Vacation Races is a terrific organization that puts on races near national parks. It is a wonderful way to combine running a race with a visit to a national park. In 2015 I ran their Rocky Mountain Half Marathon and in 2016 I ran their Zion Half Marathon. Both races were challenging but memorable. Last weekend I traveled to Jackson, Wyoming to run my third Vacation Races half marathon outside Grand Teton National Park. The race was as enjoyable as the others.
I arrived in Jackson a few days early so that I could get acclimated to the higher elevation. I toured Grand Teton National Park, hiking some of the trails to shake out my legs. The Grand Teton scenery is incredibly beautiful with snow-covered mountains peeking out behind the clouds. As I walked up the trails near Signal Mountain, I was amazed by the wild flowers and the intense smell of pine trees. There wasn’t any noise from traffic, just the sounds of birds and the wind rustling through the aspen trees. It was a big change from life back on the East Coast.
Jackson is a fascinating old Western town. None of the buildings is over 3 stories high; the majority are only 2 stories. The raised sidewalks are made of wood. The only thing missing from the streetscape is hitching posts for horses. Throughout the town there are bronze sculptures of historical figures, cowboys, Native Americans, and animals including life-size deer, moose, and elk. I don’t think I have ever seen so much public art in such a small town before.
The race expo was held in the same area where the race would start. The Vacation Races folks try to eliminate waste so they encouraged people to bring their own bag. For those of us who forgot, they had a tent set up where you could make a bag out of an old race shirt (free race shirts provided). I quickly made one to carry my bib and all my purchases at the Expo. In addition to various vendors, Park Rangers were on hand to provide information about Grand Teton National Park and the wildlife there including bears (both Grizzly and Black). It was a small but very pleasant Expo.
The race started early, at 6:30 am. As we started running, almost every turn gave us a different view of the mountains. Although my rehab trainer tells me “head down” when I run, it was very difficult to do during this race. There were so many things to see like the hot air balloons flying down the valley with the mountains looming in the background (sorry, my pictures of the balloons didn’t turn out well). There wasn’t any music along the course but that was wonderful because we could listen to the birds as we ran. Between the elevation with a steady climb of 580 feet on the course and stopping to take pictures, my finish time wasn’t my best. That didn’t matter to me because this was a race course to savor, not one to rush through.
After the race, I took time to visit the Jackson Hole Historical Society Museum. They had fascinating exhibits on life of the early settlers, trappers, cowboys, and Native Americans. The guides in the museum had plenty of stories about Jackson’s more colorful residents from the past.
Later I visited the Teton Raptor Center. Their mission is to rehabilitate injured raptors; support research projects on raptors; and provide educational programs. (A raptor is a bird that hunts and kills with their talons/feet and eats by ripping up the meat with their beaks.) They showed us several birds who are not able to be released back into the wild because of the severity of their injuries (e.g., blind in one eye, amputated wing parts, paralyzed feet). Among the birds on display were a Great Horned Owl, Red-Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Eastern Screech Owl, Kestrel, and Bald Eagle. It was fascinating to see the birds up close and learn about their unique characteristics.
Saturday night was rodeo night. Although they didn’t have all the typical rodeo events, I was able to get an idea of what a rodeo is all about (this was my first rodeo). There were events for bull riding, bucking broncos, team calf roping, and barrel racing. Little kids participated in mutton busting where they tried to ride a sheep for 8 seconds. It is a lot harder than you think to ride a sheep.
I highly recommend the Grand Teton Half Marathon. The scenery is beautiful with pine forests, wild flowers, mountains, and an abundance of wildlife. If you still feel like moving after the race, you can go hiking or kayaking on one of the many lakes in the park. I enjoyed seeing a different part of the country with such an interesting history. For me it was definitely an adventure.
I loved the idea for reusing an old race shirt to make a bag. I am going to look through my old race shirts for one that would make a fun bag. I found this link with instructions on how to make a bag from an old t-shirt: https://snapguide.com/guides/make-a-tote-bag-from-an-old-t-shirt-no-sewing/
I stayed at the Wort Hotel, a historic hotel with such an amazing display of photos and western art it could be a museum. The rooms were very comfortable and the staff was pleasant and helpful. I would definitely stay there again.
The Teton Raptor Center has a project, the Poo-Poo Project, underway to help prevent cavity-nesting birds from entering vault toilets through the ventilation pipes and becoming entrapped. Vault toilets are the self-contained restrooms found in many of America’s wilderness areas, featuring vertical ventilation pipes that mimic the natural cavities preferred by some species for nesting and roosting. Birds enter the vault toilet through the ventilation pipe and get stuck in the ‘basement’ of the vault toilet. Thousands of birds become entrapped and die in bottom of vault toilets in the US each year. Cavity-nesting birds also can be entrapped in other types of open pipes as well including irrigation pipes, ventilation pipes, dryer vents, and chimneys.
The Poo-Poo Project is addressing the problem by installing vent screens on vault toilets. You can help the Poo-Poo Project two ways. First you can notify the Teton Raptor Center of any vault toilet in your area that needs to have a Poo-Poo screen installed. Second, you can make a donation to cover the cost of a Poo-Poo screen(s). Donations can be made as gifts in honor or memory of someone too. You can find out more information about the Poo-Poo Project at http://tetonraptorcenter.org/our-work/poo-poo-project/. I was happy to make a donation for two Poo-Poo screens.