Jackson Hole, Wy

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When I think of fun cities, my mind goes straight to  places like Las Vegas and New Orleans. New York and LA if you’re a city mouse, perhaps Miami if you’re a beach bunny. But I have a new city to add to that list:  Jackson Hole, Wy. This place is just So.Much.Fun! Prior to visiting, I really didn’t have much in the way of expectations, basically thinking that it was just a ski town which would be pretty quiet in the summer. In fact, we only picked it as our base camp due to its close proximity to both the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. But I’m so glad that we ended up there because we had a blast! With tons of great restaurants, bars, and shops, it was the perfect complement to our long days out in the wild.

Some of our new Jackson Hole friends ;)

Some of our new Jackson Hole friends ;)

Our home in Jackson Hole was a quaint little condo we booked on VRBO. Condo rentals are an economical alternative to hotels, especially during peak seasons (the summer was actually pretty hopping, with many accomodations at full capacity). It was also nice to have the extra space of a living room, and the convenience of a kitchen and washer/dryer (it was so great to do laundry after all that outdoor activity!). We really lucked out with the location; we were just a few blocks away from the center of town where all the action was, but we had total peace and quiet as the condo was located next to a large creek. Best of both worlds!

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The restaurants in Jackson Hole really surprised me. There were so many options that I think any foodie would be happy here! Our first stop upon arrival was Bin22, a tapas restaurants with a huge wine selection. They have an beautiful outdoor space, which was a nice place to spend an afternoon.

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The next few days were  a blur, but we did have some standouts. For our one breakfast out, we hit The Bunnery Bakery and Restaurant, which was awesome. I rarely go sweet for breakfast, but I got the French Toast, and it was awesome! No pictures because apparently we were too busy eating to  photograph anything!

We also had a great dinner at The Kitchen, which featured modern American cuisine, cooked with local and seasonal ingredients.

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Jackson Hole has a slew of sporting goods shops and art galleries, but they also have a handful of eclectic shops with unique gift ideas. Our primary purchases were bear spray and bear bells (for reals), and SNACKS! Our favorite, hands down, was the S’mores cookie from Persephone Bakery. #IWantOneRightNow

I only had one! Though I was tempted to steal Maria's as well...

Don’t worry. I only had one! Though I was tempted to steal Maria’s as well…

One evening we decided to make our own bar tour of Jackson Hole, choosing all the places with Happy Hour specials. Not only was it nice on the wallet, but it was a fun way to check out several different places! Two of our favorites were Cafe Genevieve and Local.

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We liked Local so much we actually ended up there twice. At the recommendation of our condo neighbor, we stopped there for a light dinner. It turned out that there was live music on the patio out back, so naturally, that is where we parked ourselves!

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There were plenty of non-park activities as well. We tried a Vinyasa Flow class one morning, at the studio across from our condo. Maria and I both enjoy yoga (in fact, she is yoga certified!), but doing yoga at such a high altitude was a completely new experience – read: kicked our butts!

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There are also daily “shoot-outs” on the town square, which was essentially an old-timey, wild-west type of show.  While this was not a Broadway caliber performance, I could see it being really fun for kids!

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Another great way to find out about daily events in town is by getting a copy of the free local newspaper, which lists all happenings for the week. Our server at Bin22 gave us a copy as well as great recommendations for things to do and see.  It turned out to be really helpful!  At her suggestion, we checked out the Jackson Hole People’s Market. There were several vendors, food and drinks for sale, and live music. Lots of people, of all ages, out and about!

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I really enjoyed my stay at Jackson Hole and would love to go back someday! I’m thinking a winter trip may be in order so we can see what the ski scene is all about!

Yellowstone National Park: Uncle Tom’s Trail and Artist Point

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Just as we parked at the entrance to Uncle Tom’s Trail, we saw the first few drops of water hit our windshield, rapidly developing into pouring rain. No worries; we came prepared with ponchos that Maria had picked up back in Chicago!

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#Fashion

Uncle Tom’s Trail was developed in 1898 by “Uncle Tom” Richardson, an entrepreneur who took visitors on tours across the Yellowstone River. Initially created as a simple trail made of 528 steps and rope ladders, the trail currently consists of 328 grated metal steps and paved pathways.

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The good news is that by the time we walked to the beginning of the trail, the rain had ended. The bad news is that everything was wet and slippery! Now, given that this is a tour site in the US, I’m sure that every safety precaution was taken (I had a little flashback to my rainy day at Victoria Falls, where that was decidedly not the case!). Still, we both thought this was scary! The steps were much steeper than I imagined, and you could see right through them to see just how high up we were. *Gulp* So the reason that there aren’t any photos of this is because I was too busy clinging to the railing for dear life, ha!

We met some nice people at the bottom who took a picture for us. Please note how our ponchos ended up matching our outfits… how funny is that?

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kavi360.com, Yellowstone, Uncle Tom's Trail  

And then it was time to turn around and go back up!

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Now, over those aforementioned 328 steps, the trail drops 500 feet. On top of that, it’s located at an elevation of 8,000 ft, so it was pretty strenuous. Still, I much preferred the way up, versus the way down! We saw a family of rambunctious boys literally running down the steps. We could not believe how fearless they were. But then we saw their athletic-looking dad following after them – while carrying a toddler by the arms in front of him. He was going so fast, it was as if he were running bleachers! The kicker was that the little kiddo was grinning from ear to ear, totally enjoying it!

We found this sign near the top. Dangerous!

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Lastly, we headed over to Artist’s Point. This area is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Amazing views!

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Yellowstone National Park: Grand Prismatic Spring

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Have you ever seen a landscape so foreign that you feel like you’re on another planet? The Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone was just that otherworldly and mesmerizing! It’s what you could imagine the surface of Venus or Mars to be like, or given the presence of liquid pools, perhaps one of Saturn’s moons. In any case, this was the feature of Yellowstone we were most looking forward to seeing, and it certainly lived up to the hype!

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The Grand Prismatic Spring is located in Yellowstone’s Midway Geyser Basin. It has the honor of being the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world following first runner up Boiling Lake in Dominica (which I got to see back in 2006!) and the winner, Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand (it’s on the list!).

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As you may have guessed, the springs are famous for their vibrant colors… bright turquoise and teal to deep rust and orange! These gorgeous colors are created  by pigmented thermophilic bacteria that grow on the perimeter of the mineral-rich pools. The specific colors are influenced by the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids present, and by the temperature of the water, which promotes certain bacteria over others. Isn’t science amazing?! Charles was in heaven!

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As were we! It was one stunning photo op after another.

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We almost didn’t want to leave, but we had another Yellowstone adventure on our list. The Grand Prismatic Spring a must see at Yellowstone – don’t miss it!

Memories…

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There are few people in the world who love you unconditionally. There are even fewer people who are capable of such honest and unwavering love. My family and I were lucky to have one of these people in our lives: My uncle R, who lost his battle with brain cancer yesterday. His diagnosis came suddenly, and he was given just 3 months to live. But he surprised all of us, including his doctors, by making it five more years; a true testament to the faith and resilience that he and my aunt shared.

He always held a special place in my heart because he was there on the day I was born, and was there for me every day since. He even kept the same tattered old picture of me in his wallet for the better part of three decades. I distinctly remember him waking me up early one morning to tell me the exciting news that I had a new baby sister. Very fitting, as he became an integral part of our childhood. He and my aunt never had children, but treated their nieces and nephews as their own. In some ways, it was like having another parent around, but as any doting uncle or aunt will tell you, there’s a special bond there because it’s all of the fun and none of the scolding and reprimanding that comes with parenthood. In fact, I cannot recall a single time that he ever uttered a harsh word towards us, nor did he ever tell us that he was too busy to play with us. My sister fondly recalls playing “horse,” a game that simply required him to carry her around the house on his back, which he was always happy to do. I remember playing a million rounds of the card game Memory with him. I also remember that he would never just let me just win – I had to earn it! He also had one of the most inquisitive minds that I have ever come across. My cousins and I used to joke that if any of us left a school textbook out, we would come back to find him reading it! But out of a treasure trove of many, I think my favorite memory of all, and the way that I always picture him in my head, is the way he would laugh! There was just something pure and unabashed about his wild laugh where you could just tell how happy he was. And that is how I would always like to remember him.

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful

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Next up on our road trip was Jellystone Yellowstone National Park. Home to the majority of the world’s geysers, Yellowstone was established by President Grant on March 1, 1872 as our country’s first national park. This novel concept of a public park open to all spurred a movement to preserve and protect nature for future generations. Beauty which we all get to enjoy today!

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Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 geothermal features and 1,283 geysers, of which, 465 are active annually. Interestingly,  Old Faithful is neither the tallest or largest geyser in the park, titles which belong to Steamboat Geyser. However, the popularity of Old Faithful can be attributed to its predictability (it is one of the most predictable features on planet Earth), high frequency of eruptions, and easy access. The park tracks activity around the clock and, very conveniently, provides the time of the next eruption!

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Even still, Charles Darwin was growing rather impatient. Luckily there was  a friendly park ranger around who gave a very informative and humorous talk about the park. Meltdown averted!

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Soon, we started seeing the first billows of steam rising through the air… and then BOOM!

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According to Wikipedia. each eruption can  spray 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet, lasting  1.5 to 5 minutes. Of note, in 1938, the ranger Harry Woodward discovered the mathematical relationship between the duration and interval of the eruptions. This discovery is what allows the rangers to accurately predict the time of the eruptions today!

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It was really quite spectacular to witness one of nature’s finest performances. It was easy to imagine generations of visitors taking in the spectacle of Old Faithful and the other geysers and being in awe of such sights. I would highly recommend visiting a geyser or two during your trip to Yellowstone!