On our way to Grand Teton National Park, we passed through the town of Jackson, a place many famous mountain men previously traveled through in the early 1800’s. The town is often erroneously referred to as Jackson Hole.
We were also confused by this, but after looking up the two names we quickly discovered the problem was the whole valley is called Jackson Hole and the town of Jackson resides within that valley. Jackson Hole and Jackson got their names from David Edward Jackson, an American pioneer, trapper, fur trader, and explorer, who gave his name to the valley after a winter spent on the shores of Jackson Lake.
Jackson Hole was originally populated by Native American tribes including the Shoshoni, Crow, Blackfeet, Bannock, and Gros Ventre. The region was rich in beaver, which attracted fur trappers seeking valuable pelts to sell for coats and hats, but was also prime buffalo, moose and elk hunting grounds for the Indians and later the white men migrating west.
Today, Jackson is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, not so much from beaver, or buffalo any more. Now, more from wealthy movie stars and captains of industry seeking refuge, not unlike the protected lands for the elk, away from celebrity hunters and the overbearing press of humanity.
Harrison Ford owns several hundred acres near Jackson and can be regularly seen on local TV and heard on the radio doing public service announcements for the forestry service. He’s lived here for over twenty years though and has long since become accepted by the locals and one of their own.
Jackson is a fun place to visit. It has a definite cowboy charm to it and despite heavy tourism, has retained it’s Wyoming western country generosity.
They have genuine stagecoaches as their local form of “mass transit” and the streets are still patrolled by mounted police. The town square has impressive elk horn arches at each of the four corners and western street sculptures and artwork are standouts at every turn.
One of the most prominent landmarks of Jackson is the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on the town square. Just like the state, it’s big, audacious and yet unpretentious. We went in for a drink in the middle of the day and found the cavernous bar area to be a virtual ghost town. But come the evening and especially in the high season, the place lights up like a carnival.
One of the more exotic places we visited was Vom Fass, a boutique shop offering fine single barrel whiskeys and liqueurs you can try-before-you-buy, alongside of deliciously flavored olive oils and vinegars.
Then there’s the kissing the moose ceremony we introduced our friend Caroyln to in front of the Jackson Mercantile store. Carolyn and her husband Steve are now neighbors of ours at Star Valley Ranch Resort. So we have to indoctrinate them on local culture!
We will no doubt come back to Jackson many times, especially since it is also one of the only places for major brand shopping within a hundred miles of our RV resort lot at Star Valley Ranch in Thayne Wyoming.