Wyoming: Wild and Wonderful

June 2, 2015

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GIC is already gearing up for one of its most popular annual programs, the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, taking place on July 10th. This year, our 7th annual summit takes place just outside of Jackson in Victor, Idaho, however the last six summits have been held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Despite its ranking among the nation’s premier ski resorts during the winter, it may come as a shock that Jackson sees nearly three times as many tourists in the summer than in the winter.

Bison traffic jam returning from Yellowstone

Bison traffic jam returning from Yellowstone

When you fly into Jackson Hole Airport, you’re arriving in the only airport located within a national park. After a quick 15 minute ride past the National Elk Refuge, you’ll find yourself in the adorable town of Jackson. Nestled in the valley of the Grand Teton Mountain Range, Jackson is a dream in the summer. With a multitude of outdoor recreation activities around town, you’d need to spend weeks to accomplish all the region has to offer. Visitors can choose from activities such as white water rafting down the Snake River, horseback riding up 2,000 feet into the mountains, spotting wildlife on a hike though Grand Teton National Park, soaring high above Teton Village in a paraglider (or taking the aerial tram to Rendezvous Mountain for a different vista), or even getting stuck in a bison traffic jam during the one-hour drive north to the majestic Yellowstone National Park. Having planned GIC’s programs in Jackson for the last four years, I’ve been fortunate to experience several of these wild western attractions.

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Sunset at the Rodeo

Jackson has become one of my all-time favorite places to visit. I invited my mom to join me on a recent trip where, after the GIC programming concluded, I stuffed a weekend full of as many activities as we could endure. We started on a Saturday morning with a bountiful breakfast at Café Genevieve (famous for their “pig candy”) followed by a 14 mile scenic float ride down the Snake River. Our 19’ raft took us on a gentle journey through the valley where we spotted bald eagles, a young moose, and were even given the opportunity to steer the raft (an opportunity I couldn’t resist) and concluded with a delightful lakeside lunch. Later that evening, we took part in a 100 year-old tradition at the Jackson Hole Historic Rodeo. The Rodeo is a family-friendly affair, complete with cowboys riding buckin’ broncos, barrel racing, calf lassoing and my preferred segment; the PeeWee Rodeo, where children between ages 3-8 actually ride baby bulls. Clad in their little chaps and helmets and waving one a tiny arm in the air like the professionals, after about five seconds, a coach, retrieves them by their belts before things get serious. Watching this portion of the event proved to be both endearing and hilarious. Sunday brought us to Yellowstone, where we spent the day touring as much of the park as we could before dusk (essentially a fraction, since the park is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined), dodging brazen bison and taking in the beauty of nature that cannot possibly be described with words.

PeeWee Rodeo

PeeWee Rodeo

There are plenty of dining options throughout Jackson, ranging from the white tablecloths at the Snake River Grill (don’t miss the branding iron stacked with onion rings) to saddling up at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (literally, the bar stools are horse saddles). GIC’s Welcome Dinner has been held the last three years in a charming log cabin home built in 1915 known as Sweetwater Restaurant. Sweetwater offers laid-back, al fresco dining with cuisine designed for comfort such as “catfish popcorn” and bacon-wrapped sirloin. The small town is home to dozens of specialty shops selling everything from gifts crafted by local artists to authentic western wear and fine art. There’s also a Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning in the Town Square where, if you’re lucky, you may find yourself in the midst of a real cowboy shoot-out!

2000 vertical feet on horseback in the Bridger-Teton National Forest

2000 vertical feet on horseback in the Bridger-Teton National Forest

Although the summer in Jackson may be a quick one, their calendar consisting of “June, July and Winter”, I’d push warm-weather Jackson to the top of everyone’s destination list. Maybe I’ll see you out there in a few weeks with GIC.

Recommendations for Jackson Hole, WY

The author rowing the Snake River.

The author rowing the Snake River

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