Doe-eyed, like the animals we were hoping to see, we ogled at the park ranger in front of us. “There’s only one campsite available tonight,” she said to a line of four cars.
It was 7:30 in the morning and most of us had dragged ourselves from the warmth of our sleeping bags 3 hours prior just to secure a spot of dirt for sleeping – AKA camping – at one of the best national parks in the country.
The short answer: yes. But certainly not without my hesitations.
I had heard from many people just how spectacular Yellowstone National Park is. There’s Old Faithful, geysers galore, and heaps of wildlife like buffalo and even wolves. It sounded to me like something out of a Wild West movie.
We rounded the bend at the Grand Tetons, our loss for words quickly replaced by squeals and shouts of joy. It was early. We had the roads and mountains to ourselves and it felt like we had traversed hundreds of years back in time.
From the east coast we had pushed beyond the bustling big cities and high rise buildings to find ourselves immersed in another world. It was pure magic.
To be honest, I had never really heard of the Grand Tetons before our visit. On a map, they are located just below the wildly famous Yellowstone National Park. How different could the two be? Well, what are day and night like?
There is just no way you should ever pass up an opportunity to see the Grand Tetons. Here’s why:
The Tetons will absolutely take your breath away. Just driving into the park was our first staggering experience: we thought we must be close, but as we kept going and going, they weren’t getting any closer. That’s when we realized how truly massive they were.
Escape the Crowds
Having visited a total of 7 National Parks on our trip, I feel very strongly in saying not only was this one of the most beautiful, but also the least populated for its grandeur. That’s not to say that there weren’t crowds at all, but it generally felt much more peaceful than other parks we had been to.
Emma Matilda Trail
Going off of the previous point, this is a trail one of our friends recommended to us to avoid some of the crowds and it absolutely did not disappoint. The Emma Matilda Trail was interspersed with fields of wildflowers, rolling hills, and uninterrupted views of the Tetons. We got up early, and had the place entirely to ourselves, even stumbling across a deer (we think?) hidden in the fauna. Can you spot him in the picture below?
Crowded? Yes. Worth the visit? Absolutely! The magnificent peaks of the Tetons are reflected in Jenny Lake below, crystal clear water looking like it belongs in the Bahamas rather than out in Wyoming. The chilly water is refreshing and revitalizing. Definitely don’t miss the chance to dip in and feel like you’re floating in a postcard!
One of the places nearly impossible to describe with black and white words alone, the Badlands most closely resemble a desert scene out of Star Wars: starkly shaped rock formations raggedly pointed from the wind and crevices carved from running water.
With only two nights in this space-like stratosphere during our cross country road trip, we wanted to make the most of our time, exploring every secret twist and turn.
After thousands of photos were snapped and many trails taken, thanks to the handy AllTrails app, the Badlands has definitely finessed its way to a high-ranking spot on my favorite national park list.
Being on the road has been inspiring while simultaneously grueling work – loading and unloading the car, setting up camp after a long day of driving – but the views and experience make it all worth while.
Camping off the grid is so mentally rejuvenating, but makes editing photos and video just a smidge more difficult. Here is just a quick peek at our first day in the car until I return to civilization!
To say we started off the road trip with a bang would be an understatement: 27 hours of driving in two days. There were only two ways this could have possibly ended. The first in the strangling of one another after what seemed like endless hours in a confined area, or a strengthened bond after long chats of life contemplation and many off-tune sing-alongs. Luckily we pursued the latter.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘A road trip? In the middle of a pandemic? That seems extremely counterintuitive, not to mention irresponsible.’
Don’t worry, while we did our due diligence on how to be safe during COVID, we also plan on staying far away from people during our road trip. This ‘social distancing’ rule has been a great excuse for me to avoid unnecessary human interaction, and that’s exactly what I have in mind for this trip.
We’re going to drive out past the main hubs of civilization like Chicago and New York to the wide open, and hopefully deserted, territories of the west. Lots of fresh air and minimal human interaction is the aim of the game.
I can now officially say that I have survived my exams! With the semester finally over, we are sinking into the heart of a New Jersey winter. Most of the time I imagine winter to be scenic and romantic, with towns blanketed in snow and quaint lights lining the street – you know, the typical Hallmark scene. But then December and January roll around and quickly remind me that it’s a lot more bare trees and layers of sweaters than I remember.