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Travel Guide: Lake Tahoe + Jackson Hole

There’s a snake in my boot!

It’s western wedding weekend, y’all, and we struck gold *bites gold coin and winks.* The Johns and I scoured the Sundance Fall/Winter 2018 Catalog and ordered our mountain-chic wears for the destination wedding weekends of a lifetime. Weddings are (almost) always memorable but there’s just something special, dare I say, “electric,” about celebrating your dearest friends tying the knot out in those wide open spaces. I guarantee, the natural splendor and romance of it all will have you belting, “I SHOULD’VE BEEN A COWBOY. I should’ve learned to rope and ride…”

While my train was bound for Wyoming glory, Deb, Ben, and Tucker Johns headed to Lake Tahoe to celebrate the Sierra Nevada union of Alex Tickner and Brian Diemer. You could say the river runs deep with the Johns and Tickner’s. In addition to their longtime family friendship, Alex and Tucker currently work together at LinkedIn in San Francisco. Brian and Alex spent many a weekend making memories together in Tahoe, where Brian’s family has a home. Their attachment to this place, in addition to Tahoe’s proximity to San Francisco, made for the ideal destination.

The great thing about the “destination” wedding experience, in my humble opinion, is the opportunity to treat the weekend like a vacation. It makes sense, right? More often than not couples have destination weddings because they grew up vacationing there. Not only does this empower wedding guests to take more of a YOLO approach to the weekend, but it also provides a fun, familiar, convenient, and cost-effective form of lodging for the couple’s extended family and close friends.

Since you’re on vacay, you have an excuse to do indulgent vacation activities, like, long morning walks or hikes on scenic pathways, delicious meals at hip eateries, and an excuse to hit up the local watering holes (Brewery time! Brewery time!). There’s a fair amount of self-inflicted entertaining wedding guests get to partake in while the happy couple is busting their behinds in preparation for the Big Day. So, let’s talk Tahoe sleeping, eating, drinking, and extra-curricular arrangements.

Eat.

If you’re on the prowl for spot for fresh a breakfast or lunch near the lake in Tahoe City, beeline to Fire Sign Cafe. Tucker advises to be prepared for a wait, even on a weekday. But you know those Juevos Rancheros are totally worth it.

They’re not kidding when they say Jake’s on the Lake is, “Lake Tahoe’s ultimate waterfront dining experience.” You could easily spend several hours soaking up the sun, meditating on beautiful lake views, and snacking on Ahi Poke Tartare.

Drink.

Let the Whiskey River take your mind with Old Town Tap’s extensive craft beer selection and creative cocktails. Or, keep your mind safely intact and have a blast chowing down on phenom pizzas and other Italian delights.

Shop.

Head to West Shore Market and pick up breakfast supplies or sandwiches to-go for some healthier, pre-wedding festivities fuel. This little market on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City has a beautifully curated grocery selection and counters for fresh salads, sandwiches, and coffee. Trust me, your wedding squadron will thank you when you walk out onto the deck where they’ve been lounging while you were kindly out hunting and gathering.

Play.

If you’re visiting in the off ski season, have coffee time with your friends, then force everyone to hike or bike around some Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows trails. A little fresh air and calisthenics will help you acclimate to the change in altitude and ease your guilt about those lunch beers later. Also, if you’re into this kind of thing, you can also visit the Donner Party Memorial Park in Truckee (my freaky mom would have totally made us check this out).

Stay.

The Resort at Squaw Creek is nothing short of activities heaven. With a golf course, cross-country ski center, fly fishing center, ice-skating rink, heated swimming pools, water slide, and scenic hiking and biking trails, you’ll want to sign a lease and stay five ever.

Maybe it’s love or maybe the anticipation of the jaw dropping charcuterie spread waiting nearby (I think it’s both), but let’s take a moment to appreciate how happy, glowy, and beautiful Alex and Brian look walking down that aisle. I’d also like to note how sharp Ben, Tucker, Deb look with that fabulous backdrop. Not that I have any business doling out my two cents, but from what I’ve heard, these two really did it up right for the party half of the evening. For starters, just look at all that cheese. The reception was essentially the best dance party ever with—this is amazing—a SILENT DISCO to cap off the evening. They’ve truly set a gold-star reception standard for us all.

While the Johns clan was getting naughty in the Sierra Nevadas, I was in wild and wonderful Wyoming celebrating the union of our beloved, Mary-Caroline Querbes and Harlan Chumley in Jackson Hole. Much like Alex and Brian’s plot line, MC and Harlan spent many vacations making mountain memories together at Mary-Caroline’s family’s home in the Teton Pines community in Jackson. Both Mary-Caroline and Harlan are phenomenal humes, therefore, it makes total sense that their friends from growing up, college, and beyond, are equally phenomenal and immediately hit it off. We all hit it off so much so that we’re planning a Sewanee, Shreveport, Woodberry, Richmond reunion extravaganza for their anniversary every year. We will host such reunion celebrations for the announcement of the birth of their first child, their children's birthdays, their birthdays, job promotions, and any other life events we deem necessary.

Play.

Phelps Lake, where my precious friends are pictured above, is located in Grand Teton National Park. Multiple hiking trails can be found near the lake, the most popular being a 1.8 mile loop around the Phelps Lake overlook. We also enjoyed a jaunt of the same distance along the Snake River. Lord knows, we aren’t about to do a 2+ miler, aka our personal version of HIIT, on a Friday morning.

Stay.

Managed by Meg Aleardi, a literal saint and goddess of the Tetons, and her husband, Marty, the Wildflower Lodge is truly heaven on earth. MoB, Mary-Frances Coleman, graciously organized this lodging for our combined group of about 30 girlfriends from Sewanee and Shreveport, Louisiana, where Mary Caroline grew up. Here, our brood of twenty five year old hopefuls were treated like royalty. We did nothing to deserve such hospitality, impeccable service, and friendship from Meg, Marty, their 3 month old baby, and last, but most certainly not least, Chef Jim, who created a savory and nutritious breakfast and judgment-free environment for us every morning. We should be so lucky to return to this beautiful Lincoln log compound and—not one, but TWO—hot tubs, one day.

Eat.

Whether you’re a simple, ham and cheese on a baguette gal, like me, or a Croque Madame and Shakshuka chick, your boat will float at Persephone Bakery. This is a great morning-after-rehearsal-dinner brunch spot to debrief the events of the previous evening and plant seeds for the evening ahead. The food is warm and wonderful, the coffee is on point, and the wine and beer list has all the hairs of the dogs your little heart could hope for.

Drink.

Line dance with a rugged fishing guide or ski instructor, drink a few Montucky Cold Snacks, and sit on a novelty saddle barstool at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. I’m going to get sued for saying this, but this place rivals all our Nashville honky tonks I’d like to believe this is truly where the “locals” go for a good time.

Shop.

My dear friend, Aloise Phelps (no relation to the aforementioned ‘Phelps Lake’), spent 75% of the weekend in Lee’s Tees. If you’re dying for a commemorative Jackson Hole quarter zip pullover or a t-shirt with a grizzly on it that reads, ‘Bear with me!’ you’ve come to the right place. You can spend some serious dough in this place and feel great about it.

Forgot your wedding furs? Follow by our girlfriend’s examples and migrate to the Alaska Fur Gallery for sheared beaver hats, muskrat capes, and lynx stoles. I guarantee you won’t regret rolling up to the chapel looking like an oligarch’s wife with an attitude.

The wedding and weekend as a whole was truly a dream and after almost a month, I still refuse to wake up. The ceremony, the dress, the reception and food by the Teton Pines Country Club, flowers provided by Lily & Co, cake baked by the hippest and most talented, Kirsty Greer and grooms’ cake by Wild West Baking—everything was so perfectly Mary-Caroline and Harlan. I know each of our wild and crazy hearts soared across the Snake River and up to heaven to witness it. I won’t speak for Deb and Ben, but I’m beginning to think some magical, natural forces overcame us that weekend, and we’re still reeling.

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