How to See It All in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in 2 Days

Earlier this summer my brothers and I had our second annual siblings trip and this time we tackled 2 National Parks! We flew into Jackson, WY and spent three full days exploring Jackson, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. I came into the trip having read several blogs and had list upon list of things to see, trails to hike and felt kind of overwhelmed, but I was pleasantly surprised just how much we could tackle in our short trip.  I also downloaded the REI app, which was really helpful with the map feature and the apps for each national park.

Day 1:

Arrive in Jackson, WY. Drive from airport through part of Grand Teton National Park to our hotel and get acclimated. Find food! We decided to adventure to downtown Jackson and enjoyed Lift Jackson Hole. There was a great view of the ski slope. My brother enjoyed a huckleberry mojito and I had some fruity cocktail too. Delicious chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich too. Once we were nourished we made a plan for our next days adventures.

Day 2:

All day in Grand Teton National Park. We woke up early and it was cloudy, but we were determined to get our sights in. We drove to:

  • Moulton’s Barn
  • Schwabacher’s Landing
  • Snake River Outlook
  • Lunch at Smith Mountain Lodge
  • Hiking around Jenny Lake
  • Drove along back towards the hotel, stopping at various overlooks

Ate dinner at Mangy Moose. The decor is a spectacle, so many old school movie posters, but the real showstopper is the peanut butter pie. You can thank me later.

Grand Teton and wildflowers

Day 3:

Tour of the Lower Loop of Yellowstone with Brushbuck Tours. Highly recommend! We drove through Grand Teton National Park, stopping along the way to see wildlife, then headed to Yellowstone, where we saw all the highlights:

  • Old Faithful
  • Old Faithful Inn (really cool history)
  • Geothermal pools at Black Sand
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone/Lookout point
  • Wide-open plain


We stayed close to our hotel that night and at a pizza place called Malakas.


Day 4:

The weather was cold and rainy, so we decided to explore downtown Jackson, checking out the local shops and eating lunch at a place called Local. We went to the Museum of Wildlife Art, which was a pleasant surprise. They had a great exhibit from National Geographic with portraits of endangered animals and a collection of WWII-era posters for the national parks that we all really enjoyed.


We found a cute coffee shop and bakery called Persephone’s to get some hot chocolate. Another cute store I would have loved to shop longer was called MADE with cute decor, candles, posters, cards and jewelry.

Day 5:

I dropped off my brothers at the airport extremely early, so I decided to explore Grand Tetons some more on my own and really just enjoy a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Went back to Mormon Row, then drove to and hiked the Taggart Lake Trail. It was beautiful and very cool to walk through some of the burned area, plus had a view of a babbling brook before arriving at the lake with a  great view. I stopped for breakfast at Dornan’s Chuckwagon with a great view and hot pancakes. Beware — seating is outside, but they do have a plastic tent to shield you from the elements.

San Diego in 3 Days

My family spent 3 full days in San Diego for Christmas and although the weather wasn’t perfect, we saw and did a lot.

Day one:

Explore Seaport Village
Dinner at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion – including signature molten cake

Day two:

Breakfast at Donut Bar –  this is only half our order! Including mexican hot chocolate, blueberry, chocolate peanut butter cup, sea salt carmel….

San Diego Zoo!

Dinner at Extraordinary Desserts

Day three:

Hike Torrey Pines

La Jolla Kayak adventure

Dinner at Mimmos in Little Italy — I recommend the tiramisu 🙂

Day four:

USS Midway

Hotel del Coronado 

Dinner at Donovan’s Steakhouse  – I recommend the chocolate mousse.

Read: Closer than Close

I recently finished Closer than Close: Awakening to the Freedom of Your Union with Christ by Dave Hickman and recommend it to anyone!

I’ve known Dave for more than 5 years through Charlotte/ONE and he is funny and real, so I was excited to hear about his new book. I started reading and laughed out loud at times, and felt challenged most of the time. He includes discussion questions, which you can obviously use as a discussion in small groups, or even just to think on for yourself. I find myself reading to find quotes that I love, I blame the Twitter/microwave mentality of today, but Hickman’s questions helped me keep focus on the bigger picture of each chapter.

Hickman shares how your presence in life, rather than your performance is pleasing to God. My favorite chapter was on spiritual disciplines. Hickman provides thoughts on doing nothing, praying simply, staying attentive and being led to abide in Christ. He says, “human logic says that you are loved because you are valuable…But God’s love is illogical…God’s love declares us valuable because we are loved.”


Charlotte [1/2] Marathon Recap

I finished the Charlotte [1/2] Marathon on November 14!


It was my 6th half-marathon, but it may have been the most challenging run for me. The first 6 miles came pretty easily to me, but the last 7 miles were difficult. I was incredibly thankful for our cheerleaders on the course at mile 6.5 with cowbells, signs and cheers, they kept my spirits up. Running uphill towards Levine Children’s Hospital was hard at mile 8, I seemed to hit the mental wall. I couldn’t get out of my head space, but I texted with a friend briefly and she encouraged me to kick butt. I started to trot again. I used an app where friends could record 30 second cheers for me, and by mile 9 I was doubting if the app worked, feeling sorry for myself. Then, at mile 10, I heard 6 cheers, back-to-back. I teared up as I heard fellow teammates and friends encouragement. Erin Santos, Isabella’s mommy, had recorded Ibby singing a song for me to hear. It gave me a push and mental shift that I needed.

As I was approaching the finish line, I saw so many of my teammates, yelling my name, and even the race director cheered me on (helps that I know him…) and as I crossed the finish, I was so excited and proud to do it for Isabella.


Afterward, I celebrated with a big brunch with friends.

Thank you! Thank you for every encouraging card, text, prayer and conversation. Thank you for every financial donation to The Isabella Santos Foundation. Thank you for the celebratory meals and cheerleaders along the course. I could not have finished the Charlotte Half Marathon without it. #isabellasdreamteam

While I don’t have another race on my calendar, I make no promises. We’ll see what 2017 has in store for me!


Belong Tour

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Belong Tour, featuring Patsy Clairmont, Jen Hatmaker, Angela Davis, Sharon Irving, Shauna Niequist, and Nichole Nordeman.

Friday night started with a song medley and then each speaker shared some of her story. That night, I went home and felt content, but I read some comments on the event Facebook page and one person brought up some concerns about the conference and it made me realize how important the words you say, the expectations you set and the power of a positive mental attitude. The next day, I couldn’t brush off those concerns/negative thoughts of this other attendee, so I did not enjoy Saturday as much as I could have.

My takeaways:

  • light reveals truth, truth sets us free, so the longer we keep a secret in the dark, the more powerful a stronghold it is in our life, but Jesus sets us free.
  • We can give power to God or to struggle, but not both.
  • Do it afraid!
  • When God has called you – that doesn’t mean it will be easy, there are no guarantees. Say yes and move.

Some can’t. Others won’t. Will you?

Another early Saturday morning run. This time my alarm went off at 5:30am and I rolled over. Convinced that I could skip the group run and run on my own after I sleep….just a little longer.

About 1 minute later, I sat up. I needed this team, more than they may need me. I got out of bed and headed to Freedom Park. We gather around the parking lot donning our purple dream team shirts, water bottles and sleepy-eyed smiles. Someone asks for a marker, which may seem random, but we know what it is for. We’ve been putting our mark for the number of days since Isabella passed away — today is number 1508.


We take off on Little Sugar Creek Greenway and I was grinding out 5 miles. Looking into a see of purple overwhelming the path, I notice Levine Children’s Hospital, where Isabella spent many days and night for treatment. My heart breaks thinking of the children and families inside those walls right now going through chemotherapy, radiation, experimental procedures, fighting for their lives.


I run.

Some can’t. Others won’t. I will fight to end cancer. Will you?