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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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”

Ragnar Cape Cod: A Long Recap of a Really, Really, Really Long Race

Ragnar Cape Cod - We Survived!

We did it! We shoved ourselves into a minivan with strangers (whom soon became friends), ran three times in less than 20 hours, and traversed the length of Cape Cod as RAGNARians. It was a whirlwind of an adventure, and one I hope to do again someday.

It’s hard to describe RAGNAR with words and photos. The entire aura of RAGNAR is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, whether at a race or at any other event. Our team—one of the 500 teams taking place in this epic logistics whirlwind—was split between two vans with six runners in each van, but we competed as a whole unit. While I strived to do my best as an individual runner, I was equally invested in cheering each of my van-mates at the start and finish of their runs. It’s a team event, but so much of my time was focused on preparing myself for my solo runs because I never knew exactly when I’d be running again. It’s more mental than physical, and that was a challenge for me.

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Truth and Consequences in Portugal

Truth and Consequences in Portugal - Mo Stych Blog

A few weeks back, I entered the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship contest.

Even though I wasn’t one of the three winners selected from 8,000+ entries, I’m still happy I entered the contest. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a free trip to the Balkans (because DUH), but more importantly, I’ve never entered a writing contest like this before. It was a great challenge for me, as it required me to hone my travel story into 2,500 carefully selected words. Plus, I researched the Balkans region a lot before submitting my entry and this part of the world is now high on my list of places to visit someday.

Since I’ve not had the chance to blog in a while, I wanted to share my entry here. You can also find it on the World Nomads site (and read some other submissions, too). I hope you enjoy it! (Note: the photos were not part of the submission, but I like them.)

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We’re standing on (what feels like) the hundredth hairpin curve, halfway to the Pena National Palace in Sintra, and my husband is ignoring me. Gasping for air, sweat soaking through our shirts, the tension between us is as palpable as the sweltering humidity. The shade from the tall trees does little to cool our overheated bodies and tempers. As we silently fume, another air-conditioned bus filled with happy tourists drones past us towards the apex.

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Whole30 – Week 4 Recap

week-4-whole30-recap

I thought we’d never get here: Day 31. The other side. It’s intimidating, a relief, and a tease all at the same time.

It doesn’t help that Week 4 still held a lot of challenges for us, including a near-quitting day for me and a work conference filled with the most beautiful vegetarian and vegan options I’ve ever seen in my life. Week 4 also had major breakthroughs for us both and we feel like we really did need a full 30 days to “see the light.”(Tiger Blood still feels like a myth, but that’s ok). My awareness about how food interacts with my body is at an all-time high, and I won’t be able to forget the things I learned on this journey.

OBSERVATIONS

 

  • I feel too touchy-feely saying Whole30 was “life changing,” but the truth is that I will never be the same. My life is different now, and I can’t view food the same way: even the foods I really, really love and truly cherished before I started this. Do I still want to eat muffins and pizza and cheap Mexican food? Well….I do, but I also kind of don’t. I know too much now, and I know what it feels like to fuel my body with real food sources. It feels good. It feels so good that it may counteract the temptation of foods I know taste delicious for a few minutes but make me feel crappy later. Time will tell.
  • We’re doing a slow-roll reintroduction plan. This means we’ll reintroduce certain food groups for one day, then two days of W30 so we can evaluate how the reintroduced foods made us feel. After investing this much time into cleansing our bodies, it seems like a waste to skip this step. We’re excited but a little nervous about this part, since it’s going to teach us what foods work well with our bodies and which don’t. What if I discover some of my favorite foods (hummus, quinoa, oats) actually make me feel like crap? There could be hard decisions to make. Anyway, for the next 10 days, our food schedule looks like this:
    • Day 1: Non-gluten grains (rice, quinoa, corn, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 4: Legumes (soy, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 7: Gluten-containing grains (bread, pizza crust, waffles, oats, cereal, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
    • Day 10: Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.). I’m already pretty sure that dairy screws up my system, so I asked Sam if we could do this one last.

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Whole30 – Week 3 Recap

WOWOWOWOWOW. Somehow we’ve made it to Day 25! I can’t believe it! This month is definitely one of those “the days go by slowly but the weeks go quickly” scenarios. We’re a mere 5 days away from completing our Whole30 challenge. Spoiler alert: it’s still really challenging. Read on for more about our third week, and make sure to check out the short video!

OBSERVATIONS – WEEK 3

  • SO. MUCH. FLOSSING. Normally I floss before bedtime, averaging 5-6 times a week, but now I’m flossing after practically every meal. Chai seeds, salmon, spinach, apple…it’s like I’m storing my next meal in between my teeth.
  • My sense of smell is driving me crazy. Even though I’m 75% done with this challenge, it is still agonizing when someone eats warm, delicious, gluten-chewy pizza right next to you. Or even across the room. My nose is picking up all kinds of smells, and smells from foods I really crave are sensory explosions in my mind.

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Whole30 – Week 2 Recap

week-2-whole30-recap

 

Well, we made it through two weeks on the Whole30! Halfway there! There were a lot of things on our minds this past week, so I’ll do my best to recap my observations. If you’re interested in learning more about Whole30 and my experience so far, check out my week 1 recap.

OBSERVATIONS – WEEK 2

  • Getting the Whole30 book is definitely worth it. Even in college, I used any excuse to not buy a book. Unless it was a textbook I would need every day, I put off buying (or renting) a book as long as possible, and sometimes I wouldn’t buy a required book the entire semester. I found a lot of great Whole30 resources online—enough survival tips to get me through the program—and I assumed it was enough. But you know the gym guy that Sam says I spend way too much time talking to? Well, he gave us the Whole 30 book, and it’s made this whole past week a lot easier. There are two great resources in here: 1. a fundamental breakdown of why the program is designed this way and why it will change our lives; 2. a calendar of what feelings to expect on each day of the program (and it is really on-point). To be totally honest, I wish I had this book before we started the program.
  • It turns out our first week was pretty normal for active, healthy eaters (but we didn’t know it until we had the book). We were hungry, irritable, and eating a billion nuts…well, at least I was eating a billion nuts. We wanted to quit on the exact days (days 10 and 11) that they estimated we would quit. We didn’t experience any of the major withdrawals of unhealthy eaters, but we still had the peaks-and-valleys kinds of energy levels they outlined in the book. If nothing else, I wish I’d known to expect these feelings during my first week —ESPECIALLY on day 10 for me—instead of feeling isolated and alone in my angst. 

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