Monday, October 28, 2013

Jackson Hole

All the back in February I decided October would be a great vacation month, specifically a super-duper nice spa vacation. So I started making a list of possibilities and researching.

I had heard of Jackson Hole, Wyoming mainly because of the summit of the major economists there every summer. And my (much more outdoorsy than I) coworkers had mentioned it a few times as a great vacation spot. So in a random Google, I looked up Jackson Hole and an article on the spa at the Four Seasons winning an award. And that was all I needed to know so I booked the vacation. And then when I mentioned I was vacationing there, the responses fell into two categories "That seems really outdoorsy for you?" and "YOU ARE GOING TO GET EATEN BY A BEAR!" 

My bear fear was very real and not helped by the fact that the bear activity reports were not accessible due to the government shutdown and by the fact that everyone felt the need to comment that bears were getting ready to hibernate and eating all they could. Probably including clueless, non-outdoorsy city girls. But I printed off my bear safety sheet and practiced my National Park Service "Hey Bear Hey" clapping scare away technique.  So basically I was ready for the wilds of Jackson Hole.  

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With only slight exaggeration, EVERYONE on my flight to Jackson Hole looked outdoorsy. Like they were ready either to take a bear down with their bare hards or to hit the slopes immediately upon arrival. Luckily I had carried on my little Patagonia down jacket that I wear to get coffee on weekend mornings so I slipped that on and tried to fit in. An outdoorsy fraud! (I may not be super outdoorsy but I can put together a super cute outdoorsy outfit like few can.) But landing with this view made me feel like even I could be outdoorsy. 

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I spent a big chunk of the government shutdown stressing out about whether or not I should still take the vacation. It was mostly paid for already but somehow taking a fantastic spa vacation while my whole working/financial life was in flux made my stomach hurt. I was reluctant to plan much ahead of time because I did not want to get my hopes up and then end up canceling. So beyond booking my spa treatments, I really had no plans.

But then four days before I was leaving, the shutdown ended and I returned to work for two days, confirmed all of my reservations, and then a not insignificant amount of guilt set in about the amount of work I was leaving behind that needed to be done. So basically this was most anxiety-ridden pre-spa vacation ever. And at my very first spa treatment, the spa person commented "Wow, there is a lot of tension built up in your neck." I resisted the urge to say, "Well, duh."  But with hotel room views like this, I relaxed quickly.

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And every morning I had my coffee or hot chocolate by the fire pit on the hotel patio with this view. The hotel always had little blankets to use so I spent a lot of time in the evening sitting on the patio reading. The fires were surprisingly warm which was great because the temperatures fluctuations were intense. 20 degrees in the morning and evenings and 60s in the day.

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And even when the insomnia that took up residence in my body over the shutdown refused to let go for a few nights of the vacation, I just pulled my chair up to the balcony door and stared at the big open sky of stars with the fireplace roaring in the background.  Stars, I really miss them in the city.

I basically ended up having one spa treatment per day and then doing some activity the rest of the day. It ended up working out nicely and I never felt rushed or over planned. Though a true perk of vacationing by yourself is that you never ever have to do anything you really do not want to.

With my fear of bears firmly rooted in my head, I decided I would bike rather than hike. I rationalized that I could pedal faster than I could walk/run and worst case scenario, I could toss my bike and create a diversion. None of this is probably a bear best practices. The hotel gave me a bike, a helmet, and a bottle of water and I put a trail map on my phone and set off. Except, beyond spinning classes, I have not ridden an actual bike since my paper route days in my teens. So after the doorman handed off the bike, I wheeled it off out of the eyesight of anyone and prayed that I remembered how to do it.

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I was so nervous my knees were shaking which does not make bike riding any easier. But within a minute, I had it down and was off on the trail.

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The Moose-Wilson bike trail is incredibly well-kept and beautiful! 

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And even has a bike roundabout that I had no clue how to navigate. So I just plowed through. There wasn't a lot of traffic.

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I had no wildlife encounters on my bike ride despite fully expecting to slam into a moose at any given moment. I did get chased by a golden retriever for a bit and nearly had a heart attack at the sight of something fluffy and bear-like that I discovered was actually a cat.

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I make bike helmets look good. (No, no, I don't.)

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I rode the trail end-to-end and thankfully could still walk the next day. But the giant bruises on my legs suggested my biking technique needs some work!

The next day I explored the city of Jackson Hole on a different set of wheels. I really hate dealing with rental cars, mainly because I hate driving.  But I stayed in Teton Village which is 12 miles from the town square so I needed a ride for one day. (I really liked not staying in the city. Not that Jackson Hole was a bustling metropolis but it was nice to be in the quiet.) The hotel has a partnership with Mercedes Benz so the concierge told me I could use one of their cars for the day (for free! Sweet deal, right?) After the doorman showed me how to put the car in drive--my real life car does not even have power windows or locks so this was a bit more high tech than I am used to!, I was off!

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Jackson Hole is a quirky cool little town. It is a lot like any other ski town like Aspen. But not quite as upscale as Aspen. A little more small town.  With a town square bordered with antler arches.

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The leaves were still bright and colorful all over the town! 

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I basically won the weather jackpot during my week there. They had awful snow/cold the week before and are getting more of the same this week. I had blue skies and sunshine the entire time I was there. Monday through Thursday, I do not think I saw a cloud at all, including this sky over the town square. (I know this is probably a blog world fail but I did not bring my fancy camera on this trip. Sometimes I just hate toting that thing around so all of my pics are from my iPhone and mostly unfiltered. The place is just that pretty.)

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It is the off-season in Jackson Hole and I actually love tourist destinations in off-seasons. It's not crowded, it's cheaper, and you get a peek into how the normal world operates there. (Fun fact: 1.5 million people visit Jackson Hole for ski season. But 3 million people visit in the summer. The town's proximity to both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone make it a pretty nice place to visit.) I had lunch at Dolce which was basically a must after I saw that it specialized in grilled cheese! Brie, pear, and arugula grilled cheese. Seriously so delicious!

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I spent all of Wednesday on a guided tour of Grand Teton National Park. Everyone on the tour was VERY into wildlife spottings. I bit my tongue when one person yelled "Look, a deer!" at something that I am 99.9% certain was a horse at the ranch next to my hotel.  And then they all got wildly excited about spotting a chipmunk. In my head, I was thinking "Maybe we should aim bigger?" 

It was a very chilly morning in the park but the tour provided snacks, coffee, and hot cocoa so that made it a little warmer. It was also very sunny. 

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Grand Teton National Park is one of the newest national parks, created by land donated by the Rockefeller family. Since it is relatively young, a lot of practices that were in place before the park was actually created remain in place. It is one of the few parks you can hunt in. And the Jackson Hole airport is actually located in the park.

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Arm popping in Grand Teton National Park since 2013. (I believe that is actually *the* Grand Teton Mountain behind me.)

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The park was pretty empty the day I was there and they said it was likely due to people canceling vacations because of the shutdown and not knowing when it would end.  And they all missed out on seriously some of the prettiest sights to be seen!

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I thought this rock formation in the Antelope Flats portion of the park looked like a very creepy face.

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We did not see any bears or moose in the park but we did see moose tracks of the non-ice cream variety. And then I stepped in bison and/or moose poop.

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We did spot some prong-horn deer. And buffalo! Which seeing a buffalo move through the wild is seriously cool. And all of my second grade social studies knowledge of pemmican came rushing back to me!

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And in the end, it was a perfectly relaxing vacation in a most extraordinarily beautiful place! I really cannot wait to visit again!

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  1. So glad you had such a lovely vacation. Seriously PERFECT timing with the end of the shutdown!

  2. I'm so jealous of your getaway! I'm desperate for one right now!

  3. Looks amazing Rebecca! That photo with the reflection of the grand teton in the water is just incredible! So do you think you'll be searching for more outdoorsy adventures from now on then?! hehe