5 Reasons to Visit Jackson Hole, Wyoming NOW - Eat, Stay, Play in the Great Outdoors

The Tetons. Grand Teton National Park. Wyoming

I’m rubbing my eyes over and over, can these mountains be for real? Winter, spring, summer, fall, no matter the season, if there is anything I can do to get back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I’m going to make it happen. Why?

1 - Tetons
Massive, jagged peaks burst out of flat, ranch land and rivers into the Wyoming sky as if formed by some wizard’s wand. Each turn on the road and trail creates a new, sawtoothed, alpine formation, now even more dramatic with the fresh snow covering the tops of the Tetons when I arrive. Put Grand Teton National Park on your list even if purely for the gasping, visual sense of magical mountain awe.

Jackson Hole Ski Resort getting ready for the season.
2 - Epic Ski Mountain 
I’ve skied my whole life and hitting the slopes on the infamous Jackson Hole ski mountain is still in the works. It’s all steeps and deeps, giant vertical, and, according to locals, loads of backcountry trails that are easily accessed from the resort. Located 12 miles north of the town of Jackson, be sure to bring your peeps and pump up those ski legs. 

Massive bull moose grazing in Jackson, Wyoming.
3 - Wild Animals 
I literally bumped into wild animals as I explored the valley, including a bull moose calmly grazing with the mountains springing up behind him. I was treated to an untamed, Wild West safari of buffalo, elk, moose, antelope, hawks, and high-alpine pika.

3 - Cool Ski Town People 
Let’s face it, these are my people. They have settled in remote Jackson Hole specifically to live and breathe the mountains and they’re passionate about the outdoors to the point of obsession, a quality can I certainly relate to. Instant connection about nature, outdoor lifestyle and surviving in the rugged West makes me salivate for more stories and information about the area and I just live to soak in their wilder spirits. They'll do anything they can to make it work to stay here.

4 - Outdoor Adventure
Between the hiking trails in the national park, the National Elk Refuge, the skiing, horseback riding, white water rafting, and fly fishing, this place is a mecca for outdoor activity year-round. High on my list is to return for an overnight horse packing trip or spend time at one of the many local, dude ranches, as the tradition of “cowboy” still rules here. 

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Jackson, Wyoming.
5 - Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
Visions of Blazing Saddles dance through my head when I think of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar located as if on an old-fashioned movie set on the central square of town. I pull on my boots and kick through the swinging doors - not really - for a few nights out on the town that always end with a visit to the Million Dollar bar. Ask a friend who’s been to Jackson; many, and most times there’s a story or three that has to do with shenanigans in, around and because of the bar. What happens there, definitely stays there, giddyup!

Lunch at Dornan's in Moose, Wyoming.

Where to eat out of the fray, chill, local style:
Breakfast - Persephone Bakery. Highly delicious French inspired treats and excellent coffee for morning kick-start. 
Lunch - Dornan's Pizza Pasta Company. One of the few places open north of Jackson during off season, enjoyed a solid quesadilla and soda water from the bar with the most extraordinary view of the Tetons. A locals place when the crowds are gone & where I got the best stories. 
Dinner - Pinky G's. Big slice of greasy, delicious pizza coupled with a Jenny Lake Lager. Friendly staff, you'll join locals lining up especially late night.

Where to stay:
Budget - The Ranch Inn. Basic hotel, centrally located in town near the action.
Middle - Snow King Resort. Located on the edge of town next to a small ski mountain but still walking distance to town. Full service resort.
Luxury - Amangani. Luxury destination resort set outside of Jackson towards Grand Teton National Park.

For live chatter about the outdoors follow me on twitter at @OutdoorsyMama or Instagram @OutdoorsyMama.


Top 10 Qualities to Look For in An Outdoor Adventure Partner

Summit of Mt Tamalpais, SF, California, with my kid and my "little" brother, two of my favorite adventure partners.
On any hike, adventure or exploration we head out on there’s always a need to make sure we’re doing it with someone who has the right mix of qualities that will make for a totally epic yet also safe adventure no matter the level of risk. 

Close your eyes — who pops into your head immediately as your favorite adventure partner? I feel so lucky to have a long list of people who I can call on to join me. Tops on my list are my son who has begun excelling in the outdoors and learning vital skills as he's grown into a teen. And also my brother, who is my original adventure buddy from when we were kiddos way before seat belts and helmets came on the scene. How did we ever survive those days??

So, given that, what are some of the attributes we look for in a partner for outdoor adventure? Here’s a top 10 list:

1 - Trust - Trust is the number one quality that makes for an ideal partner. How can we even take a step on the trail, or jump onto a backcountry ski slope in the deep powder, or clip in to a harness if we don’t trust our buddy. Trusting this person can literally be the difference between life and death when playing in the outdoors in the unpredictable terrain and elements that Ma Nature throws at us constantly. 

2 - Trust - again.

3 - Trust - and again and again.

4 - Camaraderie - Telling stories, laughing ‘till our sides split, hitting the crazy views at the summit together after a painful climb — the sense of camaraderie we have with the right person or group is a powerful, important force.

5 - Level Head - Panicking in the outdoors never gets anyone anywhere. A level head is key to stop, assess and move forward with a new strategy when the inevitable not-according-to-the-plan situation arises. It ALWAYS does.

6 - Emotional Resilience - When things get hard, we always want someone who can be honest with their emotions yet also be able to manage them and not get overwhelmed by them so they get distracted from making safe and smart decisions. 

7 - Physical Competence - We all don’t need to be Olympic athletes, however it’s best to make sure everyone’s ready and in shape for the level of risk we’re going to put ourselves into. This avoids susceptibility to injury or exhaustion and thus putting everyone else on the team in the role of caretaker.

8 - Sense of Humor - Sense of humor so required. I have never laughed so hard, had so much fun, looked at life with such huge smile on my face as when I’m out with a great partner or team in the outdoors. Sheet goes “wrong” and hits the fan constantly and being able to laugh while coping is a huge bonus.

9 - Sense of Adventure - The spirit and enthusiasm we can bring to an adventure is contagious. I love being with people who are as excited to the point of almost salivating at the build-up to the adventure. And then they maintain and exude that joy and good energy during the actual adventure itself. This is 100% one of my favorite qualities.

And, finally 10 - It t all circles back to: Trust. Of course.

This motley crew of trusted adventurers formed Hell Hike & Raft 2014
through Hells Canyon & The 7 Devils, Idaho.

Some other, cheeky things might be someone who: will carry the beer, play Journey songs on the ukulele around the campfire, cook up a mean bacon burrito in the backcountry. This list is endlessly fun. 

Any others to add? Definitely share. 

So now, when you close your eyes and think of your adventure partners, who do you come up with. Is it the same as before?

Always join the conversation on @OutdoorsyMama on twitter or Facebook.

See you in the mountains. - Annie @OutdoorsyMama 


Which Hiking Shoe Is Right For You? For Kids and Adults

Me and my kiddos testing out the latest Hi-Tec hiking boots in Yosemite, California.

As an outdoorsy person I confess I now own a number of different types of shoes to hike in, just as you may ‘cause we’re all spilling our secrets here, and they’re sort of like my babies. I think about them when i’m not with them. I wonder if i’ve left them out on the back steps by mistake after that last hike. I carefully contemplate which pair to wear the next day. I chose from my hard-core, waterproof, dinosaur-kicker Keens to my agile, 4WD-teeth-for-treads Saucony trail runners, to my hybrid-type, mountain-shoe by Ahnu, etc.

Just like my kids, each of these precious hiking shoes has their own personality and some things I adore about them and some things I don’t really adore and blame on the other genetic swirl in my life. And, just like my kids, I go through phases of which is my favorite. Don’t tell my kids.

Sunset hike in the Saucony trail runners I travel with in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Trail Runners:
For my California, coastal lifestyle, there’s no question that the trail runners are the way to go. It barely rains here. And the lightweight comfort and hard-core tread on these shoes win almost every day. Because the climate is so parched here, wet feet from precipitation is rarely an issue and if there’s a water crossing, the hot, California days will dry them out quickly. Sometimes when I wear these I feel like i can walk straight up walls or at least i know I can cling to rocks precariously when bouldering. They make me feel powerful and they don't take up tons of space so they're my go-to traveling hiker shoe.

My Merrell trail sandals have seen every side of a trail, river, boat and campsite.
Trail Sandals:
If I were living in the hot-zones of So Utah and Arizona and similar places, like the wise guides who run all the adventure trips I’d hike and adventure mostly in Trail Sandals and also get that funky, white-strapped, sun tan that is almost a badge of honor. They’re max in breathability and good for the well traveled trails and still provide good stability for the foot. You just need to watch the exposed toes. They're also a great extra pair of shoes to have at the campsite & can be strapped to the back of any backpack easily.

New lightweight technology makes hiking boots a great option like in these Hi-Tec boots.
Hiking Boots:
When I head back to the Northeast for some adventure, I note the value in the toe-protecting hiking boots with all of the roots and scrambling involved on those gnarly trails. I’m giddy that our family gets to test some Hi-Tec boots this season that are so surprisingly lightweight. Some peeps still love the old, leather hiking boots, but I’m happy to let the new technology wrap my hiking feet and provide excellent stability and protection with a nimble feel rather than the heavy clomp, clomp.

How to Chose the Right Pair for You?
When you go to places like REI or other outdoor or shoe specialty stores, talk to the experts there about your feet's quirks, your needs, and then try all the styles on. There seems to be a real mix on opinions of whether to buy a hiking boot - either high or low cut - versus trail runner even for backpacking these days. A veteran expert from a renown specialty store talked me into my first pair of trail runners years back as I was headed out on a backpacking trip and even despite the weight and mileage, he kept recommending the trail runner over all hiking boots. 

For Next Hiking Season
As we head into fall and winter it's fun to think about what's right for your feet for the next hiking season and boy do they make great holiday gifts instead of toasters and ties and vacuums. And I've found everything I've chatted about here works the same for my kids, too. 

See what works for you. Maybe a mix like me? And you’ll definitely start finding your favorites. Just don’t tell your kids…

For more live conversation find me on Twitter at @OutdoorsyMama

Disclaimer: Hi-Tec provided hiking boots for testing. All opinions are always and forever shall be my own. 

For more about gear read my Gear Reviews & Products I Love