I spent the night last night at the Marriott Residence Inn by the airport due to my scheduled 6 am flight out of Portland. My phone alarm went off at 3:30am and while I can't say that I, exactly, leapt out of bed, I know that I did far less groaning at getting up at such an early hour than I normally would because IT'S GIRLS WEEKEND!!! That blissful time of year when Kathi and I meet somewhere in our beautiful country to catch up with one another's lives, relax a little and explore a place we have never been before or have no recollection of. This year that place is Wyoming and we plan to explore Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, with maybe a little bit of Bozeman, Montana thrown in on the side.
I arrived at the airport at 4:45am, went through security, found my gate and headed to the nearest Starbucks. Got my favorite drink, a grande, decaf, soy peppermint mocha, some oatmeal and settled in at the gate to wait for my flight. I don't really know why, but I do love sitting anonymously at the airport with a good book that I can immerse myself in and just tuning out the rest of the world and quietly reading. I guess it is because I so very rarely allow myself moments like these when at home.
All goes well with the first flight. Land in Salt Lake City, Utah at their beautiful, mountain surrounded airport, and settle in for an hour and half layover. Check in with Tom to let him know that I have arrived safely and see that I have a voicemail on my phone. When I listen to the voicemail, my mood changes a bit because that voicemail is telling me that something has gone amiss with Kathi's connecting flight out of Denver and that United has rescheduled her on the next best available flight which would put her in Jackson, Wyoming at 9pm. Nooooooooooo!!!!!! The original plan has us both arriving in Jackson by 1 pm, giving us a good half a day to begin exploring. Not a total disaster, but we hate to lose any moments of Girls Weekend.
A little side note here. There has only been ONE Girls Weekend (Michigan) out of our 14 years of doing this where one of our flights (mine) got delayed significantly causing us to lose a little Girls Weekend time. Kathi and I both think that this is amazing. We both feel that God smiles on our Girls Weekend trips and always throws in a little added extra blessing in the form of good weather and most things going according to plan and schedule. Thank you, Lord, for that. We so appreciate it!
I shoot Kathi a text message to let her know what is going on, if for some reason she doesn't already know. I receive a text back indicating that she DIDN'T know because she has just landed in Denver and has not received any information about her connecting flight yet. Once on the ground and out of the plane, she sees that she has FIFTEEN MINUTES to get from her arrival gate to her departing gate if she wants to catch the originally scheduled flight. She does her best OJ Simpson in the airport imitation (which makes her painfully realize how out of shape she is) and makes it!!!! The Lord has been good, once again, and Girls Weekend does NOT experience a delay, after all.
My flight from Salt Lake City to Jackson is a quick 32 minutes and we land right on time at 12:14pm. This, too is a beautiful airport surrounded by snow-dusted mountains and this is the first time I have ever been to Jackson, Wyoming. I am trying to remember if I have ever been to or through Wyoming before at all. I think that I may have traveled through at least some part of Wyoming when I moved out to Oregon from Cincinnati, Ohio over 20 years, but if so, it would have been a quick drive through without any real chance to explore or experience the culture here. This airport is one of those little airports where small planes land, not the giant commercial jets, and you actually step down onto the tarmac to make the journey between plane and building. Well, here in Jackson, Wyoming, you are greeted with a sign above an arch made of antlers welcoming you to Jackson.
How very charming. We later found out that the people of Wyoming, at least Jackson, Wyoming, seem to have a great fondness for the antler arches, because they are EVERYWHERE. Downtown Jackson has a central square where they hold a farmer's market in the summer and every corner of it has an antler arch. Turns out the Boy Scouts in this area of the country go out and collect antlers that the males of the local elk population shed every spring before migrating, and auction them off to the highest bidder. In fact, they have a festival every spring in downtown Jackson, Elkfest, where this auction is the highlight. The antlers, which are actually bone, are used to make furniture, jewelry, light fixtures, door handles and wall decorations, as well as the arches. The money raised is used to help enhance elk habitat in the nearby National Elk Refuge where those antlers are collected in the first place. Kind of a cool circle of life thing, huh? I like it.
Kathi arrived about 30 minutes after I did (I am soooo glad she made her connecting flight), we hopped into our rented Chevy Cruze and hit the road to Teton Village where we had booked our first overnight stay here in The Hostel in Teton Village. We drove through the town of Jackson on the way to the hostel and decided that we would head back into town for some shopping once we were checked into and settled in at The Hostel.
So, this is the second hostel that Kathi and I have stayed in when on our trips and, while neither has been luxurious, both have been interesting and unique places to stay. We had originally discussed staying here at this Hostel for the duration of our trip, but once we discovered that there is a World Mark in West Yellowstone, Montana, a short walk away from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, my husband, Tom, convinced us that we would probably be more comfortable staying at the World Mark over the Hostel and I must say, honey, you were right!! While the hostel was clean and comfortable, the room was pretty small and had no refrigerator for snacks and beverages and the wifi connection was inconsistent, at best, and with our addiction to our computers and keeping in touch with the world, this was a bit frustrating.
We both found ourselves to be pretty hungry after our travels and we wandered over to a place called "The Mangy Moose" that was a short walk away from the Hostel for a late lunch of hamburgers and french fries. From there we headed back into downtown Jackson to do a bit of exploring and shopping.
We always shop for gifts for our loved ones while on our trip as a way of letting them know that we really do think about them while we are away from them! Jackson is a cute little town with many very nice, unique shops, not just the run of the mill junk souvenir/t-shirt shops kind of place. However, many of those very nice, unique shops carry very expensive items that, while fun to look at, are a tad bit out of our price range. The people here are very friendly, however, and we got tips on good places to eat as well as advice to be sure and be in the park at dusk so that we could hear the elk bugling. What is elk bugling, you may ask? It is the sound that male elks make during rutting season in an effort to attract female elk. It is a very distinct sound and one that I hope we do get to hear while here.
Once done shopping, most of the shops in Jackson closed at 7 or 8pm, we went back to the Hostel and settled in for the evening. We chatted and caught up with what is going on in each other's lives and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Kathi's old, tired laptop connected to the poor wireless signal there which, ultimately, proved unsuccessful. She finally just finished up what she needed to on my laptop and we called it a night and turned in for some sleep.