Tuesday, June 26, 2012

10 Year Trip: Thursday and Friday

Thursday and Friday we spent in and around the town of Jackson and the area we were staying in, Teton Village.

We had enough time for either a spa day or an excursion, and Jordan left the choice up to me.  I know this will shock everyone, but I figured we could always have a spa day in Katy, but we can't do a float down Snake River in the middle of the Tetons anywhere else.  So, a 2.5 hour "scenic float" won out and we were off.

I was ever-hopeful for another wildlife sighting, and I guess bald eagles count.  We saw 5-6 of them.

This man is a blast.  I got pretty lucky to have him as my BFF.

After our float, we spent a bit of time in the small town of Jackson, drinking coffee (one of the themes of the trip) and leisurely shopping.

We had heard that the air tram was worth the trip so we headed back to Teton Village and climbed aboard.  

The view of our hotel from the air tram

Look!  Moose #2 sighting from atop the tram!

The tram, a view from the ground
And the view on top of the world.  Or at 10,000 feet elevation, anyways

So, we heard you could hike down the mountain right back to Teton Village.  Not many people choose to do it because it is apparently hard on your joints to travel downhill on a fairly steep mountain for 7.2 miles.  But, having never been one to suffer joint pain, and being in the mood for some more adventure, we thought, "Why not?"  It was another spur of the moment decision that we couldn't have been more thankful we made.  Turns out hiking downhill 7.2 miles isn't easy on the muscles or the joints, but the views and the experience were more than worth the soreness.

The hike begins.

After, of course, we stop to take some pictures in the snow.

Look who we found at the top of the mountain!  Little Avery, Kate and Reese snowgirls.

About 1-2 miles down the path, we stopped to chat up a friendly marmot.  And this may or may not be the spot where latrines suddenly seemed like a better option than the "hug a tree" restroom experience. I guess there's a first for everything.

We saw two other hikers closer to the summit, but after the first mile or so, we were pretty much completely alone.  We were "bear aware" and were sure to make noise as we came across sudden clearings.  Jordan took to calling out, "Here, bear!  Heeeere, bear!"  That's one way to let them know we're on the trail.

The sun sets in Wyoming around 9 or so, so we knew we were doing fine on time.  However, around mile 5 and hour 2 (at about 7 pm), the trail started changing.  It wasn't a gravel service road anymore, but rather a narrow trail surrounded by either tall trees or tall grasses on either side.

It was perfect deer-spotting territory. 

Spotting the deer was awesome.  And it also got us to thinking, there really could be a moose or bear encounter.  It's certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.  And we're still a good 2 miles or so from anything that looks like civilization.  

And then we happened upon this:

We weren't sure if that was bear or moose fur, but we were certain that a mat of fur in the middle of a hiking trail meant that something hangs out fairly close.  We decided to pick up the pace just a bit.

No sweat, though.  Literally, of course, because it was cool.  But also figuratively.  We soon came across a different kind of sign:

Ahhh, a sign of accomplishment.  .9 miles to dinner!

Randomly deciding to tackle a 7 mile hike was a really cool moment in our marriage.  We had such a sense of solitude on the hike, but it was mixed with sights and experiences that kept it upbeat and fun.  And the sense of accomplishment after 3 hours in a wilderness of sorts was a great way to end our last full day. We finished off our night with dinner and shoulders held high.

On Friday, we enjoyed packing slowly, shopping and munching in town, and reading outside with a beautiful backdrop.  We were more than ready to see our beautiful girls... who had stayed happy and busy with Nana and D.  They took a trip to Lockhart and collected real chicken eggs, met a horse and some cows, held baby kitties, and captured frogs.  

My parents gave us an extravagant gift: watching three very busy girls in different stages of life.  Knowing they were safe and happy gave us the freedom to relax and enjoy our time together.  We can't think of a way to pay Nana and D back for their generosity, but we plan to pay it forward and give our girls the same gift someday.  It was an incredible opportunity and days later, sometimes a memory will sweep me back to the trip and let me relive a moment with my lifelong love.  

Checking out Sandie's chickens with Nanny

Releasing frogs at Mimi and Gran's

10 Year Trip: Wednesday

On Wednesday, we took the two hour scenic drive to Yellowstone.  We were greeted with several warnings, like this flier we received as we pulled into the park:
I'm not gonna lie, it really got my hopes up that we'd be seeing some serious wildlife.

But first, a stop at West Thumb. 
Yellowstone Lake

These are geysers along Yellowstone Lake.   Not spew into the air geysers like Old Faithful, but bubble up over the ground geysers.  And really, pretty amazing.

Geothermal Activity on the shore of Yellowstone Lake
Looks really inviting, right?

After West Thumb, we headed to see Old Faithful.  I mean, when in Yellowstone, right?

But before we set eyes on Old Faithful, something incredible happened:

That's right!  A pair of buffalo, just meandering around the Old Faithful area.  
This is me being really excited.  

And feeling, somehow, really accomplished:

And this is Jordan getting super close to take a picture:

(And promptly being yelled at by Yellowstone Rangers.  They take that whole gorging thing very seriously.)
So we moved on.  But not before snapping this awesome pic:

Ahhhh, a dream realized.  It was the highlight of my day.  So far.
We then moved on to what was the main attraction for most people (you know, everyone who isn't obsessing over wildlife):

Really, it was pretty amazing.  And the skies and the mountains.  Just surreal.

I will say, though, that Yogi Bear totally had me messed up.  I pictured Old Faithful to be in the middle of a desert-like plain, with a small rope around this small hole in the ground.  The magnitude of the actual geyser is pretty incredible, and for all of the pictures I'd seen, somehow I'd missed the awe and wonder of Yellowstone National Park.

After Old Faithful did her thing (right on time, of course!), we walked around the geyser basin and saw many, many more geysers.  We also found really cool looking "bacterial mats":

I'm a texture person, so I just really wanted to reach down and feel them.  But alas:

Illiterate Buffalo.

We left Old Faithful after a leisurely afternoon coffee and muffin and headed to the Grand Prismatic.  This geyser is a lot like the ones at West Thumb but it is enormous.  It produces so much steam that most days you can't even see the water bubbling up, but the weather was in our favor on this particular day and it was just warm enough to get a glimpse at the beauty and depth of the geothermal thingamajig.

Jordan's standing in front of one of the "smaller" geysers near the Grand Prismatic to give a little perspective.  It was so majestic and so grand.  I kept thinking about 1 Corinthians 2:9 "No eye has seen, no ear has heard what God has planned for those who are in Christ."  I mean, I could not have imagined the beauty and the creativity of God's hands, even after having seen pictures.  Standing there, looking at a mere glimpse of his infinite creativity and might, I was struck with how very, very true it is that His mind is so much more.  More creative.  More magnificent.  More spectacular.  More capable.  
As if the day wasn't awesome enough as it was, on the way out of the Grand Prismatic parking lot, we came across a Buffalo Jam.  Yes, that means we sat in our cars and waited while some buffalo mamas took their little ones on a field trip down the main road.

We were close enough to touch them, but intelligence won over and I actually got a bit scared.

 We drove back to the Tetons for dinner and watched the sun go down over Jackson Lake as we enjoyed a meal at Signal Mountain Lodge.  Not a bad way to spend a day.  Maybe one of the best days in recollectable history, really.

10 Year Trip: Monday and Tuesday

When we started looking into our 10 year anniversary trip, we knew we wanted two things: the luxury of time together and some sort of adventure.  We wanted to wake up late, sip coffee slowly, and to know that we had plenty more days together to do more of the same.

We had talked about it, and although I am a beach girl to my core, we agreed that most of our trips are to beaches, and even though it pains me to admit this... yes, beaches are all sort of the same.  So we changed gears a bit and started dreaming up an adventure to take on.  

5 days in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming was an exact fit for our big travelling dreams.

On Monday, we got up incredibly early to catch a flight to Jackson Hole, WY.  By 9:30 am, we had landed and were deplaning right at the foot of the Tetons.  Beauty.

Our adventure started without  much planning and with very little expectation.  We think of luxury differently now than we did before three children: now, luxury means spur-of-the-moment decisions, freedom to eat at any pace we desire, doing things as they come to mind or as the opportunity arises.  And so we drove down a road until we found a Trail Head for Taggart Lake.  "Sure," we thought, "Why not?"

Not more than an hour off the plane, and we found ourselves here:

 It was magnificent.  Something like 4 miles of incredible scenery and breathtaking views.

 On the trail, sometimes we couldn’t walk side by side.  At those times, Jordan clipped along at a comfortable pace, just ahead of me.  Watching him, leading me on a beautiful mountain trail, felt like the analogy of our marriage.  Sometimes on the trail, and sometimes in life, I was tentative and nervous, but I trusted that he knows what he’s doing and that he’ll lead me well.  At other points in the hike, I felt really light-hearted, full of energy, and ready to take on the world as his partner in crime.  No matter what my feeling while on the trail, and no matter what my feeling while walking through life, one thing has remained: my steadfast trust in the man Jordan is, the man he’s becoming, and the love and leadership he’s committed to on our family’s behalf.

My leader

 It seemed that God was smiling upon us the whole day: an easy flight, really good coffee, beautiful weather and an almost-empty hiking trail… and it occurred to me, that our entire life is God smiling down on us and giving us His love in tangible form.  The girls, our home, Jordan’s job, our church and precious friends and having such a healthy, incredibly supportive family so close by… no matter where we go, no matter what we are doing, we can’t escape the infinite affections and extravagant love of our God.

 After our hike, we stopped to eat lunch in Jackson, WY and then went back to our hotel for a nap and a dip in the hot tub.  Yes, in the middle of the day.  Luxury, right?  Then we took our time getting ready and headed to dinner.  After dinner, our room came equipped with a fire place and so we enjoyed the fact that in the middle of June, we certainly could use a fire place (the first day, the lows were in the 30s!)

Tuesday dawned on us at a leisurely pace, and we enjoyed a breakfast buffet and coffee before heading off to Jenny Lake for another day of hiking the Tetons.

At the Inspiration Point Trail Head

 I'm not usually a hiking, outdoorsy girl, but Jordan comes alive in the mountains.  It's like his soul doesn't know he lives in Houston.  It thinks it's home is right among the trees and rocks and lakes and rivers.  It may not have been my exact comfort zone, but it was so worth it to watch my Mountain Man in his element.  Speaking of not being in my comfort zone, I personally think that there should be some sort of warning on "restrooms" that are actually latrines.  They are labeled with the exact same sign.  I think that's incredibly sneaky, personally.

Mountain Man McClinton
My personal goal for the trip was to see wildlife.  And if something is worth making a goal out of, I also think it is worth obsessing over.  Luckily, the Tetons did not disappoint.

This guy, a marmot, happened across our path on the way up to Inspiration Point:

 And, once we reached the top of Inspiration Point, Jordan found a little buddy:

The view from the top was incredible, but I was still on the look out for something furry.  Once we'd seen the marmot and the chipmunk, I had my hopes on something much bigger, like say a bear or a moose.  I was *certain* I'd spotted a bear fishing in the lake many, many miles below:
Tell me you see it!?!

So we hurried off to find this fishing bear.  I am sure you're all surprised to hear that it was not a bear, but rather the stump of a tree.  Sadness.  But at least we did get to take in these beautiful sights on the way back down the mountain: 

As if on cue, a set of baby bears were foraging on the side of the road when we headed back to our hotel.  They didn't really pose for the camera, and the rangers were not about to let us get close enough to get a great angle, but here is the best shot of the cub's rear end that we managed to get:

Can you see his little bear rear?

My favorite job of the trip: photographer
After our hike, we took our customary nap and hot tub dip and then headed to an award-winning local brewery, Snake River Brewery.

The hot tub on the roof with spectacular views!
The sampler flight.  Good brews!
And, of course, because I had determined this trip to be about wildlife sightings, we headed back out to find some more creatures.  First, a female elk.

Then, at the moose habitat, about a dozen elk.  (This is some of them.  I'm not sure why, but they don't clump together and smile at the camera.)

 And finally, the long-awaited moose.  Not as close or impressive as I'd imagined, but a moose is a moose.

As Tuesday came to a close, Jordan and I reflected on how this trip was such a good representation of our exact spot in life.  It was new, different, exciting.  Not in ways we expected or planned (because, of course, we didn't plan much!), but in ways that unfolded before us as we journeyed together.  Everything we saw and experienced fed into our adventure, and as we look back over the ten amazing, blessed and happy years we've spent together, we also acknowledge that our biggest adventures, our most amazing moments are still to come.  We are confident of this because every year has been better and richer than the year before.  As we chose a different sort of trip for our 10 year anniversary, so too are we looking forward to all things new and being on the grand adventure of life together.