Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has some of the nicest people on this planet. They go above and beyond to help you. If you need to know where the nearest bus stop is and ask someone, they not only tell you, but take you to it.
We asked where the nearest ice cream shop was. The guy replies, “Follow me.”
Compare that to my first day back in San Diego. I went to Costco for dinner and some old coot with a hot dog in his hand is yelling at people in the food court that there are no “goddamn onions out here.” Yep, I’m home.
The best deal in town is the Bar J Chuckwagon cowboy cookout at $22. All-you-can-eat barbeque beef, potato, baked beans, corn bread, applesauce and spice cake along with 1½ hours of (clean) jokes, banjo and fiddle playing, yodeling, a capella singing and storytelling.
Before the show, you can walk the grounds or take a horsedrawn wagon ride. We saw our first moose and her two babies here. We were also given biscuits made in their Dutch oven with honey. (Oh, and by the way, the cowboy way of making coffee is filling your sock with coffee and putting it in boiling water. Hopefully the socks are new.)
We took a two-hour trail ride at Mill Iron Ranch up a mountain with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. Our guide gave us some pretty interesting facts about Wyoming. You don’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon, there’s no motorcycle helmet law, and a state law is still on the books that says horse theft is punishable by hanging.
One afternoon we drove to the Grand Tetons. We rented bikes and rode for 16 miles to South Jenny Lake along the bike trail, took a boat across the lake and hiked to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point over the lake. The sun doesn’t even think about setting in Jackson Hole until after 9 p.m. They also have two speed limits, 45 during the day and 35 at night. What you consider night is apparently up to your discretion.
Watch out for roaming buffalo crossing the road. They sell bear pepper spray to prevent being mauled by a bear, but no buffalo mace to prevent being gored by a buffalo.
After a grueling day of hiking, horseback riding and biking, we had to make a stop at Moo’s for our huckleberry ice cream and then over to the Million Dollar Bar to relax in saddle barstools with a drink made with huckleberry vodka. Are you seeing a theme here?
The eight-mile rafting trip down the Snake River was an adventure. Gene, our square-dance-calling bus driver, told us more fun facts about the area. One was that they feed thousands of elk every winter so they don’t freeload at the ranches.
I’m thinking the Boy Scouts wouldn’t do a bad job at running the government, and here’s why: Every year the elk, deer and moose shed their antlers. Scouts go through the woods and pick them up, and in October they hold an auction to sell them. They raise over $100,000, which goes toward feeding the animals and local charities.
The Snake River is only a Class 2-3. Nevertheless, the raft behind us completely flipped over on the “lunch table” rapid. Thankfully, I didn’t join the Jackson swim team. During our trip we saw a number of osprey and a couple of nests that can weigh 1,200 pounds, per our guide.
We celebrated our successful rafting with a bottle of wine. (What kind? Huckleberry. Of course.) I refrained from buying Dad a t-shirt that said, “I’m not retired, I was put out to stud.”
You can’t leave Wyoming without going to see bull riding at the Saturday night rodeo. I was not aware that they now wear helmets while riding those snot-slinging packs of dynamite. Other events were bareback and saddle-bucking broncos, team roping and barrel racing. A guy got knocked unconscious. Maybe they should wear the helmet for the bronco category too.
The sheep scramble is an event for kids where they tie a ribbon around the sheep’s neck and let a mob of blood-curdling screaming kids chase them around the arena trying to get the ribbon for a prize. Now here’s where I think PETA should be involved.
We met some of the bull riders after the rodeo. I asked them how old they are and when they started. One’s now 19 and started riding bulls at 14. What mother lets their kid board a 2,000-pound mass of muscle with anger management issues?
Funny, an hour later I saw the same kid drinking at the Million Dollar Bar. Maybe the bouncers look the other way and figure if they can ride a beast with a bad attitude, they can have a beer.