I was attempting to study for my second to last final of my senior year in the library at SUNY-ESF (State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry). I say attempting because I was waiting for a phone call from an organization called the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. They had interviewed me over the phone two days before for an internship position and had said that they would get back to me soon. As I stared incomprehensibly at my class notes I suddenly realized that I had missed a phone call! I ran outside the library to check my voicemail and soon heard Sandy Compton say “If you’d like to live in a tent in my backyard in Montana….you’ve got the job.” I’m sure there were a number of people on the college campus that were wondering why I was jumping up and down and grinning like crazy. I called Sandy back and we figured out a number of details, including when I was to arrive in Montana. My next step was to then send my family a text saying “I’m going to Montana!” My mom responded with “Can I go with you?” And so begin The Road Trip Across the U.S.A.
On May 18th at about 4:30 pm, my mother and I climbed into my Dodge Dakota and began our journey. We drove through the western portion of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and finally stopped at about 4:30 am (New York time) outside of Chicago, Illinois. Chicago has very little traffic at 3 in the morning. The next day we drove through Wisconsin and Minnesota and then stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota. Seeing as my last name is Mitchell, my mother wanted to spend sometime there. We, of course, had to see the famous Mitchell Corn Palace! We spent the rest of the day exploring SD. We drove through the Badlands, and finished our day at Mount Rushmore, which yes we could actually see! The next day was a long hall. We drove through Wyoming (for all of 15 mins) and spent the rest of the day driving through pouring rain across the 4th largest state in the U.S. I finally realized just how big Montana is. When we reached the western side however, I was reminded as to why I was making this journey. As my little truck drove over the Continental Divide I looked into the setting sun and realized I was doing embarking on a journey that I had dreamt about for years, I was finally ‘heading west.’ We spent the next morning hiking in Glacier National Park, then drove down to Heron, MT, across Idaho, and into Spokane, Washington where we got lost trying to find the airport. At 5 am the next morning my mother boarded a plane to begin her journey back to New York and I begin my drive back east to Sandpoint, ID to meet my new boss and begin my new life in the West.