“Time Out in the Tetons”
Travelworld – March 2008
I followed three wranglers, each with a string of pack horses loaded down with supplies, up the narrow trail tracing Grays Ridge. The Spotted Horse Ranch, fast falling away, looked like it a tinker-toy town sitting beside the Hoback River, a silver vein snaking through the center of a broad, green valley. The view was a reminder that a good horse can get folks where they can’t get to on their own.
We made our way to an alpine meadow resting at about 8,200 feet with vistas of the snow-streaked Grand Teton range to the north sparkling beneath full-blown skies. Cooler temps at the top of the world with sage meadows framed in velvet green forests soothe the mind, as well as the eye.
Non-riders of all ages have lots of fun choices. Nearby activities include rafting on the Snake River, swimming in Granite Hot springs, tubing down the Hoback, and some great fishing. Jackson’s historic district is a fun to walk around, even if you don’t care to buy Native American jewelry at good prices, you can cruise the over 30 western art galleries or visit the homespun historical museum.
Just north of Jackson on a knoll that overlooks the largest Elk Refuge in the world is a gallery that houses an outstanding Animal Art collection. The Elk summer in higher meadows, but many birds can be spotted in the marshy flats the “Wapiti” call home in the winter.
On the all-day ride shared by all the guests—grand parents, cowgirls and boys, Indians and chiefs—climbed steadily up a shady draw. Pink wild rose, blue harebell brightened the scene while the intense thrum of the cicadas filled the air. Sage hen wings whirred as they lifted from our path. Once aloft the plateau, we did a little trail blazing through a meadow of yellow arrowroot where we flushed a couple of stray elk. Our ride home took us across a ridge with heavenly vistas. We covered a lot of ground with some steep climbs and tricky footing. Our fit, well-mannered mounts, remained calm though it all allowing even the greenest dude to enjoy the grandeur of our countries remaining wild-west.
I wish-boned walked to my way back to the rocking chair waiting for on the porch of my log cabin. There, I was lulled by the hushed conversation of the river, the twitter of swallows flitting over the water, and the occasional knickers of a horse in the barn nearby.
The Hoback River runs through the middle of the 51-acre ranch surrounded by 150,000-acre Bridger-Teton National forest. Ninety-seven percent of Jackson County is preserved, so private shoreline in thirsty country is a coveted commodity here in Wonderful Wyoming. The ranch is just far away from the hubbub of Jackson, Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park that guests can enjoy genuine quietude, yet remain close enough to visit these attractions in a day trip.
Folks have been coming to Jackson Hole to go fishing ever since Teddy Roosevelt’s time. They can fly fish off the bank of the Hoback or practice their casting skills in the stocked pond on the ranch. Four professional gents from the east coast, who played their cards close to their chest, represented the anglers in our group of 31 guests. They told me the all day float down the Snake in a pursuit of feisty Cutthroat Trout fulfilled their fishing fantasies. The ranch can also arrange for outings on the Salt, South Fork and Green Rivers.
To cool off from unseasonably warm temperatures, I rafted the forty miles of class II-III rapids on a stretch of the Snake just west of Jackson. The river funnels through a narrow canyon forming some fun wave trains. A dozen bald eagles watched us from the shore, while an Osprey wheeled overhead. A big wave knocked a couple of people in our party out of the raft, but a dunk in the Snake is not life-threatening if you listened to the safety lecture before takeout. The kids sat on the bow taking turns to meet the rapids head on. If you want a more relaxed ride take the scenic glide through the center of Jackson Hole at the base of the snaggle-toothed Tetons.
The ranch supplied me with a box lunch the day I decided to hike some of the well-groomed trails in the 484-square mile Grand Teton National Park. About 40-miles north of the ranch, turn left at Moose Wyoming to find the Teton Park Road that connects the string of lakes at the foot of the famed peaks. You can catch the water-taxi across Jenny Lake to not so Hidden Falls. The two-mile trek back to the dock on the shady trail that wraps the shore is delightful, but its easy access makes it the most popular trail in the park. The hike to jade-green Taggart Lake that traces chatty Taggart Creek is also moderate and well-groomed, but is less-traveled.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, two Cordon Bleu-trained chefs worked feverishly to deliver three gourmet squares a day on time. Guests shared their separate adventures over meals served country style in the cozy dining room overlooking the Hoback. Lots of healthy choices with fresh salads and veggies are at every setting. At the weekly cookout, steak, mushrooms and onions are grilled to perfection, corn on the cob and fresh salad are offered and it is all finished off with blueberry cobbler that puts a purple grin on everyone’s face.
A little lady with a voice as pure as liquid sunshine serenaded us by the campfire with western standards such as, “I’m Goin’ to Jackson.” Everyone joined in for a rip snortin’ rendition of “Rawhide” and a heartfelt “Happy Trails to You” until we meet again.