I started planning this trip about 5 years ago. One of my bucket list items was visiting all the national parks and I had yet to visit any in the Pacific Northwest. Hell, outside of a couple days rafting in Oregon I had no time north of San Francisco.
Here is a map of the National Parks where you can see the 6 I plan on tagging on this trip: Lassen, Crater, Cascades, Olympia, Rainier, and Redwoods.
This trip would put me around 25. I still need to take a road trip through some of the parks in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, but after that it will be getting increasingly more difficult and expensive.
Here is my Itinerary.
If you do open the link, you will notice it is quite involved. I had originally planned on doing this trip in 15 days instead of 10 and in August instead of May. With the shortened time frame and earlier date I would have to skip some things and would also not have access to many trails due to snowfall. In addition to the Itinerary I also had a wall sized map I created by taping various State Atlas maps together.
Per usual, I worked a long stretch and was at the airport in a state of exhaustion. The first scene that greeted me was a long line at the ticket counter. I can’t remember the last time I waited in this line because I never check bags, but I was bringing a knife and cook kit (fuel) so there was no other options.
There was a couple at the desk holding up the show. They had some sort of medium-sized dog with them on a leash, which struck me as odd. It turns out that they were under the impression that they could just walk on the plane with the dog on a leash and have him sit next to them in the aisle. They were amazed that this was not airline policy. The couple kept looking back at us in line showing signs of, “Can you believe these airlines? Who heard of us needing to put our pet in a carrier or check it?” Of course everyone started getting restless and eventually someone came up with a duffel bag. Not a dog carrier, but a duffel bag, that they stuffed the dog in and let them board with.
Other than this, the flight was uneventful. I arrived at SFO after a layover in Chicago and met my driver for Hertz that was to take me to their offsite facility. Many people don’t realize that in addition to Hertz (and other car companies) having a rental on site, they usually have one a few miles away for major cities. They will pick you up from the airport and usually offer much deeper discounts. The guy who picked me up was a trip. He had just returned from the Philippines where he had picked up his new bride. I said, "So you did some mail order bride thing?” He became upset and explained that it was nothing like that. He had met this girl on some website and went over to visit once for a week and flew back and brought her home a few weeks later after giving some dowry to the girl’s family. They were in love. I apologized for my lack of insight into this romantic courtship process.
Hertz gave me a car upgrade to a Malibu, along with GPS and XM radio. All for the $211 for 10 days. They did not know that I had gone online and found someone who had posted a corporate account number for Hertz. Hertz did not really ask me if I worked for ThyssenKrupp AG, but I am sure to write them a glowing review. The GPS turned out to be essential and allowed me to disregard the large map I brought.
I was pretty tired. Unfortunately I had hit rush hour in SF and it took a couple hours to get north out of the city via the Bay Bridge. I did not have time to swing by Lake Tahoe and just headed north on Route 5 towards Lassen National Park. I got to the turn off for Lassen, which happened to be the town of Red Bluff. It was around 10pm and I opted for a hotel room. Something I rarely do, but who knows maybe I am becoming accustomed to the finer things in life in my old age. I found a Best Western and grabbed a room for $100. Best Western has gone through a lot of renovations in the last 5 years and actually has become quite a reputable place to stay. I highly recommend it as middle ground between Motel 6/Super 8 and Embassy Suites. It is about on par with a Hampton Inn. I also learned another great trick on this trip. If you go into the hotel without a reservation and ask if you can use their business center, acting as if you already are staying there, then go to Kayak.com. You can search for last minute deals and book through kayak for an average of $40 off room rate. It usually takes about 20 minutes to process and end up in the Best Western system. Then go up to the desk and you should be set. They don’t usually like you when they figure out what you did but who really cares about that.
So I got my room key and went to my room. I opened the door and there was a guy lying on the bed in his underwear. I just started chuckling and wanted to say so bad that I was hear for the gangbang or something to that effect, but I decided on, "Hi roomie!” Eventually I explained what happened and went back down to the desk. I told her I needed another room as there was a naked man in that one, unless that was part of the turn-down service. She told me that there was no one in that room. I assured her that there was indeed a human in that room. She was mortified and I let her upgrade me to a bigger room. I grabbed dinner at Appleby’s across the road and was asleep by 11pm.