Hey everyone, I'm Jessica, ESL teacher and traveler. Welcome to my site! I recently finished teaching English in Thailand and will be moving to Spain in the following year to continue my work and travel. To read more about me, click here
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I always love time spent exploring my own country. This past week I visited Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
I’m sure you’ve heard of these two places, unless you’ve been living under a rock. They are very well known and for very good reason. Between their awe-striking beauty, the abundant wildlife and the unique terrain, it’s no wonder why these National Parks are a bucket list item for most people.
We started our trip with Grand Teton National Park. I was with my boyfriend and two of my best friends that I taught in Thailand with. We had 10 glorious days making new memories and reminiscing on the old. We saw tons of wildlife, shared stories around campfires, and played an intense amount of hearts (I won mostly, obviously). Don’t ask my friends to verify the parenthesized item.
However we did have one disappointment. Since almost half of the Western United States is on fire at the moment, we dealt with some severe smokey air quality which hindered a lot of the breathtaking Teton views. But with all the amazing hikes, wildlife and great times spent with friends, it was our only gripe of the trip.
Some highlights from Grand Teton National Park
This was definitely my highlight of the trip and my favorite hike. Delta Lake is a real gem. It wasn’t a hike that was written in any of our guide books but rather a hike that a local friend had told us about. This is a hike that the National Park service does not maintain so there is no signage along the trail. Since there is no signage, it takes a bit of navigating to find, but totally worth it. You will have to navigate a couple obstacles (duck under trees, etc.) but nothing too outrageous. The hike was 8 miles out and back and I would rate it as moderate to strenuous (depending on your hiking abilities).
One highlight of this hike was seeing a grizzly bear. Yes, you heard me right, a grizzly bear ON OUR HIKE. We were only about 15 minutes into our hike when another hiker informed us of a grizzly bear up ahead. So we got out our bearspray and nervously/excitedly/hesitantly trekked on.
The thought of seeing a wild grizzly is one of those terrifying kinds of thrills. As long as you don’t startle the bear, find a hungry bear or run across a mama bear, you should be able to catch a glance of this beautiful creature unscathed. Sort of like bungee jumping or skydiving. It’s scary, nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time. It is something that has the potential to kill you in an instant, but you can’t help but want to experience it.
Our first indication of the bear was a couple of stopped hikers ahead and some tree branches moving. We noticed the movement going down the hill and away from the trail. At that point we found a high enough rock to climb and catch a glimpse of the bear walking away from us. It turned out to be a smaller sized bear, we think it must have been a juvenile since there was no mama around. Small or big it was still a really neat experience!
- How to get to the Delta Lake Trailhead: The trailhead begins at Lupine Meadows. From there you follow the signage for Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes. After about roughly 3 miles you will reach a series of switchbacks. Delta Lake is not signed but after a few switchbacks you will see a trail to your right. It isn’t too hard to miss if you are looking for it, but if you aren’t looking for it you could easily walk right by it. Be sure to keep an eye out for the trail.
Leigh Lake Trail to Bearpaw Lake
Leigh Lake was the hike we did on day 2. It was much less strenuous than Delta Lake, but still about an 8 mile hike. This is a very easy hike that is flat almost the entire way. The trail begins at the bottom of String Lake (which is the lake that connects Jenny Lake and Leigh Lake). From there you follow the lake the entire route until the lake ends, once the lake ends you can keep going to reach the smaller Bearpaw Lake. In my opinion, Bearpaw Lake was underwhelming compared to Leigh Lake and not really worth the extra hike time.
My suggestion would be to stroll along the lake until you find yourself a good beach spot. Then take your time and enjoy! Simply relax, swim and have a picnic by the lake. This isn’t a hike where you will have a lot of strenuous activity no matter how far you hike. Which is why I’d suggest just doing it on a down day when you are feeling less energetic.
Where We Camped
- Gros Ventre
- Gros Ventre is a huge campsite with over 300 spots. We ended up staying here simply because we arrived to the Tetons later in the afternoon and most of the campsites were full at this point. Gros Ventre is right after the south entrance outside of Jackson Hole and almost rarely fills all the way. This is a good option if you are arriving later in the afternoon when campsites are harder to come by.
- Signal Mountain
- This is where we stayed the remainder of our trip in the Tetons because we enjoyed it so much. It is a small, beautiful campsite right on Jackson Lake (the largest lake in the park). We would walk over to the lake after a day of hiking and watch the sunset over the breathtaking ridge line of the Tetons.
Have you ever visited Grand Teton National Park? What was your favorite part?
I love this video. I love this video. Did I mention, I love this video? I watched this video right before I left for Thailand and it had me so inspired. I felt like I could do anything. (I’m a sucker for inspirational travel videos, guilty.)
I now find myself watching it again as I prepare for another journey abroad to Spain and it’s leaving me feeling inspired yet again. I knew I had to share it.
Always remember to “Make It Count.”
Merry Christmas everyone! For this glorious day I thought I’d reflect back to last year’s Christmas in Thailand.
I was one lucky girl last Christmas. Sure, I worked on the holiday but the day was filled with festive fun. At my school Christmas day was called “English Day” and all the students at the school performed plays and Christmas carols they had been working hard all month to prepare. My students put on the play Snow White and sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas (random combo, I know.) They did such a good job and made me so proud. At the end of the play they threw in a surprise and thanked “Teacha Jesseeca” for helping them with the play, talk about making your heart melt.
I loved hearing their little accented voices singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Here is a small video of them singing after performing their play. The quality of the video is pretty terrible so I just trimmed it to the end so you can get the idea.
After all the performances, every classroom had parties. The rest of the day I got to play with all of my students and watch them open gifts. I love the magic of Christmas through a child’s eye. You can just see and feel the excitement and fun they are having.
After an exciting day at school I headed back home to be with my family. Yes, my amazing family came all the way from the US to spend 2 weeks with me and have a Thai Christmas. To express how happy this made me is near impossible. I was filled with so much love and happiness.
I went back to the hotel my family was staying at and we got in our bathing suits, put on our santa hats and headed to the beach!
As we were walking down to the beach, we spotted a random guy dressed up as Santa Claus. Of course my parents insisted on a picture with Santa. This was a common theme of the trip, any random person with a Santa beard (drunk, homeless, creeper) my parents insisted getting pictures with. I had surrendered my there is no need to get pictures with creepy dudes dressed as Santa argument with my parents a while ago, so I obliged and got a picture with the random, creepy Santa man. But come to find out this Santa wasn’t so random—it was my boyfriend! He had flown all the way to Thailand from the US on Christmas day to surprise me!
After the sun set we headed up to one of my favorite restaurants right on the beach, the Ska Bar. It is a reggae bar directly on the ocean, with delicious Thai food. We filled up on massaman curry, fresh fish, spring rolls, pad thai and of course, booze.
Then concluding the night we went back down to the beach and released red lanterns into the sky, sending off well wishes into the starry night. It was one of the most memorable Christmases I’ve ever had…
Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday!