Road Trip -- Utah, Wyoming & Montana 1082 miles
Nothing compares to a road trip
A road trip, especially a long one, is an adventure into the great unknown. We headed north, the car stocked with plenty of water, snacks, tunes and AAA maps. Miles and miles, hours and hours with a dear friend, sometimes talking and talking without rushing and other times enjoying the silence together.
Why drive when you can fly? Consider that in the age of pervasive technology, a road trip is a genuine act of human exploration. Cruising down the open road, exploring new places you've only read about or viewed on your desktop. Stop, allow yourself to get sidetracked and turn down a road for a better view. Allow the unexpected to emerge and be amazed!
A road trip allows creative scheduling, deviating from maps and plans. You are an explorer, an adventurer and spontaneous.
Spend enough time on the road and once in a while, you hit a visual jackpot. Hit the breaks, spin around and take a shot of the old barn on the side of the road. Or, pull over to watch a flock of birds heading toward the sun. Appreciate the moment and stop to savor it.
Park City, Utah to Helena, Montana
513 miles 7 hour drive
Flying down Interstate 15 at 80 mph (it’s legal!) with my partner in crime, we arrived at the iconic Feathered Pipe Ranch for a 1 week Yoga Retreat. The Pipe is unique! Around since the 70’s, it is the inspiration of world traveler and truth seeker, India Supera. Teepees, yurts and cabins surround a bewitching lake where you can hop in a canoe or lounge at the water's edge and watch fish jump out of the water now and then. On a clear night, the star lit sky will take your breathe away. And on a stormy night, the roaring thunder will remind you how fortunate you are to have a roof over your head at this particular moment.
Why has a new age retreat venue existed for decades in the middle of Montana? The Ranch characterizes itself as "tucked in the the heart of the Montana Rockies and surrounded by miles of forested mountains, it is a vibrant and peaceful oasis to which our guests return eagerly year after year – inevitably leaving the Ranch feeling recharged and relaxed – and counting the days until they can again return." Writer Andy Vantrease explains “... the ranch is known for its dewy lake view, mouthwatering cuisine, world-renowned teachers, and quiet time filled with the sights and sounds of nature. Deer share the path to the bathhouse, chipmunks chase each other quicker than your eyes can follow, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the resident eagle soaring across a cloudless blue sky."
The "Slow" Retreat
The Slow is the New Advanced retreat rocked! J Brown (down to earth yoga revolutionary, writer, podcaster and regular good guy) headed west from Brooklyn, NY to guide our group. J claims "Slow Yoga takes the emphasis off accomplishing something and puts it more on experiencing something. It is a deeply breath-centered, therapeutic yoga practice, geared towards well-being and lessening of pain." J will return to the Ranch in July, 2018.
For more about J Brown check out his website. If you are curious to learn more about his revolutionary approach consider signing up for J.'s live streaming yoga classes which are available on any device for a ridiculously LOW price!
Helena to Grand Teton Park/Jackson, Wyoming
301 miles 5 1/2 hour drive
Clarification of terms and places
If you plan to visit this part of the country, knowing the following is helpful. The distance from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming is just 20 miles. So spending time in and around town and the park is easy. The town offers many conveniences and the park is filled with wildlife, rangers, open space and limited amenities.
Are Jackson Hole and the town named Jackson the same? Yes and no! Jackson Hole is a large flat area east of the Grand Tetons surrounded by other mountains on the east. Jackson is a town on the southern end of Jackson Hole. There isn't much in Jackson Hole other than the airport, great scenery, scattered houses and ranches.
Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. It is gigantic, massive, monumental and deserves your respect and time - it occupies more than 3,400 square miles! Yellowstone's southern most exit is 76 miles from the Grand Tetons northern entrance. A drive through does not equate to a visit! Zipping through a small section of Yellowstone on your way to the Tetons and claiming you visited the world's first national park is a disservice to you and the park. If you desire to put a legit checkmark on your Bucket List, plan to spend several days experiencing the land of Old Faithful. Plan ahead especially in the summer.
Grand Teton National Park
Don't be surprised if you use superlative words like "grand, imposing, spectacular and unrivaled" to describe your experience of the park because those words are correct.
The Grand Teton National Park occupies only a paltry 485 square miles compared to big sister, Yellowstone. And, IMHO, gets a lot less attention than it deserves. The Teton mountain range is magnificent, dramatic and majestic. National Geographic describes the "Teton Range is regal and imposing as they stand nearly 7,000 feet above the valley floor and make one of the boldest geologic statements in the Rockies. Unencumbered by foothills, they rise through steep coniferous forests into alpine meadows strewn with wildflowers, past blue and white glaciers to naked granite pinnacles."
Staying in the Grand Teton National Park
With the retreat wrapped up, we decided to make a hasty exit and take our chances getting a place to stay. A risky move but we were ready for more road trip adventure! Fortunately, we scored a last minute reservation at the only lakefront accommodation on Jackson Lake, the Signal Mountain Lodge! Cabins of various shapes and sizes along with a lodge overlook the Marina where you can rent a boat, fish or board a scenic float trip down the Snake River. Reservations for lodging and boating are highly recommended. $$-$$$
Tip - If you aren't familiar with the area, plan ahead so you get to your destination before dark. We got a little too busy taking pictures of Yellowstone bison and geysers and found ourselves lost and without GPS or cell coverage as the sun was setting. We eventually connected with the lodge's front desk and they guided us the last couple miles.
The Jackson Lake Lodge with impressive 60 ft windows in the lobby provides a panoramic view of pristine Jackson Lake and the majestic snow capped Teton Range reflecting in the lake. There are several restaurants and cafes in the Lodge but the ones overlooking the mountains offer a fantastic view. $$-$$$
The most economical place to stay with a roof is the dormitory-style Climbers Ranch for a whopping $16- $25 per night. $
What to do in Teton National Park/Jackson
For a change of pace and a chance to spend some time in the comfort of a climate controlled environment, visit the Museum of Wild Life Art in Jackson. The complex contains over 5,000 works of wild life art and is well worth the cost of admission. There are also interactive exhibits for children as well as a nice cafe. The highlight is the rambling, outdoor Sculpture Trail which meanders throughout the property.
Across from the Museum of Wild Life Art is the Elk Refuge which preserves, restores, and manages the winter habitat for the nationally significant Jackson Elk Herd as well as a habitat for endangered species, birds, fish, and other big game animals. The Refuge is a favorite for photographers and in winter, you can glide through the elk herd by sleigh ride.
Explore the park by bike and feel the wind in your hair. Throughout the park and separate from the auto road, there is an extensive network of mostly flat bicycle trails to explore. If you don't have a bike, you can rent one or join a tour.
At Jenny Lake you can hike as well as take the ferry boat (no reservations) for an 8 minute glide to the other side of the lake. From there, the round trip 1.3 mile hike to Hidden Falls is beautiful and accessible to just about everyone who can walk.
Tip - During the peak tourist season arrive at Jenny Lake early so you can easily find a place to park, avoid boat lines and beat the heat. The first ferry boat departs at 9am. Be sure to double check the schedule before your trip.
Another peak experience is a visit to the Rockefeller Preserve which is an informative place to learn about the area’s nature and wildlife. A network of hiking trails leaves right from the center and spans about 8 miles. You can access Lake Creek, Phelps Lake and adjacent ridges from these trails. During the summer months, rangers welcome visitors to participate in a variety of programs like guided hikes, evening strolls and educational talks.
Jackson to Park City 268 miles 5 hours
For the final leg of our trip, we enjoyed a quick bite to eat at the Pearl Street Market which is close to the main street in Jackson. Open 7 days a week, serving breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, this place has something for everyone! With a deli, butcher and grocer, you can enjoy everything from sit down bacon and eggs to steak with herb butter fries. Don't forget to load up on provisions before you leave. Since Jackson is a tourist town expect to pay more than you would at a highway diner. $-$$-$$$
Unexpected Excitement in Afton, Wyoming!
We relished the final chapter of our road trip adventure as we weaved our way through Wyoming and Utah. It is easy to be captivated by the rolling hills, random wildlife sighting and ramshackle barns and farmhouses. Remain alert for small town speed limit signs and slow down. We missed one! In the charming town of Afton, drivers are greeted by the world’s largest Elk Antler Arch, which is made of over 3,000 antlers. Afton is also home to fast paced Cutter and Chariot Racing as well as the Snowmobile Hill Climb Challenge in the winter. Please give our best to the sheriff if you get stopped!
Some describe Wyoming in summer as the place where the high plains meet the Rocky Mountains to form some of the most staggeringly beautiful scenery in the entire country. Others say, Wyoming is brown, brown, brown, train, brown, brown, brown.
Make your own decision about Wyoming but be sure you have your provisions, a plan, fuel, maps and a charged cell phone. Because there are miles and miles between where you are and the next stop.
By day's end, we arrived back in Park City and were happy to stretch out and spend some quality time on the foam roller after spending several days in the car. We are thankful for the 14 hours of precious, mostly technology free time spent on the road. This allowed for long conversations, both meaningful and irreverent as well as the shared experience of new people and places. The Grand Teton National Park deserves to be on your bucket list as well as road tripping through Utah, Montana and Wyoming!