Grand Teton National Park: Half-Day at Taggart and Bradley Lakes

Maybe it’s because I grew up near freshwater lakes, or maybe it’s because I don’t have great personal hygiene or something, but I didn’t shower after jumping in Jackson Lake.

I felt rejuvenated, refreshed, and wholly cleansed after the tough hike through Death Canyon and chilly glacier-water swim. I drove the hour south back to Jackson so Sam could enjoy the mountainscape for once. We blasted Local Natives and I let the air whipping in through the windows dry my hair. My mind and heart wandered to a peaceful, calming place.

Reality sunk in as we pulled into Jackson around dinner time. With the total solar eclipse less than 40 hours away, there was a noticeable uptick in traffic around the park. When we finally made it back to our hotel, we set off to buy a few more groceries to get us through the next couple days.

We weren’t sure what food supplies would look like as we headed west, into rural Idaho, for the eclipse. Surely there were hundreds—if not thousands—more people occupying this part of the country than normal. Would we even be able to find food at grocery stores or would they be bare?

We cooked up some quick tacos in the hotel room. (Since we don’t own a microwave, it always feels like a weird 1950s luxury when we get to use one.) After dinner, we tried to stay awake long enough to plan our next day.

There were two plans we considered for our last day in this region and we hadn’t made up our minds. Here were the options:

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Grand Teton National Park: Death Canyon Steals Our Hearts

Not gonna lie: I felt like a pansy for sleeping in a hotel after abandoning our campsite. I felt weak, I felt soft, I felt very un-wildernessy. I couldn’t face one of my biggest fears which made me feel like I wouldn’t experience this magnificent place in a natural way.

But honestly? All those feelings dissipated the morning after I woke up in that hotel in Jackson.

I felt like an entirely new person. I popped out of bed at the sound of the 6 a.m. alarm, packed up all our food for the day, and corralled a still-pretty-sleepy husband out the door—all in 45 minutes. We had a sunrise to catch!

Grand Teton Antelope Flats Sunrise - 6Grand Teton Antelope Flats Sunrise - 3Grand Teton Antelope Flats Sunrise - 2

Well, we mostly caught the sunrise. The sun was pretty high in the sky by the time we made it to Antelope Flats. The site was already crowded two dozen amateur and professional photographers. This historic Mormon community site is on the south side of the Grand Teton National Park, and the barns provide a quintessential sense of rustic living with the Teton range behind them. Photos of these barns show up all over the place if you Google Grand Teton. Even though it’s a little too “tacky postcard,” I’ll admit that it’s a pretty cool aspect of the park.

Grand Teton Antelope Flats Sunrise - 5Grand Teton Antelope Flats Sunrise - 4

Even so, the barns weren’t our main objective (shocking, actually, if you know me). Hiking was our primary goal and we wanted to get on the trail. Since we skipped the main Moose Junction visitor’s center the first two days in the park, we stopped in and asked about trail conditions for Paintbrush Canyon and Death Canyon: both recommended by Ryan, our Teton-insider friend.

Continue reading “Grand Teton National Park: Death Canyon Steals Our Hearts”

Grand Teton National Park: Hiking Near Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon

Grand Teton National Park- Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon

Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2 of our westward road trip!

Adrenaline kept me upright for the first few hours the morning after listening to the bear (or whatever it was) battering away at a fellow camper’s food locker. I’ll still never know if it actually was a grizzly bear, but I couldn’t help but think about Paul’s warning that they had a grizzly that visited the campground.

As we inhaled our half-cooked hash browns and overcooked scrambled eggs at breakfast—they were warm and the air was a brisk 35 or 40 degrees—-we pondered our plan for the day. It was only a matter of time before my high-strung bear anxiety dissipated and I entered extreme sleep deprivation auto-pilot. If there’s one thing that I need, for my own sanity and the sanity of those around me, it’s at least six hours of sleep every night. I would be operating far under threshold today, and we were expecting a grueling day of hiking, exploring, and further altitude adjustment.

The thought lingering in the back of my mind was that I would need to do it all over again for at least two more nights. We were debating staying at our campsite two more nights for the eclipse, making it a total of 5 nights in Grand Teton instead of our planned three nights. There was a solid chance this could shape up to be one of the most miserable trips of my life if I had to stick out five nights sleeping in a tent with a grizzly visiting the campsite every night.

Grand Teton - Hiking to Inspiration Point near Jenny Lake

We packed up and headed towards the park. Our plan was to hike String Lake around to Jenny Lake and up towards Cascade Canyon. When we parked the car, applied our sunscreen, loaded our packs with food and water bottles, and were just about to hit the trail at 8:45 am, we noticed a vital element missing. The bear spray. Sam remembered seeing it in the tent since we kept it there last night as a precaution, and it must’ve still been there. After the events last night and all the warnings we’d heard, there was no way we were hiking without a can of bear spray.

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Maui: The South Rim Road to Hana and Pīpīwai Trail at Haleakalā National Park

SOUTH ROAD TO HANA

After taking in the view and monarch tree at Sun Yat-Sen Park, Sam and I continued our drive along the Pilani Highway towards Hana. The seascapes were immaculate as we ascended the south rim of Maui. We were one of the few cars driving the highway (and the only car going east, towards Hana, instead of away from Hana), but there were plenty of horses walking alongside the road. We let the ocean breeze blow through the windows as we tried taking in the scope of this place. This isolation and tropical paradise felt like a dream.

Driving the South Rim of the Road to Hana

We started coming back down from the rolling foothills of the volcano, easing closer to the shoreline. There was a scenic overlook on the edge of the road with an overlook, and we were shocked that no one else was stopped there. A fierce, gusting wind kept us back from the edge, reminding me that the spirit of this place is a living, powerful force still present today. I could have bathed in the colors of this scene for hours and never get sick of it.

Driving the South Rim Road to Hana - Ocean OverlookSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook PanoramicSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook View

We continued eastward. Our goal was to reach the Haleakalā National Park on the south shoreline. It would be the fifth National Park we’d visit in 2016, and we wanted to add it to our list. The Park occupies a massive 33,000 acres on Maui, stretching from the summit of the dormant volcano on the inner part of the island all the way to the south coast.

From our hotel in Kihei, the drive to Halaeakalā’s Visitor Center near Kaupo was estimated to take two hours. There was one rule that kept appearing over and over again as we researched the Road to Hana: make sure you’re off the route before the sun sets. We left Kihei shortly after noon and the sunset was scheduled for 6 pm. Based on the open road and expansive vistas we’d seen from higher up the mountain, we were confident we’d have an hour or two to explore the park once we arrived.

Little did we know what we were in for as we cruised along towards Kaupo.
Continue reading “Maui: The South Rim Road to Hana and Pīpīwai Trail at Haleakalā National Park”

Grand Teton National Park: Signal Mountain and Camping Adventures

Grand Teton National Park- Signal Mountain Hike

Psst: looking for part one of this trip

We left Jackson with all our camping maps, making our way up to Moran Junction, far northeast of the popular Jenny Lake area of Grand Teton National Park. Per the US National Forest rangers, we drove east away from the park. A curvy road free from cars and filled greeted us with stunning views of the Blackrock Creek valley. Just when we were certain we took a wrong turn, we saw a sign indicating the Turpin Meadow campground was a mile ahead of us.

Turpin Meadow campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest near Grand Teton National Park

Instant relief overtook us when we saw a few open spots at this 18-site campground. We claimed a spot with plenty of shade, a fire pit (a huge relief: any fires outside pits were banned due to severe drought in the region), a sturdy picnic table, and a large bear locker for food. All smiles and joy, we unpacked everything and set up our beloved 2-person tent. The campsite was quiet enough to feel secluded from the masses in the National Park but there were enough people near us that we didn’t feel alone in the wilderness. This was a particularly important balance to me, as the presence of grizzlies made me feel queasy every time I thought about those big furry bears stalking around the woods. I tried to shake off my lingering bear anxiety and focus on how happy I was to have a campsite with other campers nearby.

Paul, the full-time campsite host at Turpin Meadow along with his wife Judy, greeted us and gave us the lowdown. He was frank about the presence of a grizzly in the area but said the bear never bothered anyone. Sam and I nodded, and I pretended to be ok with this information. We thanked Paul for the info and took off for our first hike in Grand Teton National Park.

Continue reading “Grand Teton National Park: Signal Mountain and Camping Adventures”

Hinterland Music Festival Video and Life Updates

So…it’s been a while, eh?

This summer has been crazy-busy with a bunch of awesome stuff. Sam and I are diligently squeezing in a lot of adventures into our free time and weekends. We’ve traveled up north to Traverse City, down to the Smoky Mountains, around the Chicago area, and I was lucky enough to take a whirlwind work trip to Charleston, SC a few weeks back. Our big trip is slated to start on Wednesday, when we head off to Denver for a Southwest road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah: plus Total Solar Eclipse views in the path of totality! 

I landed a new job at Inventables! It takes up more of my time, but I love the challenges and work I do now. I’m in a position to focus on my career, and I’m making the most of the opportunity. Plus, I’m mentally preparing myself to go back to school in a month (?!). Needless to say, I’m been so busy living my life that I’ve not had a chance to share it. That’s ok with me. 

Still, I wanted to share something on my blog so I don’t feel like I’m completely neglecting this space. Two weekends ago, Sam and I attended the Hinterland Music Festival just outside Des Moines, IA. Sam’s been to Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, but this was my first music festival. It was absolutely awesome. Rather than a full write-up, I made a short video from our long weekend at Hinterland (set to The Head and The Heart’s “Rivers and Roads”).

Hinterland was, in a word, awesome. It’s incredibly intimate, so it’s possible to see some of your favorite folk, rock, bluegrass, and alt-country bands up close and personal. I still can’t believe Sam and I were in the front row for The Head and the Heart and alt-j. Both bands were playing at Lollapalooza, too, but there’s no way we could have experienced their music there like we did at Hinterland.

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Hiking in the Land of the Pine: Memorial Day Weekend Adventure

Hiking in the Land of the Pine - A long weekend in eastern Tennessee and Asheville, NC

Just like that, we’re off again! After a travel hiatus (we’ve not gone anywhere since Maui last October), Sam and I are hitting the road tonight and heading down south to Tennessee and North Carolina for an extended Memorial Day weekend. 

We’re packing up our little car for a doozy of a road trip. It’s a little over nine hours to reach our friends Blane and Lisa—our hosts for the weekend—in eastern Tennessee. Their location in Greeneville is the perfect hub for reaching the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What better way to spend the weekend than hiking in the mountains with good friends? It’s pretty much the only thing I want to do all the time.

That said, we won’t be hiking non-stop all weekend: Saturday will be spent in Asheville, NC at various breweries and distilleries. I’m not a fan of beer, but you’ll find me taste-testing many a whiskey and moonshine this trip. Everyone I’ve talked to about Asheville raves about it, so I’m hoping it lives up to my (very high) expectations. Let’s hope we can remember Asheville when we wake up on Sunday!

As usual, I’m always open to suggestions for things to do and places to visit! If you have any recommendations for hikes and restaurants in eastern Tennessee or Asheville (or a good pit-stop between Chicago and Tennessee), please let me know in the comments. I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and sunny holiday weekend!