Grab those hiking boots and gear up the soundtrack for Fievel Goes West. We’re going to the mountain zone.
The “mountain zone” is a phrase I use to refer to Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (It's the mountain time zone, unless you're in Arizona where there is no daylight savings times and you get confused about whether up is down and show up to happy hour at 4pm). You get a little bit of everything in this road trip, from cowboy scented deserts to navajo reservations to red cliffs and rolling sagebrush. I was going north in the summer, which is a delicious treat that smells like pine and feels like granite.
Phoenix to Salt Lake City
If Austin was a city of outlaws, Phoenix is for vampires. It’s so hot that most stay inside throughout the day, coming out just as the sun melts into the horizon so that they can quench their thirst for half-price margaritas and sangria. And in addition to those (both of which I highly recommended), here are some tips to help you get from A) to B).
The Normal Diner. A cute breakfast place in Phoenix. I went here with Aminda where we drank Bloody Mary’s and debated whether or not we would be getting more tattoos. If you want to eat and drink your face off, order the aforementioned Bloody Mary. It looks like a Finding Nemo character.
La Bocca. When it’s nighttime and sexy and you’re hankering something to cool down your body (but not those dirty thoughts, you renegade, you), go to La Bocca. Aminda and I braved the outdoors and sat in the 11pm Arizona heat, sucking down sangria and tending to our bruschetta. The best toast was hands down the ricotta honey, so if you’re like me and ignoring your doctor’s gluten and dairy free instructions, go for that one.
Sedona. If you have the time, go out of your way to go Sedona. It looks like a Pokemon village, painted in colors of red and macaroni orange with cotton candy sunsets. There are crystal shops and psychic readings galore, and if you make your out to the mountains, you may find a life-changing vortex.
Cameron Trading Post. Meet the Navajo taco. It is big, meaty, and assembled on top of a fluffy piece of fry bread. It’s a staple in the Navajo territory, and Northern Arizona has some of the best. Located right in the middle of your stretch up to your campsite, so you’ll be getting hungry anyway.
Lone Rock Beach. Mostly RVs, but a fun camping spot because you’re right on the water and you can see the stars so clearly it was like they were spray painted onto the sky. In the morning I bathed alongside the canyons and ran through the desert to dry.
Bryce Canyon. An uphill climb of red mountains and green trees. It’s $30 to get into the park, so I’d recommend planning at least a night or entire afternoon here. You can see some amazing vistas by parking your car, but the best way to see everything is to hike it yourself.
Zion National Park. Similar to Bryce, but more red and less green. This one is actually still on my to-do list, but I’d be remorse had I let it slip away.
Salt Lake City to Boise, Idaho
Driving to Boise can be a bit of a bore (lots and lots of Sagebrush), but the city of Salt Lake itself is pretty cool. Spend tome time there in the morning, jet on up to Boise, and explore some of the parks on the way.
The Mormon Temple Square. I am not a mormon but I recommend this visit to anyone, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. The grounds are beautiful, and the statues and figurines will stimulate conversation, if nothing else. In the basement of the visitor center is a museum so you can learn all about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. (Note: It is a bit different from the South Park episode.)
The Garage. In the summer, Utah can get hot-hot-hot and this bar offers indoor seating and outdoor misters (the cool water, not men) if you’re ready to sit down and do nothing. More importantly, the BOOZE SPECIALS. I swear, one of the best parts about being in Los Angeles is just the sheer joy that comes along when I order in smaller cities. $1 Tacos on Tuesdays. Whiskey Wednesdays. Yay!
Ensign Peak Park. Short and sweet with killer views of the city. You can see why the mormons settled here; It definitely looks like a stained glass painting of the Garden of Eden. Go on a Sunday and booze up afterwards.
Boise National Forest. SECRET: Boise is cool! And beautiful! On your way up there you’ll find all sorts of natural goodies sitting inside Boise National Park. There are campgrounds and hikes galore, all of which look straight out of the summer camp in The Parent Trap. Booze bug juice, Meg Wolitzer novels, and a hammock highly recommend.
Boise to Oregon
As you wrap up your time in Mountain Zone land, you’ll bear witness lavender fields, mountains, waterfalls, and ghost towns. It’s insane how different it is from Arizona—proof that the United States can actually be really great if we stop being assholes to one another. BUT before you leave Boise, I’ve got a few spots you may want to check out. Besides, you can grab some wine and gourmet mustard for your fireside feast.
Flying M Coffeehouse. This cafe reminds me so much of Minneapolis I could cry. It’s cozy and sassy, selling things like verbally abusive magnets in addition to the gluten-free pear tarts and almond lattes. It was a reminder that Boise is actually cool AF. While I was working, an old man sat down next to me and said, “You’re a libra, aren’t you?” Psychics live in Boise.
Freak Alley Gallery. Nestled in between a tequila bar and chocolate shop of downtown Boise is a an outdoor gallery featuring the artwork of various local artists. It’s free and open to the public, and painted with vivid creations.
Smoky Davis Meats. I have a love/hate relationship with beef jerky, but I have a %100 love relationship with Smokey Davis. There merchandise consists of wine, cheese, meat (both dehydrated and non), jams, mustards, and pickles. Everything is from Idaho, with the exception of some wines made with Washington grapes. Get the turkey jerky and a bottle of wine. Maybe some mustard. Maybe everything. Go camping later
Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Hells Canyon sounds like an orange desert with nothing but cracked dirt and scary hallucinations (and maybe some scenes from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but the REAL Hells Canyon is nothing like that. It’s a mountain marathon in the middle of nowhere. Prepare to lose all cell phone service and drive across fields of wildflowers and alongside quick-flowing rivers with lil pink salmons hopping from the ripples.
Wallowa Lake. After you’ve venture through the storybook that is Hell’s Canyon, head on up to Wallowa Lake. The mountain and lake combo looks as if it’s been stolen from a postcard…Too perfect to be real and yet all you want to do is brag about it. There are campgrounds for RV and tent, with about an even mixture of both. Family friendly with 10pm quiet hours, but if you’re having happy hour at 4pm as you set up your tent, that will work out just fine. A general store sits nearby in case you forget your accoutrements, or realize you’d realllllly love a Hershey w/ Almond bar. Around 5pm is when you take your “wine walk” so that you can catch the sun just before it passes behind the mountains and reflect it’s light onto the fairies that the cattails have spilled onto the earth.
Anddddd that's the guide! Have you ever been to any of these areas? If so, I'd love to hear. <3