Ever Magnificent Jackson Hole

imageIf there are natural cures to cancer then surely the view of the Tetons is one. Words are insufficient to describe the beauty of this park and place. I first came here at age 9 and have been in awe ever since. There was far too big a gap in my visits for most of my working years. Finally in 2013 I realized that if I waited until we had a full week to take a trip that it simply wouldn’t happen, so thanks to the direct flight we staged a 3 day adventure that was well worth it.

I keep a picture of a fisherman in the river at dawn gazing up at the Tetons bathed in pink light. It fills that part of my soul that calls for a daily dose of the mountains in whatever form. So as I constructed my first real summer (if we can include metastatic cancer in a real summer) I knew it had to include Jackson Hole. A beautiful flight over Tahoe with faraway views of Shasta and Lassen takes us to Jackson Hole, and that wild descent where you can seemingly touch the majestic peaks is a fine welcome. I’m solo with the kids this week, and we spent the first 2 days at Hotel Jackson in town. A modern take on western, it is chic, comfortable and convenient. Our room has reclaimed wood walls, incredibly comfortable queen beds, and beautiful big horse photos. The view is marred by the building next door, but we can still see the top of Snow King, and importantly we are right in the heart of town just a block from the square. Compared to Sun Valley this is much more crowded and touristy, but that also means there’s much to offer. We enjoy an ok but overpriced meal at Local, laugh our faces off taking pictures at the Old Timey Photo place, and I become world’s best mom (dentist’s least favorite) with a trip to Yippi-I-O Candy Factory. Kid heaven with barrels of candy and 1950s slogan covered walls. Their homemade peanut cups are out of this world. After a virtuous lunch at Lotus Cafe, We had worked up an appetite with a hike to Phelps Lake in the Rockefeller Preserve. Only accessible via foot, we capture some precious moments with the lake entirely to ourselves. I would have been happy as a Rockefeller spending my summers in a lodge here! It is rocky and Arctic, but fun to wade into, and of course Will and Bebe took full dips. There was a little whining on the uphill, but with the creek as a distraction the 3.2 mile round trip flies by.

I curry their hiking favor by starting Monday at the Alpine slide (not as exciting as they hoped but still fun) and Mini Golf at Snow King. With a distant view of the Tetons who cares about poor putting? While waiting for our sandwich at E.Leaven, we explored one of the most fabulous toy stores I’ve ever been to right next door. Jackson Hole Toys looks like a Wild West saloon with a talking buffalo and toy guns for rent to shoot moving targets around the store. After the heavy spending morning we skipped that feature, but we enjoyed trying out the many forms of Lego type building toys, a fashion kit, science toys from all around the world. A real find. One more stop at Yippi… And we were on our way to tackle the Taggart-Bradley Lake loop. I typically hike first thing in the morning ahead of the heat, but we wore hats and planned on lake swims to balance out our midday start. The first half of the hike follows the beautiful Beaver Creek with mini waterfalls at every turn and breathtaking views of the peaks at every other. I feel like I’m in a movie the beauty is in such technicolor. I’m not terribly religious, but I certainly find God in these mountains. They are miraculous. A few whines later we emerge over the moraine 1.6 miles total and find a divine picnic spot on a cove of Taggart Lake gazing across the sparkling water to the Grand Teton. Turkey and avocado has never tasted better. We continue on another 1.4 miles to find the people free and equally stunning Bradley Lake. Despite the frigid temperature Will plunges in, Bebe makes it halfway, and I happily wade. This water numbs my feet! 2 rolling miles take us back to the car. It is steamy and we are running low on water (bad mommy!) but candy and singing and stories take us past vistas and to a victorious finish. We collapse at the hotel afterwards. The hot tub on the 3rd floor is the hidden gem. We had it to ourselves both days at 7pm with hot sun beating down. I realized that while old me could punch out 5.2 miles without a blink, cancer me is used to 3-4 mile hikes at sea level. So I give myself a break and let my muscles recover in the hot water.

View from Amangani

I didn’t want to spring for Amangani for the kids, but I did want to see whether it would be worth it for another trip so we drove up for cocktails on their magical porch overlooking the valley. And yes….it is most certainly worth it. An eagle’s perch with views of the Tetons to the right and a slow meandering river through a lush flat valley. They were out of the spicy hibiscus margarita I wanted to try, but I managed to settle for a plain margarita, one of the best I’ve ever tried. If I’m sparing with my drinks this one was worth it! I can definitely picture myself by the huge lap pool on a future trip. I will be back.

Dinner at Hatch Tacqueria proved delicious and much better value than Local. Perfect. Bebe and I explored one of the fun western stores on the square and snapped up a well priced hat with a quail feather. Sun protection of course.
We slept like babies and woke to another beautiful day. This time a leisurely start with a 10am breakfast before popping by the museum of wildlife art and onto Jenny Lake Lodge. While we waited for our cabin we tried out the cruiser bikes on the loop past Jenny Lake and back up to String Lake. Bebe’s whining could have won Olympic accolades after a promising start. Ah well. Sometimes perhaps I expect too much of an 8yr old. But it was sure beautiful. The highlight of the day was a short bike and a swim at the notably warmer and magnificently beautiful String Lake. The wind had calmed, the clouds cleared, and the sun beat down on us and lit up the lake. I felt HAPPY in the purest sense. Pure bliss. There is something in the mountains….the air, feeling so small next to these geological wonders, that puts my body and mind at ease.

I’ve made the mistake of looking at the markets a few times. I kick myself for still holding my single stocks, and yet like so many I bet anticipated Britain making this leap. I wasn’t joking when I mentioned that I’d been reading Hello! Magazine full of the Queen’s 90th with London in full regalia right before the vote. It might sound silly, but I wonder if for your average Joe they ignored and were clueless about the economic ramifications of the split and instead just voted on their vision of the glory of Britain. And it still amazes me that despite hedging and endless analysis by many that markets still swoon. It had been a good run. Ah well. I like what I own and so back to the mountains.
Dinner at Jenny Lake is 5 courses, but nicely portioned and delicious. Tonight hamachi with sea salt, dark leafy greens with a simple vinaigrette, a mild flaky fish with a caper sauce, and tiny scoops of malted chocolate, coffee, and bourbon vanilla icecream. YUM. An after dinner walk to the stream settled our stomachs and rounded out our day. I never get tired of those views. Ever magnificent. imageOn our last morning in the park we take an easy 2 miler along the shore of String and the above Leigh lake. Wow! I never tire of these views and the peaceful calm of a mountain morning. Jenny Lake Lodge plies us with a hearty breakfast and we have enjoyed calling this rustic but lovely lodge home for 2 nights. The kids have decided this is where we should always return to. I was very underwhelmed by the Four Seasons. We only spent one night and it was a waste of money. Oh well. Live and learn. Our drive to Sun Valley was mostly beautiful with the highlights being the lush Swan Valley, the wild black Craters of the Moon, and the most excellent chocolate shake at Shorty’s in Hailey. I suspect that will have elevated my platelets for today’s blood test!! Onto family time and Sun Valley mountain time. Happy 4th to all.

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