Grand Teton National Park, WY (Yellowstone’s younger brother)

After three awesome nights at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, Marah and I headed down the road to our next adventure at the neighboring Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Range represents the newest part of the Rocky Mountains, geologically speaking. The mountains reach up to 13,775 feet in elevation, which is up to 7,000 feet off the floor of the beautiful Jackson Hole region. Our stay at the National Park was in a rustic cabin at the Signal Mountain Lodge. Interestingly enough, this was the same place my familly stayed the summer of 1988 when I was six years old. The cabins were just as I remembered, and the lodge was just the same, perfectly situated on the banks of Jackson Lake, and at the foot of Signal Mountain. Again, we had no TV or radio in our cabin, but had we needed contact with the outside world, there were TV’s in the lodge great room, and even WIFI (so not exactly 1988). The Tetons don’t have the magnificent geyesers or wondorous mineral springs of Yellowstone, but what it lacks in hydrothermal explosions it makes up for with spectacular views.

While Marah and I did not partake in the fishing, or camping, we were out and about, and I was on a mission to see the mountains in an up close and personal way. We decided to take a hike up casscade canyon and all the way to lake solitude. This is an 8.1 mile uphill hike, at elevation. It was breathtakingly beautiful and actually not as difficult as we thought it would be… (famous last words). At this point, we made a fateful decission to continue over the paintbrush divide and hike back down paintbrush canyon to the car. On the map it looked as though we were headed back the faster way, and at the same time seeing new sights we hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, we failed to realize we would be climbing up to 10,700 feet and making what should have been a nice round trip 16 mile hike, into a gruelling stress inducing 20 miler. We made it all the way, it was amazing, and we were both completely exhausted. On the way, we saw a moose, a nice 12-point mule deer, a couple marmot, and several pika. We did not see a bear, although there were reports of a familly of grizzlies moving around very close to our cabins.

During the rest of our time in the Tetons we enjoyed the boating on Jackson Lake, made several trips to the Oxbow bend looking for wildlife and made a trip into the town of Jackson. Jackson is the quintessential western mountain town, and the Teton Village ski area has all of the modern niceties of a five star resort area (including a Four Seasons Hotel… in case the rustic cabin idea isn’t for you).

Marah mentioned the food being much better in the Tetons that at the neighboring Yellowstone Park, and it is very true. I will let her get into the details of our final meal at the Jackson Lodge, but I will say that I was very impressed with the amount of locally grown, farm fresh, organic, and sustainable options at both the Jackson Lake Lodge and the Signal Mountain Lodge. I know we haven’t talked extensively about those causes on the blog yet, but it is something Marah and I advocate, and it is always something worth noticing when you are out to eat. Not surprisingly, the flavors were great and the food was very well prepared. Below I have inserted some of the pictures, but it is hard for any photo to do the mountains justice (You might just have to see them for yourself).

Teton Range

Casscade Canyon

Lake Solitude

Looking up at the Paintbrush Divide (yes we went over that!)

View from the top.

The Teton Village Tram

Marah enjoying Jackson Lake boating!

Red velvety beer?

Could there be such a thing as red velvet beer? Well yes there certainly could be, but we’re not that big yet, so we’ll settle for the next best thing. One of my favorite beers, and definitely an old stand-by is the perfect Guinness Draught. Now you might be wondering why Guinness as the first foray into the brewing arts by Red Velvet blog? Quite simply, it is because of it’s red… yes deep ruby red color, and it’s velvety smooth taste. I am not an expert on Guinness, but I do know how to expertly enjoy it! For me, it all starts, and many times ends, with the perfect pour. If not done correctly, an improper pour will effect my enjoyment of the beverage, which is unacceptable for the first Guinness of the evening (three or four in I may not mind as much). The first part of the pour is selecting the classic tulip shaped glass (which was actually recently redesigned in 2010). The glass should be held at a 45 degree angle and the draught should be poured to fill as much as possible at this angle or approximately 3/4 full. Next the pint should be set asside until the first pour settles, and the color is uniform. After the appropriate amount of time (after all, good things come to those who wait) the pint should be filled the rest of the way with a second pour. According to the official marketing, the whole process of a perfect pour should take 119.53 seconds. Then it is simply time to enjoy. I like to let the dark roasted barley stout coat my throat as I enjoy the first sip, and it is always fun to wipe away that first Guinness mustache. Not like other stouts, Guinness has a distinct flavor and smoothness, and Marah will be the first to tell you Guinness is not for everyone. While she rarely will have a Guinness here in the US, she will also tell you that (as is true with most things) it is much better when you go straight to the source. All Guinness in the US comes from the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, which just recently celebrated their 250th year in a 9000 year lease of the downtown Dublin location. We were lucky enough to visit the emerald isle, and apart from checking into the hotel, the Guinness tour was our first stop (and within walking distance) after the overnight flight. The building where the tour takes place is a phenomenal old storehouse which was used for fermentation until 1988 and is filled with all of the old machines and brewing tools. However, the best part of the tour is the 360 degree view over the city that awaits you at the end of the tour in the Gravity bar as you enjoy a complementary pint. Everytime I have a Guinness I am amazed at how unlike other stouts it really is. I’m not going to say it is the best stout in the world, but it is certainly unique, and I think you have to respect that. It almost seems as if there is some kind of Irish magic in it. Guinness has the amazing power of giving even the gloomiest days a happy ending. I find it’s best enjoyed on a rainy day, no warmer than 50 degrees alongside a nice hot Guinness stew, or shepherds pie (maybe I’ll get Marah to make that for an upcoming post?). For some reason, it is always better if nothing has gone right for you yet on that particular day. At that point, there is nothing better than a Guinness.

Every pint of Guinness seems to have a story and a couple of my personal stories were in Dublin. I’m not sure if it’s because I was tired and cranky after the overnight flight, or because I was pissed off that part of my luggage was stolen, but I will always remember the 1 and 1/2 pints (Marah didn’t finish hers) of Guinness at the Gravity bar as quite possibly the best pints I’ve had. They certainly were the freshest. Although, our last night in Dublin wasn’t too far off either. At the reccomendation of my cousin, we popped in to O’donoghue’s pub for a pint and some live music and were treated to the whole bar spontaneously breaking out in Irish drinking songs as if we were in a movie scene. It was a wonderful last night in Ireland, and Marah and I both are longing to go back. The last thing I will say about Guinness is that it really is good for you. Very similar to a glass of wine, Guinness has been shown in University studies to have the same antioxidant powers as many common fruits and vegatables. So drink up, Guinness is Good for You!