2,393 miles (give or take a few)

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.

Mom and I at the World's Only Corn Palace
Mom and I at the World's Only Corn Palace

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.

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  1. Hey, I went to ES&F for my undergrad (1976), went to Cranberry Lake for a summer session, is that campus still functional? Hope you have a great time out here…P

  2. Thanks Paul,
    The Cranberry Lake Biostation is indeed still functional. My little sister is actually there currently. She’s studying wildlife biology at ESF.

  3. Welcome aboard, Lauren!

  4. Spent my youth are the Cranberry Lake area before moving to North Idaho. You’ve taken the scenic route for sure. Welcome to the Cabinets and good luck.

    1. That’s “spent my youth in the Cranberry Lake area”

  5. Hey Lauren,
    I could feel weary simply trying to keep up on your reporting of all the ground you cover. You sure have put on a lot of miles on good ole planet earth! Everywhere you go, the way you describe the places, the enthusiasm in your voice, and the great destinations always make me want to be 19 years old again and hitting the open road. I am in absolute awe of the woman you have become. I’m so glad I arrived at Bath Presbyterian Church in time to get to know you before you went off to college and bacame a terrestrial explorer. Stay safe and drink it all in. Life can truly be amazing. God bless! Pastor Doug

  6. Thanks for all your support Pastor Doug!

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