This makes me nervous, but I think it must be set in stone. Or at least wood. Clay.
As detailed below, I need to time my departure just right, so I have enough time to do what I want before the deadline of my Grand Canyon trip. Now that I finally have five maps, seven guidebooks, and no excuses, I've tallied up the wilderness treks I hope to take, factored in my driving time, and dropped some real, solid X's on my giant calendar. (I must stay, it makes me happy that this more precise estimate lines up so well with the one I made stabbing in the dark as to how long I plan to spend in each place--it bodes well for my estimating abilities.) Specifically:
I'm leaving for Seattle on July 25, 2011.
Though I like the idea of open-endedness, I need at least a general schedule to fit everything in before October 5. Here's the rough itinerary:
July 25 to about August 6, Seattle/Olympia: Visit friends and family, outfit, buy a vehicle, and maybe do short trips with said family and friends to Olympic.
August 7 through about September 1: Olympic and North Cascades
September 1 through about September 15: Glacier
September 15 through October 5: Yellowstone and Grand Teton
Seeing it planned out on my color-coded calendar, I wonder whether I might want to spend less time in the Pacific Northwest and get to the Mountain West earlier to spend more time there, but that's the kind of thing I get to decide when I'm on the road. The important thing is that I'm (reasonably) confident I'll have plenty of time to enjoy everything I want to see before I've got to head down the Grand Canyon. Plus, I can finally give a specific answer when people ask when I'm leaving:
July 25, 2011.