Jackson Hole

Flanked by the dramatic Teton mountains, Jackson Hole, Wyoming is one of the most spectacular places in the United States. We've spent a bit of time here over the years, both as a resident and as a tourist. Like so many other sun-kissed and snow-blessed western locales, the area has seen considerable change in recent years. Much like Aspen, Colorado and Sun Valley, Idaho, Jackson Hole has transitioned from a remote mountain hideaway into a playground for global jetsetters and the megawealthy.

For thousands of years, Blackfoot, Crow, Gros Ventre, and Shoshone Indians built summer camps along the Snake River. The first European to explore the area was a Kentuckian named John Colter. An integral member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Colter ventured into the area in 1807 in search of beaver pelts. Other mountain men and trappers followed, and by the late 1800's, cattle ranchers established permanent settlement. In 1929, the government established Grand Teton Natonal Park and purchased most of Jackson Hole (ringed by mountains and sixty miles long, the valley floor is 6,400 feet above sea level. Grand Teton, the highest peak in this smoky photo, towers above the range at 13,770 feet).

The town of Jackson lies at the southern end of the valley. The merchants and restraurants occupy an interesting economic landscape; high-end western bronze art galleries and exclusive bistros with world-renowned chefs share the wooden sidewalks with rowdy country bars and old-west themed tourist traps. Ripley's Believe It or Not neighbors the exceptional Thomas Mengelsen art gallery. A busload of Japanese tourists sit in the saddle barstools at the The Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon. Next to Jack Dennis Fly-Fishing shop is a Benetton store, just like the one at Sommerset Mall in Troy.

As we sat on the second-floor deck at the Rancher Bar, a golden eagle crossed the sky and landed on a rocky perch. As schmaltzy as the town of Jackson has become, Jackson Hole still has a rugged beauty found nowhere else in the lower forty-eight states. Jenny Lake (seen here) is one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the country. For those willing to venture from the pavement, countless miles of trails penetrate deep into remote wilderness.

Few people of moderate means live in Jackson Hole, as the area has become a haven for movie stars and titans of commerce. (Harrison Ford and Steve Forbes are among many of the crazy-rich residents). On one visit to the Jackson K-Mart (yes, K-Mart. It has a faux log cabin exterior and sells the same sub-standard merchandise at inflated prices as any K-Mart), a Bentley parked next to us and four men in tunics and keffiyehs on their heads emerged. They were probably members of some royal family from some oil-rich emirate who also own vacation homes in Saint-Tropez and the Cayman Islands. They might have a couple more nickels in the bank than we do, but we doubt they know how to four-count cast a wooly bugger fly for Snake River cutthroat trout.

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