Branching off the Mainland

As most of you know, or should know by now if you’ve followed my blog for very long, is that I love traveling and exploring the outdoors. Mountainous regions in particular. This Christmas, I’ll get to travel somewhere I’ve never been (hint: it’s warm…), and I’m quite excited.

Although I was born in Moscow, Idaho, near the Rocky Mountains where I’ve done the majority of my mountain exploration, I didn’t grow up real close to any mountain ranges to speak of. I grew up in the Tri-Cities, in the flat and dry desert of the Columbia Basin at the confluence of the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers (and no, Tri-Citians, Badger Mountain is NOT a mountain…it’s a hill).

Although I look at the Tri-Cities in a much fonder light now, as a child I grew to nearly hate the dust bowl the Tri-Cities sits in. All I wanted to do (and I still feel this way) was live in or very near to mountain ranges, with a little more precipitation, with the ability to explore and breath in the natural perfume of pine trees and other abundant plant life, whether it be in the Rockies, or the Cascades. There is an incredible poetry in the mountain ranges of the Pacific Northwest, and getting lost in the music of life constantly happening around you in these places is truly breathtaking.

The reason I bring all of this up, is because I’ve realized recently that although I’ve done a lot of exploring in the bubble of the Pacific Northwest (and plan to do much more), I’ve never really broken out of that bubble.


But what a magnificent bubble it is…

I’ve only been to eight states (Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Texas, New York, Nevada, and Colorado), and some of those shouldn’t even count.

Let’s break down my travel experiences state-by-state:



Washington is by far my most explored state. Growing up in the Tri-Cities, I’ve been all over the Columbia Basin, and have spent most my time in eastern Washington, including Spokane, Pullman, Walla Walla area, etc. But I’ve done my fair share of exploring in central and western Washington as well including Wenatchee, Yakima, Seattle, the I-5 corridor through Tacoma and Puyallup, Vancouver, and since I met Amber, I’ve been out on the gorgeous Olympic Peninsula twice now. So, while there’s still plenty of Washington left to explore, it’s safe to say I’ve seen a decent chunk of the state.


Crescent Lake in the Olympic National Forest.


This should really read “North Idaho”, since I’ve never really been south of Idaho’s panhandle. Lewiston, Orofino, and Lolo Pass are pretty much as far south as I’ve been that I can remember, and I’ve certainly never come close to making it down to Idaho’s state capital of Boise. However, from Moscow north I’ve done quite a bit of exploring with my family. Our most visited region being the St. Joe River area in the Bitterroot Mountain range of the Rockies. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time around Coeur d’ Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and the Priest River and Lake area.


Upper St. Joe River in the Idaho-Panhandle National Forest.


Most of my Montana exploration has been done in the northwestern region of the state, in the Bitterroots and Kootenai National Forest, and our Idaho camping trips almost always incorporated a trip over Gold Pass to visit St. Regis. We’ve also been camping near Flathead Lake, as well as the gorgeous Noxon Reservoir region. When I was quite young we took a trip to Glacier Park as well where I spent 90% of the time car sick in my Uncle and Aunt’s van, and the highlight of the trip was when we blew a tire on a gravel road on our way back to Thompson Falls. Since Amber and I began dating, I’ve been to Missoula (a wonderful town I might add) several times, and I revel in the vastness of Montana each time I go. However, Missoula is basically both the farthest east and south I’ve been in Montana, so my travels in the Big Sky state are limited.


Bitterroot Mountain Range, from the top of Mount Sentinel, above Missoula.


Of the Pacific Northwest, I’ve explored Oregon by far the least. Just last year I went to Portland for the first time, and had the opportunity to do a hike at Multnomah Falls and see the mighty Columbia River Gorge before this summer’s devastating wildfires in the region. Outside of that, as a kid we went to Hermiston, Pendleton, and Milton-Freewater in northeastern Oregon from time to time, and that particular part of Oregon is basically just an extension of dry and arid southeastern Washington. Not too exciting.


Somewhere above Multnomah Falls in the Mt. Hood National Forest.


I spent a few days with my Dad in Austin to present a research proposal at the NASSM conference as a graduate student. Unfortunately, I ended up being violently sick with the flu the whole time, and that, combined with the 100 degree heat and 100% humidity, made for a pretty miserable experience.


Austin, Texas with my proposal for research at the NASSM conference.

New York

My family went here when I was in high school for my Dad to see an Arnold Chiari Malformation specialist regarding his condition, so this was by no means a “vacation”. We stayed in a small borough on Long Island called Floral Park, went for a drive on Long Island, and also ended up in a fairly seedy area of Queens at one point after taking a wrong turn. All in all, other than eating some great Italian food, we didn’t see a whole lot while in the Big Apple.


My cousin Andrew and sister Lacey and I at a pier near the Statue of Liberty.


Two airport layovers in Las Vegas.


One airport layover in Denver.


I’m grateful that I’ve seen all this, which is much more traveling than a lot of people ever get to do, but I have a great desire to expand that list and see more of the world. For now though, most of my travels will remain in the Pacific Northwest, and that is fine by me, as it is my very biased opinion that this is the greatest place on earth to live, and one could spend their entire life exploring the vast mountain ranges, basins, foothills and valleys of the Pacific Northwest and still never touch a small fraction of its vast wilderness.

Alright, fine, I’ll quit romanticizing the PNW and get to what I hinted at earlier, and where Amber’s and my Christmas travels will be taking us this year…


We’re headed to Hawaii! Amber’s wonderful parents have a timeshare in Hawaii and we are getting the opportunity to tag along and experience the big island (where we’ll be staying). We’re both incredibly excited (obviously) and looking forward to escaping the freezing temperatures here and get some high 70’s low 80’s weather in our lives.

Stay tuned for a recap of the trip and LOTS of pictures. In the meantime, I’ll be sipping on Mai Tai’s, exploring volcanoes, and soaking up some sun.

Finally, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year’s to you and yours, and safe travels this holiday season!


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