Grit Blogs > Straight from the Heart

Taking a mental vacation

By Brenda Kipp

Tags: travel, nature, memories, family,

I took a long-awaited week off from work last week. I never seem to get everything done I want to do on the weekends (even if it’s a long holiday weekend). So, I took the time off to work on some projects I’d been putting off.

One of my major projects was to scan my dad’s slides (taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s) and save them to my computer. My goal was to scan at least four trays and I got six done. Most of the slides were of our vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. It was the first vacation our family took without my older brother. Although we missed having him along, it was one of the most memorable vacations our family ever had. As I looked at each picture, it immediately took me back to our trek out west.

The first leg of our journey led us through Western Kansas and the northeast corner of Colorado to Cheyenne, Wyo. We stayed with my cousin’s in-laws. After a tour of the capital city, we enjoyed rainbow trout for dinner. My sister and I slept in the family’s camper and we thought that was a real treat.

After we left Cheyenne, we headed north. We stopped at a tourist attraction called Hell’s Half Acre, 40 miles west of Casper. It’s not the kind of scenery you’d expect to see in the high plains of central Wyoming. Hell’s Half Acre is a horseshoe-shaped gorge with jagged spires and eerie rock formations.

Hell's Half Acre

Our next stop was Dubois. I fell in love with this authentic western town nestled in the valley between two mountain ranges. My parents, sister and I took an evening trail ride. I pretended to be a rancher’s daughter surveying our vast Rocky Mountain empire.

I hated to leave my little hamlet in the mountains, but the best was yet to come. We headed further west to Moran, a small community just outside of Grand Teton National Park. The motel where we stayed looked like a log cabin with a rustic décor. The view of the Tetons from the motel was spectacular, but the mosquitoes were so thick, it was impossible to sit outside and enjoy the view. 

Our time in the Tetons was one breathtaking sight after another. We toured the park, stopping at various turnouts to enjoy views of Jackson Lake, Wind River and alpine meadows. We also took a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake. The spray from the alpine lake hit my face – and it was cold!


Dad by Lake

One of my favorite places was the Chapel of the Transfiguration. The tiny log cabin structure, built in 1925, is owned and operated by the Episcopal Church. A picture window in the front of the chapel frames the Teton Range. I thought it would be a perfect place to get married (they do have weddings there).

Another day found us visiting the town of Jackson Hole. We had a picnic in the park that features an arch made of antlers. We also took the tram up Rendezvous Mountain, but it was so cold when we stepped out, we quickly looked at the spectacular view and immediately stepped back into the tram.

Our travels next took us to Yellowstone National Park. What amazing sights awaited us there!  We saw Old Faithful and other geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, thermal pools, a mud volcano and sulphur caldron (it smelled like rotten eggs – Eww!). We also took in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone complete with spectacular waterfalls. We had heard that there were a number of black bears in the park, so we were disappointed that we only saw one young bear.


After we left Yellowstone, we spent the night in West Yellowstone, Montana. I felt like I’d stepped back into the 1800s. We took a day trip up to the area where the largest earthquake in Montana history struck in 1959. A vistor’s center told the history of the quake and the area showed evidence of its destruction (a huge landslide and damaged houses) and the beauty it created (a peaceful lake).

We left Montana and drove down through Idaho to Utah. We spent the night in Ogden, then toured Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Aside from the inspiring temple, I was most impressed with the acoustics inside the large tabernacle (built without any nails). Our tour group stood in the back while our guide stood in the front with his back to us and whispered. We could hear every word he said!

The last leg of our trip took us thorough familiar territory in northern Colorado (a favorite vacation spot for our family) to visit some friends and then back home to Kansas.

As I finished scanning these slides, I felt as if I’d been on that wonderful vacation all over again. I’m glad my dad took so many pictures of that and other family vacations. It allows me to not only relive the good times we shared, but take a vacation without ever leaving the house!

How do you take a mental vacation? What is your most memorable vacation?

Photos taken by Kenneth and Velma Kipp

brenda kipp_1
7/28/2009 9:01:22 AM

I'll hook you up with my travel agent, Taylor. HA!

taylor miller
7/28/2009 8:59:07 AM

Yay! Sounds like you had a good time. Gosh, I don't know where I'd go mentally to relax ... good thing to think about, though!

brenda kipp_1
7/21/2009 1:45:46 PM

You're right, Maryellen, a trip down memory lane is so fun! The only thing is that it makes me feel old when I look at what I wore back then -- and how much weight I've gained!:( On the other hand, it makes me feel young when I can remember it as if it just happened this summer! Glad you enjoyed the journey.

7/21/2009 1:21:49 PM

Thanks for letting us join in on your family road trip through this blog entry Brenda! It is wonderful to be a time traveler, isnt it? I always find it amazing how just one picture can erase years to bring us back to the exact moment in time when we heard the click of the camera and felt the flash in our eyes.

brenda kipp_1
7/17/2009 11:31:21 AM

Thanks for your comment, Dave. My mother was an avid letter writer, too. She stopped writing letters a few years ago, but still has beautiful penmanship at age 90. Like your mother, she would practically write her life history in the letters. I threw away the letters she wrote to me in college, which I regret, but I still have the ones she sent to me while I was in Alaska. Mom has saved letters and cards sent to her and I look forward to going through them one day. I've had a German pen pal for over 30 years. I've saved all her letters. We now correspond by email. My brother inherited my dad's love for photography. He lives in Colorado and his favorite subject is Rocky Mt. Nat'l Park. I'm interested in photography, too, but don't get a chance to dabble in it as much as I would like. Letters and pictures from days gone by are treasures -- a constant reminder of cherished memories.

nebraska dave
7/17/2009 1:31:18 AM

Brenda, my mother like your Dad was an avid amateur photographer. Every where she went a camera was with her. My first memory of her picture taking was with a Kodak with the big flash bulbs and a crank on the side to roll the film. Over the course of her 68 years she took literally thousands of pictures. I can remember having to sit through the hours of the showing of carousel after carousel of slides just back from the developer. A photo album for every year from the time of her first camera until her death now resides in my sister’s house. The last time I visited my sister I pulled down a couple albums and glanced through the pages. It was time travel to the past through those pages. What brought winces and irritation 50 years ago by having to pose for Mom’s pictures now brought smiles as memories flooded back to mind. These albums are literally a picture journal of our family. It’s quite an heirloom treasure. Mom would have loved this new digital camera era we are experiencing today. In addition to pictures, Mom was an avid letter writer. She had pen pals from the age of 16 up to the day she died and hand wrote upward of 20 to 25 a month. A letter from Mom was not just a few words scribbled on one side of the paper. She would literally write a three page letter written on both sides and many times up and down the margins. Those letters were her life journal. She kept almost every letter she had received for decades all sorted and filed away in boxes. Unfortunately, they were all thrown away before I really knew what a treasure we had. Thousands of letters that dated back into the fifties and sixties told about ordinary life from all over the world. I did end up keeping a few letters that I had written to her when I was 12. The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace. Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u. ~