I tend to do my best thinking around 0500, when I am desperate to entertain myself in order to stay awake during a night shift. I am a travel nurse—my husband and I move across the country to new locations for thirteen weeks at a time. One particular night in July, I wasn’t working with any of my friends, so I had a lot of time on my hands to sit and do nothing until the next patient arrived to the emergency department for care. I am always planning our next adventure, scouting out locations on our ever-long to-do list, and finding the best places to camp. Any time when we have multiple days off of work, we hit the road to some new place that we have never been before.
But on this particular night, we didn’t have any trips on the radar and I realized that after my next shift on the following night, I had an entire four days off of work! I certainly did not want to waste them. I sent a text to my husband, Corey, and said, “Hey! I have the next few days off. What do you say that we pack our bags and head back up to the Tetons after I get off of work tomorrow morning?” We had been before, fallen madly in love with the towering peaks and endless wildflowers, and I just knew I wanted to go back.
After arriving home that morning and talking with Corey, the harsher side of spontaneity kicked in—we had no place to stay in Jackson Hole. For anyone that has been to Jackson, Wyoming, you know how expensive Airbnbs and motels are during the summer, so we struggled to find accommodations. Everything was over three hundred dollars per night with limited availability. We had the same issue the first time we went to the Tetons and Yellowstone, so we rented a small camper off of Airbnb, hooked it to our Jeep and rented a camp spot outside of town. Unfortunately, renting a camper wasn’t an option this time.
I refused to give up! We considered tent camping but we’d left our gear in Georgia, and then it hit me—I bet we could fit an air mattress in the back of our Jeep if we laid the seats down! While I was at work that night, Corey bought us an air mattress while I spent down time at work finding a great campsite for us. When I got off work at 0700 we hit the road. I slept during the four-hour drive from Salt Lake City to Jackson while Corey drove.
After exploring for the day and taking a little hike around strikingly clear Jenny’s Lake, we decided to make our way towards the campsite that I had picked for us. I successfully found what I believe to be the most beautiful place to camp around Grand Teton National Park, and the best part—it’s FREE! In the middle of Bridger-Teton National Forest lies Shadow Mountain. You take a fifteen-minute drive up a dirt road with the most magnificent views of the Tetons towering over the valleys below. The entire ridgeline was spotted with campers that had the same idea as us—some in campers, some in tents, some in camper vans, and some in their cars like us.
We found a perfect spot complete with a fire ring and a level spot to park the car. Lucky for us, our full-sized air mattress fit like a charm so we set up camp for the evening. Corey built us a roaring fire, we roasted smores and drank PBR from the local park store that we had picked up on the way (I know, this beer choice was against my better judgment but the all-American beer just felt right in that moment!). We laid peacefully in the back of our jeep, equipped with our new bed and battery-operated string lights, and watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. The bright yellow and oranges of the sky contrasted with the deep summer green of the Tetons, casting a glow on the field of wildflowers where we were parked. In that moment, I felt fulfilled, utterly happy, and completely at peace.
The next morning, after our morning coffee and breakfast that Corey cooked over our propane stove, we embarked on one of the hardest hikes I’ve done to date! It is a lesser-known and “unofficial” trail in Grand Teton National Park. It isn’t even on the park map; I found it online through a hiking forum. It is a seven-mile hike to a glacial lake at the base of “The Grand.” The Grand is how everyone lovingly refers to the tallest peak in the Teton Range which protrudes and slightly curves over all of the rest of the mountains.
The hike up was beautiful—we were waist deep in wild flowers while looking out over Jenny’s Lake. The last part of the hike was exceptionally challenging due to the extreme incline and large boulders that we had to climb over. When we got to the top and I got my first glimpse of that crystal clear blue water, I was elated! I ended up injuring my knee during the boulder scramble, but that did not stop us from spending over an hour at the top, lying on the rocks and just soaking in all of the scenery. Corey actually jumped in even though there was still snow all around the lake! The blue water against the rugged mountain terrain created a scene that I will never forget. Any description I give you of this place simply will not do it justice—it is something that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. The hike down took longer than we projected due to my brand new knee injury, but it was worth it nonetheless.
We left early the next morning to head back to our home in Park City, Utah, because of my knee. Even though our trip was cut short, it will always be one of my favorite memories. The spontaneity of everything added a sense of wildness to our adventure that seemed to heighten the entire experience. The sense of peace and total contentment that I had over the entire extent of this trip is something that will stick with me forever.
Shirt Sizing Guide
|Length (inches)||28||29 ¼||30 ¼||31 ¼||32 ½||33 ½|
|Waist (inches)||25 ¼||26 ¾||28 ⅜||31 ½||34 ⅝|
|Hips (inches)||35 ⅜||37||38 ⅝||41 ¾||44 ⅞|