Honeymoon – Part I: Grand Teton

When Logan and I were married in the fall of 2018, our original plan was to honeymoon in Italy in the spring of 2019. But as spring rolled around, we found ourselves still reeling from all the major life changes that occurred in 2018. So, we decided to postpone our honeymoon for a year. Then of course came COVID-19 and international travel became a no-go for the foreseeable future. 

In September 2020, we took a trip to the Black Hills and Badlands National Park in neighboring South Dakota. Riding the high of that trip, upon our return home, we poured through our National Parks Passport, fresh with its first entries, and started planning all the places we most wanted to see in the United States. We continued to hunker down through the pandemic, explored more of our own state and dreaming of bigger trips. We watched the Ken Burns documentary, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” If you have not seen this documentary yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. The history and cinematography are positively inspirational. This intensified our desire to explore as many national parks as possible. With Europe feeling very unattainable, we reimagined our honeymoon plan to include another mutual bucket list trip: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 

We both conducted quite a bit of research on the parks to determine our “must do’s.” We took a risk and planned for mid-May, right before the start of the ‘official season.’ Our hope was to avoid the crowds and see as many spring wildlife babies as possible. We both splurged on new zoom lenses specifically with the goal of photographing wildlife. As we knew that some attractions would still be closed due to being out of season and still mid pandemic, we planned a heavily photo-centric trip. Logan really took the reins and put together an epic 9-day itinerary. And thanks to his parents, we enjoyed 9 days of dog-free, responsibility-free vacation. 

By this point in the pandemic, we were both fully vaccinated and large attractions were beginning to re-open, but some major points of interest were still closed. Because of this, we knew we couldn’t do it all and created a list of “things to do next time.” When researching these parks, you really come across the same tips and information over and over again. Rather than regurgitate every piece of advice we gathered, we’d rather share highlights from our trip as well as the tips that proved most helpful. Let us start from the beginning…

Cody, Wyoming

We only had one night in this super cute little town and we definitely want to return. There were several western attractions like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West that we would like to visit in the future. Logan and I are always willing to try something new and unconventional, so we ate Rocky Mountain Oysters (fried bull testicles) for the first time ever at the Proud Cut Saloon. They were deep fried within an inch of their little castrated lives and could have been fried Leprechauns for all we knew, so I’m not convinced they were the best example of this cult favorite. {Logan here: It has been a point of shame that, living the majority of my life in the Rocky Mountains, I never actually tried Rocky Mountain Oysters. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a bucket list item, but it has always been on my to-do list.}


The Range is not the only place the Buffalo Roam…

The next morning on the way to Grand Teton, we stopped in Yellowstone to do the Storm Point Loop trail. Early in the morning, we were the only two people on the trail and, while I was cognizant of making noise and clapping for bears, the very last thing I expected in the middle of the forest was to turn around and be face to face with an enormous bison. Ok, perhaps “face to face” is an exaggeration, but he was just a short jaunt down the trail. Way too close for comfort. While my inward panic was high (and my external panic was, let’s just say… medium), we back-tracked briskly and quietly. With a high, jagged, ridge on our right, and a steep plunge to a frozen lake on our left, there was no place to “get out of the way.” The furry behemoth meandered toward us at a steady, but seemingly unoffended, pace. We eventually abandoned the trail to hide behind a copse of trees and held our breath as it passed within literally five feet of us. At no time did it seem agitated or upset. But the point is, you are in the beast’s house. You are the visitor and should maintain your respectful guest status. This experience thus intensified my already tender wildlife trepidation into full fledged bear-anoia. Logan can attest, I was a hot, terrified mess for at least the next four days. It was an excellent lesson in not taking nature for granted.

Teton Village

Located about 30 minutes outside of Grand Teton National Park, this small, ski resort village is a great lodging option. We stayed at the Continuum Hotel, which was obviously a ski-bum’s paradise in winter. But in May, it was a quiet, modern hotel experience with a surprisingly delicious hotel restaurant. (I loved the grilled chicken panini so much, I ordered it two days in a row.) While it was neither ultra-luxurious nor full-service, it was the nicest hotel we reserved on the trip (and, interestingly enough, not the most expensive) in addition to a really easy way to get in and out of Grand Teton National Park. I would highly recommend a stay at this location.

Our hotel room patio: A great place to pour over the day’s pictures!

Grand Teton 

I cannot say enough about this magical place. Something about Grand Teton felt so right, so transcendent, like I have waited my whole life to set foot in this sacred place. Grand Teton is about as picturesque as you can imagine. The jagged peaks jut out of the otherwise flat earth so abruptly, it almost looks like a painted movie backdrop. The Snake River winds lazily between the highway and the mountain range creating point after point of perfect photo opportunities. The park is not so enormous as to make it overwhelming to navigate and it feels welcoming and ‘user-friendly.’ 

Highlights:

  • Schwabacher’s Landing – Best viewed at sunrise (as is much of the Tetons), this place was recommended over and over again by the photography vloggers I follow, but was shockingly ignored in all the suggested tourist info. Schwabacher’s Landing is an easy, roadside stop where the mountains are reflected pristinely in the waters of a small beaver pond. It was a must-visit for me and we enjoyed it so much, we stopped on two different mornings to enjoy this tranquil place.
  • Chapel of the Transfiguration and Mormon Row – These are no-brainers. Recommended over and over again by all tourist sites, these two stops are close to each other and offer amazing stories from history as well as iconic photo opportunities. It could have just been dumb luck, but at both locations we were practically the only people there. The Chapel of the Transfiguration is a tiny church built in 1925 and still utilized for Sunday services today. We had this delightful place all to ourselves. The wood floors creaked and the air was musty, but the light filtered through the stained-glass windows and mountain vista behind the pulpit and it was clear why this place is ideal for worship. 
  • Mormon Row is a historic settlement lined with original houses and barns built between 1896 and 1937. The Moulton Barn is the most famously photographed. We were there about mid-day, hence our solitary experience. Mormon Row is supposed to be packed at sunrise, and in the future, I think we will make sunrise a priority.
  • Moose (both the town and the animal) – Logan really wanted to see bears and wolves in the wild, and I wanted to see them too… from a safe distance. But for me, my bucket list animal was to see moose in their natural environment. And we did! We saw moose no less than four times. They are enormous, goofy, majestic, and everything I ever wanted. We stumbled upon a glorious road-side viewing of a momma and baby feasting on willow trees and later had our hiking path obstructed by the same pair. I was giddy. 
  • The town of Moose is less of a town and more of a road stop in the park. I had heard about Dornan’s Pizza & Pasta Company but I doubted any chance of getting a seat at this very popular eatery. Again, as luck was on our side, we arrived right as the restaurant opened and had a seat on the rooftop deck and enjoyed gargantuan nachos and beverages with spectacular views of the Tetons. I could literally live and die on that rooftop. Logan practically had to drag me down. {Logan here: she is not joking about the “luck” part of this. Despite all of our planning, we were still a bit surprised at just how little was open in the parks at this point in the pandemic. As expected, our plans had to be flexible, but we were thankful that this particular establishment was open.}

Jenny Lake 

Jenny Lake is popular for a reason. The hike, the lake, the wildlife are all unmatched for beauty and grandeur. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are off-shoots of this hike and well worth the extra effort. Realizing the limits of my own hiking desires, I remained in solitude to try to capture the essence of the epic waterfall. Logan pressed onward to escape the snow and enjoy panoramic summit views at Inspiration Point.

Tip: Jenny Lake is one of the most popular hikes and can be quite congested. You can hike around the entire lake, or, as many visitors suggest, take the ferry boat across the lake and hike back. If you are not up for the full circumnavigation, we recommend the opposite. Start early and hike from the trailhead to the ferry boat landing on the other side. Then, take the ferry boat back to the trailhead. We hiked first thing in the morning in relative solitude and arrived at the ferry boat drop-off just as the first boat of the day unloaded. It was PACKED. Maybe 50 people poured off the ferry and started clogging the trails. We enjoyed a leisurely and spacious ride back as a part of 8 total people on the boat back to the trailhead. When we arrived, there was a line of people waiting to get on the boat. (Hint: Leaving early will be a common theme in this trip.)

Next Time:

Leek’s Pizzaria on Jackson Lake came highly recommended but was closed (either due to COVID or the season, I’m not quite sure which), but it seemed like a beautiful place to grab a slice, so I would like to give it another try when next we visit.

Jackson, Wyoming

Tip: Jackson is the name of the city. Jackson Hole is the name of the valley where the city and national park are located.

If you love Pendleton Blankets, hand painted pottery, $50 Bison steaks, or taxidermied animals in majestic or hilarious poses, then this is the place for you. And truthfully, Jackson is the place for me. I should have been born into a wealthy ranching dynasty, I swear.

The shopping, the restaurants, the foothills. If I had the income to survive and patience to deal with the undoubtedly nightmarish tourist congestion, I would pack up Logan and River and move to Jackson in a heartbeat. I could wear cowboy boots. I could wear a Pendleton poncho. I could drink a craft IPA while eating a Bison burger at the base of a ski slope… It just felt right. I’m not sure I can adequately describe it. Highly recommended. That is all.


This moment–captured while hanging out the window of a moving vehicle–was the moment I had an epiphany. I turned to Logan and said, “I think this is my favorite place on earth…”


I’m not sure anything can top Grand Teton National Park, but stay tuned for part two of our honeymoon adventure: Yellowstone!

Britt

Disclaimer: All opinions are entirely our own, and exactly that – opinions. We are not sponsored and have not been compensated in any way for a favorable review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s