A GREAT VACATION CHOICE: JACKSON HOLE WYOMING
By: J. Marlando
I am not one to promote anything to others since one person’s delight is another’s dilemma but I will risk saying that if you are an Americana buff, a lover of the outdoors and have a little adventure in your soul, Jackson should be at the top of your menu of places to go.
I had forgotten how beautiful and yes, magical that Wyoming is even though I spend a few years of my childhood there. Well, for one thing, I lived down on the flat of Rawlins, Wyoming and later Rock Springs. While those places have their charm too, they do not compare to nature’s handiwork found up in the Tetons, those majestic and mighty peaks that lean against deep, enchanting skies.
We didn’t get to try out the hotels in town (they are plentiful) because we stayed with friends who are among the ranks of the other 52,000 that make up the temporary population during the tourist season. That number drops incidentally to around 5,000 since Wyoming winters can be bitterly cold.
The town itself is intriguing. It’s a kind of portrait of American traditions come to life; a feeling of being in a Norman Rockwell painting and loving it! Also, unlike other tourist towns—and Jackson is indeed that—the locals and business owners are extremely friendly and cordial. While like every other tourist attraction they may be seeking profit, none of that shows, there’s just a nice friendly feeling there of well, being welcome.
One of the first things our hosts—Jan and Tom—did was take us for a drive through the Grand Teton National Park, a place of meandering, quaint dirt roads that guide you through some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world. There are thickets of forest, the freshness of streams and of course those majestic mountains. As you drive slowly through the park you keep your eyes open for moose, for bear, for elk and other wildlife that make their home there. Sometimes you park and get out of the car to stretch and inhale the forest air. We weren’t very lucky on our first day out, not an animal in sight but the scenery was both fascinating and fantastic; a piece of God’s country, as is said.
Returning to town, however, there is yet another kind of unexpected treat that Jackson Hole offers—a wide selection of restaurants. I do not want to start sounding like a tour guide, but some of the best food on the planet is cooked up in that little, mountain town. We were there only a week and never ate in the same place twice…and every place we ate was ever as tasty and wonderful as the last. And, again, I have to mention the friendliness—if you desire service with a sincere smile, that’s the place to go!
One day we took boat ride down the Snake River. Before shoving off, however, we sampled some huckleberry ice cream. My wife and I had never heard of it but I found out later a whole lot of other people have. Anyway it has a very unique taste and brings out the kid in you.
So we all loaded up in a big yellow raft and started down the river. Our guide was another example of friendliness. Along our way he pointed out landmarks but also told us stories of how famous mountain men like Jim Bowie had traveled the same area and things that happen to them along the way. The trip down river took us two hours but it seemed like much less than that. It was simply a good time. No motor by the way, it was all rowing so you not only enjoyed the view but often the silences of the river too; the feeling of being centered in a forgotten past.
On the following day we drove to Yellow Stone National Park and on our way we passed a number of glacial lakes that lay in the valleys like placid mirrors looking up into the heavens. We saw some people fishing along our way and, admittedly, I envied them—both my wife and I love to fish—but we didn’t stop and anyway, we didn’t have any equipment with us. (As I understand it Wyoming is Trout Heaven—I’d sure like to find out).
We continued the drive to *Old Faithful but before seeing the Geyser erupt, we went into the Old Faithful Inn for lunch. The building itself is worth the trip; all logs with gigantic fireplaces and feelings of antiquity. There’s truly a special kind of beauty there that takes you out of view of the rest of the world and lands you in a kind of imaginary realm that somehow connects you with our romantic past as a nation. I don’t know, it’s difficult to explain but if you’ve ever been there or go there, you’ll know what I’m struggling to describe. Oh yes, the food is great there too!
Driving back to Jackson Hole, we were destined to have an unexpected treat. As we drove down the highway, we had to make a sudden stop. An American bison—best known as a buffalo—was crossing the road.
The animal was amazingly calm, and far bigger than we had imagined buffalo as being. This one had to be nearly six feet tall; a reminder of America’s past and, yes, some very sad tales. It was difficult to imagine millions of these crossing the plains in olden times but of course they did. We were thrilled to just see one so close to us.
We kept our eyes glued on the magnificent animal as he nonchalantly walked passed us giving us a memory that we would cherish forever.
When we returned to Jackson Hole it was getting dark so we stopped at a restaurant for dinner. We enjoyed a good meal and good conversation then drove home.
I’m an early riser so the next morning I was up around five and already sitting out on the back patio enjoying a hot cup of coffee. It was a brisk morning, with a little fog that had drifted in to float over the pond but beside that the world there, at that time of morning, seemed motionless and still. A couple of birds flew over silently—I wondered where they were going…and why.
As I sat on the lawn chair, I just happened to glance to my right—and there they were a big mama moose and two of her offspring. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was less than ten feet from those big, beautiful creatures.
I got out of my chair slowly and as quietly as possible. I ran into the house to wake up…everyone. “The moose are here,” I hollered knocking on bedroom doors.
Soon enough we were all together watching the moose in the yard, eating the shrubs as if they were right at home. Well, they were, we were the visitors!
We spent a good hour or more watching the moose until finally they wandered back into the woods, it was treat we’d take home with us.
On the following day we took a tram trip to the top of a mountain, had a final dinner together and the next we day flew out wishing we didn’t have to.
I’ve only described the things that we did in a very short week. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is packed with things to do and things to see—it not only will stir your mind but touch your heart. I hope to go back some day!
*Old faithful is known to be the most “predictable” geological feature on the planet.