Travel bloggers and photographers Berty and Emily Mandagie retraced their footsteps and made new tracks on a road trip from the Rocky Mountains to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Words and Photo by The Mandagies.
Another day, another 4:00 am wake-up call.
We could never predict what the sunrise would look like in the Grand Tetons, so we spent the last three mornings in a row returning to Schwabacher’s Landing. We were on a quest to catch that pink and purple alpenglow!
But by returning morning after morning, we continued to notice new things about the same place. That got us thinking, “Why see a place just once? What’s the point if, at the end of the day, the destination is simply a checkmark on your bucket list?”
We observed that coming back over and over again gave us fresh eyes, new perspectives, and allowed us to be fully present. That’s the story of our latest trip this summer in the Rocky Mountains—returning to familiar places with new eyes and starting the cycle all over again.
Berty explores Yellowstone National Park wearing the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Berty (2005) – “My trip to Yellowstone was the first time I saw wildlife actually in the wild—as opposed to in a zoo. We spent 4 days camping and trying to find the best spot to view the bison in the area. This sparked my interest in the outdoors and I was inspired to get outside more because of my first visit to Yellowstone.”
Emily (2008) - “We drove through Yellowstone National Park on our way down to the Grand Canyon. My family and I hit all the major ‘stops’ like Old Faithful, The Grand Prismatic, and even the Lower Falls. We saw bison here and there, but it was mostly a quick day of driving through on the way to other destinations.”
Now, returning after all those years, we were able to explore Yellowstone National Park with a little bit more knowledge of the area and to go at our own pace. Gone were the days of jumping from one main attraction to another main attraction. We could get off the beaten path!
Lewis Falls in Yellowstone National Park. Emily wears the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon.
We had time to go deeper into the park and take a few hikes. One of our favorite memories was hiking to Lewis Falls. It’s often passed by because it’s right at the entrance of the park, and people want to spend their day seeing the bigger attractions.
Therefore, it was surprisingly quiet, and we had the falls all to ourselves! Being one of the most visited national parks in the United States, we were surprised by how easy it was to get a small piece of it to ourselves if we were willing to get just a little off the beaten path.
TRAVEL TIP: Don’t see it all in one trip! Leave some things to discover next time, so the adventure continues.
The Geysers are a must-see in Yellowstone National Park.
Berty wears the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon to check out the Lower Falls in Yellowstone National Park.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
Emily (2008) - “I remember driving through the Tetons as a teenager with my dad and the rest of my siblings. My dad excitedly pointing out the mountain peaks only made me roll my eyes more! I was more concerned with my current book, so I don’t actually remember this trip as much as I would have liked!”
Berty and Emily (2018) -“We drove through the Grand Teton National Park in March, when there was still feet of snow covering Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Temperatures barely rose above freezing and everything around us was white. Elk covered the valley of the National Elk Refuge and much of the park was closed because the roads were too dangerous!”
Berty wears the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon.
“These sandals are the perfect summer kicks! We brought them on all our hikes just in case we wanted to dip our toes in the water! I love how I could strap them on my backpack and easily slip them on mid-adventure.” Emily wears the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon at Taggart Lake.
Returning in the summer, it felt like we were experiencing the Grand Tetons again for the first time! The trails were lush and green, moose were roaming about, and the lakes were a crystal clear blue.
One of the highlights of our most recent trip was hiking Taggart and Bradley Lake. We snowshoed it in the winter, but returning in the summer felt like an entirely new trail system altogether. The twists and turns of the trail felt familiar, but instead of a white coat, it was flaunting wildflowers, shaded trees, and opportunities to dip your feet in the cool lake.
We loved coming back to experience this trail in a new season. We’re already planning another trip back to compare more trails!
TRAVEL TIP: Return to your favorite destination in another season. The Grand Tetons look vastly different from January to July, and there are a plethora of activities and adventures special to each time of year.
“I love the thickness of the sole for comfort while hiking. It felt tougher than most sandals—like it could withstand some good miles on a trail just as hiking shoes would.” Berty wears the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Now, where to begin the cycle of returning to old places? In order to return, you’ve got to see new places along the way!
This entire trip (Rocky Mountain to the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone) started in Denver, Colorado. Being in the area, we knew we had to check out Rocky Mountain National Park—a location that was new to both of us.
We only dipped our toes into the vastness that is this amazing park. We found easy areas to access like Sprague Lake, and Moraine Park for a quick hop out of the car or easy walking trail.
Such a short time in the park left much for the imagination. We picked up a park map and started circling things to see and trails to explore for the next time we return!
TRAVEL TIP: Didn’t have time to see it all? Don’t fret! Keep a list on your phone or circle destinations on a map to discover for the next time you come back.
His and Hers. Berty and Emily wear the Hurricane XLT 2 in GC100 Boomerang Canyon.
Where will you return? Returning to a familiar destination doesn’t mean you have to repeat the same activities.
Find a new trail or place to explore. Go camping in a new campground. Bring along new friends or family…or go alone! Not only will it create new memories, but it will deepen your knowledge and broaden your consciousness of the place.