Jackson, Wyoming

The summertime usually involves water. Walking on sandy beaches. Riding big waves. Cruising the shoreline on a sailboat. But there’s something very American about heading west, too. So it might be time to trade the ocean for a river and the sailboat for a raft, and take a trip to Wyoming. Don’t worry, you’ll still manage to cool off.

Photo: azjack2008 @ stock.xchng
Photo: azjack2008 @ stock.xchng

Surrounded by mountains, the valley of Jackson Hole is a nature lover’s paradise. The Gros Ventre Range to the east. The Teton Range to the west. Grand Teton National Park to the north. Yellowstone National Park even farther north. The Snake River winds through the valley. Animals are, well, everywhere. And the welcoming town of Jackson, a year-round destination, sits in the south.

Native Americans–and, later, fur trappers–called the Jackson-area home. It now attracts fishermen in the summertime, hikers as soon as the snow starts to melt, and skiers and elk in the wintertime. Yes, elk. The world’s largest herd of elk migrate to the National Elk Refuge each year. It may be the wrong time of year to take a sleigh ride to see the elk, but moose, bison, grizzly bears, and antelopes are roaming around now. You may even spot a bald eagle in the sky.

Spend your days perfecting your casting as you fly fish for cutthroat and rainbow trout. Ride Class III whitewater rapids down the Snake River. Horseback ride through the pines and the aspens of Bridger-Teton National Forest. Hike by snow-capped peaks, meadows filled with wildflowers, and crystal-clear lakes. Keep an eye out for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and wolves. And drive to Glacier View Turnout for panoramic views of the Tetons, including Teton Glacier. On your way back into town–you can’t miss the Town Square’s four corners, which are made from elk antlers–check out Native American artifacts and tools used by the first settlers at the Jackson Hole Museum. And then stop by Snake River Brewing for a Firehole Steam. You should be exhausted, but the fresh air is energizing.

Photo: Rustic Inn Creekside Resort & Spa
Photo: Rustic Inn Creekside Resort & Spa

Just outside the center of Jackson, you’ll find the Rustic Inn along Flat Creek. The inn has homey log cabins with Adirondack chairs on the porches. Along with the usual swimming pool, there are meditation tepees, rocking chairs, and wooden sculptures on the grounds. Otters swim in the creek. And since it doesn’t start getting dark until 9:00 p.m. right now, there’s time to enjoy a massage with local Arnica oil at the spa before dinner. When you finally venture over to the patio, sip a Sleeping Indian while deciding whether you should eat bison chili, an elk burger, or a bison meatball sub. Though with such a hearty meal, you’ll soon trade in the vodka cocktail for a bold Cabernet Sauvignon.

As you sit around the fire pit after dinner, you realize you haven’t thought about the beach the whole time you’ve been here. It must just be the crisp air combining with the red wine.

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