Westward adventures – Pinedale, WY & Green River Lake

Early Sunday morning I headed down to Pinedale, WY with the hopes of hiking to Titcomb Lakes, but in my research, I failed to realize that Pinedale is actually a couple thousand feet higher than Jackson which means that I only made it about a mile or so into the hike before hitting too much snow to continue. 

So, instead, I headed to Green River Lake campground that the guy at the visitor’s center recommended. He wasn’t kidding that it was really remote.

I lost cell phone reception about 3 miles onto the dirt road which went on for 20 miles until I finally reached the actual campground. I had passed so many great camp site options along the river that I decided not to stay in the official campground and instead find a spot along the river to spend the night. I ended up driving back about 11 miles until I found a spot along a bend in the river that looked like a good option and drove my car down beside the river. 

It was a perfect spot with lots of downed wood and a pre-built fire ring, so I was able to build a small fire while watching the sun set over the mountains. There was a short shower, but nothing more than just sprinkles, so I went ahead and made a fire while waiting for the sunset.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed with the sunset that evening – it was amazing! I went to bed pretty early that night (soon to be a theme of my trip) and I was woken up to the sound of something large splashing in the river. Of course, my first thought was a bear (because why wouldn’t a bear go swimming at night?!), but when I turned on my flashlight and shined it out my tent, I couldn’t see anything, but I did hear something fly away. I’m assuming it was probably geese that had some in to stay for the night and I interrupted their settling-in procedures. Luckily, after that, I didn’t have any other strange noises in the middle of the night!

It was surprisingly cold that night, probably due to the lack of anything to block the wind around my tent, so I put on all the layers I had brought and was still a little on the cold side. I knew that I had a hand warmer in my first aid kit in the car, but I really didn’t want to get out of my tent, so I stayed put and managed to get some good sleep.

The next morning when I woke up, my tent was soaked! I hadn’t thought about the fact that there was no tree coverage and I was right next to the water, so my tent had collected a ton of condensation overnight. Luckily, I was able to shake a lot of the water off and then hang it over the seats in my SUV to dry out before I headed to my next stop. I would definitely recommend having a plan for this if you’re going to be camping in the open or (as happened to me later in the trip) you get caught in a lot of rain which will also soak your tent.

Westward adventures – Wandering around Grand Teton National Park

After the half marathon on Saturday, I took a quick shower and decided to wander around the park a little bit to try to figure out my options for hiking later in the week. My first stop was a visitor’s center and after talking with several rangers about the trails I originally wanted to hike, they felt that the snow was still probably too deep / treacherous to go without an ice ax, so I quickly nixed that idea and figured I would do some day hikes instead and just camp closer to civilization.

After the visitor’s center, I stopped by the Taggart Lake trail and decided that would be a good short (4-ish miles) post-race hike. 

After the Phelps Lake overlook, the trail was much less crowded and I found myself alone a lot of the time.

The weather was looking a little dark, with lots of rain clouds in the distance, but luckily, the rain stayed far enough away from me that I was able to just finish the hike before it started. 


Next up was the Jenny Lake scenic loop, followed by dinner at Signal Mountain. It had cooled off quite a bit by then, but I still stayed out on the patio and ate dinner looking at Jackson Lake. 

On my way to dinner, I passed by the road that went up to the top of Signal Mountain, so I did a quick backtrack and headed up to the top for a sunset / rain cloud view of the mountains. It was an amazing view!

Since I was almost to the part where I could make a loop out of my trip, I kept going and came across the Jackson Lake dam which was really neat. 

After the dam, I headed back on the main road toward the Teton Village and stopped at several of the pull-out areas to get even more pictures of the mountains!

Next up, a quick detour from the Jackson area down to Pinedale.

Grand Tetons Half Marathon – Jackson, WY (2015)

Saturday morning was an early morning (5:30am) to get ready for the race and be outside in time to catch the shuttle to the start line. My roommate, Franci, and I went out to the main parking lot and waited, and waited, and found some other people to wait with, started chatting, wondering if we were in the right place to catch the buses, started to get a little worried that somehow we had all missed the buses and then 5 huge school buses pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way to the start line!

The starting line was a great setup for the weather and number of people at the race – there were a ton of porta-potties and a heated tent so that we could get out of the cold morning air. There were also drawings every 5-10 minutes for random prizes, most including a digital image package and the grand prize being a free entry to another Vacation Races event in the next year.

  • Mile 1 – 10:57
  • Mile 2 – 10:51
  • Mile 3 – 10:03
  • Mile 4 – 10:45
  • Mile 5 – 10:58
  • Mile 6 – 11:34
  • Mile 7 – 11:28
  • Mile 8 – 10:16
  • Mile 9 – 12:19
  • Mile 10 – 12:37
  • Mile 11 – 12:15
  • Mile 12 – 14:41
  • Last Mile – 11:56

Official time: 2:35:19

The scenery for this race was amazing! The race had an overall elevation gain of a little over 400′ but with the elevation change coming from the east coast, I felt winded pretty early in the race (I was told to expect this, but it’s still a little bit of a shock when it happens). I did a 4:1 run / walk ratio again, starting after the first mile and adjusting for the times when I stopped to take fun pictures – miles 9-12 were the most scenic part and I definitely stopped to take lots of pictures.

The finish line festival was at a local golf club and we got free pictures from the race photographer with our medals (above). The finish line festival was relatively small, but as you came across the finish line, there was an announcer who tried to get everyone’s name as they came in and after getting our medals, we went into another tent that had our boxes of goodies, bananas, water / Nuun and lots of folding chairs to sit down if you wanted to. Since this was a point-to-point race, this was also where we could pick up our drop bags. After grabbing some food, I headed back outside, got my free finisher picture and randomly saw some guys holding a “You’re in Steelers Country” sign and I immediately ran over and asked if I could photobomb their picture! They were happy enough to oblige and as soon as I got my picture, another woman came over and asked if she could get her picture too because she was blogging about her experience for UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). 

After the race, I caught back up with Franci and found out she had gotten 3rd place in her age group and beat me by about 5 minutes! The age group winners got a gold / silver / bronze version of the same medal that everyone received and they looked really awesome!

The only complaint I have about the race is the miles that we were on the dirt road, while they had sprayed to try to cut down on the dust, it wasn’t closed to traffic, so it made it hard to breathe when a vehicle would pass and kick up a bunch of dust. Plus, about a mile or less from the finish line, I had a bus do about a 15-point turn in the middle of the road in front of me which required me to stop until he got situated and facing the other direction. That part was really frustrating since the bus driver could clearly see that there were runners still coming down the road and because this was someone that the race organization had hired (the buses took us back to the start line / original pick-up location).

Overall, I would definitely do this race again, if nothing else to have another excuse to head back to the Tetons! 

Westward adventures – Heading to the Tetons

When leaving Antelope Island, I took the route through Idaho Falls, ID to get to Jackson, WY. The first thing that struck me leaving Utah was how wide open it was – you could see forever! The entire trip took around 5 hours, but I would highly recommend that route because you get to go up through the mountains to get into Jackson. It was a really cool introduction to the scenery that I was going to be hanging out in over the next week. 

My first stop was packet pick-up which was really easy to get to and had enough parking for everyone. The expo was pretty small, but I picked up a few things, including a couple of outdoor / Teton / Yellowstone themed shirts and bumper stickers for both races. The expo was held at the same place that the finish line would be the next day, so I got a sneak-preview of what the finish line would look like too.

As I was leaving the expo, I headed to the Hostel via a dirt road and as I did, I could hear thunder and started to see lightning and after not too long, it was sleeting! At this point, I was a little concerned about the weather because I was not prepared for a wintery mix! Luckily the storm didn’t last long and I was able to make it easily to the Hostel. At the Hostel, I met one of my two roommates, Franci, and she was actually running the half marathon too, so we got to chat a bit about our expectations, how early we were going to get up and how many layers we thought we would need for the morning. She was also able to give me the scoop on the Yellowstone Half Marathon that I was going to be running the following weekend because she had done it last year. She also recommended eating at the Mangy Moose for dinner, so I headed over there and grabbed a quick (but expensive!) chicken and rice pre-race meal.

Yes, that is Santa Claus’ sleigh being pulled by a moose

After dinner, I walked around the Teton Resort for awhile and just enjoyed the scenery while waiting to see if I could get a good sunset picture (not really), but it gave me the chance to walk along the great bike path that goes all around the park and the town of Jackson. 

Next up – the Grand Teton Half Marathon report! 

Westward adventures – Antelope Island, UT

After doing a quick stop-off at REI and Target for some last-minute items (bear spray, cooking fuel, Cheez-Its, Poptarts – all the good stuff!), I headed north of Salt Lake City to Antelope Island. I booked a campsite on the island so that I could take some time in Utah before heading up to Wyoming for a week’s worth of adventures. The guy working the front desk at my hotel in Salt Lake didn’t seem too impressed that I was heading up there, but it turned into a great experience! 

My first stop was the Lady Finger Point Trail which was just a short trail (about half a mile total) out to see the Great Salt Lake and all of the seagulls who were nesting in the area.

Next stop was the visitor’s center which had some tributes to the bison of the island.

The island had some very pretty flowers growing on it.

I also did a quick trip around Buffalo Point Trail (a little less than a mile). 

The big hike for the day was up to the top of Frary Peak Trail (about 6 miles total with 2,084 feet of elevation gain). Of course, I waited until the hottest part of the day to start this hike, but I took it slow and there was a ton to see.

After that hike, I took a driving trip around the rest of the island and you could see the skyline of Salt Lake City.

The other great part about being on a lake is that you can usually get some pretty good sunset views.

Friday morning I got up early and I was able to see a lot more bison roaming around the island. There were a few out Thursday afternoon, but they were much more active Friday morning, including crossing the road right in front of my car.

Even though I only stayed on Antelope Island for one night, I would definitely encourage you to take a trip out there if you have the option. I would highly recommend long sleeves and a head net for the bugs – the biting gnats had hatched by the time I got there, so they were quite annoying, but the head net worked really well.

Westward adventures – An introduction

For those of you following my Instagram account, you got a sneak peek into the 2-week adventure I had through Utah, Wyoming and Montana (with a very brief stint in Idaho as well). I’ll be doing a recap of all of all the great places I got to see and the two half marathons I ran, but a few quick highlights:
  • An SUV is a must for some of the roads around the Tetons and it was nice to be able to dry out all of my camping gear in the vehicle while I was doing day hikes. 
  • Antelope Island outside of Salt Lake City is definitely worth a night if you’re in the area, just remember to bring long sleeves, pants and a net for your head – the bugs were everywhere!
  • The Hostel at Teton Village is a good place to station your base camp if you want a bed to sleep in at night but don’t want to spend a ton of money. 
  • Yellowstone can get crowded, even early in the summer season, so heading out early or late can help you see the hot spots without as much traffic and increase your odds of seeing wildlife.
Stay tuned for lots of pictures and highlights from my trip.