I spent the past year driving, and living, all over the western United States. I learned and accomplished a lot during my time there. Most things I learned have to do with what the wild, wild west is really like.

From the changing environments of California, that transport you to a new world just by driving two hours to the next town… to the bitter winters of Wyoming and the empty deserts of Nevada… all the way to the rolling mountains of Idaho and the homey feel of Washington… there is so much to take in.

So, before you head off on your adventure out west, here are ten things you should know about the wild, wild west.

1.) The sun really does set in the West…and it is BEAUTIFUL!

Fact is, the sun sets in the west and rises in the east. I know what you are think, “well duh!” But if you are like me and have spent your life with beautiful sunrises, imagine seeing the sun set from the west for the first time.

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Venice Beach, California.

No matter where you roam, each evening, as the sun begins to set, the sky will come alive with colors. You never get use to the beauty of the paint that spills across the western skies.

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Photo by my friend Ariel Tonne. Jackson, Wyoming.

2.) It is not, at all, potato farms and flats lands.

When you look at a map, you will find that the West is pretty much all mountains. However, that never stops people from thinking about flats lands filled with potato farms when they think of Idaho, or flat deserts with nothing but casinos that make up Nevada. Guess what? There is almost NO flat land in Idaho, never mind any of the other western states.

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Southern Idaho.

The west is a sculpture of mountains and hills. Wherever you stand there will always be a mountain in the distance, even if you are already standing on one. The roads are curvy and feel like a consistent ocean wave, helping you ride to your next destination.

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Driving through Nevada.

I drove from Southern California to northern Washington, from Nevada to the southern most point of Idaho…and all of it was filled with mountains, hills, dips and turns as far as the eye could see. Of course, that is not to say there is no flat land out west, there definitely is. There are just many more mountains.

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Photo by Ariel Tonne. Pullman, Washington.

 

3.) The weather changes drastically… and the snow is no joke!

Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking, “It snows in every state in the U.S.A.” However, no matter how many times you say it, you will never see snow in the U.S.A quite like a winter in Wyoming. .

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Shoveled more than 10,000 sq ft of snow in under 2 weeks. Photo by Sierra Knodle. Alpine, Wyoming.

….OR western Nevada in the spring/summer time! Not only did I spend days shoveling snow higher than my house in Wyoming, but we shoveled snow in Nevada… in the middle of May! So pack your winter gear!

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Entrance to a camp trail in Blue Hills, California.

 

4.) What’s truly “wild” is the land.

According to Webster, one of the definitions of “wild” is “uncontrolled or unrestrained.” If you take a drive through the western states, you will witness just how much land there is that is completely untouched. Even some of the “towns” only occupy three or four houses/buildings worth of property, and they were as far in the middle of nowhere as you can get.

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South Lake Tahoe. California/ Nevada boarder.

This is in no way is a bad thing! The fact that there is so much land that has gone untouched, or is protected, is absolutely fantastic! I say, let’s keep the west wild and only use what we need.

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Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

5.) It is all about the outdoors.

Hiking, camping, and just being out in nature is huge out west. It not only helps create the culture, but it is in the people’s blood.  How could it not be with all the land there is to explore, mountains there are to climb and woods and forrests they have to camp in?

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Camping in Elk River, Idaho.

Did you know that California alone has 9 national parks? That makes them the state with the most national parks in America. And there are dozens more national and state parks all around the western states. If not hiking, you will find tons of surfers crowding the beach on a summer- or rainy spring – day, and loads of ski bird flocking toward the mountains to ski in the winter.

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Yosemite National Park, California.

 

6.) They are a bit obsessed with Huckleberry.

Unless you count Huckleyberry Finn, I never knew Huckleberry was a real thing. Guess what? It definitely is, especially out west. Out west you can find it EVERYWHERE you look, and you can make ANYTHING out of it. Walk into any candy shop or convenience store and I guarantee you will find at least one shelf filled with huckleberry treats. You name it and they have made it; jams, honey, milkshakes, candies, ice cream, coffee, chocolate… it’s as if there is a slight addiction.

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Huckleberry filled chocolate you can find anywhere in the west.

7.) Wild life is EVERYWHERE…so drive and tread carefully!

Of course, back east we have tons of wild life. All over the U.S. there is wild life. You can’t drive up to Maine without watching out for moose, and you can’t drive around Texas in the without spotting an armadillo on the road. Out west though, no matter the season, there will be some type of wild life in close proximity to you.

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The mountain goats we got to see once a week on our drive. Taken by Sierra Knodle. Hoback, WY.

It may be a deer on the side of the road in the winter, a bald eagle spying on you from the highest tree branch above during the summer, or a moose that you have to follow down a mountain with your vehicle in a random park in Idaho because it’s running away from you but needs an escape route other than jumping off the mountain…not that I have experience with that or anything…..

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The squirrels also love to hang out! My friend Sara at Yosemite National Park. 

 

8.) The agriculture business is booming!

You can’t go into a town without seeing a weekly farmers market being advertised. Even in Los Angeles! In fact, the Hollywood farmers market may just be the best farmers market I have ever been to. Pike Place Market is chalk full of produce and live plants for sale that are picked fresh off the farm, and that is in the center of Seattle.

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Tulips on a farm in Woodburn, OR.

There are all types of farms out west, which makes sense considering how much land there is to cultivate. One thing that I absolutely love is how many community gardens there are, or farms that are made to teach the community how to grow their own produce, and donate it to those in need.

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On a tree farm in Moscow, Idaho.

 

9.) The towns and cities you visit are all very chill, or “hipster.”

Now, this is definitely excluding Los Angles and Los Vegas… but if you make your way to Portland, Seattle, Sacramento or Boise, you will find that the cites are laid back and have a friendly feel to them. And some, especially Portland, pride themselves on being weird or hipster.

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Seattle, Washington.

This means the traffic – again L.A. excluded – is pretty chill, they make way for pedestrians, the streets are wide and a lot cleaner than bigger cities, and there is an overall comfortable feel to them. No crazy rushing around like in New York or uncomfortable crowded feeling like in Orlando. These are cities I could definitely live in and I am 100% a country living fan.

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Portland, Oregon. Sunday market.

10.) You will never meet more friendly people than out west!

I thought southern hospitality could not be beat, but after being out west, I can honestly say that I have never felt so welcome to a new town/city/state until I met the people that live in the western states. They are helpful, friendly and inviting. They are accommodating and kind, and best of all they are honest. I know that if I need a place to stay I could call up anyone I made friends with, or even just met, and they would be sure to have a place for me.

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Dinner with the locals we worked with in Wyoming, who became our family.

During my time on the west coast, I realized that there are different meanings to the word “friendly.” Out west it means smiling at everyone you meet and being open to talking with, and welcoming of, strangers. It also means that you are directly honest as well. If you are not a fan of someone, there is no talking behind their back, you just be civil and open with that person and move on. The honestly is real.

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My team, during our adventures out west. Blackfoot, Idaho.

 

I may not return to the west for a long time, but it will always have a place int my heart, and I will never forget my amazing adventures there.

6 thoughts on “10 Things to Know About the Wild, Wild West.

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