Monday, March 30, 2015
When we were planning our trip to Wyoming, Larry and I decided that we would spend our free time in Grand Teton National Park and not go to Yellowstone. This was a short trip, and we are often guilty of trying to cram too much into our vacations (must see ALL the things!), so we wanted to spend the time we had exploring and appreciating the Tetons and not try to do too much. Yellowstone would have to wait for another time.
We arrived in Wyoming on a Tuesday and I spent the next couple days exploring Jackson on foot while Larry worked. He finished his meetings after lunch on Thursday, July 31st, and since we only had a half day of free time, we decided to drive along the Teton Range and admire the mountains from the car. We drove and drove from the south end of the park to the north end, unable to tear our eyes away from the iconic 13,000 foot peaks. By the time we got to the north end of the park, we realized we weren't very far away from the entrance to Yellowstone. I didn't want to deny Larry the chance to see a little bit of such an amazing park, so we decided to drive in. It's a huge park and we didn't have a lot of time to see all the things I saw when I visited as a child, so I suggested we visit a geothermal feature or two, since that is what really makes the park unique. "Do you want to see Old Faithful?" I asked, but Larry wasn't interested in going to the most touristy park of the park, so we drove on (through the rain) in search of a spot with available parking.
We ended up at Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone's largest hot spring. (Two days later, someone would crash a drone into this very spring.) We got out of the car, walked the boardwalk, smelled the sulfur, and snapped some photos:
And then we headed back, stopping at a few overlooks in Yellowstone to grab a few more pics before driving back towards the Tetons.
While I'm all for getting out of the car and exploring the world on foot, sometimes taking a scenic drive is just perfect. Especially when you have a view of the Tetons the whole way.
We got back into Jackson just in time to check into our little cabin at the KOA, eat a picnic dinner, and drink some beers next to the crackling campfire (our neighbors cooked steaks and mac and cheese for dinner and I have to admit it smelled sooooo good!), while listening to water rushing from the nearby creek and Snake River.
The perfect relaxing day before our big hike on Friday...
Friday, March 27, 2015
The Tetons are my favorite mountain range. It's possible that it's because they are the first "real" mountains I ever saw. (The Appalachians in my home state are beautiful...but just can't compete with the younger/taller/pointier mountain ranges out west!) But I think the Tetons are my favorite because they jut up out of the flat plain of Jackson Hole and command your attention. With such a flat surrounding landscape, it's impossible to keep your eyes (or camera) off them from the moment you land at the spectacular Jackson Hole Airport. (A third reason for my love of the Tetons may be that according to Wikipedia, early French Voyageurs called these mountains les trois tetons, which translates to "the three breasts." Snicker. (I was thirteen when I first visited the Tetons, and now 22 years later, I'm still thirteen...)
While the mountains in some other states are taller (Yes, we know you have 53 fourteeners, Colorado! And yes, you are a gorgeous state!), you don't comprehend the height of some of these peaks when you're already in a mountainous area. But BAM! the Tetons just jump right out of the ground, and that's what I love about them. Also, 97% of the land in Teton County belongs to the government, which means it's protected from development, so there are no shopping malls or suburban neighborhoods ruining the view. (It also means private land is extremely expensive - there goes my dream of owning a painting studio in Jackson!)
I also love that you have such a great view of the mountains even while driving around in the car. There's no destination or scenic overlook you have to reach for the best view of the Tetons - the view is all around you. While Larry and I love getting off the beaten path, it was nice that even the time we spent in the car was so incredibly scenic. Here are some photos taken while just driving around and occasionally pulling over to get some fresh air and a steady shot...
Speaking of geographical features shaped like human anatomy, one day we had a little time to kill before our next activity, so we drove up to the scenic overlook at Signal Mountain which is on the other side of the plain from the Teton Range to check out the view. There was a view of the Tetons, but there was also this:
We were immediately distracted from the majestic beauty of the natural landscape...and started snickering like schoolchildren. "Now THAT'S a reservoir tip!" we heard a man say, as a woman turned to her husband and said "What do you mean it looks like Venus...ohhhhhhhh!"
Evidently all human beings are thirteen years old at heart...
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Wyoming has a special place in my heart. I first visited in the summer of 1992. I was thirteen, had just finished seventh grade, and was at the height of my awkward years. Airfare prices had plummeted that year and my usually thrifty parents decided we should use the opportunity to take a vacation. It was the first and last time I would fly on an airplane with my parents. It was the first and last vacation my family took to a place other than the Jersey shore. A couple years after the big trip out west, my parents would divorce, and all the traveling I've done since then has been solo, or with friends, or with Larry.
When my parents suggested that our big family vacation of '92 should be to Wyoming, I rolled my eyes in disgust. I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. Wyoming only had like two people in the entire state, I argued. To a thirteen year old this sounded lame and boring. Besides, hadn't the whole state burned up a few years before in the Yellowstone forest fires of 1988?
But we went to Wyoming, and sure enough it was awesome. Yes, my parents were right. Mom, Dad, my brother Stephen, and I spent a week and a half admiring the Tetons, staying at a dude ranch, sightseeing in Jackson Hole, and exploring Yellowstone National Park. It was my first time away from the East Coast and it blew my mind. The experience stuck with me for life. Looking back, it probably started my love affair with the National Parks.
This past July, Larry had another business trip to Wyoming, and this time I finally got to tag along and return to the place that had made such an impression on me 22 years before. Once again it was the trip of a lifetime. After Larry's meetings were over, we had a long weekend together to hike, bike, and raft in the Tetons, drive through Yellowstone, and eat our way through the restaurants in Jackson Hole. Wyoming is just as amazing in 2014 as it was in 1992, and the Teton Range still takes my breath away. I have lots of photos from our trip to share in the coming weeks, but first I thought it would be fun to compare some photos from my trip in 1992 to photos from our trip in 2014...
In 1992, tight-rolled jeans were cool and Hypercolor shirts were all the rage. Awkward middle-school Rachel thought these trends looked wicked cool with matching colored socks. (Just give up on ever having a boyfriend now, teenage Rachel! Though if it's any consolation, your future husband was a college boy who had just turned 21 in the summer of '92. Wait ten years and you'll meet him! Also, when you get home from this trip, you will get a puppy, which is better than a boyfriend anyway.) Anyway, this combination of me being thirteen plus the fashion nightmare of the early 90s sets the stage for some primo awkward family photos:
Spoiler alert: I'm still awkward. IN FACT, I PRETTY MUCH LOOK THE SAME. (Insert bleeding eyes emoji. #nevergrowup)
Rafting the Snake River, now with fatter head:
Geothermal runoff in Yellowstone:
I think 35 year old me needs some pink shorts:
Bison, you haven't changed a bit!:
Rockin' the shades with my brother (top) and husband (bottom):
Global warming is real, people:
At the Jackson Hole elk antler arches. Way to rock the teal and purple, Steve! Fanny pack optional:
Grand Prismatic Spring:
Interesting to note the regrowth from the 1988 forest fires:
In front of the Tetons:
View from the raft. I swear those two trees on the ridge in the upper left look the exact same:
Clearly the purple socks would've gone better with the 2014 outfit:
Excelsior Geyser Crater:
Both experiences were amazing and I can't wait to write more about what we did on our 2014 trip.
I only wish Larry and I had the chance to ride the alpine slide while outfitted in BUM Equipment and pegged jeans like my bro and I did back in '92...