Thursday, September 13, 2012

Honeymoon Highlights - Grand Teton National Park

Day 5 - I'm goin' to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around.

After 3 days in Yellowstone it was onto Jackson to see the neighboring park - Grand Teton National Park. But first on the drive down we had to stop and see the continental divide. This the continental divide passes through the park in a couple of places but where we stopped was extra special. A single lake that flows into both the atlantic and the pacific.

There wasn't much else to see on the way down until we hit Grand Teton park. The mountains are definitely something to behold. We made a couple of stops along the way to take pictures of course. Two stops are tied for my favorite stop of the day.

Stop 1: This was one of our first full views of the mountains. But it wasn't the view that made this one of my highlights of the day. After we took the pictures Dave went to get in the car the problem was he got in the wrong car! He couldn't figure out why I didn't get in the car with him. I had to open the door and tell him he was in the wrong car. As this is happening the family who the car belonged to is staring at us. Dave apologized and luckily they laughed about it. I don't have a picture of Dave in the car the view of the mountains will have to do.

Stop 2: This stop is tops on the list due to the view. We went down to Leeks Marina for lunch at the famous pizza shop down there. The pizza was good but the views and the fact that we were the only ones at the marina for a while made it even better.
We continued the drive down stopping occassional at some historical places in the park like Cunningham's cabin and Mormon Row heading for our residence for the next 3 days was the Rusty Parrot in Jackson. Since we roughed it at Yellowstone we splurged on a suite and package in Jackson. Our package included dinner at the inn. We opted to have it the first night and it was amazing. I had leg of lamb which was enough to feed at least 2 people, Dave had Wagyu steak, we shared an amazing bottle of wine before we hit bed for a 6:15 pick up.

Day 6: Big Game Hunting
For the wedding Dave gave me the gift of a sunrise photo safari to capture some wildlife shots. On our agenda was to try and see moose and bears. First stop was to look for moose, we were lucky. Actually beyond lucky. We did see a big bull moose that was losing the velvet on his antlers. This is a very rare thing to encounter, as the velvet is shed on 1 day and every moose sheds on a different day before the fall rut season. Our tour guide, Paul, said that this was one shot that has been on his list for years that he hadn't yet gotten. Paul asked us if we wanted to walk down to the river instead of staying up on the bank to get closer and some better pictures. I unfortunately was nursing an injured ankle (walking 26 miles in 3 days took a toll on my body) and had to stay up on the bank. I wasn't able to get the greatest shots from my vantage point. These will have to do.

After the moose we did go looking for bears but unfortunately didn't see any. That will have to wait until another trip.

Day 7: Unexpected surprises.
The day didn't start out the way we expected. We had booked a hot air balloon ride for the morning which unfortunately meant anouther 6 am pick up. As I finished getting dressed the phone rang, the excursion was cancelled due to weather. Dave says we're up and ready pick a spot in the park we haven't seen yet and let's go take some sunrise photos. I decided we would head to Schwabacher's landing. We pulled off the main road onto a gravel road saw this view of the mountains and had to stop to take a photo. As we we set up the tripod and drove we saw a number of cars driving past. This was a good sign that the landing was going to be a good place to photograph. When we got down there the parking lot was full and we saw a number of people - surprisingly they all had cameras and tripods. Given that they were all photographers even though we weren't alone it was very quiet and peaceful. The location was serene with the mountains reflecting in the lakes and perfect morning light. I can't decide which one of these photos I like better so I'm including both.

The last thing on the agenda for the last day was a trip to Victor, Idaho. It's only about a 30 minute drive and this would allow me to hit my 40th state. Dave so far had been very cooperative with getting up early and doing all kinds of crazy things for me so I had to entice him to get in the car and drive to Idaho. What did it take to convince him - BBQ, Huckleberry milkshakes and beer. BBQ at Big Hole BBQ , world famous milkshakes at the Victor Emporium and beer at Grand Teton Brewery all well worth the trip. I can know say I purposely travelled to 2 states just to eat BBQ.

I am sad to say that this brings to a close the honeymoon. Not quite the traditional beachy/relaxing honeymoon but it was perfect and we enjoyed every minute of the trip. These are definitely 2 places I would go back and visit again.

If you are intersted in a few more photos than what was included in these blog posts you can check some out here. I managed to select less than 100 photos which wasn't an easy task considering I took about 1000 over the span of the 7 days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Honeymoon Highlights - Yellowstone

Day 1: A little R N R
We flew into Bozeman late on Thursday night so we could have the day Friday to relax a bit. After breakfast at a cafe with about 30 different loose teas to choose from (a place made just for me) we headed down to Livingston.

The plan was just to wander around the village for a little while before proceeding to Chico. We ended up meeting a couple as we started our walk and chatted with them for about 20 minutes. They recommended that we stop at The Old Saloon on the way to Chico and check out an old mining village. Both turned out to be great recommendations.

The local legend of the saloon is that it was the inspiration for Cheeseburger in Paradise. Wikipedia has indicated that this is not in fact the case.

After lunch at the saloon when Dave lost a bet to me we checked in at Chico Hot Springs Resort . A great spa and resort with an amazing restaurant. After some relaxing with a massage and lounging at the pool we headed to the old mining town. One of the highlights of the day.

Day 2 - We're the 5%

Sleeping in on vacation is not something I am known for and this was no exception. We were up bright and early to get into Yellowstone early and start hiking. The majority of tourists don't stray very far from the main attractions which means the hiking trails are relatively empty. They say only 5-10 % of the visitors see anything outside what is 1 mile from the road. We definitely found this to be the case on our hike as we only encountered 1 other couple on our entire 6 mile hike at Mammoth Hot Springs.

The views from the hike were spectacular. Dave rated this as one of the best hikes he's been on of all time. Definitely the highlight of the day for us.

After the hike we headed down to Old Faithful Inn - our base for the next 3 nights.

Day 3: The Early Bird Gets the Photo Op

I managed to convince Dave that getting up to try and watch Old Faithful go off at sunrise from Observation point was a great idea. Never mind that we didn't know exactly what time the geyser would go off as they stop tracking around 9PM and start again at 8 AM. We had to estimate and try and compute about what time it would erupt. Sunrise was scheduled for 6:45 and we estimated Old Faithful would go off around 7:30. We left the inn around 6:40 and started walking. Beautiful out there with so few people around. As we headed up we thought we heard a geyser erupting and were a little disappointed but we continued on our way. More disappointment when we get to observation point and there are 3 other people there chatting away. After a few minutes they tell us that it wasn't Old Faithful that went off but another geyser - relief. But wait I hope they don't stay up here. Since we couldn't tell them with certainty what time Old Faithful would go off they headed back down to the inn. Luckily we didn't have to wait that long for the eruption.

It's amazing to have so few people around and be the only ones watching the geyser from where we were. For comparison this was during lunchtime, there were also probably about a dozen people up at Observation point during this time.

Day 4: Bison, Bison everywhere
Another day, another hike. Today was off to the south rim of the canyon and Uncle Tom's Trail. Uncle Tom's trail is down a set of about 350 stairs, quite the harrowing walk but the view is worth it. There were more people hiking along the south rim than at mammoth. The views of the falls and the canyon were worth sharing.

As we finished the hike and started walking back towards the car we noticed a little traffic jam and thought it was just people that were heading to artists point. Imagine our surprise when we walk up to the bridge and see this.

This wasn't the last bison we would see today. After canyon we headed down to Yellowstone Lake to rest and have dinner. There were a bunch of bison sleeping at the side of the road. They were causing traffic to slow down but they weren't moving around much. After dinner it was a different story. We saw them across the street and headed a little closer to get some pictures. Shortly after we started taking photos they began moving across the road into the hotel's parking lot and approaching the front door of the hotel. Three park rangers fly into the parking lot trying to move the bison in a different direction as it wasn't the safest environment. The bison did cooperate and move on and we were able to hit the road.

Surprisingly the hike and the bison weren't quite the top highlight of the day. We started the drive back to the inn in time to see the sunset as we drove. We found a spot to pull off the road and take some photos.

Not a bad way to end our stay in Yellowstone. Stay tuned for the highlights from Grand Teton National Park