WW2K - The Whitington's
Wyoming Vacation 2000!

We had a great time on our Wyoming vacation, travelling through Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, and over to the town of Cody. Come join us and check out everything that we did - you'll find travel tips, places to stay, and lots, lots more. Let's get started!

Thursday 6/8/2000 - Off to Wyoming

We landed at Jackson Hole, airport, and were in shock by how beautiful it was. After seeing the larger airports of the country, this small, simple building was very striking in contrast. It really set the tone for the entire trip.
After a stop by the Avis counter, we pulled out of the parking lot and got our first good look at the Grand Teton mountain range. We were both speechless. No photograph can do the sight justice, but this one was our first exposure to the mountains.
We hadn't eaten breakfast, mistakenly thinking that it would be served on the plane, so we turned into the first place that we saw: Moose Pizza & Pasta Co. We knew nothing about the place, but it turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. They have a great deck on top of the restaurant so that you can eat overlooking the Snake River with the Grand Teton range right behind it. Their special for the day was Nut Crusted Chicken Breast with Honey Taragon Sause, Rice Piaf & Zucchini - it was delicious!
We made our way north on the east road through Grand Teton National Park to our first destination, the Jackson Lake Lodge. There is one huge, main lodge that contains a restaurant and meeting rooms, and the accomodations are in surrounding cabins and hotel-like rooms. You won't believe the view from our room - click here to see it.
One of the first things that we did after getting settled was to take one of the trails out by our room. The path wasn't that long, but it took us out to a spectacular view of Jackson Lake and the Grand Teton range. It was also a little cool for tee shirts and shorts, even in June. That's Mt. Moran over Mitchel's left shoulder.
Fortunately, the main dining room had some slots open and we were able to get dinner reservations. The Mural Dining Room has a giant picture window looking out at the Grand Teton range over the sagebrush flats, and we had a perfect table by the window. We took this photo from our table. This turned out to be one of those "when in Rome" meals, because we dined on "slow-roasted Buffalo Striploin" and "elk chops". We both preferred the buffalo over the elk.
After we watched the sun set over the mountains, we crawled into bed for the first night in the park. We had just drifted off to sleep when a pack of cayote tuned up with some powerful howls. They sounded like they were right outside of the door - it was chilling.

Friday 6/9/2000 - Grand Teton National Park

After dining on a breakfast bar (which turned out to be our standard morning meal during the trip - the other meals were just so much!), we drove to Colter Bay at the northern end of the park. It is mainly a campground and marina, but we'd heard about a Native American museum that we wanted to check out.
The Native American museum is located in the Colter Bay Visitor's Center, and is well worth a visit. It is very interesting, and respectful to the Native American history. Admission to the museum is free, although they do accept donations to help support the upkeep of the exhibits.
From the Visitor's Center, we took the short walk down to marina on Jackson Lake. There are plenty of boats and private docks out on the water, but we went there for the view. There was one unexpected surprise, though - the wind blowing off the water was COLD! That would be a constant theme on the trip. More than once, we wished that we could have dashed home to repack.
We then headed south for Jenny Lake, one of the other beautiful lakes in the Grand Teton National Park. There is a one-way scenic drive that takes you to Jenny Lake Lodge, and it is well worth the trip. We took it simply because we were going to have lunch at the lodge, but after seeing it we'd recommend taking it just for the drive alone! Jenny Lake Lodge is much smaller than Jackson Lake Lodge where we were staying, but had the same kind of natural beauty in the lobby. When President and Mrs. Clinton visited the park, the cabins at this lodge is where they stayed. We had a delicious lunch in their dining room before moving on.
This is the view that we had from our window table in the dining room. On this trip, we quickly discovered that early reservations make all the difference in the world as to where you're sitting. As they say in the real estate business: location, location, location. We watched these cute little furry animals that were standing upright in the field outside the window. The waiter told us that those guys were "whistle pigs", and sure enough, we got to hear one let out a shrill whistle before diving down into its burrow.
One of the highly recommended hikes was to a place called "Hidden Falls" which is actually up in the Teton range on the other side of Jenny Lake. It is listed as a 30 minute hike, but the entire event lasted about two hours - but they were two wonderful hours! We found Teton Boating, Inc., and paid for passage across the lake to the trail head. The boats shuttle back and forth every fifteen minutes, so you can take your time with the hike. Click here to join us for a few photos that we took along the way.
Driving back up from Jenny Lake, we decided to take a detour over to Teton Village. We found Wilson road just south of the Park Gate on the inside loop, and headed for the village. This small, winding, mostly unpaved road turned out to be a real treat. We drove through groves of Aspen trees that were just beautiful. The nine-mile road is slow going, so the good news is that you really get the chance to enjoy the scenery. The bad news is that it takes about twenty-five minutes to get to complete the drive, and you really have to pay attention to oncoming traffic. Still, it's a must-see if you're in the Park.
By the time that we got to Teton Village, it was pretty well shut down. It certainly wasn't the ski season, after all. In fact, there was a skycar ride up to the top of the mountain and back, but they'd just closed for the day by the time we arrived. We kept getting one particular recommendation for dinner, though, and that was the Mangy Moose. It was there in the center of the ski village, so we headed in and got a table. The food and service was great, and the eclectic decor of the restaurant made for an enjoyable experience. As you might have guessed, the Mangy Moose gift shop was the perfect place to pick up a tee-shirt and a few other souvenirs from the trip.

Saturday 6/10/2000 - On The Way To Yellowstone

We checked out of Jackson Lake Lodge, make a quick stop at the Colter Bay convenience store for water and snacks, then headed out to Yellowstone. The drive had wonderful scenery and wildlife all along the way. Finally, we arrived in Yellowstone. Since we still had our Grand Teton National Park pass (all $20 worth), we didn't have to buy a separate park pass for Yellowstone. You'll notice from the photo that the forests are in a new-growth stage, due to the fires of 1988. While the stick-trees remaining from the fire were all around, it was evident that nature was replentishing the forest.
There were many parts of the park, like this area around the entrance sign, that the fire hadn't touched. You'll notice from these photos that sometimes we're in coats, other times tee shirts, and even panchos occasionally. The best advice that we got on this trip was to dress in layers, and it paid off.
We went ahead and checked into the Old Faithful Inn, but couldn't get into the room until 5pm. That's okay, though, because checking in early gave us the ability to grab a primo room. Notice that dark clouds were starting to move it. We had a small shower, the skies cleared again. For room photos and info on the Inn, click here.
Dinner at the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room requires reservations that fill early, so we'd recommend that you make them long before you arrive. We didn't to that, so we had to be happy with eating lunch there. It is a grand old dining room, so try to work this into your visit if you go to Yellowstone.
After lunch we walked out and saw Old Faithful erupt. It was spectacular - not just the geothermal activity, but the fact that this has been going on forever. It's amazing to stop and think that whatever we're doing in our day to day lives, Old Faithful is erupting on schedule.
Since we still had some time to kill before taking our bags up to the room, we walked through the upper geyser loop. This was the perfect introduction to Yellowstone, since we encountered everything from brilliantly colored pools to erupting geysers. Nature is truly amazing.
The Firehole River winds through this part of the park, and adds to the beauty of the area. As you can see here, there are geysers and other geothermal ponds dotting the river's shore. We wondered whether the water was cold, since it was most certainly fed from the melting snow from the surrounding mountains, or warm from the geysers whose water trickled into it. The first rule of Yellowstone, though, is STAY ON THE WALKWAYS so we never found out. To join us for part of our walk around the basin, click here.
Whether you're staying at the Old Faithful Inn or not, we recommend taking the free guided tour. You'll hear lots of history and interesting facts about the Park and the Inn, and it only takes about forty-five minutes. This is our guide, spinning stories out at the main entrance.
Since we couldn't get into the dining room, we opted for the Old Faithful Inn Cafeteria. It's a short walk from the main Inn. The food was wonderful, and the price was extremely reasonable! Mitchel had Trout Almondine, and Tami had Chicken Florintene. The cafeteria overlooks the Old Faithful geyser area, so the view was exceptional.
When we finished eating and headed out of the cafeteria, we saw that two geysers were erupting, with lots of other geothermal activity going on, all taking place against the setting sun. It was a beautiful visual, and this photo doesn't capture the half of it!
The inside of the Old Faithful Inn is hard to describe in words - it's one of those things that you just have to see to appreciate. It has the very look and feel of what you would expect from an old 1900's lodge. It's beauty was unparalleled on the trip, and we felt fortunate that we'd planned a couple of days here.

Sunday 6/11/2000 - The North Loop Of Yellowstone

The plan for today was to make the north loop of Yellowstone - up to Mammoth Hot Springs, over to Roosevelt country, then back down again. As we started out, we saw a pool with the most amazing steam - part pink, and part blue. It was the Grand Prismatic Pool, and the walkway to it had several beautiful formations - well worth the stop and a few minutes walk.
The next stop that we encountered was the Fountain Paint Pot region, complete with bubbling mud pools, boiling springs and steaming lakes. This was a great stop - the photo that you see is of the Fountain Paint Pot, and it really doesn't do it justice. This was mother nature at her best.
Wildlife was everywhere that you looked. Here we'd pulled off the road to watch some buffalo grazing along the grasslands beside the river. We didn't know that we had a much closer encounter ahead of us!
Norris Basin is a little valley filled with more geothermal activity. At the trail heading down, there is a museum and park book shop, both staffed by rangers who can answer any questions and provide some interesting information.
The scenery along the way up to Mammoth Hot Springs was fantastic, and we probably shot an entire roll of film. Thankfully, the park has provided turn-outs for people to pull over and look, which made us feel a lot safer on the winding roads.
One of the travel tapes that we watched of Yellowstone referred to this area as the "Golden Gate Area" of the park. We'd left the geothermal activity behind temporarily, and passed into the part of the park that has mountainous beauty.
We rounded a corner and found several cars stopped in both directions. The reason was that there were three buffalo walking down the center of the road - they didn't seem to be bothered by the cars at all! We sat in the buffalo jam and waited for them to decide where they wanted to go. Once they did that, everyone was on their way. While we were on vacation, we also encountered an elk jam and a bear jam. Much better than the traffic jams that we were used to back home.
We finally arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs. This was kind of a good news/bad news place. The bad news is that the springs pretty much stopped flowing a year ago, so a lot of the colors that you see in past photographs are no longer there. The good news is that they have left some amazing formations to see. We talked to a park ranger, and they have no idea why the springs stopped after all these years. Just nature doing her thing - they could start up again at any time, or remain like this for centuries.
Hungry from a long drive up from Old Faithful, we fell into the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Dining Room. The menu was a standard lunch soup-n-sandwich fare, but it was very good. Mitchel had the Grilled Smoked Turkey with Parmesan Crusted Sourdough Bread, and Tami had the Turky Deli Sandwich. The dining room was beautiful, and it was a relaxing stop before hitting the road again.
Before long we'd headed east into Roosevelt country. Very, very beautiful scenery. We stopped at the Roosevelt Lodge for a bathroom break, and it looked like the perfect place to stay if you're looking for a place to rough it, with trail rides, chuckwagon dinners, etc. If you're going to Yellowstone, you definately owe it to yourself to drive through this part of the country.
On the way back we were taken high into the mountains, through an area called the "Mae West curves". If you're confused why, then either take the winding drive or check out a photo of the lady in her prine. It was fun driving, and beautiful country. We ran across many patches of snow, and we just had to stop and play in one of them.

Monday 6/12/2000 - Lake Yellowstone

"I think of Red River, Liberty Valence, can't believe the old man's gone."
We were heading southward around to Yellowstone Lake, and stopped at West Thumb Geyser Basin. There are actually several sections to explore, and this one is at Dragon's Mouth Spring. Yep, it was raining, but the geysers don't pay any attention to things like that - so neither did we. The sights that we saw were trememdous!
We arrived at Yellowstone Lake Lodge, and WOW! It was an old, giant, resort hotel that first housed guests in 1891. At that time it was $4 per day, including meals, so the rates have increased a little. The atmosphere was very serene, and it reminded us a little of "The Overlook Hotel" from Stephen King's "The Shining". There was a majestic, stately beauty about this place. Click here for some photos of our room.
We checked in as soon as we got to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and it was extremely fortunate that we did (you'll see why later). We were hungry, so we explored the hotel while we were waiting for the dining room to open. Once it did, we were seated and immediately fell in love with this wonderful old place. We could easily imagine a century of visitors who had dined here before us.
When it was time to leave for Yellowstone Grand Canyon, the ran started pouring down on us. One thing that we'd learned on the trip was that it wouldn't last long, so we just forged ahead. It was a little wet, but with unbrellas and panchos we didn't miss a beat.
Our first stop was at the Lower Falls, and you can see from the photo how beautiful it was. Even through the rain, you could hear the powerful the force of the water was.
A little further up the road, and we got to the primo viewing point for the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. The colors were extravagant, and definately reminded us of our trip to Grand Canyon national park a few years ago. We'd seen many pictures of the canyon, from postcards to paintings, but none of them did the real thing justice.
When we got back from Yellowstone Grand Canyon. we returned to find that there was no power at the hotel! Thankfully, we had already checked in so we had access to our room. Since there wasn't a television there, the only real difference is that a few lights didn't work, and if the sun went down, we were going to get REALLY cold!
The electricity may have been off, but it made for a great atmosphere. Most everyone was down in the lobby, just visiting, playing cards, and enjoying the afternoon. We had a great time sitting by the window and soaking in the view of the lake and mountains beyond.
We had dinner in the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room, but since the electricity was off they had their special "Power Outage Menu". It didn't matter - the dinner was great. Everything was being served with plastic utensils, plates and cups (presumably so that they wouldn't have to be washed) and we delighted in the fact that this was the most expensive meal that we'd ever eaten on a disposable plate. The lights came on toward the end of the meal, and the dining room exploded in applause. We went back up to the room to make sure that everything was in order, then went back down to watch sun set.

Tuesday 6/13/2000 - The Trek To Cody

We loved the room, the view, and the hotel. In fact, we hated checking out after only one night, since we really felt like there was more of the hotel to explore.
Even though we were out of the classic geyser area, there were a few hot-spots around Lake Yellowstone. In the far distance, you can see a rain storm moving across the lake. We fought this storm on and off all the way to Cody. This type of geyser was perhaps the most fascinating - we'd be driving along, and there would suddenly be some geothermal activity right beside the road. It must be great to be hiking through the forest to suddenly see a smoking pool of water out of the clear blue.
We've laughed about this fellow since the moment that we met him. He was at one of the scenic turn-outs, and was not people-shy at all. In fact, it was pretty obvious that he was trolling for handouts. It's illegal to feed wildlife in the park, so we didn't, but when he saw that we weren't going to give him anything he flew over to the next car. On our way back from Cody, WY a day later, he was still working the crowd at the same turnout. What a character.
We were skirting Lake Yellowstone, heading toward the East Entrance so that we could drive to Cody, Wyoming. We were away from the geothermal activity, so this part of the park had its own particular beauty. This photo is on the northeast side of the lake, where it meets the mountains.
On the Cody Road from Yellowstone's East entrance, there are many wonderful cliffs and rock formations. The first part of the trip out of the park is through Shoshone National Forest, which is breathtaking!
We then crossed over into the Buffalo Bill Cody State Park for more natural beauty. The mountains and cliffs were wonderful.
This particular volcanic formation has been named "the Holy City". Although we encountered rain during parts of the trip, it was a beautiful drive - we found ourselves stopping every few miles for a breathtaking view!
After that magnificant drive, we arrived in Cody, Wyoming, and checked into or residence for the evening: the Irma Hotel. Buffalo Bill Cody built the Irma for his daughter Irma Louise Cody in 1902. He figured that it would give people a place to stay as they traveled from the East to Yellowstone, and it still has a genuine, old-world elegance. Before hitting the room, we grabbed a quick lunch at the Irma Hotel Dining Room. Click here to see the room and a few other things in the hotel. And if you'd like to hear our ghostly experience at the hotel, click on this link.
Next we drove a few blocks over to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a group of museums that had been highly recommended to us. There are several in all, but due to time constraints we chose the Buffalo Bill museum and the art gallery. Both were fascinating, and the highlight of the art gallery was getting to see many Remington works, both sculpture and painting.
We walked up and down the main street of Cody, stopping in art galleries, antique shops, and many other interesting places. When we got back to the hotel we saw that an old-west shoot-out was taking place out in the street. We stopped to watch the Cody Gunslingers, a group that re-enacts the days of the old west for town visitors.
Frommer's recommended a meal at the Proud Cut Saloon, and even though we hadn't made reservations, they managed to sneak us in to a table. This place had outstanding food, and was Mitchel's pick for the absolute best-tasting meal of the trip. Mitchel had the New York Strip steak, and Tami had the Teriyaki Chicken that was every bit as good. We definately recommend reservations, though!
After dinner, the town started shutting down and we took advantage of our private deck back at the Irma. Our room, the Colonel Cody Suite, was the only room with access to it. We basically had the crow's nest perch above the main intersection in town. It may not sound exciting, but this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights of the trip.
We took advantage of the clear, cool evening to catch up on writing postcards. We had a small picnic table out on the deck, which we later moved out to the very edge to watch the town shut down in the evening.
There is a rodeo every night in Cody, and we watched the parade of pickups and horse trailers after it was over. Following that, we watched the locals: teenagers cruising the main drag, the hotel bar emptying out as it got later, and finally, just the local police patrolling the empty streets. It was an extraordinarily peaceful evening, and we really enjoyed it.

Wednesday 6/14/2000 - Bound For Jackson

On Wednesday we got up, ate our breakfast bars, and headed out for Jackson Hole. It was a little sad, since we were beginning the last leg of our vacation. The scenery was just as beautiful on the way back, seeing things from the opposite direction, and we ended up stopping to take a few photos. Don't think that this grizzly bear sign was lost on us! We were very careful around these areas!
The great thing about the drive back from Cody was that we got to see some of the areas that we passed through in the rain yesterday. Even though the drive could have been done in a little over an hour, we kept slowing down to look at all the mountain formations. Simply a wonderful drive.
We were looking for a place to eat, and we knew that until we got down into Jackson there would be only a very few choices. Our rules of vacation are that: 1) we won't eat in chain restaurants, only in local places, and 2) we won't eat in the same place twice. Still, the way that the timing was working out was that we only had one choice: The Dining Room at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. We got there to discover that a tour bus had rolled in moments before us and it would be an hour's wait. A quick scramble took us to the Lake Deli, the hotel's hand-made sandwich shop. The food was good, and the portions were huge! We were stuffed, and climbed back into the car for the remainder of the trip to Jackson.
We arrived at our final destination on the trip, the Spring Creek Ranch. It was up on top of a mountain, and our room faced the Grand Teton range. Each cabin was made out of logs, so it had a rustic look while still being very plush. This is a shot of our cabin across the duck pond.
The room was great, with a huge fireplace and a plush-rustic feel. The first thing that we did was to step out on the balcony, and had this magnificiant view of the southern end of the Grand Teton mountain range. If you'd like to see the room, click here.
We already had dinner reservations at the Granary, Spring Creek Ranch's gourmet restaruant. Not only was the food good, but the view looked like the rest of Spring Creek had been built around the restaurant. It was truly spectacular, and we highly recommend it - be sure and have reservations before you arrive, though! Mitchel had the bone-in Ribeye, and Tami tried the beef tenderloin. Neither of us were disappointed.

Thursday 6/15/2000 - Whitewater Rafting Day

The morning started with breakfast at Granary there at Spring Creek Ranch. The morning view of the mountains was a perfect backdrop for a big breakfast - this was whitewater rafting day, so we wanted to start it out with a good meal.
Mad River Boat Trips has their meeting place just out of town, in a unique building called "The Wedge". We drove there in about five minutes, then rented wet suits for the trip. A bus then carted our party to a place to put in on the river, and we had a wild adventure. We have several photos and stories from the trip here. This photo shows everyone getting geared up to put into the water.
After returning to the room for a shower, we decided that it was time to actually spend some time in the city of Jackson. The town is built around a square, and at each corner is an archway made out of antlers. The main thing to do in town is shop. There are everything from extravagent art galleries to t-shirt stores.
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is right on the square, and is a famous watering hole for the town's visitors. We went in, climbed up on the horse-saddle bar stools, and enjoyed a bottle of their house beer that is brewed for them locally.
Right around the corner was the Silver Dollar Bar, whose s-curved bar is made up of 1921 silver dollars. We were getting hungry by that point, so we stepped next door to the associated grill for dinner.

Friday 6/16/2000 - Exploring Jackson Hole

We took our last full day to knock around the town of Jackson. This town is made for shopping, and although it was the most commercial place on the trip, it was a lot of fun - hey, everyone needs to take home a tee shirt or two. There were several galleries to explore, though, and everything is situated around the town square. We're here below one of the famous horn-arches.
The Snake River Brewing Company's Brewpub is just a few blocks from the square, and is a great place to sample some of their award-winning brews and have lunch. Their specialty is pizza, but we both opted for deli sandwiches. Their beer was excellant, and the food was good. This is a highly recommended stop in town!
We'd seen an advertisement for something called the Alpine Slide. We didn't know much about it, other than you got to go as fast as you wanted down the mountain on a sled. It sounded too fun not to try, so we drove up to the Snow King resort just a few blocks out of town and bought passes for two. A ski lift took us up the mountain, and then we whizzed back down! This photo is at the top, with Tami heading down the path for the chute, with her sled under her arm. You can see how high we were - it was great fun!
Although it wasn't a particularly hot day, we were both tired and in need of something cold to drink. Just off the square is the Saddle Rock Family Saloon, where they have a huge (and unique) selection of soft drinks and fountain concoctions. Be sure and give the Key Lime Milkshake a try!
In American Way magazine, Harrison Ford said that New York Subs is a favorite place where he often has some one pick up a sandwich for him. With a recommendation like that, we had to give it a try. The specialty subs were very tasty - we took them back to our room to eat while we started packing for tomorrow's departure.
We experienced the strangest weather that we'd seen in a while - tiny snowballs! This wasn't classic snow, but instead were little balls of snow about the size of your little finger. They weren't ice or hail, either. We had never seen anything like this before. Notice how blue the sky is in the previous photo of the sub shop - this happened about fifteen minutes after leaving their parking lot.
We packed everything up, and with a huge sigh went out onto the porch to watch the last sunset. The trip had been wonderful, and we knew that we were going to miss these mountains. We also knew that we'll be back some day, though.

Saturday 6/17/2000 - Headed Back Home

Without knowing what we'd be served on the airplane, if anything at all, we opted to grab breakfast in Jackson. We saw the Westerner Family Restarurant just a block or so off the square, and went in to find that it is a classic American diner, with great portions and good food. Since the Westerner billed itself as "The Biggest Ham and Eggs in the Hole!" Mitchel had to take them up on it, and didn't leave hungry.
With one last look at the Grand Teton range, we said our goodbyes to this beautiful country. WE knew that we'd be back, though. We want to see how the new growth in Yellowstone is coming alone, we want to gaze up that this cathedral of mountains once again, and there are still a few things that we didn't get to. We may even go back to see if the ghost is still in residence at the Irma Hotel! This trip was relaxing, exciting, and very fulfilling. What a great vacation!

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