Holed up in a mountain paradise
YEARS ago, when Harrison Ford first drove over Wyoming’s Teton Pass – 2515m high – and spied Jackson Hole, a broad valley framed by the majestic, snow-capped Grand Teton mountains with the Snake River weaving through town, he was awed.
I had grown up with this vision of paradise in my mind. And there it was, right in front of me,’’ the actor says.
The official name of the town is Jackson – for David Jackson, the furtrapper and one of the first settlers – but we all call it Jackson Hole.’’
One of Jackson’s unusual attractions is heli-skiing in Grand Teton National Park. The helicopter is a wonderful way to go up into the mountains. There’s a local pilot named Ken Johnson, who flies for a company called Hawkins and Powers. He’s a fine, fine pilot,’’ Ford says.
The National Elk Refuge was created by the government to feed elk because the town was built in their migration path. Thousands of elk congregate in early spring and autumn.
Each May, the Boy Scouts and the US Fish and Wildlife Service hold an elk antler auction.
Some people believe the antlers have medicinal powers and are an aphrodisiac, which is usually what they’re sold for in Asia.
The posh Jackson Lake Lodge is the best-known hotel but there are others, such as the Amagani and the Wort. Jenny Lake Lodge has cabins, along with its main building. For a bed-and-breakfast, try the Davy Jackson Inn.
Start exploring in the town square, which is framed by four arches made from elk horns.
There’s the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar with its impressive collection of authentic spurs and other western artifacts.
In contrast, there’s Davies-Reid, which imports treasures from other remote mountain regions such as Tibet, Afghanistan and Nepal.
Don’t miss the Jackson Hole Museum. That’s the real repository of the history of this place,’’ Ford says.
If you’re hungry, try the popular Snake River Grill. Regulars recommend the crispy pork shank in red chilli sauce over roasted corn and black bean salsa, accompanied by a caesar salad. When Ford’s partner Calista Flockhart wanted a caterer for his birthday party, she called Teton Thai. And don’t forget the New York City Sub Shop.
In nearby Moose, there’s Dornan’s Chuckwagon, Dornan’s Pizza Pasta Company and Dornan’s Spur Ranch.
Dornan’s has the best wine selection,’’ Ford says. And in Wilson, try Nora’s Fish Creek Inn and Otto Brothers’ Brewing Company. It’s a microbrewery and they make darn good beer,’’ Ford says. Wilson has much more of a local feeling than Jackson. It’s more working-class.’’
For entertainment, consult the free Jackson Hole Daily or try the Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon, where nationally known musical acts play. For movies, it’s the Teton Theatre.
We call it the Sticky Theatre because your feet stick to the floor because of the spilt Coke,’’ Ford chuckles.
Spas abound but the Body Sage Day Spa at the Rusty Parrot Lodge remains a favourite, in part because it uses local herbs and minerals.
While Jackson Hole is a terrific place to visit, don’t plan on living there – unless you’re very wealthy. Ninety-seven per cent of the land in Teton County is publicly owned, pushing up property prices. The average price for a 0.4ha lot in Jackson is now $ US1 million ($ A1.1 million). The median price of a home is $ US800,000 – and it’s a busy market.
Here’s the thing about this place for me,’’ Ford says.
No matter where I am, where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, I land at this airport and I am struck – over and over and over again – by the magical beauty of it, the display of nature.
There’s a view of the Tetons that always makes me laugh. And that’s the way this place is for me. I always decompress here.’’