In about a year from now, I'm going to pack up a bunch of gear, buy a one-way ticket to Seattle, find myself a nice 4WD vehicle, and spend several months seeing the spectacular wildernesses of the American West. When, exactly? I don't know. For how long? Not sure. Where will I go? That's to be decided.
At this point, the purpose of this blog is a place for me to talk myself through all these decisions. I'm incredibly excited about this trip, and because I'm a huge geek, I'm also incredibly exited about the opportunity to make lists, pour over maps, read guide books, compare camping gear, and generally over-analyze the shit out of everything. Eventually, this blog will be a place where I can ask for advice, make contacts with people I hope to visit while I'm traveling, and keep in touch with the people I'll be leaving behind in New England. But for now, it's logistical wankery.
I don't want to get too far into every detail of the planning I've done so far, because there are already multiple charts (totally separate from the lists!), and I haven't even bought an atlas yet. But here's the general outline:
The trip falls into roughly four groups: The Pacific Northwest, the Mountain West, the Colorado Plateau, and the Southwest. My original idea was to start in the Pacific Northwest in mid- to late summer, where I might visit my uncle and numerous other friends, take some time to finish gearing up, and generally bum around before starting in earnest. (I'm also tempted to take at least one swing through Aberdeen, Washington; if you don't know why, you probably either won't care or will think I'm silly.) In the Pacific Northwest, I'd like to hit North Cascades, Olympic, Mt. Rainier, and Crater Lake national parks.
The Mountain West includes Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton national parks. It's also conveniently close to Jackson Hole, WY, where I could do some sweet boarding (and hopefully be joined by New England friends).
The Colorado Plateau includes a huge group of parks, mostly in Utah; Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Zion, and eventually the Grand Canyon, where I'd like to do a tour that runs the length of the entire thing, probably on the river. This lands me in Las Vegas, where I would enjoy the sweet, sweet fruits of civilization. And it segues nicely into...
The Southwest, which includes the California parks of Death Valley, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and a few parks near Tucson, AZ. I used to live in Tucson, and I'd love to end the trip there, visiting friends for a while and giving me a chance to sell the vehicle before flying back to New England. Ideally, the trip would end in springtime. Maybe I'd get to see the wildflower blooms that never seemed to happen when I was a resident there.
Unfortunately, there is already a major flaw in this itinerary, one that leaves me empathizing with Napoleon: winter. Specifically, most of the Utah parks of the Colorado Plateau have severely restricted accessibility in winter. It makes some sense to switch the two middle groups, to transition from the Pacific Northwest straight to the Colorado Plateau, and follow that up with the Mountain West, finishing in the Southwest. This puts me in Utah closer to fall; and while winter in Yellowstone is no joke, Yellowstone is so popular year-round that NPS creates far better opportunities for winter visits there than at the Utah parks. This change also improves the timing of the possible Jackson Hole ski trip.
While this switch helps with seasonal problems, it also messes up some very pretty lines I'd drawn on my imaginary map, specifically the one that leads from the Colorado Plateau/Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and the Southwest. It also makes for much, much more driving between groups and parks. The original itinerary had me hopping from one park to the next closest. This one has me doing some enormous zig-zags up and down the Rockies and the Continental Divide like bison chasing fickle pasture. And where does that leave Glacier National park, which is also less accessible in winter? Logistics, logistics, logistics; wank, wank, wank.
I'm headed to the library and to the fantastic Globe Corner bookstore in Harvard Square (worth a visit even if you never get farther than the 495 corridor) for maps and guidebooks.