This post is part of an ongoing monthly column called “Adventure Spotlight”. If you’re interested in writing for ATA, click here.
Chad approached me with an idea for an article focusing on a place that I have never been, and, to be honest, until now, I didn’t even really know it existed! He is so passionate about sharing his experiences and connecting with other adventurous people. The header on his site reads “Chronicles of a Life Enthusiast”, and I could not agree more. Check out his personal blog at www.heyitschad.com.
Hello there! I’m Chad and I live in the southeastern United States. I love being in the outdoors, camping, backpacking, paddle sports, traveling and exploring new places in pursuit of those hobbies. However, my favorite aspect of travel is meeting people. You know, converse with strangers, learn their stories… what good is travel if you only do so as an observer rather than a participant. I believe leaving our comfort zone is better for us than we realize and, when traveling, it’s rare I leave a flight, cab, restaurant, or local watering without having gained a friend… or at least some good conversation. For me, befriending new people in new places is as big a part of any journey as seeing the mountain, the forest, the city, or the history I came to visit.
I’ve gone a few places and seen some great things but I’m far from an adventurer extraordinaire. I’m just a guy seeking to live my short time enthusiastically and not miss out on nor take these opportunities for granted. You don’t have to travel to distant lands or have extreme adventures to fit that mould. My blog, though in only its infancy, is a chronicle of personal experiences set out to show just that. Although, when the opportunity to explore some far corner does arise, you can bet I’ll be there!
Grand Teton National Park – Jackson, Wyoming (United States)
I have a love affair with the untamed Western United States. There exists something truly majestic about the Rocky Mountains and the unsettled wilderness surrounding the region that draw so many people westward, myself included. I visited Grand Teton National Park as part of a road trip beginning in Salt Lake City, Utah- traveling northward through Idaho and finally east onward to Wyoming and the Teton Mountain Range.
Top 5 experiences:
1) The Teton’s Big Reveal.
Quite possibly one of the U.S.’s most inspiring mountain “reveals”, not viewed from an airplane window, occurs just 5 minutes out of Downtown Jackson. Northbound on US 191, the drive is a slow yet steadily-ascending path out of the city and it will not leave you disappointed. At the peak of this climb, the Teton Range suddenly towers into view in spectacular fashion. Those cloud-catchers demand you pull over immediately if for no other reason than to pick your jaw off the floor, smile, and realize how lucky you are to have seen something so special for the first time. You should snap a few pictures here too.
2) Fly fishing the Snake River
A legendary river winding along the Teton Range, the Snake River is well-known as a can’t-miss destination for fishermen and tourists alike. Though it was my first time with a fly rod, I had a great time learning the basics and eventually hooking some trout. I recommend researching and utilizing a guided float trip from a local outfitter because you really will get your money’s worth in both good fishing and interesting history along the river. Not to mention a spectacular shot of the Grand Teton during one particular section of river. Even on the cloudy day I ventured down, it was pretty awesome.
3) Jackson, WY- Proper: Exploring the shops and streets.
There is another reason this part of the world is so well-known. Jackson (the closest city) is as popular a North American ski destination as it gets. When celebrities like Harrison Ford have a personal hangar at the local airport, you know the town is unique. And although it is a booming tourist destination, downtown Jackson has retained a “village” charm with its shops and side streets all comprised of uniquely Western-Americana architecture. There are several unique restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, outfitters, and hundreds of other businesses that are worth window shopping at a minimum. If in town for lunch and its warm enough, I suggest a stroll along the town square then grabbing a bite to eat and a cold beer on the porch of Mile High Pizza Pie.
4) Cowboy Bar- Good food, good atmosphere
Speaking of a cold beer, visit Cowboy Bar in the evening – a uniquely Jackson saloon. There is dining downstairs and on this particular visit my crew and I hilariously found ourselves sharing both our meal and drinks in the same room as a celebrating wedding party- with which we had no prior affiliation and obviously no objection to dining… Hey, when in Jackson! Haha!
You can also slip upstairs for drinks and live music. You’ll likely find yourself stomping your feet to a local music act and the place will quickly be packed with an eclectic mix of people. I met a couple en route from the oil fields of Texas, moving to Montana to begin a new life and later two school teachers from Arizona teaching in Jackson on a government assignment. From cowboys, doctors, and school teachers to locals, tourists, and wandering travel bums – This place caters to everyone and all were having a great time.
So let your hair down, toss back a couple of local-brewed Snake River Ales, dosey-doe a cowgirl (or boy), and make some new friends at Cowboy Bar.
5) Camping (Gros Ventre campground)
Camping is my preferred method of overnighting anyway and – let’s be honest – if you’re going to visit the Tetons, why would you ever consider NOT camping? This is the “Wild West” after all and part of what makes a visit like this complete is tenting beneath the stars, laying down for the night smelling of campfire, and taking that first breath of chill mountain air upon waking. The Gros Ventre Campground is located approximately 9 miles Northeast of Jackson just inside Grand Teton National Park. Its sites are within short walking distance to the Gros Ventre River which provides ample opportunity for spying wildlife. It’s serene. It’s clean. And the staff were friendly. If you’ll be camping between May and October in the area, you should definitely give Gros Ventre Campground a look.
Something I wish I’d known:
My visit was only part of a short road trip and I had no idea of the other things I would find myself wishing I had more time for while there. From wildlife tours, to snowmobile trails, to hiking, biking, rafting, and much more – Grand Teton National Park is a wild and magnificent place. I should have known these things before of course, but wish I’d taken a little time to research the various ways to explore the area and made time for a few more.
What is your number one tip for other people planning to visit this particular destination?
Talk to people. The historical American West is full of tales of travellers, vagabonds, adventurers, and even folks escaping their past. The modern West may be a little less legendary but it’s no less interesting. Ask your waiter where he’s from, your rafting guide what brought her here, or the barkeep some local history. From those stricken by wanderlust, ski-junkies, nomads and free spirits, to those who simply visited and never wanted to leave, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of transplants to the area and it seemed like everyone had a good story to tell of what drove them to call this place home. So talk to the locals. You’ll likely discover a hidden gem to scope out before leaving the Tetons.
Then again, you may decide to stick around yourself.
Thanks so much for sharing, Chad!