Last week we met up with my family for vacation near the Tetons. The week before, I decided at the last minute that I could run a 10-mile trail race the morning of the day we left for vacation. I ran the same race 2 years ago, so my goal was to finish in about the same time. My time was a full 5 minutes slower, but parts of the course were extremely muddy and slick, so I’m counting it as “about the same”. Full recap coming later.
I headed home about 10 minutes after I crossed the finish line to finish packing and drive to the vacation house. We stayed on the west side of the Tetons, just barely in Wyoming (the nearest towns were in Idaho). My family always does vacation rentals because there are a lot of us – 13 adults (minus one this time), a one-year-old, a newborn, and another baby on the way. We visited the nearby national parks, of course, but also spent a lot of time exploring nearer our house.
We hung around the house in the morning and headed to Mesa Falls after lunch. Uh, weekend afternoons are the worst time to visit a tourist attraction. The falls are pretty though.
Some of us hiked the Darby Canyon wind cave trail. The internet info on this trail was contradictory – it’s 5 miles roundtrip, no, 10, no, 7. Turns out a 7 mile round trip takes you all the way to the cave, while 5 miles takes you to a viewing area where you can see the cave from across the canyon. And 10 miles is just a dramatic estimate. (I’m guessing someone based it on a step tracker.)
We were the first car parked at the trailhead at 8:15ish, but the parking lot was overflowing by the time we got back. The trail begins in a fairly flat meadow/wooded area, then starts a gradual climb into the canyon. After 2.5 miles, you can clearly see the cave on the other side of the canyon.
After just under another mile, there’s a steep final climb to the waterfall below the cave. And then an either steeper set of stairs up to the mouth of the cave (I stopped at the bottom of the steps).
We checked out another nearby trail, New Sheep Bridge. This one wanders through meadows and woods and is mostly flat. The main attractions are the wildflowers and the roaring creek. We ended up going about 4.5 miles, with a bit of running sprinkled in.
We got up super early to head to Yellowstone (a 2+ hour drive from where we stayed). Despite going midweek and planning to hit the busiest spots first, we ended up skipping one of our intended stops because there was a long line of cars just to get into the parking lot. If you want to visit Yellowstone in the summer and not miss anything, you’ve got to stay closer to (or in) the park. (And still get up early and/or stay out late.)
When we stopped at Yellowstone Lake, I hiked the Lake Overlook trail with my brother and sister-in-law. Despite the packed parking lot, we saw no one else on the trail. It’s a <2 mile loop that takes you up to a viewpoint overlooking the lake. We also were surprised by an elk shortly before we got back to the trailhead – she just looked at us and walked away.
We headed into Grand Tetons National Park to hike at String Lake. There are a few trails that start in this area; we did the String Lake trail. It’s about 3.5 miles and loops around the lake. The trail starts out right along the lakeshore, climbs up and gets pretty far from the lake for a while, then returns to the shore.
Near the end of the hike, we found a spot to stop and swim/wade in the lake. Well, the boys swam and I waded with my niece, who was delighted with the cold water. The rest of our party only stuck their feet in.
A few of us had planned on a long hike…but by Friday morning nobody was really feeling it. So we checked out a farmer’s market in a nearby town and played games at the house.
…And on Saturday we went home to recover from vacation.
Do you prefer active or relaxing vacations?
What’s your favorite National Park? (In any country…)