Tanya’s recent blog about Lake Tahoe inspired me to tell you about one of my favorite spots. Crowned by the majestic Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a must for any bucket list. Located just south of Yellowstone National Park, the place is stunningly, mind-blowingly beautiful.
The peaks of the Teton Range rise up from the valley floor to an altitude of 13,770 feet at the highest peak. The surrounding park area is populated by moose, bear, bison, pronghorn antelope and the world’s largest elk herd. The town of Jackson is a tourist mecca, featuring great shops and restaurants. For art lovers, a strikingly designed museum north of town features some of the world’s best wildlife art. (Hey, that’s me in the photo, my best side.)
Jackson Hole was discovered by non-native Americans in the early 1800s, not long after the Lewis and Clark expedition. The valley was named in 1829, after mountain man Davy Jackson, who claimed it as his favorite place to hole up. (“Hole” was the mountain man word for a valley surrounded by mountains.) The woman-hungry French trappers were also responsible for naming the peaks Les Trois Tetons-the three big breasts.
During the homesteading period, the short growing season and long, snowy, sub-zero winters kept all but the hardiest settlers out of the valley. One of those settlers, a rancher named Pierce Cunningham, circulated a petition to have Jackson Hole saved for the “education and enjoyment of the Nation as a whole.” That was the beginning of a decades-long battle to save the valley from exploitation. Much of that battle was fought in the halls of congress. One senator, with his own substantial interests in cattle, sheep and mining, was successful in blocking protection of Jackson Hole for years. Finally his disgusted constituency back home voted him out of office. But the preservationists still had the problem of raising money to buy enough land for a park. In 1927 philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., founded the Snake River Land Company so he and others could buy land in the area incognito and have it held until the National Park Service could administer it. The company launched a campaign to purchase more than for $1.4 million but faced 15 years of opposition by ranchers and a refusal by the Park Service to take the land. A smaller area was approved for a national park in 1929. But it wasn’t until 1950 that the Rockefeller Purchase became part of Grand Teton National Park as we know it today.
A number of celebrities have homes in Jackson Hole, including Uma Thurman, Dick Cheney and Harrison Ford, who flies his own helicopter in and out and sometimes takes part in search and rescue operations on the peaks. If you can’t see the place for yourself, I suggest you rent the classic Western movie “Shane” which was filmed there. It’s the next best thing to visiting.
Do you have a bucket list of places you’d like to visit in your lifetime? What’s on the top of your list (or would be if you had one)?
Harlequin’s Western Christmas Anthology, COWBOY CHRISTMAS, with stories by Pam Crooks, Carol Finch and myself, is in stores now. Readers who post today will be entered in a drawing for two books signed by all three authors–one from me and one from Pam. Good Luck!
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