Sorry it has been so long since our last post! The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of parks and family. This is a longer post than usual - lots of photos, food and family :)
We left northern Montana and drove a few hours south to visit Yellowstone National Park, our country's first designated national park. Yellowstone is on many must-see lists for good reason: it offers something for everyone - geothermal features, wildlife, different landscapes. Coupled with some road closures in the park (snow and ice moving through the area,) we only got to see the Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and the Lamar Valley. Visitors need a few days, at least, to really see all areas of the park!
Lamar Valley - the U.S.'s Serengeti. Many types of wildlife call this valley home. We spotted herds of bison, owls, deer, elk, and even a mama grizzly bear with her cub! Wolves also live in the valley, and although we did not spot any of the packs, we learned a lot about them from the Yellowstone rangers in the park (who were nice enough to entertain our questions and let us take a peek through their spotting scopes!)
Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs - Perhaps what the park is most famous for! Yellowstone encompasses the world's largest active geothermal area. Really cool to learn about and witness the ever-changing, and sometimes unpredictable, nature of the geysers and hot springs. The cold temps made the air extra steamy around the springs! What you can't tell from the photos is that some of the springs smell strongly of sulphur yuck!
We didn't get a chance to see Yellowstone Lake or the Canyon areas, but I guess we have a reason to go visit again!
Grand Teton National Park connects to the southern section of Yellowstone via the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. If you didn't know it, they could be the same park. When you think of mountains, a landscape like the Grand Teton range is likely what comes to mind. Snow-capped and jutting straight into the sky, the range is relatively young and lacks foothills, resulting in unbelievable landscapes.
With the mountain peaks, lakes, rivers, and valleys, GTNP is a photographer's dream. The range from any and all viewpoints is just stunning. The park is also awesome for hiking and climbing, and one of the best ways to really experience the mountains. On our hike to Taggart and Bradley lakes, we spotted a moose and her calf resting under a tree (photo didn't come out well unfortunately!)
During our drive through the park, we stopped into Jackson Lake Lodge, which has some amazing views of Jackson Lake from the hotel. As luck would have it, we caught the staff that afternoon officially attempting to break the Guinness World Record for largest s'more (apparently, this is what they do when it's low season!) The head pastry chef and her team engineered and orchestrated the effort (baking the graham crackers, toasting the gigantic marshmallows in two of the lodge's enormous fireplaces, and very carefully assembling the whole thing,) resulting in a 440 lb monster! Everyone there got to try a chunk of the finished product. It was fun to witness s'more history!
On a tip from a Jackson, WY local, we stopped into Nora's Fish Creek Inn for breakfast before making our way south. Our friend promised this place has the best breakfast in the Jackson area. Apparently, he isn't the only one who thinks so. We walked into the cozy log cabin building and noticed right away that Nora's has earned a James Beard Award (a really big honor for chefs and restaurants!) How do you improve on classic eggs, meat, hashbrowns, and pancakes?? ***DROP THE FORK*** One of the best meals we have had so far on our trip, and if you're anywhere within a 2 county radius of Wilson, WY, you have to visit!
Fun first: as we were leaving Wyoming, we drove straight into a cattle drive (or whatever the modern equivalent is.) It was cool to watch a couple dozen cowboys and a bunch of herding dogs wrangle a few dozen cattle down the road. Traffic in both directions was stopped and every driver was hanging out of their window taking photos.
We made it to Boulder, CO to see Kim's brother Mike. Since we left Illinois, we haven't had Vietnamese food, and it was time. Mike took us to Chez Thuy, one of his fave spots, and we went to town. Nothing feels better than a belly full of pho and bun bo cay.
Mike adopted a kitten last Christmas, and it was our first time meeting Bodhi! Bodhi is the first cat I've met who actually enjoys walking on a leash. What a boss.
After a quick couple of days in Boulder (and a much needed oil change for our chariot,) we started the longest stretch of drive on the trip - all the way to Atlanta. Two days of driving and halfway through The Girl on the Train audiobook, we stopped in Memphis, TN for the night. Best ribs we've eaten and lots of live music and absinthe on Beale Street (kind of a poor man's Bourbon Street, but in the best way possible.)
We made it to Atlanta, GA (and the end of The Girl on the Train - the audiobook drags more than paper book.) We crashed with Kim's cousins Khoa and Duy and spent time with their brother Tien and his family carving jack-o-lanterns and hiking to the top of Stone Mountain to take in the skyline. It was great catching up with family we usually get to see about once a year. Thanks so much to Khoa, Duy, Tien, Kelly and the kiddos for making our visit so relaxing and fun!
Best "so Asian" moment - our hike up Stone Mountain was less about the hike and more about what we were going to eat at the top. A dozen banh mi sandwiches and some eggrolls will do fine. Thanks Khoa and Jake for lugging all that food to the summit!
Micro Moment of the Day
Structures formed by the microbes that live in the hot springs in Yellowstone. Even though the springs can be too hot and/or acidic (think boiling hot battery acid) for anything else to survive, there are certain types of algae, bacteria and other thermophiles which thrive in these extreme conditions.