This week Sara and I drove the northern route across the U.S. Driving is way easier than walking 3000+ miles.
My co pilot and I are in a Subaru Outback that I kind of converted into an adventure vehicle. In the back we’ve got a 3 inch think memory foam mattress topper that I cut to fit around the wheel wells, added a sheet and blanket and just like that I’ve got a rolling bedroom. We installed curtains for privacy and a roof rack cargo carrier for our extra gear.
Our plan is to take about a week to drive from Massachusetts to Washington, checking out a few new places, having some adventures, and seeing some friends. In Washington we’re going to park the car and get out onto the PCT at White Pass. Sara and I both thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in ‘15, but since there were crazy wildfires that year(and just about every year since) both of us were forced off trail in Washington. I was able to get back out there the following year to finish but Sara has about 350 miles left from White Pass to the Canadian border. If all goes well this should take about 2 weeks then we’ll hitch back to our car. From Washington we’ll drive north to Vancouver and explore some of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. We’ll then drive south through Washington and Oregon to California. There’s a bunch of things on the agenda but we haven’t quite nailed anything down yet so pretty much everything is subject to change. The only thing set in stone, so to speak, is to run a trail race on October 6th in the Bay Area. The Dick Collins Firetrails 50, anybody running it? Anyway the plan is to run and hike and train all over the place for this race, do the damn thing, then make our way back to Massachusetts.
If anybody has got any suggestions or wants to join us for something, or host us, get in touch, I’d love to see you.
We left Lynn, MA around 7:30 am and of course hit some traffic going through Boston but for the rest of the day it was smooth sailing. Originally we planned to go south of Lake Erie but about halfway through NY decided to go see Niagara Falls and reroute through Ontario into Michigan. The falls were cool, I had been there when I was 2 and they were exactly how I remembered them. Sara had been more recently and they hadn’t changed much for her either. We oohed and ahhed for about 20 minutes and were back on the road driving through Canada. Ontario was ok except that we had to wait at the border twice and get grilled about where I was born and stuff like that. Once back in the states Sara took over and drove a few hours through Michigan until we found a rest area to crash out for awhile. 869 miles, a solid first day.
I got some good sleep in that rest area and we didn’t have far to go today. Only a couple hundred miles to Rockford, IL, where we were staying with our friends Boone and Katie. Sara wanted to go for a run in Chicago so after getting out of Michigan and skimming through the NW corner of Indiana we were in the ‘Windy City’(not all that windy). We parked along Lake Michigan which looks more like an ocean and ran along the lake for awhile. After a few miles I recognized Buckingham Fountain from ‘Married with Children’ and after we saw that I wanted to go find the Bean. The Chicago Bean or ‘Cloud Gate’ is this huge sculpture in the middle of the city that serves as the backdrop for scores of dating app profiles. You’ve probably seen it. From the Bean we ran along the river walk then back along the Lake for awhile. There was a beach right near where we parked, perfect for a post run bath. After our bath we got some Chicago deep dish pizza of course. It was good and everything but it takes forever and you eat it with a knife and fork.
We got to Rockford later that afternoon and met up with our friends. Despite the pouring rain Katie gave us a mini tour of some local Rockford favorites. I saw one girl wearing a shirt that said, “Rockford doesn’t suck, you do.” It made my day. When Boone got out of work the 4 of us went for dinner and Sara and I slept in our rolling bedroom out front of their house. Rockford is a cool place, it gets a bit of a bum rap but I’ve been there a couple times now and I like it.
Today was all about the driving. We left Rockford around 7am and soon were in Wisconsin. A few hours later and we crossed the Mississippi River and entered Minnesota. Besides layovers I’ve never been to Minnesota before. We stopped at Great River Bluffs State Park and went for a run. It was cool, I don’t think I’d go out of my way for it but it was nice to get a few miles in on some nice trails and we even had a good view looking down at the river. After our run we spent the rest of the day just driving. All afternoon going across Minnesota then we crossed into another new state for me, South Dakota. SD is split in half by the Missouri River and I guess both sides of the state have an ‘Us vs Them’ attitude. I read this somewhere. We made across the river and all the way to Badlands National Park. There was a sweet spot to camp overlooking the Pinnacles section of the park in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
What a day! QB and I got up early and drove through the Badlands to the Fossil exhibit side of Castle Trailhead. Sunrise is a great time for this place, you can beat the crowds and the park looks amazing in the early morning hours. We ran out about 5-6 miles on the Castle Trail and back on the Medicine Root Trail. It was sweet! Awesome views and some nice easy flat trails. After our run we took our time driving out of the park stopping at a bunch of the scenic overlooks and stuff. Once we were back on the Interstate we stopped at the world famous Wall Drug. This place is advertised on billboards for hundreds of miles and I was excited about it, Sara however, was not impressed. It’s like miniature town or a giant gift shop, I thought it was cool. Further West we stopped at Mt Rushmore. A bit of a let down. I had wanted to see this for awhile but it just didn’t really do it for me, I think it would have been cooler if they just left the mountain alone. I wasn’t really bummed out or anything but Sara bought me an ice cream to spike my tone a little. Not far from Mt Rushmore was Custer State Park and that place had it going on! We parked there and did a run/hike up South Dakota’s High Point, Black Elk Peak. This is a relatively easy climb with rewarding views at the top. I highly recommend it. After we ran down we jumped into Sylvan Lake and took somewhat of a bath in its chilly waters.
Leaving the park we stopped in the town of Custer for some supper then made our way into Wyoming. At one point while driving through Wyo there was a massive buck standing in the middle of the road. Luckily I didn’t hit it, but it was a good reminder to keep my eyes peeled for these things. After the buck we stopped at the next rest area in Sheridan, WY and got some sleep.
We weren’t far from the Montana border thus morning and we were soon driving West down I-90 through the Big Sky State. It rained a lot while driving which was good because it cleaned a lot of the bugs off the windshield but it would be nice if this rain made it out west to take care of the wildfires. Around lunchtime we realized we were only about an hour from the northern entrance to Yellowstone NP and there were some hot springs just a couple miles into the park. It was a rad little detour. 2 miles or so into the park is a little unadvertised parking lot and a short .5 mile walk from there are the springs. The Boiling River flows into the Gardner River and creates an area in the river perfect for soaking. It’s a strange phenomenon, even as hot springs go, while you sit there half of your body can be wicked hot while the other half is wicked cold. Just gotta find that happy medium.
After soaking for awhile we got back on the road heading north towards Missoula, MT.
Our friends BK and Prickly Pear have been busy hiking the Continental Divide this year and because the wildfires have been wrecking havoc on the trail, they’ve been rerouted. We met them in Missoula where they hitched to this morning and are staying with a friend tonight. The plan is to drive them to East Glacier Park, MT tomorrow where they will get back on trail and squeeze in as many miles of the CDT as possible without getting forced off trail due to fires. We met up with them in town and ate tons of food, as thru hikers do. Since they were staying on the floor of a friend’s small apartment, Sara and I drove to a local WalMart and parked there for the night.
Sara did the driving this morning and the 4 of us had a fun ride through the smoke up to Glacier NP. The CDT is a gnarly trail with all kinds of obstacles, if it’s not the snow it will be the fires, right now it’s the fires. You can read about their adventure this year on BK’s blog here: ramblinram.com.
In East Glacier we met up for lunch with our buddy Speed and his friend Galaxy Girl who just walked through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and in doing so Speed completed his Triple Crown.
From Glacier NP, Sara and I drove through some smoky country along the West Side of Flathead Lake and along the middle fork of the Clark river. It was quite scenic. We were right near the tiny town of Hot Springs, MT so naturally we went to check that place out and have a quick soak. We got a tip to check out Good Medicine Hot Spring and that’s exactly what we did. $5 on the honor system and we had access to the healing powers of Camas Hot Spring mineral waters. It was great, we had the place to ourselves and once we felt our minds, bodies, and souls were completely rejuvenated we got back on the road.
Shortly before getting back on I-90 and getting into Idaho we stopped at Frosty’s Burgers. From the outside it looked cool but do yourself a favor and skip this place. From now on I’ll try to read the reviews beforehand. After we waited forever we quickly ate our burgers and were driving again. Blasted through the Idaho Panhandle then were into Washington. About 30 miles west of Spokane we found some BLM land in Fishtrap Washington and had a nice private place to camp for the night.
Because of the wildfires there’s been lots of smoke ever since we got into Montana and it’s not letting up. We recently found out that the PCT has a bunch of trail closures which would make it difficult to complete. Plus the views are shit and the air quality is very bad. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll be coming up with a new plan once we get to Seattle and finding some smoke free areas to run and hike. Stay tuned and follow me on insta for more pictures and videos: @endlesspsummer