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This post was written by an impressive young woman who completed a challenging off-trail hiking loop with her dad back in June. We thought it would be interesting to post a trip report from a guest’s perspective. Be sure to see the photo gallery below the post!

Hello! My name is Jenna Barton and I recently graduated high school in New Jersey and I’m heading off to Wharton/UPenn this fall for college. As a graduation gift, my father surprised me with a trip to see “real mountains” in addition to taking me to see my dream future home, Silicon Valley. Looking back on my time in the Sawtooths I don’t think any combination of words could do it justice, but I’ll do my best to portray to you just how amazing my time was in the mountains with Sara and Chris.

Let me start by saying I have never backpacked before. The most intense hiking experiences I’ve ever had were day long trips during family vacations where my older brother was the designated pack carrier and the most we brought was some water, snacks, and a camera. Fast forward to earlier this year and you’ll see my father and me hiking with official backpacking packs loaded with bags of rice to get ourselves used to the feeling of carrying a reasonable amount of weight on our shoulders. Needless to say, it was a bit different.

Yet this difference only made the experience cooler. Granted Sara and Chris carried the majority of the weight, but it was still incredibly neat to be out in the woods supporting yourself. And to tell you the truth, I was so distracted by the scenery to even notice the weight of the pack.

And to say that the scenery was beautiful would be an understatement. It’s hard to imagine raw, untouched nature until you’ve seen it yourself, but just try. Deep in the woods, off the trail, we’d run into beautiful view after beautiful view (we came home with over 1,000 pictures and each one is more stunning than the one before it). From mountain ridges that truly resemble the teeth of a saw to mountain lakes that are such a vibrant green-blue you think they’re fake, the Sawtooths are truly a work of art.

Now that I’m home so many people ask me what my favorite part was – “You’re an eighteen-year-old girl, you just graduated high school, and you just spent four days isolated in the mountains in southern Idaho. You have to have a favorite part. So tell me” – but it’s not that simple. There were too many things that went into this trip to designate one as the “favorite” or “best.”

Take Sara and Chris for example. You can look at it superficially and say that without them we wouldn’t have made it through the wilderness via such a breathtaking and isolated path. That’s implied. But what’s not implied is the energy they brought to the trip. They actively participated in the group banter, cracked jokes, and made the overall experience incredibly enjoyable. They clearly knew about the area and wildlife, and were more than happy to field all of our questions about the critters we heard squeaking in the rocks or the flowers that filled the valleys with color. They went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable (did I mention Sara had hot tea ready for us every morning as we climbed out of the tent?) and pointed out new things they thought we would find interesting. Just as easily as bad company can sour a trip, these two made the trip what it was – outstanding.

Now consider the setting. It was, plain and simple, absolutely breath taking. I tried to do it justice above, but there really is no way to describe what I was privy to over our four day trip. All I can say is that even though we did climb to the top of Reward Peak (and that view was incredible, don’t get me wrong), every view was a reward in itself. End of story.

Now this may sound funny (and I’m sure Sara will chide me for including it), but this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the food. You have to keep in mind that Sara carried four days’ worth of food for four (very hungry) people on her back. And to tell you the truth, that was probably the best four days’ worth of meals I have had in a long time. From killer breakfast burritos to delicious chicken wraps to incredible pasta dinners, it was like eating gourmet meals in a setting that could knock any five-star restaurant out of the park.

In the end, I’d have to say the experience was my favorite part – it may be cheating because it’s a catch-all for the entire trip, but it’s true. Surrounded by some great people, eating some amazing food, and taking part in an activity that put me in the most stunning place I’ve ever been, the sheer experience of backpacking with Sara and Chris in the Sawtooths has been, doubtless, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And as a forewarning for the two of them, I’m definitely coming back.