September 22-23, 2013
Virginian Lodge RV Park
Vic and I have long heard of the place called Jackson Hole, but neither of us had specific knowledge of the geography other than knowing it was in Wyoming near the Tetons. When we looked at a map and saw where the town of Jackson was in relation to our campground in the national park, we thought it would be a good idea to spend our last two days in the town of Jackson just a couple miles from town at the Virginian Lodge RV Park. In retrospect, however, we might have stayed all four days at Gros Ventre Campground as it is both in the NP and close to the town of Jackson but you have to be prepared for dry camping. The Virginian turned out to be a good option as Jackson is one of those Western towns we wanted to check out.
Our first day here we did just that—spent about fours hours walking the whole downtown area to get a feeling for the place. The town is definitely geared to tourists and outdoor recreation, so most of the stores seem to sell either sporting goods or Western mementos. In a surprising way, Jackson reminded us of Taos—built around a town square or plaza with gorgeous mountains and ski areas in the distance. Like Taos, there are also an abundance of art galleries in Jackson. My theory is the area inspires artists and there is probably a good market among the wealthy residents who own million dollar+ ranches in the surrounding area. (Teton County is one of the wealthiest in the country per capita.)
One question I had related to the name Jackson Hole. The name Jackson comes from a legendary trapper, Davey Jackson, who used to describe coming down into the “hole” from the Tetons—hence the name Jackson’s Hole stuck. It now generally refers to the whole valley lying at the south end of the national park.
I only took a few photos of things that stood out to me on our walk around town. This antler gateway to the square was one of them.
You might recall I like all things cowboy, so guess what I took photos of?
I am not sure if this piece of apparel qualifies as Western Wear. . . . Maybe only if you include the tail in your purchase.
On the more serious side, I was blown away by the details of this 1912 soda fountain counter in what used to the Jackson Drug store. Sad that the original store closed its doors in 2001, but at least the current tenants have kept the original features. The owner confirmed this is all the original tile work, but the stools were reupholstered.
One thing I was also hoping to see in Jackson is the nightly shoot out in the town square. Sadly, it is only a summer event that occurs Memorial Day through Labor Day—one of the downsides of traveling “off-season.” In case you are wondering, the good guys always win and they only use blanks in their guns. I stole this photo of the show from the internet.
On our last day here we were determined to go hiking even though we woke to temperatures in the 30s. Fortunately, when we hit the trails at 11 a.m., it was almost 45 degrees! We wanted to do a lake hike and one that looked most appealing to us was the Phelps Lake Trail which is also well-known for possible wildlife sightings. We also liked that in addition to the 4 mile trail, we could add on other short options to enhance our experience, so off we went quite bundled up with wool hats, gloves, and at least three layers.
Hardly anyone else was around as we headed about 1/4 mile down the trail. Quite soon we came across a large pile of fresh bear scat jam-full of huckleberries. Okay, then. Vic had the bear spray and I wasn’t going to trail far behind him. Within about 50 feet, we came across several more piles of fresh scat. The trail was narrow with wooded areas close to us on either side—meaning we both started to feel hyper-vigilant about the possibilities of meeting a bear. I learned that it is almost impossible to distinguish grizzly scat from black bear scat, so my imagination went to the former. We both decided not to tempt our fate and headed back to our car for Plan B.
Plan B was to do one of the more popular hikes in the park to Taggart Lake. Yes, we were looking for safety in numbers. It turned out to be a delightful loop just short of six miles with maybe 500 or 600 ft. elevation. The cold day also probably made this trail less popular as we saw fewer than six other folks on the hike. One of the benefits of the cold weather is seeing the aspen trees start to turn their golden hue.
The early part of the trail also followed a creek with beautiful granite boulders almost creating a small waterfall.
When we reached the lake, we were the only ones there and the day was still pretty chilly, but the best part was seeing the snowfall on the Tetons. Taggart is not as stunning as Jenny Lake, but it did have the same peaceful backwoods feeling.
From the lake, we chose to return via the Beaver Creek trail making our hike into a loop. I am always in favor of the loop when given a choice as I like to see new vistas.
We saw more beautiful aspens on the hike back along Beaver Creek and some intriguing fungi.
We also had some visitors on horseback.
I had heard about the Teton area being a mystical place and the geology of the rocks has something to do with it. There is an abundance of quartz mixed in with the granite and quartz crystals are thought to be the most powerful in terms of healing energy. This particular rock had huge crystals in it. If I were Lucille Ball, I would have hauled it back to the motor home and tried to hide it under the bed—don't know if you are old enough to get my allusion. (I am bad enough with my ever-growing shell collection.)
On the way back to Jackson, we passed the National Museum of Wildlife Art, a place I wanted to go but I wasn’t too sure about Vic’s enthusiasm. I was pleasantly surprised when he pulled in and this was a good move as we both thoroughly enjoyed the place. We knew nothing about it, so were surprised to discover the work of top artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Carl Rungius (considered the best American painter of wildlife), Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and someone who turned out to be my favorite artist there, Isadore Bonheur—among many others. They also had a fabulous special collection of trout made out of recycled products by high school students.
The good news is that I cannot share photos of the paintings I took. I did so mostly for inspiration as I have plans to get a palette and some watercolors for beach time in Florida. Maybe I will even try my hand at oils or acrylics. My mother was a painter when she was young and it was always something she wanted to do again in her later years, but never did. She did, however, instill a love in me for art, especially Impressionist paintings as we visited the Chicago Art Institute frequently throughout my childhood. Thank you, mom!
Our final plan for the day was to go “moose hunting” just before dusk. We saw a moose before in Montana years ago, but I have never gotten a photo of one. We headed back to the motorhome, picked up the pooches, and headed out to the Gros Ventre River, a popular place for sighting moose. This area was only about 20 minutes away. By the time we were reaching the junction, Vic pointed out there were many cars parked in the popular turnout. Sure enough, I jumped out and saw all these tripods with mega lenses pointed toward the woods. Word had it there was one cow and two bulls, but they were pretty far off and fairly well-hidden by the trees. I did my best to get these shots. Woo hoo!
So there you have it—my moose hunt was successful. I have to admit, I was pretty darn excited to end our stay in Jackson with this experience. That night this was the weather forecast for the area:
A major storm system is taking shape for Wednesday through Friday
across the area. On Wednesday... it will be mainly the far northwest
sections that will see steady to significant precipitation with
some snow in the mountains. A second storm system with colder air
will develop to our southwest on Thursday and move across the area
into Friday. The best chance of snowfall will be Thursday into Friday
morning across the southwest.
Time to say goodbye to the Rocky Mountains! It always feels hard to leave the West as it has such a strong hold on our heart. Our next destination is Omaha for a visit with my son Jesse before going to my childhood hometown near Chicago. Roll on. . . .