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Cottage

Trip Planning: In the Works + A Look Back

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Trip Planning: In the Works + A Look Back

Friends, it has been nine months and three weeks (and about two hours, if we're really keeping track) since I last stepped foot in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.I know I may sound a bit dramatic, but a huge part of me really misses it. I'm blaming Andrew Evans of National Geographic for basically live-tweeting his latest trip to the area and making it impossible for me to resist the lure of the mountains, the iconic parks, the people, the history... sigh...

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{Photo courtesy of Glacier NPS on Flickr

Anyway, we've had a trip to Glacier National Park in Northern Montana on our travel list for a long time and this is the year we'll be making it happen. We've been looking into cabin rentals, researching hikes and sightseeing opportunities and trying to find flight deals.

I'll, of course, keep you all posted on the fun details. Meanwhile, I wanted to take an opportunity to share my favorite find during a road trip we took to Montana and Wyoming back in 2009. It was my first trip to Wyoming and second visit to Montana and I have to say, the experience really solidified my love for the area. I've never blogged about the trip and since it was in my pre-blogging days, it has been passed over for more current adventures. Let's rectify that, shall we?

First up: our lodging near Grand Teton National Park!

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When we started planning, we knew that our lodging would be a mash-up of different things depending on the various stops we needed to make and what would be available in each town. There are so many options available in the area around Grand Teton National Park, so narrowing things down was a bit of a challenge.

We had heard great things about the town of Jackson, Wyoming (they're all true, by the way), but we wanted to stay somewhere that felt more connected to the beautiful landscape and scenery. Staying in either Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park was cost-prohibitive at the time, so we started looking at vacation rentals and lodging just outside of the parks.

I can't quite remember how I landed on the Moulton Ranch Cabins website after hours of reading reviews and following links, but I'm so glad I did. You know the sound you hear when someone hits the jackpot on a slot machine? Yeah... it was like that.

The small collection of cabins is located just south of the entrance to Grand Teton National Park and about 40 miles south of Yellowstone. It's also a short drive from Jackson, which has great shops, restaurants and more. Just look how cute the cabins are!

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While we stayed in the least expensive cabin and didn't have views of the Teton Range, many of the cabins have stunning, unobstructed views:

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The cabins are located on Mormon Row, which has an incredible history.

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We even woke up to bison in the "back yard" almost every morning!

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A quick walk down the road will take you to what is thought to be the most photographed barn in America. You can see why:

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I couldn't help taking a picture of photographers taking a picture of the most photographed barn in America. :) So meta!

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Needless to say, the area in and around Grand Teton National Park captured a little piece of my heart. I haven't stopped thinking about going back since 2009 and our stay at the Moulton Ranch Cabins is a huge part of that continuous pull. I'm not sure I'd be able to stay anywhere else!

A few things to note about the cabins:

  • They are only open seasonally, May through September.
  • While the prices have increased since our 2009 stay, the Cottage is still a very affordable option in the area.
  • They book up quickly, so be prepared to snag a reservation early (they allow reservations no more than a year in advance).

The cabins are nearly booked up for this summer season, but there are a few pockets of time still available. If we were heading back this year, I know I'd snap up a few days! If you're looking for tips on the Northern Rocky Mountain region, I've collected all of my favorite spots (including the Moulton Ranch Cabins, Mormon Row, The Moulton Barn and more) in a handy app. You can download it from the App Store here!

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Anyone out there have a favorite Rocky Mountain getaway spot they'd like to share? I'm always looking to live vicariously though the travels of others, so feel free to link up in the comment section. Here's hoping we can find a place just as cozy for our trip to Glacier National Park. Wish us luck!

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A Wine Country Weekend

Several weeks ago, the hubs and I took off for a long weekend in wine country. We were heading to Lakeport, CA for a wedding that weekend and decided to stay in one of our favorite towns: Calistoga.There is no denying that Calistoga is rich with Napa Valley history, but the town is holding on to its funky side with both hands. We dig that. It feels...comfortable.

We've spent time in Napa Valley before and we have always wondered about that huge castle up on a hill between St. Helena and Calistoga. You know the one. It looks...well...ancient and slightly out of place? Yeah. That one.

Anyway, we scheduled a tour and wine tasting at the Castello di Amorosa. The castle was nothing short of amazing:

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The grounds were beautiful too. Plus, they had chickens!

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Thing is, it was only completed a few years ago. Apparently it was built with ancient materials shipped over from far away places, but the building itself is not old. At all. Thus, it had a bit of a Disneyland feel to it. Faux, if you will. Even so, it was a neat tour and our guide was incredibly entertaining and informative.

We didn't care much for the wine, but I know that's a personal taste/preference issue. Some people were loving it. Plus it was cool to be underground tasting right from the barrel.

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All in all, we still had a great time and would recommend checking it out.

After touring and tasting, we headed up the road to check in at the Wine Way Inn.

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It's a cute little house with beautiful landscaping. We had the "cottage" at the back of the property, which is detached from the main house:

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The cottage was surrounded by all of this:

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They had obviously spent a lot of time and money making the exterior as lovely as possible. We enjoyed every minute of it. We even caught a glimpse of a hot air balloon one morning!

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While the exterior was absolutely perfect, the interior of the cottage left us slightly bummed. You could tell they had rushed any interior renovations (dried paint dripping down the walls, mold in the bathroom, etc). Also the bed was pretty terrible.

However, every morning the breakfast almost erased the crappy rest we had gotten the night before. They made something different from the owner's cookbook each day served it on the sideboard buffet-style, which suited us just fine. Breakfast was served in the dining room of the main house:

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No pictures of the food, sorry. We devoured it too quickly.

I wouldn't necessarily give this place a bad review. It was completely sufficient. However, it would be stellar if they'd upgrade the bed and put some money into the interior. We can't speak for the rooms in the main house, of course. For all we know, they were amazing. The decks, gardens and breakfasts are worth experiencing, though.

All that being said, this was our second time staying in a bed and breakfast and I'm thinking we might not be the B & B type. We tend to be on an earlier schedule than most of the vacationing public. We also really like being self-sufficient and on our own schedule.

For example, I want to make my coffee or tea right when I wake up. Generally it's best if I get caffeine on board immediately. Here we had to wait for the innkeepers. I'm also usually pretty happy with a smaller breakfast. Give me some fruit, yogurt and granola and I'm good to go. Large breakfasts are great every once in a while, but I tend to feel compelled to eat a big breakfast every day just to get our money's worth and avoid insulting anyone. We'll see if we give the B & B experience another go in the future.

We kept ourselves pretty entertained just walking around Calistoga, shopping, eating and popping into tasting rooms. We actually joined a wine club. I know. We loved the wine and the people who run the place are a riot. So, if anyone wants to come with us next time for a free tasting at Vermeil Wines (yes, that Vermeil. I know.), we've got the hook-up.

We also visited Chateau Montelena. You know the winery from the movie Bottle Shock? Yep. We've been there. It was cool. Again, we didn't fall in love with any of the wines we tasted, but that's okay. The building and grounds were worth a visit:

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I also left the hubs to his own devices while I pampered myself with a spa treatment and pool time at Indian Springs one morning. In a word? Phenomenal.

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I signed up for a mud bath. For the most part it was a relaxing treatment. However, there came a point when being buried in super hot mud had me feeling all kinds of claustrophobic. I'm glad I finally tried it, though I'll probably stick with a simple massage or facial in the future.

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The Olympic-sized mineral pool was worth the cost of the spa treatment:

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I think maybe we'll just have to stay at Indian Springs next time. We'll see how that goes.

If you've never been to Calistoga, I highly recommend it. It's small enough to feel comfortable, yet big enough to experience different things every day.

Anyone else a non-so-sure-B&Ber? Is it just us? What about spas and wineries? Anyone out there on the internets have recommendations for our next Calistoga trip?

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Happy Thursday, all!

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