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