We recently traveled out west to Wyoming. It felt both odd and familiar to be traveling again. Here are some of my favorite highlights, and of course, some reflections. It wouldn’t be a Made of Words post without them.

Part I – A Visit

Some of our favorite people live in Thermopolis, WY. Isaac and I are honored to call them clients of Sprucely Designed, but even more thankful to call them friends.

Barb and Merlin Heinze of Merlin’s Hide Out were incredibly gracious to host us for a few days before our adventures in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. We provided some on-site tech support and took some needed shop/product photos. In turn, they provided wonderful hospitality and company. Merlin hand crafts and sews incredible works of art that double as every-day, hard-working clothing.

Thermopolis is a little over 2 hours from Yellowstone National Park and a little over 3.5 hours from Grand Teton National Park. Lots of travelers pass through the town on their way to the parks. If you ever find yourself in that part of the world, make sure you take some time to stop. “Thermop,” as we affectionately call it, is home to the Hot Springs National Park. Be sure to stop by the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center to grab some awesome stickers, a t-shirt, and attraction materials. If she’s around, tell Mary Anne that Rebekah and Isaac Russell sent you!

The landscape in Thermopolis is breathtakingly beautiful.

We are always thankful to see Merlin and Barb, and to spend time in the shop. It was especially meaningful to make this trip after the rollercoaster that was 2020. Zoom sessions and FaceTime calls are great; chatting together, in person, over pizza is even better.

Part II – Going Outdoors

Grand Teton National Park

I fell in love with the Grand Teton National Park when we visited the first time in 2019. The park had just opened the main pass when we visited – the lakes were still frozen, and snow was still piled high. What a difference a few months make! We visited a few of the same places and it felt like a totally different location.

Since the entire park was open this time around, we were able to reach a few places we couldn’t before. The drive up Signal Mountain Road was beautiful, and the view at the top was simply astonishing.

Isaac and I at the top of Signal Mt. Road

We also took a scenic river float down Snake River. When we do this again, we’ll go a little earlier in the day. We went in the evening, so the sun was pretty intense. However, we still enjoyed this immensely. The float was relaxing and had amazing views you can’t get to easily otherwise.

Perhaps the most relaxing places we stopped this time around was Jenny Lake. We made a quick stop at the Jenny Lake Overlook, and very carefully hiked down to the lake edge. It was everything I love about the Tetons – beautiful view, quiet space, crisp air, and peace.

Yellowstone National Park

Park Entrance Selfie!

We really only had one day to explore Yellowstone, so we booked an all day, small van tour. I realize these types of tours aren’t for everyone. When we do group tours, we focus on local providers when we can, and travel with groups no larger than 10 or 12. In this case, the tour allowed us to see a ton of highlights, while letting someone else stress about driving around in a very crowded park.

One of the tour highlights for me was Old Faithful Inn. The structure is an amazing feat of engineering and beautiful to see. I suppose Old Faithful wasn’t too bad either!

My favorite stop along our tour was at “The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.” The falls were breathtaking, and the canyon was picture perfect. When we reviewed pictures that night back at the Lodge, I told Isaac they looked photoshopped. Even pictures can’t do this place justice.

We also visited several geothermal pools and an area called the Mudpots. It was quite interesting to walk through random pockets of very warm air, and the smell of sulphur was definitely not subtle.

Round trip, the tour was around 12 hours. It was long and beautiful, and yes, there were naps on the bus. It was just enough to give us a sense of the park, but not enough to for us to say “we’ve been there.” I have a feeling this will be the first of a few trips to Yellowstone for us. Besides, I missed my National Parks Passport stamp, so that’s a good enough excuse as any to go back!

Part III – Reflections

The Tetons and Yellowstone are definitely some of my favorite places we’ve ever visited. Even on the busiest days we were there it was possible to “get off the beaten path” and find our own pockets of quiet and beauty. In reality, those are the kinds of places I prefer to vacation to and visit. I feel out of place in most cities – they are too close to the every day bustle and noise of life. I’d much rather hang out by the edge of Jenny Lake, listening to the water move, then stand on a street corner listening to car horns.

I also appreciate the sheer scale of these places. It feels impossible to look at the peaks of the Grand Tetons or the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” without feeling incredibly small. Places like this remind me to take a step back and remember what I’m trying to accomplish in life. Perhaps more importantly, they remind me to remember why I’m trying to accomplish those things. They encourage me to be reflective, and to take time to think instead of just running all the time.

Sure, “the mountains won’t remember me” but if I’m really lucky, the people I love, the people I meet, the people I help, the people I impact, will. For me, the mountains, and places like them, strip away the everyday clutter, encouraging me to reset and refocus. And that, my friends, is priceless.