A Grand Time in the Tetons
As I sit on uncomfortable, patterned carpet that is lining the hallway of our hotel I can't help but reflect on our busy but enjoyable time in Grand Teton National Park. Chip and I are plopped outside our room not because we want to socialize with other hotel guests, but because we are seeking the complete opposite. Silence. Time Alone. Time to decompress. Take in the sights and sounds from this past week (and maybe do a little laundry too). To take a dip in the pool and hot tub (umm, sure we showered beforehand.... a week ago). We learned early on that we need this down time alone and often. Sometimes to escape the kids. Sometimes to catch up on sleep. Sometimes to blog, to work, or to have reliable internet service. And sometimes to simply recharge our bodies' batteries. Joke if you must about taking a "vacation from your vacation", but there it is.
In the hotel hallway, each confused passerby that walks past us glances down oddly at our slouched selves and strewn belongings. We nod our head towards our door and mutter that our twins are behind it sleeping. Fifty percent of them say "I remember those days" and their face softens to a warm smile. The other half probably reported us to hotel security. Oh well. The boys have been sound asleep since 7:30 and here, in a hotel room, we cherish the luxury of shutting the curtains to drown out all light. Sleeping in Spud means bedtime gets pushed back another hour (or two) this time of year. The longer days of summer that we long for have generally come to mean less solo time for us. It's ok, and I can relate to our toddlers. Camping seems to bring out a more social side to us all. Does anyone really want to go to sleep when a beautiful twilight is hanging over your perpetually new backyard? But here in our run-of-the-mill hotel, this silence is welcome. I can hear my own thoughts, don't need to answer to small needy humans every few minutes, and can converse with my husband uninterrupted. It's boring, and it's heaven.
If you recall, we had just spent our first month and a half seeing family, friends, and sights in the Midwest so we had driven in to the Tetons from the east. Casper, Wyoming to be exact. It was noon and so I dutifully hopped out of my seat and headed to the back of Spud to prepare a couple sandwiches for lunch. Chip loves it because he says that from the front, the opening and closing of cupboards in the back sounds exactly like being on an airplane when the flight attendants are prepping for cabin service. I quickly slapped some peanut butter and jelly on bread then added carrots and chips to the boys' plates. I glance up to hand Chip his sandwich which he answers with a "Yo, check this shit ouuuuttt!!!" I did a double take and realized we were close. In the distance stood a massive mountain range. It lined the entire horizon. We hadn't seen mountains in almost two months and my eyes were hooked. The midwest has its own charm with the dense deciduous forests, rivers, and lakes, but truth is I must be a "mountain girl" at heart. I quickly grabbed my food, tossed the bag of sour cream and onion chips in Chip's lap, and settled in my seat for the best 'lunch with a view' ever. Each curve in the road brought in a different perspective of the jagged peaks ahead. Hugging the road tight, a wide river emerged from below, snaking out in several directions, the swift current dancing over the rocks beneath. Small alpine lakes appeared and began to dot the rugged terrain. After thirty minutes of winding down the mountain pass, we were at the base of the Tetons which loomed above our VW which now looked matchbox-sized in comparison. We had arrived in Grand Teton National Park. Queue some Enya tunes right about now. We were in awe.
There are several formal campgrounds to choose from at the Tetons but I had my eye on one specifically. However, hearing how quickly the walk-in sites get snagged up (sometimes by 7 in the morning!) I didn't think we had a shot. It must have been my lucky day (or my birthday!) because our friends, the Rods, who happened to be meeting up with us, woke up early to scout out a campsite for us to share at Colter Bay Campground. Our entrance here felt just as grand as our drive in since we were greeted by these good friends. Whatever the reason, and even when it's planned, it's way more fun than it should be to find people you know in places you don't. This awesome couple, Ron & Barbara, along with their almost two-year-old son, Leo, left Colorado around the same time we did to travel around the continent in a truck/trailer bed combo for the summer. Their tale of GMC Safari-inspired woe that delayed that departure is their story to tell. (Ask 'em about it. Bring beer. And Kleenex). Within an hour of meeting up, Barbara and I had laced up our running shoes for a very scenic jog around the campground (and most importantly, to catch up on travel stories of life on the road). The moment we hit Jackson Lake though, I stopped in my tracks. Everything was breathtaking. I had missed the mountains and these ones particularly were easy on the eyes. The entire run I kept tripping on tree roots and rocks. I'll blame it on the view but perhaps it was because I was completely out of shape. A combo of both, most likely.
The following day we agreed to make no plans and stay put in the campground. For once I didn't want to pack up Spud or drive anywhere. We had covered over 1,000 miles in one week; staying somewhere new each night left little time for actual relaxation. Since it's commonly accepted fact that each child doubles the actual amount of miles traveled, we had effectively covered 4,000 miles in one week. So we chilled: playtime at the beach, clean laundry, and a great happy hour (preferably at the beach). We managed to repetitively accomplish all three.
By our third day we were antsy to check out Jackson, Wyoming which I had heard has grown in popularity in the last few years. Also referred to as Jackson Hole, the valley in which it's situated, it is known for its three ski resorts, the town square complete with an antler's arch entryway, and its wild west ambiance. Here we were also planning to meet up with another friend/one of Chip's past co-workers, Helen, who is on a four month road trip around the U.S. With only one day in this bustling tourist town we opted to swing by Miller Park to release some energy, dine for lunch at Liberty Burger, and take a quick walking tour around town. We felt fortunate to have crossed paths with Helen and also enjoyed a good portion of the day sitting around a picnic table comparing places we've been and passing along helpful information to one another. Chip and I love the valuable information that friends or family can dole out, so thank you Helen for adding to our must-see list. Late afternoon snuck up on us and so we decided to make our way back up to Colter Bay with Helen in tow.
We caravanned with Helen the next morning and joined the other thousands of tourists on our last full day in the area by cruising along the Teton Park Road which follows the base of the Teton Range from Jackson Lake down to Moose. The many turnouts and viewpoints offer incredible vistas for lake, mountain, and wildlife viewing in addition to providing a great backdrop for a photo shoot! We were sad to leave Helen after a quick 24 hour catch up session but what fun it was to meet up in this beautiful location together.
For our final night in the Tetons we decided to bid adieu to Colter Bay. After three days we were officially tired of the early morning risers who would pack up and blast out of their campsite by 6 am. We're still finding the right balance between paying for a developed site and attempting to find our own slice of free public land on which to camp. To try the latter in the Tetons, we sought solitude on Shadow Mountain, a free camping area just outside the main drag. We had read about this somewhat off-the-beaten-path camping area online and review after review mentioned the sweeping views and quiet surroundings. We climbed up the mountain and after what seemed like hours for searching for the perfect campsite (we have a bad habit of doing that) we scored a beautiful site near the top of the mountain. Barbara and Ron rolled in to the site that evening and we enjoyed one last sunset together as a group. Shortly thereafter, 50 yards south of us, some dudes roll up Dukes of Hazard style in a Tacoma, and, I shit you not, were shooting rifles blindly into the dusk within 30 seconds of their arrival. Queue arrival of more friends. And fireworks. And beer. And music. Ahh, rifles, music, and beer, the great American pastime, really best enjoyed until 2am. In any case, we all survived. While we have a general rule of sleeping in and having a lazy breakfast, we got up extra early just to make sure our departures would be extra special. Neighbors, you deserved the full-on one minute horn blast on our way out. Twice. You're welcome.
Best moment in the car: Bennett discovered he loves "music in my ears", aka the iPod.
Bennett's favorite iPod song: "Chasing Waterfalls" which isn't even on this iPod. Dunno...
Worst moment in the car: If the headphones fall out of Bennett's ears
Days spent in the Tetons: 5
Number of phones run over by Spud: 1 (Chip's. Whoops!)
Total Days on the Road: 49
Up Next: Glacier National Park with my mom!