I hereby take the risk of repeating some of my prior musing on the intrinsic benefits of cruising around this area I call home. This past week I indeed looked at this glorious Teton basin area (and beyond) through a different viewfinder. Fresh eyes this time belonged to two out-of-state visitors. It’s my best friend Julie, who can only recall one other winter excursion over 20 years ago, and my sister Mare, who also pleads guilty to the too-few-visits charge. Guess I just need to stop indulging my family and friends with my frequent visits to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. If they’re dying to see me it will just have to happen more often, on my turf, here in "paradise" (their word not mine).
Have you ever noticed how much you really don’t notice as you meander through your daily life? Living in the shadow of the Tetons you tend to take the staggering beauty for granted; the way sun glistens off the peaks early in the morning or the foreboding shadows on the foothills as you bid farewell to another day. Watching the Big Dipper come to life, seemingly directly over the neighboring Big Hole Mountains, was a nightly ritual and the eerie quiet of the night was consistently broken with lots of oohs and aahs tinted with charming Philly accents. It was indeed a wake-up call having guests visit our delightful corner of the world. I write often about the beauty and the intrinsic benefits of simply being here in the Yellowstone-Teton region and this chance to observe the magic, thru others, was truly a reminder to appreciate the splendor of our great planet.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Fun for Everyone
First of all, the sense of arrival can set the stage for all that follows. When you’re a destination visitor to this region you have the option of flying into Idaho Falls or Jackson Hole. Driving from either airport to Teton Valley provides plenty of eye candy. However, soaring past the Tetons as you circle the Jackson Airport, located in the Grand Teton National Park (the only airport in the USA situated in a national park), your senses are alert and you know instantly that this promises to be a special trip. This was a post Labor Day trip for Mare and Julie but you’d never know it by the steady stream of excited passengers coming off their plane. The word’s out – this is an optimum time of year to visit the Tetons and all the wonders of our national parks.
We head straight over Teton Pass to Victor, Idaho, with a brief stop at the top of Teton Pass to take in the lights of Jackson Hole sparkling in our rearview mirror. It will be an early night for my east coast guests. Travel plans to check out the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River means an early wake-up call.
With my husband, a former fishing guide as our leader, we head out on the first leg of our adventure. We eventually take some liberty with the official Yellowstone Grand Teton Loop Road, designated one of the Top Ten Scenic Roads in the Northern Rockies but for now we follow this scenic route thru Teton Valley, and north into Ashton. We’re treated to Teton views with every twist and turn of the road and more oohs and aahs that seem to pepper every conversation. We camp on the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake, a river famous world-wide for its trophy load of rainbow and brown trout. The swift Snake churning thru the canyon lulls us to sleep and the wind quietly whistling thru the aspens wake us early. We watch the osprey eyeing their breakfast as we enjoy ours. We share the quiet, beauty and solitude of the River Side Campground (just south of Island Park) with only a few fly fishermen. Where is everyone on this stellar morning? Even the pesky bugs have called it a day for the season.
Mesa Falls, The Madison River, Teton Springs Lodge – It Doesn’t Get Any Better
We head out to Mesa Falls, a mandatory stop on anyone’s itinerary, unless you’re a people watcher. We only share this attraction with 7 or so fellow gawkers (ah, off season). You hear the ominous thunder of the falls before you ever see them. It’s not easy finding the right superlatives to describe the Upper and Lower Mesa Falls so I won’t even try. Seeing is believing. It’s easy access here for all visitors, boasting interpretive trails, viewing platforms, plentiful parking and clean restrooms. Way to go Idaho!
We take a slight detour off of the scenic tour road and head into Montana’s Madison River Valley where big browns lurk behind every river rock. With the spring run-off amazingly still in effect, the Madison is swollen and running wild. We float the more mellow Quake Lake and talk in hushed tones about the horrific earthquake that tragically took lives and demolished this valley back in the 1950′s. The mountainous backdrops are breathtaking and the girls now understand why this state is indeed called Big Sky Country!
Back to Teton Springs to Be Pampered
Back in Idaho, we treat ourselves to a stay at Teton Springs Lodge & Spa. This would prove to be the highlight for my guests. They have heard me for years go on and on about how incredible this resort is, now they’re officially counted among the true believers. Our one-bedroom suite was elegant, yet so homey. We relaxed in the Stillwaters Spa Zen Room and played golf on the Headwaters Course as the sun was setting over the mountains. The bald eagle that takes up residence on the 7th fairway didn’t show this time but was a good excuse for a re-round. The Headwaters Grille provided delicious breaks from our hectic days which included a fishing/sight seeing expedition on our very own Teton River. As much as I love fishing the Teton, my concentration was delightfully broken by wildlife roaming the banks. We shared the river with a Great Grey Owl who was also looking to bag that illusive rainbow. And did I mention those Tetons, strutting their stuff for the entire float. Folks, trust me when I say, the Teton River is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful waterways in North America!
Wyoming – A Trip Down the Snake, the Tetons…
Next stop Wyoming! We capped off our whirlwind tour with a scenic trip down the mighty Snake River in Jackson Hole. The nice folks at Teton Springs will book this (and all your activities) for you. It’s only a 25 minute drive to pick up the raft and a three hour float thru the Snake River Canyon. Our guide was delightful and informative and what fun to watch our fellow boaters faces light up with each Bald Eagle spotting (seven was the official count!). Lunch was at Dornans in Teton National Park, certainly the exclamation point on this visit. And did I mention those Tetons?
I think it’s safe to presume that after our recent week together, more American Airlines Frequent Flyer miles will be added to Mare & Julie’s pot, sans any pleading from me. They’ll be back willingly, for a repeat performance to this land of wide open vistas, rising rainbows, soaring mountains, lush farmland and river adventures – all capped off daily with a healthy dose of star gazing. Teton Valley has grown since Julie’s winter visit many moons ago; we now play host to terrific restaurants, eclectic retail stores, Teton Springs Resort, music festivals, a fabulous wine shop and the list goes on and on. And some things didn’t change at all, the sheer splendor of the area that filled their senses and lifted their hearts.
On the way to the airport, with only minutes to spare, a moose (on Julie’s wish list to see) jumped out of the riverbed and strolled boldly across the road in front of our car. You got it, more oohs and aahs, and did I mention those Tetons?
Call 877.787.8757 to book your visit to Teton Springs Resort and a Teton filled adventure.
Looking at the long-term forecast, there is no “off” to this off-season!