September 24, 2012

Wild West Part 3: Yellowstone

The last half of our trip was in Yellowstone Park. The Tetons are beautiful, but Yellowstone is otherworldly. Some of the things we saw were so weird, it truly seemed like we should've been on another planet. I think we pulled over to see a waterfall every five minutes.

You know the scenery has reached a ridiculous level of gorgeous when you have conversations like this:
Trea: Do you want to stop and see what everyone's looking at?
Me: Nah, it's just another waterfall.

We never got tired of the geysers and hot springs though. We walked around the boardwalks in West Thumb and the Old Faithful area geyser basins, and I took about a zillion pictures because everything we saw was so crazy.

We went to see Old Faithful, got a seat right in front and only had to wait about 10 minutes for the show. In the distance, we could see other geysers, much larger than Old Faithful, erupting like crazy. Castle Geyser spewed for probably over an hour. We lucked out with all the action! Catching rainbows in the steamy mist was the best part.

Castle Geyser

We spent one entire day driving the north loop of Yellowstone and got to see Mammoth Hot Springs and Lower Falls. Mammoth Hot Springs were insane, but most of the springs were actually dry while we were there -- not like the pictures you see in travel books. 

Elk have completely taken over Mammoth Village. They were literally strolling all over town, grazing in front yards and peeking in windows. 

Being in Yellowstone was so remote, and it was nice to completely unplug and get away. We hardly ever had cell service, and it was tough to plan meals around the few restaurants in the park because we never knew how long it would take to get somewhere. So we had picnics! (And yes, all I could think about was pic-a-nic baskets in Jellystone Park.) It never occurred to me how rarely we share a meal without the TV on, a cell phone in hand or some other distraction. This was the time we truly stopped each day to enjoy where we were. 

While there were waterfalls around every corner, none was so beautiful as Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We went to Artist Point to see it from the vantage point of Thomas Moran, but I thought our hike to Red Rock Point brought the best views. It was a STEEP, hard climb back up, but it was more than worth it. 

See the little tiny specks on the ledge at the top right of the waterfall? Those are people! This thing is enormous.
Lower Falls from Artist Point
On our last day, we went for a 5 mile hike on Fairy Falls trail. Fairy Falls were also pretty, but the best part of this hike was scrambling to the top of a VERY steep hill to get a bird's eye view of Grand Prismatic Spring. Wow.

There is no better reward at the end of a hike than to be greeted by a waterfall. 

Fairy Falls
We saw just a fraction of Yellowstone, and we can't wait to go back for more. Hopefully, we'll be able to stay at the same bed & breakfast again -- A River Runs By It Lodge in Island Park, Idaho.

It's owned by a sweet couple, Tom and Judy, and they took such good care of us. The views from the lodge are gorgeous, and breakfast each morning was amazing. We loved waking up to the sunrise over the river. 

And after three days in our mountain paradise, we headed back to Salt Lake for home. 

September 18, 2012

Wild West Adventures: Part 2

Our most fun day in Jackson Hole was Trea's birthday. We got up early and headed into Grand Teton National Park for a three-hour scenic float trip down the Snake River. We didn't expect that driving to the river would be half the fun, but on the way, we spotted a black bear up in a tree having a snack (which I didn't get a good photo of) and we saw a mama and baby moose!

They were so pretty, trotting in the early morning sunshine. This is my favorite shot -- a moose silhouette through the aspens.

The weather there was chilly in the morning and warm in the afternoon, so we were bundled up for our river ride.

The views were unbelievable. (Have I mentioned Wyoming is pretty?) Some of my favorite memories from our trip are ones that were so gorgeous that I couldn't pick up my camera to snap a photo because I was too taken aback by the perfection of it all. When we were drifting down the river under a clear blue sky, aiming directly at the highest Teton peak and a bald eagle took flight very close to us and soared down the river in front of the mountains, everyone in the boat sighed quietly, "Wow..." Trea said, "Take a picture!" But I was too busy just taking it all in.

Later, we drove down Teton Park Road -- a winding highway through the park that brings you about as close as you can get by car to the Tetons. I wish I had a dollar for every time we said, "Wow, look at that!"

We had lunch at Jenny Lake Lodge, and this is the ultimate destination for us to stay someday. The lodge is surrounded by little cabins, and you're about a stone's throw away from the Tetons. This place is peaceful and remote, and the views are so lovely that you feel like you should whisper... maybe so you don't break the spell or disturb the perfection. I don't know why, but as we walked the grounds of the lodge while we waited for our reservation time, I noticed we were not using our outside voices, even though I have never felt more outside.

We got a table for two right by the window looking out onto the mountains. It took us forever to order because we couldn't stop staring outside.

I couldn't capture the whole scene because of the lighting and window screen and I'm not a photographer, but it looked pretty much like this.

Borrowed from the kind folks at Jenny Lake Lodge
After a delicious lunch, we of course had to see Jenny Lake. Man, it does not disappoint. I cannot wait to go back so we can hike here! We didn't have time for the famous Jenny Lake waterfall hike on this trip, but we definitely will next time.

We headed back to Teton Village, and just about every time we drove anywhere, we saw bison. Lots of them! They were so fun to watch.

Next, we rode the (free!) Bridger Gondola up Rendezvous Mountain for happy hour on The Deck. It's more than 9,000 feet up, and the ride was as much fun as the destination. At one point, I looked down below us and saw a moose on the side of the mountain!

We were some of the first to arrive when The Deck opened, so we got a table right on the edge of the cliff. So. Gorgeous.

For dinner, we ate at Couloir, a fabulous restaurant above The Deck. We had some fantastic food and got to keep admiring the view until the sun went down.

Next stop -- Yellowstone!

September 16, 2012

Wild West Adventures: Part 1

I registered for a 5K! A local Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot will be my first post-injury race and my first race since the St. Jude Marathon. But we'll talk about running in another post.

Trea and I just returned from the most beautiful place I've ever seen -- Wyoming.

Wyoming may not seem like the most exciting place on the planet -- and it's not. That's why I love it. We saw breathtaking mountains, geysers and hot springs that seemed other-worldly, crystal clear rivers, wild animals at every turn, and more waterfalls than I could keep track of. Now I know why all those country singers write songs about the West. There's nothing else like it.

In an attempt to keep this excursion affordable, we flew to Salt Lake City and drove to our Wyoming destinations -- Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. We probably won't go that route again if we can help it because SLC isn't exactly right next door to either of those places. But for this trip, it worked. We took the scenic route and got to see a little bit of Salt Lake City, which is absolutely lovely.

We spent a night at Little America Hotel, which I highly recommend. It's very affordable and the rooms in the tower are beautiful. We walked around Temple Square for a couple of hours and checked out the tabernacle and the Mormon temple. Downtown SLC is super cute, and I would've liked another day or two to explore more. But the wilderness was calling, and we had to hit the road.

We took I-15 only as far as Brigham City, and then drove highway 89 the rest of the way to Jackson Hole so we could see Bear Lake in Garden City, Utah. It might have been a little out of the way, but it was so worth it. Bear Lake is enormous, and it's as blue as the Caribbean.

It took us a little over 7 hours to get to Jackson, but we stopped several times to take pictures. Wyoming is so gorgeous! We enjoyed the drive so much that we literally never turned on the radio the entire time we were in the car. I had audiobooks, podcasts and playlists all set to keep us entertained, but we were too busy taking in the scenery, mouths agape, to focus on anything else.

We stayed in Teton Village, just outside the city of Jackson. I've never been there before, so I had no idea what to expect, and I'm so glad we opted for Teton Village instead of Jackson. Jackson is like a real town, and it doesn't really feel like you're in the mountains. But in Teton Village, you're only a mile away from Grand Teton National Park, and the mountains were right outside our door. It's a fun place, but very small, so it's more of a getaway. Our hotel was Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, and it was perfect! I would classify Teton Village as more of a big interconnected resort instead of a town. All the hotels, restaurants and stores are connected by paved walking trails so we could step outside the lodge and get to anything we needed without having to drive.

Hanging out in the Teton Village courtyard
Our first day in Jackson Hole, we went horseback riding. This idea was a dud. We had hoped for a ride that would take us somewhere cool with pretty views, but we were in thick woods for an hour, and then looping through an open pasture for another hour. I was so bored, and it killed a half day for us because of the start time. We would have been better off hiking. But at least I have a fun picture of me on a horse that looks like I'm climbing a mountain. (I'm so not.)

Later that afternoon, we went hiking in Grand Teton National Park. We took the Death Canyon Trail to the Phelps Lake Overlook.

It was semi-strenuous because of the elevation, and the view once we reached the top was amazing. We definitely redeemed the day with this outing, and we didn't see as many people as we probably would have at some of the more popular trails.

The Teton mountains are the most beautiful mountains I've ever seen. But I'll be honest. They're the only mountains I've ever seen. The Ozark hills don't actually count as mountains, in my opinion, and while they can be lovely, they're nothing compared to the rugged, majestic Tetons.

Stay tuned for a couple more posts gushing over Wyoming's beauty. I've already run out of adjectives to describe how perfect it is, but you'll enjoy the pretty pictures!


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