Aaron and I travel a lot. However, traveling and vacationing can be two totally different things. This past week, Aaron and I spent a whole week (which actually wasn't enough time) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park... It was a vacation where there were no baseball games, no teammates, nowhere we had to be, no places we had to go, all we had was each other and the beautiful scenery surrounding us... so I'm calling our little vacay a "minimoon".
There is so much to share and I'm going to try to record almost everything that I can remember (not to mention I took a GAZILLION photos), so get comfortable in your seat because this is gonna be a looooong post... and keep in mind that it's only Part One! :)
We drove from Richland, Washington all the way to Yellowstone on the first day and made a stop in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Lots of locals told us to stop by and we were glad we did.
The red geraniums just made the place to me. (I know, not the glacier lake, mountains, or boats... the red geraniums... Just to let y'all know I have admitted before that I am a bit of flower nerd!)
Driving through Montana was absolutely beautiful and we saw with our own eyes why they call Montana BIG SKY country.
After a long day of driving, we arrived in Yellowstone and I was so excited I could hardly make myself go to sleep! We spent the first day in Yellowstone and after our first 10 minutes in the park, Aaron was hooked.
Wanna see why?
The elk were in rut and actin' a fool! They were bugling and fighting over the cows (girl elk).
Not two hours later, we're driving through the Lamar Valley and we come across an elk kill in a creek with some coyotes feeding on it. We stopped because we saw a park ranger and he informed us that a pack of wolves had been feeding on their kill earlier that morning and would be back soon. Considering I have lived there and visited many times and have NEVER seen a wolf we decided we better take advantage of this unique opportunity and wait to see if they would come. Sure enough, we notice the coyotes scatter in all different directions and here comes a black/gray wolf to feed on the kill. It was a sight to see. I could NOT believe we were in viewing distance of a WOLF (considering how secretive they are) and the fact that Aaron had been here for two hours and had already seen a wolf. If I would have had a good zoom lens I could show y'all a picture of his enormous size and glowing eyes but my camera couldn't get the job done unfortunately... But here is a picture of the Lamar Valley where we spotted the wolf.
So not an hour later, down the road, we spot a grizzly bear. I kept telling Aaron over and over how lucky he was to see all this the entire week let alone the first two hours in the park! Once again, my camera was not sufficient for a good grizzly picture so your imagination will just have to do. But I will tell you, he was HUGE! Here is Aaron in action:
This was his signature "pose" the whole trip... scanning the terrain for wildlife.
The rest of the day we enjoyed seeing the sights of Yellowstone and came across this gem. Here's the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone folks:
Now you know why they call the park Yellowstone. I cannot tell you how many family pictures I have taken at this very spot... it made me miss them even more than I already was.
We also payed a visit to see Mammoth Hot Springs.
They are beautiful but aren't as colorful and bubbly as they used to be... as you can see on the left side of the picture above, they are drying up over time.
This little fellow is a Mountain Bluebird... talk about the BLUEST bird you've ever seen!
While driving down the road we stumbled upon this situation many, many, times.
It's your world bud, we're just livin' in it.
We saw many more elk herds and heard a lot of bugling which of course made Aaron giddy. I told him the horns of an elk would look a WHOLE lot better above our future fireplace than a redneck whitetail. (not trying to offend anyone, that's just my humble opinion) Thankfully, he is now even more inspired to hunt elk and I'm not complaining!
After we had spent a FULL day in Yellowstone, we made our way to Jackson Hole... my favorite. I think some tourists make the mistake (in my opinion) of spending the majority of their time in Yellowstone and only a small amount of time in Grand Teton National Park. Sure Yellowstone is gorgeous and you are pretty much guaranteed to see all kinds of wildlife but Jackson Hole is where you should spend most of your time. Nothing in this world compares to the beauty of this place.
Now, granted, I do have sentimental attachments and all but if you spend quality time in and around these mountains and just look at them with your own eyes (not only through the lens of my little camera) you will understand what I mean.
Speaking of sentimental attachments, I had to show Aaron our little cabin we used to live in.
Keep in mind that the yard USED to be perfectly manicured and the cabin was newer but it is still super cute!
While I was still feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to show Aaron our FAVORITE candy store in the whole wide world... Yipee Yi Yo! (That's the name of the store as well as the expression I exclaimed when I set my eyes on this delicious sight!)
And then I spent $10 on candy.
We drove up Signal Mountain and admired the view... Aaron also spotted some elk in the valley below.
For our first hike of the trip, we decided to go easy on our lungs (the air is extremely thin there due to the extremely high altitude) and take an easy little three mile hike around Jenny Lake. This is where our dog "Jenny" got her name!
The lake is clear because it's made up of glacier and snow water.
Jenny Lake is at the base of Mt. Teewinot.
Notice that the mountains have hardly any snow on them. Then the weather turned cold and rainy the next day and we woke up to mountains covered in snow!
We decided to go on another hike around Taggart and Bradley Lakes. That day we eased on into a six mile hike and it was frrreeeezzzing but beautiful!
My mountain man.
(He doesn't normally tuck in his athletic wear ;)
The aspen trees were starting to turn yellow... making for a beautiful hike through the woods.
Along the trail we stopped these two young bucks in their tracks.
And then this curious little guy popped his head up to see who was coming his way. It took us a minute to figure out it was a baby fox. For a split second I thought he was a kitten!
And this little scavenger joined us for a picnic lunch on the trail.
We made it to both lakes and enjoyed the view.
This is Garnet Canyon... the hike we had planned on for the day but the weather didn't permit.
Another day, when the weather turned clear, we hiked into Cascade Canyon. On the way, we spotted this big guy.
...and this lanky lady and her baby. Little did we know, this was a sign of things to come on our hike.
One of the first pretty stops along our hike was Hidden Falls. It's amazing how much LESS water there is in September than in the middle of the summer.
The terrain got a little rocky the further up we went.
And I had to take a quick breather every now and then... Julie and Jessica and I have many pictures in this little boulder cave.
It may have gotten a little strenuous at times but this beautiful view of Jenny Lake was worth all the huffin' and puffin'.
The further we hiked into the canyon, the prettier it got.
Along the trail, we looked to our left and there he was.
We actually saw two but I just photographed this bull.
Our hike ended up being 11 miles of rocky trails, beautiful views, and wildlife and we were pooped. We decided a "Billy's burger" was just what we "deserved" after what we had just put our bodies through. It used to be the BIGGEST deal when Mom would take us here for lunch. The atmosphere is fun and the burgers are huge, greasy, and delicious.
One of my favorite things about the Rocky Mountains is the wildflowers. However, I learned this time that if you visit in September you will hardly find any compared to the summertime. In the spring and summer there are fields covered in all types of wildflowers and I can give you the name of every single one of them hands down. Yes, that might be a little weird but I don't care :) Here are the whopping three kinds I saw.
Indian Paintbrush, Aster Daisy, and Harebell. (Just be grateful it wasn't the summer so you don't have to be bored while looking at a picture of EVERY SINGLE ONE that bloomed!)
We also saw a ton of antelope, which is to be expected out west where there is lots of sage. This was an interesting looking fellow considering the placement of his right antler was a little off. Aaron thought it was the coolest thing ever and this is one of about 20 pictures we have of him.
Now if you're visiting Jackson Hole and you want to eat good food and see a stellar show you need to go to the Bar J Wranglers Chuckwagon. This was about the sixth time I have been to their show and it has only gotten better and more hilarious over time. You eat a cowboy supper of steak, baked beans, baked potatoes, applesauce, and spice cake. After supper, you listen to them sing and harmonize old western cowboy songs and they cut up and pick at each other the whole time and it is HILARIOUS! Aaron just ate it up- the songs, comedy, and yes, two entire plates of food.
Not to mention I dressed the part and enjoyed being a "cowgirl" for the night, since you know, I talk like one and all...
And one look at my cowboy made my heart flutter.
Ok so I'm gonna have to leave you with this stunning sight for now but I will be back soon with "Part Two" of Minimoon in the Mountains!
I love you if you're still reading!