Jackson Hole, WY & Grand Teton National Park: Our First Roaming Free Adventure!

 
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The first leg of our full-timing experience has been spent in beautiful Jackson, WY, and the surrounding Grand Teton National Park. I have nothing but good things to say about our time here! Jackson is a small town that permanently houses roughly 10,000 people, but hosts millions of tourists every year. The city itself, built around the iconic Jackson Square, is a rustic resort town, filled with eclectic shops, art galleries, and restaurants galore.

My (Megan’s) family accompanied up to Jackson us for the long Labor Day weekend. This was a fun kick-off to our new adventure, and we finally got some time to relax and enjoy after a stressful month of packing and organizing. After the weekend was up, we continued to enjoy a slow but productive week. We worked, hiked, blogged, ate and enjoyed our first days of roaming free!

Jackson Hole Square Antlers

A few highlights from our food adventures:

  • One of my favorite lunches (Brandon doesn’t agree, but he is wrong – ha!) was eaten at Pearl Street Bagels in Wilson. While there is a Pearl Street in downtown Jackson, Wilson is a mere 10-15 minute drive from Jackson (toward Teton Pass), and is quiet and lovely. Surrounded by farm land, this unassuming bagelry makes a mean freshly baked sandwich and coffee. You can enjoy your meal on their “backyard,” which is right on a small river. You can’t go wrong with Pearl Street!
  • I believe that eating dessert every day (or twice a day) does not need any justification. Therefore, I highly suggest heading over to an ice cream parlor every time you are near Jackson town square. My favorite is Häagen-Dazs, but I have also enjoyed the local Moos Gourmet Creamery. If you are a more refined dessert eater (or just really love truffles), Coco Love: Atelier Ortega is the place to go. Master chocolatier Oscar Ortega has won many contests for his chocolates, and after you try them, it is not hard to understand why.
  • Our go-to spot for dining out the Lotus Cafe. Located in the heart of downtown Jackson, this hip and healthy restaurant always left us wanting more. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a huge assorted menu that caters to vegans, vegetarians, and health conscious meat eaters alike.  Brandon loved the beef pho, and I really enjoyed the raw pad thai.

Wildlife

The Jackson area is home to some of the most primitive wildlife in the West. In the past 10 days, we have seen elk, bison, antelope, coyotes, moose, a black bear, and all kinds of birds and small critters. Each of these encounters was breathtaking (yes, even the squirrel!). Some tips for finding wildlife:

  • Go off the beaten path. You can’t expect to gather around the wildly popular Jenny Lake and have a grizzly make an appearance (though, I am sure that this has happened more than once!)
  • Be aware, alert and prepared. Make sure you are ready to snap a picture, but also to defend yourself if need be. Bear spray is available in many stores in Jackson – it’s a good idea to keep with you in case a bear decides to get too friendly.
  • Don’t be the tourists who keep creeping closer for a better picture. Even though a lot of these picture are close up, they are taken either (a) from a car, or (b) using a telescoping lens. Be respectful to these beautiful creatures!
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Hiking and Outdoors

If getting outdoors is what you’re looking for, Grand Teton National Park won’t disappoint. The 40-mile long range is home to many incredible hiking, rafting, rock climbing, mountaineering, biking, and more. Our favorite hikes/outdoor activities:

  • Family / Easy Hike: String and Leigh Lake.  Park at the String Lake trailhead. The trail leads you around the perimeter of the small String and much larger Leigh lakes. It is highly wooded, with picturesque little beaches along the entire trail (great for a picnic and a picture.) It was on this trailhead that we saw the young black bear; such an awesome sight to see him run as quickly as he could back into the safety of his forest. This beautiful hike can be as long or as short as you want it, as it is an out and back, so it is perfect for families with younger children or those who are not up for a difficult vertical climb.
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  • Strenuous / Adventurous Hike: Paintbrush Canyon. This 9.1 mile long trail also starts at the String Lake trailhead. It is fairly strenuous, with nearly 4,000 ft. elevation gain, but the incredible scenery is worth the climb.  If you are feeling up for an all-day venture, many hikers climb to the Paintbrush divide, on to the Lake Solitude trail, and down Cascade Canyon for an 18 mile hike. Make sure you bring plenty of water and food with you!
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  • Scenic Outlook: Oxbow Bend. Located just around the corner from Jackson Lake Lodge, this bend in the Snake River is a popular spot for birds and wildlife. Photographers and visitors flock here to watch the sunset, or to take in the incredible view of Mt. Moran looming over the river.
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Gros Ventre Campground

You can file Gros Ventre Campground under our “highly recommend” file. Only 9 miles from downtown Jackson, this enormous campground caters to everyone, from tent campers to buses up to 45 feet. Located right on the Gros Ventre river, most of the sites are covered by large trees and lush foliage. The sites offer lots of privacy and aren’t too close together, which is fantastic. Dry camping for RVs and tents is $23/night, while electrical sites will run you $48/night. There are no water hookups, so plan accordingly. The dump station is complementary for campers, $5 for non-campers. Keep in mind that there are no reservations, and everything is first come, first serve. Make sure you get here early if you are coming for a holiday weekend! The hosts are extremely friendly and welcoming, and many of the sites have killer views of the Tetons. I wouldn’t camp anywhere else while in the Jackson area!

 

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Thoughts about Full-Timing

All things considered, we have had an incredible first couple weeks of “roaming free!” We keep mentioning to each other that it doesn’t quite feel real yet – it still feels like an extended vacation, and not a lifestyle. A few notable things:

  • Because our RV is a toy hauler, we brought our Smart Car along with us. It is so great to be able to hop from place to place in a tiny, gas efficient vehicle. We love our smartie!
  • We did laundry for the first time in a Laundromat! Both of us got a kick out the whole thing (hence the goofy picture of me, posing in front of a washing machine like a dork.) It is a little annoying not having a washer and dryer at our disposal, but I am willing and able to give up that comfort for the adventure!
  • After 2 weeks on the road, I am still as happy as ever with our tiny home. It doesn’t feel crowded or cramped like I thought it might. Instead, it is homey, comfortable and even, dare I say spacious? Perspective, perspective.
  • We have met such wonderful people so far. Meeting people on the road seems significantly easier than it is when you live in one city. Nearly everyone we have met has been friendly and outgoing, and we love getting to know the folks around us.

 

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