A Sister-Bonding Road Trip Around The Western U.S.

I will be the first to say that I love road trips. It is the perfect way to more deeply explore an area, region or country. It really lets you connect, especially when you’re spending nearly every night outside, under the stars, like we were. There’s no one I would have wanted to be holed up in a car/tent with for two weeks, more than my very own sister. I realize just how lucky I am to have a sister who also happens to be my best friend. The trip really wouldn’t have been the same were I traveling with any one else. We’re already planning our next adventure!

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I met her in Denver to begin the first leg of our trip. We woke up at 4:30am the first day to prepare for an almost 12 hour drive to the north end of Yellowstone National Park. We were determined to make it there before dark, giving us time to set up our campsite, and allowing for various stops along the way (gas, food, pictures, just because). While each stop on our route was momentous, it was the turnouts, pull offs and detours that really made the trek extra special. Finding forgotten homes built inside rocks, canyons within agricultural fields, and rivers to dip our toes in made driving at least 6 hours every day tolerable, if not enjoyable. These stops gave me a chance to spend time discovering places like Hebgen and Ennis Lakes in Montana – places I look forward to visiting again.

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The temperatures rose everyday. By the time we made it to the halfway point in our trip, the mercury levels were consistently hitting 100F or higher. By the time we made it to our final destination in Moab, Utah, the temperature was sitting at 106F. Even with the A/C in our car blasting, we still felt the need to pull over to Every. Single. Lake we passed by (or drove out of the way to) for a quick swim. We were in the water so often, our bathing suits quite literally became our mainstay clothes. It was the first thing we put on in the morning because we knew, waking up to temps over 80F, diving into ice cold alpine lakes was the only thing that would be on our minds. Well, that and how much longer until the coffee is brewed.

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It wasn’t difficult to separate job duties, seeing as my sister is a fairly seasoned camper, and I work in restaurants. Naturally, she would set up camp (and usually help start the fire), and I would cook, wash dishes, and clean out the cooler. After the first few days, either one of us could set up or break down camp by ourselves, and in record time. We only took the bare essentials out of the car, and packed as much as possible the night before, so we could get on the road early the next day.

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As far as cooking goes, I highly recommend to do some major meal prep before you leave, especially if you’re not planning on staying one place. A package of tortillas became a lifesaver. From breakfast burritos, to everyday burritos, we basically wrapped all our food up in a fire kissed tortilla. We prepped lots of brown rice, black beans, corn, and roasted chicken breasts, that produced several tasty meals for us. Bacon and egg sandwiches were another perfect protein-packed breakfast. Of course, there was coffee. Lots of coffee. It was really the only thing that got me out of bed. Being the intelligent adventurer that my sister is, she brought a little butane stove and cook set that made making coffee in the morning so easy – no need to start a fire. The best part about meal prep and planning was that we never stopped for fast food or even gas station food the entire trip. We had snacks (almonds, carrots and hummus, and organic gummy bears for my sister) ready to go for when we got a little too hangry. The only stops we made were for gas, coffee, and restrooms.

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I still can’t believe the different terrain we saw. I feel like I’ve seen every type of mountain, hill, grassland, lake and river. Our wildlife checklists seemed to fill up pretty quick as well – bison, elk, antelope, rattlesnakes, bald eagles…

 Our trip course was: Denver, CO – Grand Tetons & Yellowstone, WY – Big Sky, MT – Lolo National Forest, ID – Yakima Valley, WA – Whitman Wallowa National Forest, OR – Lucky Peak, ID – Wasatch National Forest, UT – Moab, UT – Denver, CO

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I was most surprised by how much I loved staying on the Lochsa River in the Lolo National Forest in northern Idaho. It’s about an hour drive from downtown Missoula, MT, and feels like you’ve been lost in the forest for days. The trees around our campsite were massive, at around 90-100ft tall. We found river access to the Lochsa, and sat on the rocks just off shore for hours watching the sunset. About every half hour I’d look at my sister and say, “I feel like we’re inside National Geographic.” It was an incredible experience and one that I was not expecting. Moab was another one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip. Read about all of my favorite desert details here.

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