Jackson Hole: Jonesing for Adventure
Written by Heather KW Brown
My whereabouts were a rough estimate at best and by now, I was starting to hear voices. Guessing I was somewhere near the top of Teton Pass with another 13 miles to go, I looked over my shoulder to see runners flying down the trail in my direction. Recognizing one of them, I debated trying to hitch on, but told my girlfriend I’d see her at the finish line. Shortly thereafter, I stopped to ask one of the rangers if he would mind sharing his snack.
“I need salt,” I said, plopping into his chair as if I’d been invited.
He smiled, handed over his bag of chips and said, “From around here?” Assuming I would at least name a neighboring state, he was surprised to hear my answer.
What can I say? When you keep going back to the same destination, there’s a good reason. And so it is with Jackson Hole, Wyo., which immediately captured my heart almost 18 years ago.
Ski resorts certainly lay claim to much of the hubbub, but this haven, 60 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, is laden with activities long after the snow melts. My girlfriend and I were here, among copious celebrities and cowboys, for a much-needed getaway that started with a memorable mountain run.
Granted, a visit to this mountain town isn’t quite as easy as driving to the coast, but like anything else that requires extra effort, the reward is greater. Stepping into a backdrop with majestic peaks rising in every direction is a welcome unlike any other, and comes compliments of Grand Teton National Park.
Jackson Hole has a healthy number of hotels, but only a handful are designed to pamper and treat guests not as tourists, but as travelers. The family-run Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa, conveniently tucked at the end of a street three blocks from the shops and restaurants of Town Square, is one of them.
Inspired by its breathtaking surrounding, this chic retreat is packed with all of the posh — minus any of the pretension — you’d expect from a member of Small Luxury Hotels of America. Walking into the lodge, we found the reception area on the left and, on the right, the renowned Wild Sage restaurant decorated with guests awaiting one of the finest meals in town.
Our well-appointed room had European down comforters, a deep soaking tub and heavenly pillows we found hard to leave. Hunkering further into the cozy confines of this rustic hotel might be entertained elsewhere, but in Jackson Hole, it’s unthinkable.
Appeasing Every Appetite
Downtown Jackson is easy to navigate. Simply set your sights on the signature attraction of Town Square — the distinctive arch, crafted out of hundreds of elk antlers. Snapping a photo in front of this landmark is all part of the experience, as is shopping for souvenirs and local wares along the boardwalk-fronted path.
Nestled among the abundant T-shirts, cowboy hats and ski shops are a few shops not to be missed. Bet the Ranch, just off Town Square in Gaslight Alley, is my new favorite. This self-dubbed “pony-sized store” is filled with unique finds, notably an irresistible collection of vintage boots, belts and home decor goods. Terra is a stylish hotspot for women in search of a local fashion fix, and for high-end home furnishings, Twenty Two Home is a must for timeless pieces, antiques, rugs and accessories sure to become conversation starters.
More shopping awaits not too far away in Teton Village, but for us, a visit to the village was all about dinner at Spur Restaurant & Bar. Tucked into the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, Spur is said to “take elevated mountain cuisine to a new level,” and in the talented hands of Executive Chef Kevin Humphreys, the flavor-infused, seasonally fresh dishes do not disappoint. An obvious dedication to organic and sustainable farming is evident in Humphrey’s mindful selection of ingredients on the menu, where highlights include the Spur Buffalo short rib braised with Zonker stout (a local craft beer) served with cheese grits, Swiss chard and onion marmalade, and the Snake River Farms boneless Kurobuta pork chop accompanied with scalloped sweet potato, Swiss chard and chorizo vinaigrette.
Of course, Jackson Hole has plenty of fabulous places to appease all of your appetites — indoor and out — but part of the fun is discovering them for yourself, regardless of your whereabouts.