Wyoming and Colorado Vacation Recap: Part 1

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Teton Village, Wyo.

As per usual, I took hundreds of photos on our vacation and had to spend some time culling them down to the best of the best so that I could share them here in a recap! Because we went away for two weeks and I have a lot to talk about, I’ve decided to split my vacation recap into two parts: one for our time in Wyoming and one for our time in Colorado. Don’t get me wrong; these will still be long posts, but I hope you enjoy!

We began our trip by flying from LaGuardia to Denver and then from Denver to Jackson, Wyoming. We rented a Lincoln SUV, which we promptly dubbed Andrew Abraham Lincoln, and headed on over to our hotel in Teton Village, about a 30 minute drive from the airport. The drive took us right on through Grand Teton National Park. Even though it was mid-September, neither of us had expected to see leaves turning colors, but there they were: bright yellow aspens!

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We stayed in a ski resort called Teton Village, located about a 15 minute drive from Jackson proper. We chose a hotel called Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, which, as its name suggests, has a spa as well as what some say is the best restaurant in the village (Spur). Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we bummed around the village a bit, grabbed coffee at the General Store, and got the lay of the land. The village is so adorable:

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Once we got into our suite, we chilled for a little while and decided where to eat dinner. We settled on an Italian joint called Il Villagio Osteria at the hotel next door, Hotel Terra, and had an excellent meal that 100% hit the spot after a long day of travel. After dinner we headed over to the Four Seasons to have a drink by the fire pits on the patio at Ascent Lounge. The sky was so clear that we could see a ton of stars and the Milky Way as well! That’s something you don’t get to see from New York City. Also? Our server was kind enough to bring me a cozy blanket when it got chilly. What a lovely start to our vacation!

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Wine, blanket, fire, fresh air. Not the worst evening ever.

We awoke to a clear, sunny day in Teton Village and began our first full day in Jackson with a buffet breakfast at Spur. Afterward we geared up* and did a little shopping at the Mangy Moose market for snacks and bear spray (everything we read said we should have it, just in case), then headed to Grand Teton National Park. The road we had come in on was now closed for repairs, so we had to go the long way around, through Jackson, to another park entrance. So we made a stop at a visitor center in Jackson to get some suggestions from a park ranger and decided on a hike to Taggart Lake. But first, a peek at the peaks of the Teton Mountain range:

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The Taggart Lake hike was 3.3 miles round trip, and we spent almost four hours out there, wandering, photographing, and marveling at the beauty of the park. One of the reasons we picked this particular trail was because the ranger said the lake had great views of the mountains. She was not wrong:

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We could not have asked for a more perfect day for our first hike! We actually got really lucky with the weather in general, because almost every day of our trip had Goldilocks hiking weather: not too hot, not too cold. And the sun usually came out for at least part of the day if it started off overcast or foggy.

That evening we drove into Jackson and ate dinner at The Merry Piglets (delicious and very affordable!), then wandered around downtown and checked out some of the shops. I always love visiting Main Street in small towns!

The next morning, John wanted to do a more intensive hike on his own so he took off from the village on the Wildflower Trail up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain and I chilled in the room. We planned for me to take the Aerial Tram and meet him at the top at 12:30, and I was a little nervous to take the tram up by myself but I read online that it was only a 9 to 12 minute ride and I figured I would be able to quell any anxiety for a short period of time. And I did very well! I was nervous for the first few minutes, but I managed to calm down once we got higher up and the valley scenery spread out in front of me (also, it helped that the tram operator played a Phish song, which always cheers me up):

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Once we got to the top (elevation: 10,450 feet), the views were simply stunning. WORTH IT.

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I went up the stairs to a viewing platform at the tip top of the mountain and took some photos while I waited for John to reach our rendezvous point on Rendezvous Mountain. The air was chilly and definitely thinner, but amazingly, I didn’t feel any physical issues due to the altitude aside from being extra out of breath while climbing hilly areas. Once John got to the top, I bought him a $6 bottle of Coke at Corbet’s Cabin (a waffles-and-whiskey cafe) and he rested a bit, then we set out on the 0.3 mile Top of the World trail.

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This is a sub-alpine ecosystem (alpine starts at 11,000 feet) and not a lot of plants can grow that high up. The views up there just cannot be beat!

We took the tram back down together and spent some time sipping tea and relaxing in our spa’s Tranquility Room. That evening we had an affordable dinner at the Mangy Moose restaurant, then moved over to the saloon next door for drinks at the bar. It was pretty quiet there, but I can imagine that place must get PACKED during high season!

The next morning was chillier and more overcast, but we decided to do the short drive to Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve inside the park and hike to Phelps Lake. The preserve is a beautiful 1,106-acre spot that was originally a dude ranch called JY Ranch.

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The morning started off chilly and I had all my layers on, but we warmed up as we hiked and I was able to strip some pieces off. And when we arrived at Phelps Lake, the scenery was just gorgeous:

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Look at those colors!!

When we had almost returned to the visitor center, the trail was roped off with a sign that said there was bear activity. !!! A park ranger was standing there on her walkie-talkie, and as we approached she opened the trail back up and said that some visitors had seen a black bear there five minutes earlier. She walked back to the visitor center with us and we didn’t have any bear sightings, which I was totally cool with. I mean…it would have been kinda neat to have seen a bear, but I also wouldn’t have wanted to whip out the bear spray, either.

That evening, we treated ourselves to a cheese fondue dinner at the Alpenhof Lodge in Teton Village. Dipping bread, apples, mushrooms, and potatoes into hot, bubbling cheese is basically the best dinner I could imagine. 🙂 The weather turned stormy that night, so we went back to our room after dinner and lit our fireplace, drank wine, and played games that we had brought with us from home.

The next morning we decided to explore the park by driving around it, so we started off by visiting Jenny Lake (one of the more popular sights, evidenced by the busloads of people who had been dropped off there), then headed up past Jackson Lake and drove back on down to our hotel by way of Jackson. About midway through our driving adventures through the park, we took a little detour near Oxbow Bend and found a man with a telescope by Snake River. We asked him if he saw anything interesting, and he pointed out a bald eagle in a tree across the lake. Oddly, he didn’t offer to let us look at it through his telescope (seriously, it was like he wanted us to leave; when we took off John thanked him for pointing the eagle out and the guy ignored him) but John had a small pair of binoculars in the car so he got them and we managed to see the eagle through them…so that was pretty awesome, despite the rude guy.

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Near Oxbow Bend

For our final dinner in Teton Village we ate at Spur in our hotel, and it truly did not disappoint. In this week’s Friday Five I included my mushroom toast as one of the best things I ate on the whole trip! After dinner we moved to the Spur bar for drinks and ended up chatting with a father and son from the midwest who were in town to hunt elk. Though we were clearly very different, we had good conversation with them and it’s nice to know that you can have civilized, interesting discussions with folks who are way outside of your own little bubble. It’s very easy to forget that in today’s overly angry climate of vapid talking heads and orange asshole presidential candidates.  🙂

This brings us to the end of our time in Jackson Hole, but before I leave off here I of course have to share a little Pokémon Go fun that we had while we were there. I snagged my first Clefairy while we were walking around Jackson after The Merry Piglets—I had never seen one of these pop up on my nearby radar until we got to Teton Village! Then one day as we were walking around the village, an 1808 CP Dragonite appeared…it took about 30 Ultra Balls, but I finally caught him! John saw him too (at an unknown CP), but he ran out of PokéBalls before he could catch him. BOO. I also caught my first Electabuzz in the village on our final morning there. I’m still amazed by my Dragonite catch—to date, he’s the strongest Pokémon I’ve caught!

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Pokémon Go firsts in Jackson Hole: Clefairy, Dragonite, Electabuzz

I will definitely miss Teton Village and would absolutely go back there. Watching the Aerial Tram come and go from its depot seriously never got old.

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Stay tuned for part two of our vacation!

*We did a pre-trip shopping spree at REI over Labor Day weekend to get some gear: hiking pants, outer shells, hiking socks, water bottles, hats, etc. In case you’re interested, I got the following:

I was also given a pair of Merrell Women’s Capra Bolt Mid Waterproof hiking boots by a friend who does PR for the brand, and I wore those on all of our hikes with no blisters or issues other than the usual sore feet.

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