On Monday morning, May 22, 2017, I pulled out of my driveway in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Before that morning, I had never driven more than 3-4 hours by myself and never more than six hours at once. Two hours into the drive, I found myself on familiar roads yawning. I only had 38 more hours left. . .
By 7:00 pm, I had finished the first 590 miles of my drive to Couer d'Alene, Idaho, where I would be spending my summer as a habitat and population biology intern for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. I set up camp in a $10 spot outside Louisville, KY. Outside of gas and food, this was to be my only cost for the five day road trip. Next, got to drive across Missouri and half of Kansas, a stretch of road I'd heard could be particularly boring. I enjoyed it. As I made my way to western Missouri, a violent rain storm developed, and by the time I reached the rolling hills of eastern Kansas, the rain had left the countryside painted in starkly contrasted colors. As the dark clouds departed, they gave way to bright sunbeams that lit up the hills in gold and yellow. I made my stop for the night at Ottawa State Fishing Lake, KS.
After a short drive the next morning, I made it to Colorado Springs, CO, where I was hosted by my friends Joe and Elissa. The next morning, after a quick stop at Garden of the Gods, I got on the road for my fourth day of driving. Wyoming was another beautiful drive. The road was remote and lonely, following the Rocky Mountains northward. I passed many distance buttes and herds of cattle. I had planned to stop that night at free camping area in western Montana, but finding it flooded, I made myself at home among some RVs in a Cabela's parking lot. That night was colder than I expected I got chilly in my car as the temperature dropped to 40 degrees. Finally, I began my last, and perhaps most beautiful, stretch of the trip: western Montana into Idaho. As I approached the Rockies, distance hills rose on either side of the road. Here and there a railroad would near the highway, and I would admire the freight trains as they traversed the picturesque hillsides.
As I crossed the mountains, rocky rivers appeared alongside tall wooden bridges. Then, as the road tipped downward again, I enjoyed tall forested hills on every side. Soon, I approached Coeur d'Alene. I was welcomed by the wonderful view of a large, bright, blue lake that the high, curvy road afforded me. At last, I drove into the parking lot of the Panhandle Region office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. I walked in, waited in the front office beside a stuffed black bear, and was greeted by Laura Wolf, a biologist and my supervisor for the summer.
I slept well that night after a week on the road, and after a relaxing weekend, I woke up Monday ready for my first day of work. I ate breakfast, got in my car, and drove to Steven's Lake for a my first hike of the summer. It was Memorial Day. After taking my exit off the highway, I found myself at mountain bike and ski lodge. I asked for directions and was told to follow the dirt road at the back of the parking lot, but that the road might not be clear yet. I followed the road, avoided potholes, and found a remote parking area hidden past a sharp, steep turn. In a few minutes, a began my first hike in Idaho. As I started, it was about 90 degrees. I walked along the trail enjoying the mountain air and occasional views through the trees. Before long, the incline steepened. As I approached the lake, snow appeared. Minutes later, I was crossing a stream still covered by a foot of snow. On the other side of the stream, I completely lost the trail in the snow. There were a few sets of footprints heading in different directions, so I picked one and headed up the last of the mountain. It wasn't long before I was sure the footprints belonged to someone as lost as I was. But, I knew the lake was at the top and top didn't look far away, so I kept on. The footprints ended and the hillside steepened. Soon, I was thrusting my fingers deep into the snow to pull myself upward. My fingers numb and stomach growling, I found a steady tree trunk and stopped for lunch. To my surprise, amidst the wind and birds, I heard some voices. Eventually, a hiker appeared climbing up the hillside. "Look who I found!" He yelled down to others below him, and a few minutes later, a family of five appeared. They had been told at the stream that the trail was impassable, but seeing me trudging along, they decided to follow my path up. I found out the man who first appeared knew the area, and we weren't far from the lake. He led the way and a few minutes later, a beautiful, frozen lake was sitting before us.