Flying over the Grand Tetons, as the small plane began to land, was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. Later, I’d realise that this was only the beginning of a week filled with sights I’d only ever seen in photographs before.
August 5th 2016. I began my journey to Jackson, Wyoming from Edinburgh airport, a mere 4500 miles away. Boarding the first flight of 3, I was filled with sheer excitement - mostly for these 3 reasons: 1) It had only been 2 months since my last visit to America and here I was going again. 2) I was getting to spend a fun-filled week with some of the most amazing people I know. 3) Finally, I love country music and all things outback. Cue mission: Lauren Finds A Cowboy.
I had only ever seen this part of America in photographs and in movies. It’s a difficult place to imagine for a small-town Scottish girl. I guess it’s a bit like trying to explain the Scottish Highlands to someone who has spent their days in NYC. I was travelling 4500 miles, but I was going to be a world away from home.
Let me paint you a picture; arriving in Jackson Hole airport for example. Now when I say ‘airport’, we think Edinburgh or Heathrow - with their never-ending corridors, gates, terminals, people...! But nope, not at Jackson Hole. Think log cabin… but on a slightly bigger scale, seated in the shadows of the Grand Tetons. The airport itself is an attraction for someone like me.
After collecting my car hire - a white Dodge Charger (I just thought I’d drop that in there) - I got Google Maps ready and put in the postcode to my motel. I soon realised that my internet and GPS were not going to be usable luxuries on this trip. I laughed as I realised I had no hard-copy map to know where I was or to know where to go. Note to self: technology isn’t guaranteed.
I decided to just drive and hope for the best. This was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road and I think I did OK throughout the trip - although others would say differently! Coming to the end of the airport road there was signage advising that Jackson was a turn to the right - that looked good enough for me and off I went.
I approached the town of Jackson Hole and I was in complete awe by this utterly parallel universe to my own. While parked at traffic lights, a horse and carriage passed by me followed by a guy in full cowboy attire crossing the road in front of me. Let me say, these are not sights you see in Edinburgh. Or Scotland for that matter. Or even the UK. I was overwhelmed with excitement at finally being in American country territory.
I eventually found my motel after asking a guy at a petrol station (or gas station). I was in Jackson for the 2016 SmugMug trip but had arrived 2 days early to do a bit of exploring.
On this first day of arrival, I took a leisurely walk around the town square and watched as a country singing busker entertained a crowd - 5 bucks well spent. The tiredness was setting in and I was ready to lay down for the night but curiosity got the better of me as crowds began to form on the streets. The annual town shoot-out was getting underway and I knew I had to watch. When I say shoot-out, obviously I don’t mean a real one. It was actually quite enjoyable to watch and I learnt a lot of history about the town.
I spent the following day at T.A. Moulton Barn (America’s most photographed barn, apparently) and the Grand Tetons National Park. I also got to witness an astonishing thunder and lightning storm. The astonishment soon turned to nervousness when I realised I was sitting in the car as the lightning struck the ground, causing a fire, literally at the other side of the road from me. All was fine though, I’m still here :D
I had done all of this exploring and the main trip hadn’t even began yet - I knew I was in for a memorable week.
And I was.
Hanging out with extraordinary friends at the Jackson Hole resort; attending my first rodeo; viewing the otherworldly sights of Yellowstone; watching sunset over the Tetons; standing under the Milky Way as it formed itself by the mountains; and spending the evenings eating great food and drinking OK whisky.
Watching the Old Faithful geyser erupt its hot-water in Yellowstone is one of those things I had only ever heard about - it was just amazing to witness. Walking on the boardwalk that leads through Grand Prismatic Spring to view its colourful canvas was mind-blowing.
The sights and experiences were magnificent; but getting to spend time and connect with friends is what made this trip unequivocally memorable. People make places I guess.
My awesome roommate/friend, Sarah and I hosted the last evening’s party. I was due to leave for the airport at 5am and didn’t go to bed until 2:30am, this was all fun and games until I later realised that a flight delay would cause me a 48 hour journey home with no bed - the least said about that the better, maybe that’s a story for another time... when I can find the humour in it!
It was genuinely sad to say goodbye at the end of the week but it just makes me look forward to the next time I visit.
This trip was truly incredible and completely beyond my realms of imagination.
Check out some of the photos from this trip here.