Sunday, November 18, 2007

A "Hole" Lotta Mountains

Jackson Hole is not the sort of town I would have ever visited on my own, but it's a good example of how this trip (and all travel, really) expands one's horizons. I'm not a skier, have no interest in hunting, and don't like to spend my days buying ski gear and drinking overpriced coffee, and that's what Jackson WY (aka Jackson Hole) is all about -- when the season comes.

We managed to arrive there at the height of the off-season, which provides more insight and fewer people. We had our hotel, the Snow King resort, practically to ourselves. I picked this destination because I wanted to see the Grand Tetons and didn't expect to ever get back to this region. And see them we did -- heck, we drove up and down them!

Because of the off-the-beaten-path route we took from Fort Collins, we actually drove somewhat north of Jackson and then came back south -- over one of the mountains.

Up to this point we had seen some wonderful mesas, buttes and craggy geography that was almost, but not quite, like the stuff you see in westerns (those are generally shot due south of Wyoming). Our pictures of the drive do no justice to it, though we did hit large patches of moonscape cattlelands as depicted. I joked during one particularly flat stretch that we may have re-entered Nebraska by accident. :)

But once we really hit the mountains, the snow began to fall. At first there was just some on the ground, but as we climbed higher it really began to snow as in pouring down, land became a gorgeous whitescape, et cetera. Heather, having lived most of her life in Florida, has only rarely ever seen snow, and not at all in a couple of decades. This made up for that. It was so Christmas-card lovely we almost forgot to be wary of icy patches, but we were driving slowly taking it all in so we didn't have too much trouble with that. The capper may have been when we spotted a family of elk crossing the road. I had seen a bear family cross the road in Asheville, but Heather wasn't with me at the time. This time, she was.

Sadly, as we came down the mountain into Jackson the snow disappeared, leaving us with the western Wyoming version of Daytona after bike week: mostly locals, mostly cleaning up and repairing, winding down from the hunting/horseback "summer season" and getting ready for the skiing "winter season." After the magic of the Misty Mountain, we were a little disappointed.

Still, the restaurants had good food, there were plenty of fireplaces to sit in front of (I love fireplaces, especially gas fireplaces the require no muss or fuss), and while the nightlife was definitely lacking (this place ain't no Bronson, MO), we spent our evenings sampling the local selection of hot drinks (alcoholic and non) and catching up the blog (though as you can see, we're still a week behind. Sigh).

The actual town didn't have much to offer -- it's all western-and-snow gear fashion shopping, and it's hard to see why they have much of a local population (you either own a tourist-related business, or work for one). Another parallel to Daytona -- most of these folks seem to make their money during the "seasons" and then don't work (or work as much) the rest of the year, like a lot of the beach merchants. I suppose that kind of life would be all right if Jackson weren't such a "hole" (culturally speaking). :)

Still, with the Tetons on your doorstep and deer, bears, ram and elk for neighbours (not to mention some outstanding trout to catch and eat), Jackson may make up in natural wonders what it lacks in the arts. We're sorry we didn't get a chance to visit Yellowstone, but most of it was closed at that time anyway, and the mountains were wonderful to drive over.

Here's our pictures from Jackson and the Tetons. Next up: Idaho? No, you da ho!