How does one recap a trip that you have been wanting to take forever? I have been wanting to drive cross country since I was a middle schooler watching MTV's Road Rules when it started.  I figure it will take multiple recaps with all the places we made it out to and all the photos we took. I will start with what is called one of the crown jewels of the National Parks, Glacier National Park in Montana.

One of the most memorable activities found in Glacier National Park is to drive the Going to the Sun Road which is a 50 mile road that winds through the interior of the park to showcase the raw beauty of this natural wonder. You can choose to drive this picturesque road in your own vehicle or take the Glacier Park shuttle along the road. We choose to drive it ourselves, or more specifically my husband drove it since mountain driving is something I have zero experience in. The drive is filled with breathtaking views that every American should see at least once in their lifetimes. I'll be honest with you, Montana wasn't on my travel radar until 2 summers ago when T made his first trip out there to visit his uncle and instantly fell in love with Glacier.  He came home convinced that I needed to experience this place myself and now 2 years later I got my chance.

We ended up camping for a night at the Apgar Campground inside the park. The camping aspect of this trip was a little nerve wracking for me. Before this trip the last time I attempted camping was back in high school and I ended up going home with several fire ant bites, so I was a camping newbie to put it lightly. Everything was fine until it was time to go to bed and I underestimated how cold it would get overnight in July in Northwestern Montana.  I can't imagine how harsh the winters are up there. The next day we made it out to Logan's Pass to do some day hiking. While at Logan's Pass I got to encounter wildlife first hand in of all places a parking lot. After completing the hike in Logan's Pass I walked down to the car to check on the dogs (dogs are not allowed on any Glacier trails) while the guys went to to check out the gift shop in the visitor center. I am sitting there giving water to the dogs when I hear people gasping in the parking lot that a group of rams has entered the parking lot. I look up to see tourists snapping pictures on their phones of the rams circling the parking lot. Right as my eyes become fixated on the rams my friend's dog begins to bark uncontrollably. I start to freak out not knowing if the barking will entice the rams to come explore what was the cause of all the noise. I plead Matilda to stop her barking and now my dog has started making a whine noise himself. For the next few minutes I nervously watched the rams circle through the parking lot wondering if they would stop by our car due to the dogs inside. Luckily the rams did not appear to be interested in interacting with the dogs and made their way to explore the other side of the parking lot. That would not end up being my singular wildlife encounter on the trip but it was most definitely the scariest one.

Countdown to my Pacific Northwest road trip

July 01, 2015

Less than a week from today and I will be starting my 2 week road trip across the Pacific Northwest. I'm excited for my first long road trip and seeing parts of the country brand new to me. On the travel itinerary we have South Bend, IN (a pit stop to see Notre Dame which is big in T's family), South Dakota, Montana (Glacier National Park), Mt. Rainer in Washington, Portland, Oregon coast and Colorado. If any of you have recommendations on any of these places, please feel free to share.

In previous road trips my favorite thing to do is putting together a road trip playlist. Good music is essential to a quality road trip. From my college days road trip to now here are some of my favorite songs to listen to while in the car for a long trip.

Rusted Root- Send Me on My Way - This is one of those songs I played often on the four hour drives from Florida State to home.

Bright Eyes- Another Travelin Song- I love everything from this band. Period.

The Head and The Heart- Lost in my Mind- Great lyrics that fit perfectly for the traveling mindset.

What are some of your tips for a successful road trip?