Travel: Jackson Hole 2020 Highlight Reel

Well it’s been about two weeks since we’ve been back home and almost fully recovered from our incredible trip. Being out west in Jackson Hole, is just unreal. As soon as we landed, it was insane endless rolling mountain views any direction you turn and there was also a huge weight lifted. Waking up at our condo the first morning in Teton Village, was just pure happiness.

As I mentioned in my flight recap, we chose Jackson Hole, because it’s a familiar place. This was B and I’s third trip together and my eighth trip total. So that alone was super special, as I’ve been fortunate enough to essentially grow up going to Jackson Hole with my extended family, creating amazing memories. And now being able to come back with B, for a third time, is just so lucky. Jackson has truly been a safe haven for me, and always deemed a second home with my cousin A, and I couldn’t think of a better time, for when I needed to return to my home away from home than this year. As much of a city girl that I am, and I know my friends will agree, the mountains and Jackson bring out another part of me, it’s that feeling of being safe, feeling alive, and just plain happy. Ok, now queue the mini photo reel below from my years going to JH.

Throwback Reel:

With this being our third trip together, we knew there would be a lot of things we would be able to do safely, and we knew there would just be some things that wouldn’t be happening. We were also perfectly content being in our condo and planned accordingly from a food perspective and even packed our go-to games to have on hand (deck of cards, uno, and yahtzee – yes we are 100). Even still, we had another memorable trip with a lot of great moments, so instead of sharing every single one, here is our highlight reel.

B’s Highlights: Our first night, maybe 30-minutes after being at our condo, we cracked open bubbles/wine and were going to enjoy a happy hour on our little balcony. We were Facetiming with my parents and all of a sudden, B said something and points. And he is pointing at none other than a momma moose and her baby, casually walking by the walkway and over to some bushes for a little afternoon snack – not even 20-feet away from us. It was incredible! We were elevated and surrounded by deck, so we were at a safe distance to watch and admire these two beauties. It was a pretty awesome welcome.

B’s favorite activity was our impromptu Grand View Point hike around Two Oceans Lake and Emma Matilda Lake. We opted for the 4-mile hike towards Grand View Point vs. Emma Matilda, since we’ve ventured there before, so Grand View was a new one for us. We ended up hiking a bit longer than planned and probably rounded out at about 9-miles total — it was an exhausting day. The hike was good, until about the last mile that was just switchback after switchback and a stiff incline. The view was incredible of the Grand Teton range, and we finished up along Emma Matilda.

My Highlights: Our second night in Jackson, we headed up to The Deck on the Bridger Gondola from Teton Village for happy hour. They had mini bottles of my favorite bubbles, so we grab a few from the cafe and scored a bench away from everyone and soaked in the views and laughed the night away. B even teased me that he’s never seen me talk so much, I’m sure it was the bubbles talking a bit, and just being so happy to be in Jackson. We went another night for drinks, but it was a little later than the first time and we were welcomed by a stunning cotton candy colored sunset.

I also really enjoyed our hike around Colter Bay – it was quiet and peaceful and had incredible views of the mountains along Jackson Lake. We took our time exploring and enjoying the views, including finding a nice little spot along the lake for a lunch break. Another highlight of mine, was visiting the Geraldine Lucas-Fabin homestead, established in 1913, this cabin has unobstructed views of the Grand Tetons and is a quiet, off the beaten path spot — we had the whole place to ourselves. I was just so content sitting on her front porch, listening to the trickling of the Snake River and soaking in the mountain views.

We made sure to stop at the go-to spots that are always a must see including the T.A. Moulton Barn which we stopped back for a second time to see it snow covered. Yes! We got a taste of winter on our second to last day there, and woke up to 6-inches of snow — it was absolutely beautiful and felt like a winter wonderland, although the wind storm that brought the winter weather definitely did some damage and took down trees throughout town and even on popular hiking trails.

We also stopped briefly at Jenny Lake, but only at a look out for a quick peak and some photos – as this was definitely a very popular stop, and way to busy for our liking. We even avoided visiting town, except for early mornings and made sure to be in and out to avoid the masses for popular hours like lunch or dinner especially over the weekend. Traffic alone around town and even getting into the park at times was really backed up, I’ve never seen it like that before — even visiting in prime summer season in years past.

We also made sure to wake-up one morning to watch the sunrise at Schwabacher Landing which is another well photographed spot that showcases the Tetons in a reflection of the Snake River. We also got to watch an Elk while we snapped photos of the sunrise, he was in prime photo position and showing off his rack – it was also like 30-degrees at sunrise that morning, so we didn’t stay too long! Speaking of wildlife, we were super fortunate to see our fair share of Moose, obviously our first day, but then we would see a few in the pond along the windy Moose-Wilson Road. One morning, we stopped and probably watched a moose for about 40-minutes, as she ate in the pond, made her way across the pond, up the ridge and right up to the look-out with all of us onlookers! We also saw two bears – one swimming at Oxbow Bend and the other again on the winding Moose-Wilson Road because she ran across the road right in front of us! We were able to watch her along side the road for a bit before she headed further in. We of course saw a few distant herds of Buffalo, and a few Elk in the wee morning hours before when we were headed to our sunrise spot.

We almost perfected our tri-pod selfies during our trip. It was something I decided to purchase once we booked our trip, knowing we would primarily be solo and in need of some good couple shots with the gorgeous backdrops that are ever changing and never ending. Although, we were those people, who when we did ask for a photo to be snapped of us by a stranger, had our masks on and hand sanitizer was out and shared! I know people were looking at me like I was a crazy pants, but hey we still have to be smart and safe. We were also the people on hikes who had our masks on when we passed people, and got way out of the way — again I know our fellow hikers were looking at us like we were being extra.

Jackson is always someplace I dream about visiting and getting back too. It’s always a place that makes my heart melt and makes it so full at the same time. Jackson is a place we will always go back to, because as I mentioned it is near and dear to my heart, with many thanks and gratitude to my extended family for incredible summer vacations. Until next time, I miss the mountains already…

Traveling During A Pandemic on an Airplane

So B and I did a thing. We went on vacation… in 2020, can you even? I know, very controversial and even more so because we got on an airplane. So I’m going to break it all down, from our decision making process, why we decided to, and how it was from checking in, boarding and being on the plane itself. Although, I would also like to clarify and confirm – we’ve been quarantining since we’ve been home for a total of 14-days (Day 12, today!). And just because we traveled in a more controlled environment, we still have certain feelings about doing other social things during this time and the amount of people we see — that may make us hypocrites ūü§∑ūüŹľ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ, but we look at each situation differently, including our decision to fly.

Our Decision Making Process & Why. This was not an easy decision and a bit of a rollercoaster. It started mainly because we had a trip planned in March for my birthday – aka prime corona shutdown time. So we were able to get a flight voucher and our hotel accommodations as a hold for a future trip. Initially our flight voucher was set to expire by the end of the year. Obviously as this pandemic has persisted, airlines have adjusted policies and have also taken a huge hit overall (airports included). So we always had a thought that we might “need” to go somewhere before the end of 2020. Long story short, we attempted to plan this trip for three different timeframes, and backed out the first two.

Finally, the flights to one of our favorite destinations – Jackson Hole, Wyoming – were too good to pass up. In all transparency we’re used to paying $600+ per person, and our flights were about $640 round trip for both of us – which also happened to be just a little over our flight voucher from our March trip. So to be able to go to Jackson Hole for the same price we were going to spend going to Philly, seemed like a no brainer. We also chose to go to a place we were familiar with, a place we had a feel for where to go, where not to go, where we to stay, and knew that we could do things for the most party socially distant and avoid crowds once we arrived. I also didn’t want to regret not taking a trip to a place that is so special to me.

Weighing the pros and cons of getting on an airplane was another factor. I’ve been pretty open about my anxiety this pandemic has brought onto me. Booking the trip gave me anxiety, thinking about getting on a plane and being around people gave me anxiety (still does), and flying on the airplanes gave me anxiety. BUT, I know the safety precautions being taken by the airlines both for passengers and from a cleaning perspective have only increased — and I know others who have flown and have said nothing but positive things. Plus airports and airlines have made wearing face coverings mandatory, so if we’re all wearing masks, we are all helping each other out, right?¬†

How It Was. We had an early morning flight out to Jackson Hole by way of ORD (Chicago). We flew American Airlines, again because that was who our flight voucher was with, unfortunately American (and United) don’t keep the middle seat open. Knowing this, we ended up paying for our seats a few days before our flights to ensure we were next to each other and pick where we felt comfortable being – since we had ‘Basic Economy’ seats. Also knowing this, B was a trooper and sat in the middle seat while I was in the window seat. Two of our four flights were only two seater planes, so it was a moot point, but we were still able to sit with each other!

Checking In & Security. We wiped down the touch screens at check-in, but going to an attendant to help us was available too, as it wasn’t very busy. Going through security there were helpful floor dots to designate a 6-ft distance, so it was easy to maintain. When you show TSA your boarding pass and ID, they will ask you to pull your face mask down so they can see your full face, to check your identity – so don’t be alarmed! Otherwise, everything was pretty normal.

Layovers. We had two longer layovers in the much busier airport of ORD. But we found that sitting in the airports waiting for our flights, that we were able to maintain a pretty good distance from people – a bit harder in Chicago – but still attainable. For the most part people wore their masks while waiting, unless they were eating/drinking, but there were definitely a few noses sticking out, and although face coverings are required in ORD, there were a few entitled people who sat/walked around without.

Boarding. Boarding was another story, as there definitely wasn’t 6-ft. distance maintained, but everyone had their masks on and seemed somewhat aware of their surroundings – we boarded in the last group, so we also hung back and let everyone else get on first. Gate agents were also great about asking passengers to adjust their masks or put one on before they scanned boarding passes. Getting on our flights, we were able to grab sanitizer wipes that were provided by the flight attendants upon entering the aircraft, for our shorter trips from CLE to ORD. For our longer flights from Chicago to Wyoming, we received pre-packaged snack bags when we boarded that included a little water bottle, snack bag (pistachios/pretzels) and sanitizer wipes.

On the Flights. Obviously we weren’t able to be socially distant on the flight — but it was clean on the plane, even though we also wiped down our seat area with our own cleaning wipes. And, since there wasn’t inflight food/drink service, it appeared that most people kept their masks on and minded their business plus, bonus, no one seemed to be sneezy or coughy around us. So besides being a little squished (B especially) we felt good and fine on the flight. I also double masked, a paper one underneath my fabric one — which made me feel a little more protected, even if it was purely mental.

COVID Packing Tips. Fun fact, TSA is allowing 12oz hand sanitizer in your carry on which is over the normal liquid limit — you can also pack a full size tube of disinfectant wipes in your carry-on, just make sure to pull out from your bag when you go through TSA! This was huge being able to have for our condo and just an extra set on hand, especially for our long travel days.

Nothing beat the feeling of seeing the Grand Tetons for the first time from the airplane – I literally started crying I was so happy. And not because I was happy to get off the plane (I mean I was), but I just couldn’t believe we made it! It has been 4-years since our last trip to JH and ironically, which was when we were attempting to plan our wedding, so it was surreal to be back and in a safe place I like to call home especially in this crazy year.

Questions about our airplane travels? Leave a comment below!






*This year has been unprecedented for all of us, as we have all learned to navigate this “new normal” and we can all agree, that everyone does that differently, based on what they’re comfortable with and what feels OK to them. So, before you go and judge – let’s all just remember this whole year has affected a lot of us differently and we’re all just trying to survive, the best we can

Fitness Friday 09.20 – My Hike Life Lesson

As I was sitting and thinking about my monthly Fitness Friday post, my first thought is that I haven’t put in much work this month because of our trip and now quarantining post trip. But then, I thought about our trip and the good and hard hikes we took, and the one came to mind as a perfect example of life lately and often how our fitness journey’s may not always be perfect — so I thought I’d take a moment to share.

Before our trip out west, B and I put together a list of must-do’s that we wanted to make sure we accounted for! One of B’s absolutes was hiking Mt. Rendezvous – which is a hike we’ve done before. It’s a tough one — I instantly thought back to the first time we did it with my dad, the path wasn’t clear, we did some extra back and forth and it was long, with a decent elevation climb. I was instantly having doubts we wouldn’t be able to do it again, just the two of us. But the fun part about this hike is the waffle place at the top, which is the perfect post-hike treat and you get a free ride down from the Tram!

Our plans shifted slightly, as the Tram hasn’t run all summer due to the pandemic, meaning the waffle stand wasn’t open at the top, but instead shifted down to the Bridger Gondola stop where The Deck is (a popular sunset happy hour spot). So we decided to hike to the Bridger Gondola vs. the top of Mt. Rendezvous. Luckily for us the trails leading up are better marked since the last time we were there over 4 years ago and we could still get waffles and catch a gondola ride down from the Bridger Gondola spot! So after having our plan in place, we set our day to do the hike.

Now back to the meat of the story! We woke up early the morning of our hike to head to a popular sunrise spot to see the Teton’s in a reflecting spot of the Snake River (which was incredible!) — so we had a leisurely morning after that and I personally was pushing off our hike. But we finally got started just after the lunch hour, knowing we had at least 2 hours of hike ahead of us, and wanted to make sure we could catch the gondola down!

We started and the first mile or so was just incline, after incline, after incline — we had no breaks and I got gassed early on. It was hotter than I planned too, so I let the mental battle of defeat and my body feeling defeated get the best of me and I couldn’t stop complaining. I kept having to stop, catch my breath, blow my nose (allergies were on point out west), and continue to complain — B was not having it. But we kept going, and although B said after complaint #40, “Ok, we can turnaround.” — I quickly said “No!,” and kept hiking. I’m not sure if it was from that point on or just continuing to push through the discomfort and doubt… but after awhile my attitude and negative thoughts shifted and went away. I didn’t even notice it, we just kept going, took breaks when we needed, soaked in the views and chatted along the way.

Spoiler: We made it to the top! But the point of sharing this story is there are times when we just plain don’t want to do anything. When we don’t want to workout, don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to adult or feel like we can’t. Those times when we already write ourselves off and consider something a failure — before it’s even done. This whole year has sort of felt like that, the whole year has just felt like a wash, I’ve heard it from many people, it’s been more of let’s get through this year and then we can go back to normal and do all the things next year.

But, when we got to the top, I felt so accomplished, I did it, B and I did it together! And it was pushing through the negativity and setting out to finish something we talked about doing no matter what. And it felt good! I was exhausted, but after awhile the pain and discomfort became part of the hike and something I worked with, until it wasn’t a thing anymore. This hike in a beautiful place taught me a little lesson, and that is to not write off defeat before it’s ever really started.

We’ve all been pushed around and down a lot this year. That’s why we need to remember and continue to celebrate our victories when we prevail through our own mental beatings and push through the physical pain. And we need to remember and acknowledge the fact that we are strong and can push through the pain, discomfort and doubt to accomplish goals — even if that is one day at a time, one workout at a time, or one hike at a time. And maybe, this year won‚Äôt completely be a wash.

Travel: Jackson Hole – Part 3

Sick of all the amazing photos of beautiful scenery and food from our trip? Me either. This last recap is for the must see photo stops beyond the millions of other stops you can make along the way.

Oxbow Bend
This is on the north end of Jackson as you’re headed out to Jackson Lake Lodge or Yellowstone. ¬†Not only does Oxbow Bend have great views of Mount Moran, but you can also bet on seeing some wildlife around there, particularly a grizzly or moose.

Jackson Lake Lodge
JLL is a great place for a nicer dinner and drinks especially if you want to be wowed by an amazing view of Mount Moran and the stunning range it belongs too.  Again, another great spot for animal watching especially early morning or in the evenings the floor to ceiling windows allow for nearly unobstructed views.

Jenny Lake
You’ll find that this is a popular destination for new and seasoned visitors. ¬†Whether you’re stopping at a pull off to capture a peak of the lake, jumping on the ferry to cross over, or renting kayaks to paddle along you’ll have stunning views of Teewinot and Mount Owen. ¬†This time around we went the kayak route which can be rented right at the boat dock and it was awesome.

Moulton Barn on Mormon Row 
This is one of the most photographed barns mainly because of it’s stunning views of the Grand Teton not to mention it’s iconic structure. ¬†Since I first went out to JH, Moulton Barn has definitely risen on the map and is more “commericalized” with an outhouse, parking, and even a bridge to be able to walk over and get up close to the barn. ¬†When we first went out¬†the property seemed sacred only being able to get only as¬†close as the fence would allow (below 2009 vs. 2016). ¬†It’s definitely changed over the years, but still a must-see.

Schwabacher Landing
If you do an image search “Jackson Hole Wyoming” one of these iconic pictures of the Grand reflected into water will turn-up. ¬†Most famously shot early mornings at sunrise you’ll be up before the sun to get this shot. ¬†We did that on our last morning, got up early and waited until the sun came up to grab the perfect shot with the pinks on the tips of the mountains. ¬†If you walk the trail further you’ll be guided to another marshy area full of beavers! Definitely a stunning shot that looks nearly fake in photos.

Jackson Town Square
The center of Jackson is cornered with four elk antler arches, huge arches that you can walk under and they stand in their glory day and night. It’s often sometimes hard to get a clean shot in front of an arch due to the tourists walking around and even snapping their own pictures – going early mornings or later in the evenings usually has a smaller crowd. ¬†If not offer to snap a couples photo and have them take yours, in and out!

In Jackson, pretty¬†much anywhere you drive will have stunning views of the Tetons or the foothills, it’s incredible how much beauty is packed into one space.

Questions on JH or just visited? Send me your pictures @mmariebee or leave a comment below!

ICYMI:  JH Recap #1 РHikes || JH Recap #2 РFood || #EmnBtoJH Р2014

Travel: Jackson Hole – Part 2

Since this week is super rough after an amazing trip last week, let the JH recaps continue. This post is all about all the yummy food we ate and the dranks we drank!  There are definitely more places to visit than what we covered this past week, but none the less the spots we picked were pretty tasty too. Enjoy!

Cafe Genevieve
We had seen this spot on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, so we definitely wanted to check it out, it did not disappoint. We ended up at this spot twice for brunch and were introduced to deliciousness AKA pig candy. The pig candy was a game changer, especially when paired with a Bloody Mary.  Oh, and you can buy it online too!  Not only was the atmosphere quaint and cute, but the service and staff was exceptional and the food was great. I went with the Biscuits with Canjun Gravy while B had the Snake River Farms Corned Beef Hash and the Cajun Eggs Benedict, all so good.

Snake River Brewery
The beers are great and it’s supporting local business with delicious¬†food too. ¬†We started with the beer sampler, which in and of itself is worth getting because of the presentation. ¬†We then ordered the pretzels and cheese dip, ohmygawd. I ordered the bison burger, because when you’re out west it’s kind of a necessity to get a bison burger. I definitely over indulged but it was the good kind, plus you forget when the atmosphere is fun and tunes are cranking.

The Deck @ Piste
AKA happy hour at nearly 9,000 ft. AKA one of the most stunning happy hours you might ever go too. ¬†The free gondola rides start at 4:30 and from there the 10-minute or so trip takes you up to The Deck. ¬†The drinks are delicious and the views don’t stop it’s a win-win combination for good conversation and a good time – not to mention live music too! ¬†We were able to get this happy hour in twice while we were in town.

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a staple in downtown Jackson. ¬†It’s marquee is a photo stop day or night, but you must be 21 to enter this bar! ¬†It wasn’t until 2-years ago that I finally got to visit the bar. ¬†It’s rustic decor is just what you would expect, and yet the most known item at MDCB is the saddle bar stools. We enjoyed some cocktails and grabbed dinner at the bar, they have a Steakhouse in the basement, but we opted for chicken fingers, burgers and fries. *smiles* It’s definite a must-stop in JH.

A few other spots we visited were the Mangy Moose, E Leaven, Thai Me Up,¬†Smokin’ Iron (awesome patio) and¬†Moo’s Ice Cream. We definitely got to enjoy a lot more food since we stayed in town so we were closer for brunching, lunching or sipping,¬†all of it within walking distance too!

Cheers!

Travel: Jackson Hole – Part 1

Happy Tuesday and start to a short week after a longggg weekend.  I was lucky enough to have a super long weekend and was vacationing all last week in one of my favorite spots ever РJackson Hole, Wyoming.  The last time I was out in JH was two-years ago, which was the first time B got to experience the magic and beauty of the Grant Tetons, he feel in love too.  To share the love of my trip, and in case any of you are planning a trip or looking for your next vacation spot, here is Part 1 of our trip, focusing on the hikes we took throughout the week!

Taggart Lake Trailhead
Level: Easy РModerate | Distance: About 3-miles
You can access Taggart Lake once you enter Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) from the Moose Entrance Station¬†it’s one of the first stops that is clearly marked as you head north. ¬†It’s definitely a popular spot and you’ll run into fellow hikers and tourists, throughout this hike you’ll be stunned and amazed at the Grand Teton as you keep getting closer and closer. ¬†Once you get to Taggart Lake you can definitely relax in serenity and soak in the views of the Grand. If you’re looking for more views and a little longer of a hike from Taggart Lake you can go a little further and reach Bradley Lake, if you’re looking for something more challenging you can also head to Ampitheater Lake from the Taggart Lake Trailhead.

Geraldine Lucas Cabin
Level: Easy | Distance: 2-miles
Geraldine Lucas was a pioneer for her time and the second woman to ever climb the Grand Teton (at 58-years-young). ¬†She was mostly notable, unfortunately, for being a divorced single mother, ¬†not only was she divorced and a single mother but she also attended college, in Ohio of all places. She retired out in Jackson Hole in 1913 – she acquired nearly 160 acres for her homestead. ¬† The property was later owned by Harold Fabian, and the property is now commonly referred to as the Lucas-Fabian Homestead. ¬†This trail is a bit tougher to find – well currently, but the park service is finally getting this on the map with marked trails and signs (as it’s currently a bit of an adventure to find). ¬†Again off Teton Park Rd., you’ll want to look for The Climbers Ranch road¬†and drive down the road past the first driveway, over a bridge and park to your right in a little pull off. The Cottonwood Creek Trail to the homestead starts there. You’ll again reach stunning views of the Tetons once you reach the 11-house homestead, Geraldine picked a killer spot.

Two Oceans & Emma Matilda Lakes 
Level: Moderate РHard |  Distance: 4-11 miles
This hike was a random pick by me, mainly because of the name, Emma Matilda, a nickname my mom calls me. ¬†You’ll get here by taking 191 and continuing¬†onto 191 at Moran Junction, from there follow the signs to Two Oceans and Emma Matilda, after entering the park. The hike around Emma Matilda Lake is about 11-miles. The hike from Two Oceans to Emma Matilda is about 4-miles depending on how much you explore, Two Oceans is about a 6-mile hike, so you’ve got a lot of options with this spot. Although this is prime bear country so be sure to make noise while hiking (wearing a bell or clapping) and be sure to have bear spray! We did not see any grizzlies, unfortunately, but this is definitely one of the less traveled trails. The views however once you reach Emma Matilda from Two Oceans is unbelievable and definitely worth it. Our hike was cut short from some thunder and rain, but still totally worth it.

Although we only went on three hikes throughout the week, they were all different from when we were last out in JH. It was fun getting out and exploring and seeing as much of the beauty as we could up close and personal.  There are so many hidden spots and treasures in GTNP, and these are definitely a few of them!

#emnbtoJH

Hello!

I was on a bit of a hiatus, I was vacationing all last week in fabulous Jackson Hole, Wyoming… I know not your typical vacation spot, but it’s mine!¬† As I was traveling out to JH, I realized it had been 5-years since I had last been, compared to going every summer during high school.¬† It felt like such a long time since I had been there, even though not much had changed. The Grand Tetons were still gorgeous as ever.

I was beyond thrilled to share this special place, that has been near and dear to my heart for almost a decade with B.¬† He is used to beach vacations, so this trip was completely different for him.¬† You can’t truly appreciate the experience or the beauty until you have been there, the pictures don’t give the mountainous scape justice. Here is a quick recap of our week!

Trip Highlights:

Horse back riding, hiking up Mt. Rendezvous, our happy hour night, and the various wildlife spotting: multiple moose, elk and buffalo.

The memories that I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had going to JH every summer are ones that I will never forget, and that is why I will always keep going back and also why I wanted to share it with Bentley.¬† It was a great trip, and I am glad B and I got a chance to take this vacation along with my parents!¬† It is the first of many trips for us, and I love exploring the world and all the different places. Time to start planning our next adventure!