In May 2014 we drove 1,950 miles through 6 different states (California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado). We went to 5 national parks/landmarks, went to 4 museums, took 2 factory tours, rode a train through the Rockies, went on a boat cruise of Lake Tahoe, took a walking tour of San Fran, hiked the tallest peak in Salt Lake City, saw real dinosaur bones in Colorado, survived the highest altitude we’ve ever been at (11K feet), ate countless memorable meals, and had one Guy Fieri sighting. Check out our route:
I had wanted to go to Jackson Hole for years so this day on our trip was one I was very excited for. I had always had this impression that it was the perfect blend of touristy, nature-filled, with a folksy cowboy charm. I also always assumed it was pretty roundabout to get to, so I knew we’d have to include it on a road trip if we ever wanted to go. (Turns out you can fly in to Jackson Hole, but there are no direct flights from Boston and even those flights are on airlines we don’t typically use.) I was also really excited because Day 6 fell on our 3rd wedding anniversary!
The road from Jackson to Grand Teton National Park is just beautiful. You pass by the Elk Refuge, Museum of Wildlife Art, and the tiny Jackson Hole airport. Doesn’t get better than these views.
One great thing about Grand Teton National Park is that there are four different Visitor’s Centers, many roadside turnouts with informational placards, and tons of details on the paper maps and brochures given to you when you enter the park. The amount of information, and the depth of it, was extremely valuable – I love that kind of stuff.
Even in mid-May it still looked like the tail end of winter (lots of snow on the Tetons). We did catch a few glimpses of the very beginnings of Spring though (a little bit of green/flowers here and there)!
The Teton Range itself in Grand Teton National Park is 40 miles long and is made up of 14 different mountains – The Grand Teton being the highest peak at 13,770 feet. The current landscape was last shaped by glaciers roughly 150,000-250,000 years ago. While those glaciers are long gone, there are about a dozen glaciers that currently exist in the park (those formed between 1400-1850). The Tetons are the youngest of all the mountain ranges in the Rocky Mountain chain; most other mountains in the region are at least 50 million years old, the Tetons are less than 10 million.
One of my favorite things about Grand Teton National Park is that the valley is completely flat so the views of the Tetons are unobstructed from all angles. Such a grand and majestic sight.
Our first stop in the park was at the Jackson Lake Lodge. The Lodge was built in 1955 and remains an architectural hold over from the time – simple and a little shabby, but full of old resort charm.
The most notable thing about Jackson Lake Lodge is the overlook windows in the back part of the lodge. The windows are floor to ceiling and provide a stunning view of the Teton Range. We kicked back here and enjoyed the view for a while before continuing our adventures in the park.
Gorgeous, almost perfect reflections in Jackson Lake:
Another thing I loved about Grand Teton National Park is that no matter where you go in the park, you get a different perspective of the Tetons. A lot of national parks and monuments offer a few different vantage points without much variation (especially the big parks!). I found the vistas of the Tetons to change noticeably and beautifully as we drove through the park. As a photographer, I was really able to capture each unique side of the park.
Our next stop was the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center and store. There was lots of snow still on the ground here!
During the entire park visit I kept saying how I wanted to see some wildlife. We saw so much when we went to Yellowstone, which is less than 10 miles from Grand Teton, so I knew we were bound to see something. Well it wasn’t until we were leaving that all of a sudden this gray fox jumps into the road with a small critter in his mouth and walks down the road in front of our car for about a half mile. We didn’t know what to do except slowly follow behind him. Every so often he would look back at us but continued on trotting down the middle of the road. Eventually he scampered off into the woods.
We spent about 3 hours inside Grand Teton National Park and afterward drove back to Jackson Hole for some lunch and shopping downtown.
As we were walking to lunch, we saw this enormous Jeep parked on the street and a few folks were milling around taking pictures of it. We gave it a quick glance but thought nothing of it.
We arrived at the pizza place where we’d planned to get lunch and decided to sit outside. The restaurant was up on the second floor so the deck dining area had a great view of all of the shops below. We chatted, ate our pizza, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. After paying the bill we sat for a few minutes so John could check emails. I was staring aimlessly down at the street and all of a sudden a saw a quick flash of white and just knew.
Have you ever had an experience where you knew Something Crazy was happening but it hadn’t happened yet? Like a foreboding sense of something about to happen? This was the feeling I got. I can’t describe it but it was very strange.
After a split second I reacted. I walked over to the edge of the deck and looked below. Was it? Could it be? Was I seeing things? Nope, I was not. The flash of white I saw was the unmistakable platinum blonde locks of none other than Guy Fieri.
“Sweetie? … Sweetie!!” I whispered. John sat unphased. “SWEETIE!!!” Finally John looked up.
“Come over here. I think I see…” He got up, completely confused as to what was happening. He looked over the deck and saw too.
“Yes, oh my god, what should we do?!”
“Get your stuff, let’s go!”
We hauled ass down the stairs and landed right in the middle of the shoot. Yup, that’s right – Guy Fieri was there filming an episode of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. We stood in the middle of the small crowd, mouths gaping open. Was this really happening? We looked at each other, blinked hard, and started giggling like little girls. “Oh my god…oh my god!”
Guy took two efficient takes introducing the restaurant he was visiting in Jackson Hole, Pinky G’s Pizzeria. The whole crew swiftly moved from the street into the restaurant and locked down the set. The whole thing – from seeing him on the street to the finished takes – was probably 5 minutes, but it felt like a moment frozen in time. It was awesome!
Now, I know some people can’t stand Guy Fieri but we definitely have a soft spot for him in our house. He’s a goof, but lovable, and seems like he genuinely cares about the people and businesses he supports on DDD. I know it’s silly but we were thrilled we saw him in person and filming the show. Such a random and surreal experience. Definitely a case of right place at the right time.
We spent a few more hours in downtown Jackson Hole walking around, shopping, getting ice cream, and reliving our brush with Guy Fieri.
Downtown Jackson Hole is awesome – tons to do, easy to get around, a little touristy but completely charming. (Don’t worry – those moose/elk antlers are naturally shed.)
I loved downtown too because it kept with the vintage lodge/outdoorsy theme that can be seen throughout Jackson.
We headed out of Jackson in the late afternoon with about 3 hours of driving ahead of us. Our final destination for the night was Rock Springs, Wyoming. The drive was pretty noneventful. There were some roadside markers along Route 191 for notable stops along the Oregon Trail (Sublette Cutoff) which we checked out. Other than that it was smooth sailing. We arrived in Rock Springs, checked in to our hotel, had a quick dinner, and vegged for the night.
Stay tuned for Day 7 where we explore Dinosaur and Steamboat Springs, Colorado!