Jackson & Grand Teton National Park

The next destination on our trip was Jackson WY. Our friends in Casper, Wyoming told us how beautiful and scenic the area was and we were excited to visit.  The first encounter of wild animals we had on this trip were the bison that hung out by the highway on our way to Jackson. The animals were grazing as people drove by in slow motion trying to get photos of these unpredictable and fascinating creatures.

The drive there kept getting better and we spent some time exploring Jackson Lake along the way. The 191 HWY ran along side the Snake River that eventually emptied into Jackson lake and was controlled by the Jackson Lake Dam.  The Lake was vast and expansive and there were lots of rock stacks along the lakes edge, so we made our own contribution before heading into town.

The first couple of days consisted of working at cafes (because we still need to earn our way through this trip) and exploring the downtown area.  The most amazing breakfast burrito was served to us at D.O.G cafe and they even gave Izzy a treat and topped off our coffee cups. The town was very dog friendly and all the stores allowed pets which made things really easy for us and Izzy.  We also stopped by UPS to send a few packages out and met a Hungarian Gentleman named David who opened up “Gourmet Food Truck” in Jackson 5 years ago.  He said that Food trucks are actually not allowed in the State so he improvised and made his restaurant stand look like a food truck.  He uses organic ingredients to make crepes, soups and he cooks a Goulash that locals love.

Afterwards we headed out to our first camping location in Kelly, WY just a few miles outside of Jackson.  Gros Ventre Campground was a paid site ($28) and it sat in the foothills of The Grand Teton.  We also had our first van cooked meal! We fired up our Outdoor Oven/Stove and made pasta! The thing is, because of the space it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  The pasta though, turned out great and Szymon and I finished it off before heading to bed for the night.

We decided after paying for a camp site the first night, that we would rather find National Forests to camp in because they are free, but the following day we found a campground called Atherton Creek.  The spot was a lot better than Gros because it was right by a lake and the price was much better for the same accommodations ($15). We filled up our water tanks, set up camp, pulled out our awning for the first time, put up the hammock, did some bike work, did yoga in the woods and ended the night by a campfire.

The next day we started the day with our second meal out of the van.  We stopped by a really cute store called Pearl Street Market in Jackson a couple days before and picked up some groceries.  We fired up the stove again and made croissant breakfast sandwiches and they were freaking delicious.  After breakfast and sometime writing in our personal journals, we wandered out to the lake and jumped in.  We nearly froze, but having the first road shower experience afterwards was worth it.  It was warm out and the NEMO portable shower worked like a charm. We do realize that the weather won’t always be so accommodating for an outdoor shower, so were grateful that the first experience was a good one.

We then headed back into Jackson for the last time.  The day consisted of running more errands and having our first laundry day (while working because Jackson Laundry, which is brand new, had WIFI) and instead of heading out to another remote area, we stayed parked in that lot so we can enjoy a box of Pizza and the season finale of Game of Thrones. Sometimes, sleeping in parking lots are great. To be Continued…

A Little Town Called Casper

After our visit in Denver, we headed north into Wyoming where our friend Amy Victoria used to call home.  She was there visiting family for the eclipse and she said the towns population tripled for the event. We saw the traffic jam from the opposite side of the highway the whole drive into town and we were very glad we weren’t stuck in it.

Casper is a small town with a very homey feel in the downtown district.  The city is developing the area to be a tourist destination and the new central amphitheater was amazing.  Amy even took Kyuri there for a donation yoga class that they starting holding during the summer months every Tuesday at 5:30pm. If you’re in town during that time, it is definitely worth checking out, but the highlight of our visit there was Casper Mountain.

We began the hike at around 8 am on our last day in town and the weather graced us with sunshine, clear air and incredible views of the town/mountains.  The trails were very well maintained by Rotary International, and there were even new lookout benches, carpeted picnic tables and signs that showed the routes and distances of the hikes.

We started in the main parking lot at the base of the mountain and began the trail up towards the waterfall first(Braille trail .5 miles). It was a quiet day and the water was cool and it was amazing to feel so close to nature.  We began our trek up the Bridle route (5 miles with a 1200ft elevation gain, 3 hour hike round trip) and the first thing I noticed was the well placed lookout platforms throughout the hike.  There were rock formations to walk through (Split rock at the top of Bridle trail), sport climbing routes at the top, fresh drinking water flowing down from the mountain and pools of water to soak our feet in.  The hike was fairly easy with different routes available. Visit the website here for more information.

As we prepared to head out to our next destination, we looked back with love and admiration for our friends that were so loving, supportive and generous.  From Kyuri’s first time quad riding around the farm, the hikes, the amazing food that our friend Sara prepared for us (wild caught antelope and deer with roasted veggies and home made clam chowder made from local goats milk), the yoga class in downtown and at the Scarlow art gallery.. The experience couldn’t have been better.  We are so grateful.  Thank you so much and love you girls to the moon and back.

A little fun tip on the hike: Keep your eye out for little painted rocks throughout the trail.  They tell you to take a photo with the hashtag and hide it again for someone else to find. 😉

 

Into the Wild: Mushrooms in Colorado

 

Left hand park reservoir is a magical place hidden 30 miles west of Boulder, CO. Szymon’s sister took us up there a couple days after we arrived in Colorado.  She had just moved into her new home with her family and we were so grateful that the first destination was home with familiar faces, hot showers and home cooked meals.

We drove up the mountainous road that had beautiful views of the city and once we made it to the top, the sight was one to behold.  The sun glistened against the blue waters of the lake and we were surrounded by fields of flower and forest.  We have never foraged for mushrooms before and we didn’t know how sneaky they were at hiding.  They were found under brush and moss, in the shadows of trees and by rocks and rotting wood.  Once we started spotting them we realized there were so many variations we didn’t know where to start!

The trick was to find mushrooms that had sponge textured bottoms. We weren’t sure which mushrooms were poisonous because we failed to do any research prior to the picking, so we went with that. Either way, we found a lot of mushrooms that were edible and it so happens that the sponge textured bottom mushrooms were HUGE. They are called Boletus Rubriceps or King Bolete (for good reason). We found out later that there is an amazing website www.coloradomushrooms.com that shows you not only the edible mushrooms, but the poisonous ones too. Once we visited the site, we realized we left a lot of edible ones behind, but now we are equipped with the knowledge to go back and forage for some more.

The next day, Szymon’s sister cleaned the picked mushrooms and cut them up in order to string them up to dry.  She wanted to make sure that we would be able to take some with us in the van, and knowing that the room in our fridge would most likely be limited, drying them was the answer. This morning we had egg croissant sandwiches for breakfast and added them in with the eggs.  Szymon said it was sweet and tasty, but only time will tell if it was the not poisonous kind or not.

The Big Day

Usually when people say this, people anticipate and look forward to the start of something new. Well that day finally came for us. We pulled out of our neighborhood street one last time as we hit the open road and as amazing and romantic as that sounds, it didn’t come without its incidences. We had circumstances that required us to drive 3 separate cars to Denver. It was Szymon in the Van, our friend Amy in her car and me in szymon’s car.  The drive was…. really boring and lonely, but we somehow made the best of it by listening to podcasts, good music and having silent moments of reflection and we made it to our first destination.  Szymon found a sweet camping hot spring location in Monroe, Utah and we pulled in after the sun went down. After driving 10 hours, hot springs sounded like heaven.

Mystic hot springs in Monroe provided us with camp grounds, bathrooms/showers, 24 hour hot springs and a really cute gift shop where the owner’s daughter made a lot of the clothes. There were vintage parked buses and vans  that were converted into rooms in the camp ground that you could rent out and sleep in! The hot springs were clean and had great views of the red rock surroundings.

We had snacks before bed and we all cuddled in Gaia for the night. We woke up in the AM and made our way to the soaking tubs with our morning brew and had some time to relax before heading back on the road.  We still had a good 7 hours to Denver and we were hoping to make it in time for dinner.  The hills made it difficult. The climbs were long and the downhills easy; my ears kept popping, and at one point Amy threw rose petals out her window as I drove behind her. The walkie talkies that Szymon brought also made the caravan really easy. And because we love food, we made it to Denver just in time for dinner.

We are staying in denver for another few days or so, sorting out our to-do lists and finishing up a couple things in the van.  Szymon’s sister lives here and staying with her and her family has been a joy. We will have a few more days of regular comforts like our 15 min hot relaxing showers that will inevitably turn into a 2 min race to finish because it’s too cold outside once we hit Alaska. Enjoy the little things, and the trade off that these small changes in lifestyle will bring is worth everything.