As our stress levels came down and the mountains rose up from the horizon, we started to feel excited again.
I mean we even had signs from the universe - look at this picture I took of Jacob and look in the middle..
We cruised along the highway into the Grand Teton National Park, deciding to take the long way to Jackson, WY.
Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on trails in this national park. While this is frustrating, just a little research on why they do it does make sense. Even the most well trained dogs are still animals and can be unpredictable - they can put themselves or others in harms way without meaning to. National Parks are committed to protecting the ecosystem within their boundaries, and since dogs have a history of disrupting that (running into and dying in hot springs, escaping cars and causing elk stampedes), many national parks have rules in place to prevent it.
So anyway, we drove up to the entrance of the Grand Teton National Park, feeling pretty bad ass as we flashed our Annual Pass that we purchased in Assateague Island National Seashore and continued on.
Here's the best views of the Tetons: come in through the Bridgey Teton National Forest on 26. Go through Moran and turn left onto Teton Park Road.
We found ourselves pulling over constantly for each new view of the mountains, taking more pictures and videos than we will ever be able to look at or share. I had never seen mountains so big up close, and it was magical.
But you know what wasn't magical? Traffic.
I love our National Parks, and I love that so many people want to experience them. But here's a little secret: national parks are for driving through, national forests are for staying.
After about 45 minutes, we had enough and we were en route to Jackson.
Jackson is a luxury town known for its winter slopes, but we just needed food and phone service. The wheel had started squeaking again and we needed somewhere to stay.
So we found a less crowded BBQ place off to the side (we each ordered a bbq brisket burger and my lord was it good) and set up an appointment for the car in Idaho Falls. The appointment wasn't until early Tuesday, so we had three nights to do what we wanted.
As much as I wanted to be sleeping along Snake River, my body was screaming at me that I needed serious rest in an actual bed. Also, both of us were so smelly I think our bodies were telling everyone within 100 yards that we needed showers.
So after a whirlwind week, we found a random motel in a random small town just south of Jackson and headed there.
Little did we know, we were about to find yet another hidden treasure.
Let me introduce you to this little town in Wyoming.
First, you drive down a beautifully paved, winding road through the Targhee National Forest, crossing back and forth and driving beside the Snake River where people are white water rafting and fishing. Then you enter into this tiny town perched around a massive, peaceful reservoir that the river drains into. There's a few bars, a motel, some outdoor shops, and a just enough houses.
First, we stopped at Alpine Market, the tiny local grocery store. Cute outdoorsy dads pushing their kids in carts, and a few out of towners picking up things. The minute I found organic coconut cookies & cream ice cream, I knew I was home.
Our motel owner (Three Rivers Motel, what's up Pittsburgh<3) was a kind, older gentleman and our room was a standard western motel with a real key and two beds.
I ate the entire tub of ice cream, wrote some blog posts, and slept for like 24 hours...
The next evening, Jake dragged me out of bed and outside for a much needed walk.
If I wasn't in love already, I was now.
We found a dirt path that wove through a meadow alongside the reservoir. The sun was in front of us, going down behind the mountains. A breeze was cooling us off and rustling the wild flowers. Miska got to run off leash and explore. We heard live music being played down on the deck at the local brewery at the end of the path.
It. Was. Heaven.
I mean, to be in a small town along the water and at the foot of the mountains at the same time... Those places seem so rare.
We were so in love that we went back to the motel to grab our bikes and go down the path again to catch the sunset.
This is where Miska's favorite part of Alpine comes in.
We had just stopped by a picnic table right by the water to watch the sunset. Miska had been trying to get into the water, but thankfully had been listening really well and not going in.
Until a woman, her dog, and a man walked toward us from the brewery, drinks in hand.
Miska was off.
The dogs sniffed and played and then suddenly, their dog (Forrest) ran straight into the water.
And Miska went straight in after him.
Now a few things to note... One, Miska does not know that he isn't a water dog. He doesn't even swim, he just splashes the water and tries to catch it in his mouth and then chokes on it. And his fur is so thick that it literally weighs him down. But he loves it so much I have to let him in. Two, Miska is only permitted to swim before noon so that he has at least 8 hours to dry. It was 8:30pm when this happened. Three, we had to take a dirt road back to the motel.
By the time the dogs were done playing, Miska was half brown.
By the time we got back to the motel, Miska was completely brown.
For better or worse, Miska is also the teflon dog. When he dries, the dirt just falls off.
So I'd like to apologize to whoever the housekeeper was at our motel.
I'm so sorry. We tried.
Part of the purpose of this trip is to figure out where we want to live.
Jake is leaning toward Colorado because he has family there (and honestly I love his family so much it makes me want to live there too).
But walking around the quiet small town, being able to stand by the water and look at the mountains covered in evergreens, picturing how it looks in the winter, imagining a little home tucked into the side of a mountain, planning out the tiny home we would build and rent out to skiers and hikers... It almost seems perfect.
So when we got back to the motel that night, I looked at Jake and said, "We should stay."
"Well I mean we have to be in the city by Tuesday, I don't know if we'll make it....'
"No," I interrupted. "I mean, we should stay... forever."
He just laughed. "It's just over one week in and you've already decided? Let's give the rest of the states a chance first."
So, we packed and went to sleep with plans to wake up at 6 and move on to hike in the state I'm most excited about - Idaho.