Rocky Mountain High

JACKSON, WY–The first feeling you experience when you step off the plane at the Jackson, Wy., airport is one of awe. As I walked across the tarmac gazing up at the mountain peaks, I felt like a country bumpkin in Manhattan staring slack-jawed at the skyscrapers. The mountains are break-taking. No wonder they turned the Tetons into a national park.

Jackson is a delightful town. The town center, consisting of a couple dozen city blocks, is full of high-end shops, restaurants and art galleries. Cowboy cosmopolitan, I’d call it. A mix of traditional western motifs — wood-plank sidewalks, every other bar styling itself a “saloon”, and a dominant architectural style that one can only call log cabin chic — side by side with Japanese restaurants and shops displaying European attire. Sushi and Gucci.

The town is very walkable. Indeed, pedestrians assume an air of command, ignoring crosswalks and crossing streets whenever they want. The automobiles submissively yield to them! Loads of people ride bicycles. One reason is that the Wyoming Department of Transportation builds bike lanes along many of its roads. The busy state highway leading to the hamlet of Wilson, where we’re staying, is parallelled by bike lanes — and people actually ride on them!

The town of Jackson has its share of strip development along Broadway, and you can espy clustered subdivisions off the highway, but the main sights you encounter upon leaving town are mountains, buttes and ranchland. There appears to be a “clear edge,” although whether it was established by zoning or evolved as a result of free-market dynamics is something I have no way of telling.

Not surprisingly, in a town so picturesque and attractive to the rich and super-rich, affordable housing is a problem. Page 3 of the Jackson Hole Daily has a story about an affordable housing project up for review by the Teton County Planning Commission. States the article: “Proponents argued the development would provide cheaper homes for young workers.” (Sound familiar, Virginia?)

My daughter Sara, who works as a restaurant hostess and landscaper, confirms the affordable housing problem. She shares her apartment with three post-college buddies, including one who sacks out in the living room to help offset the rent. The Mexicans, she says, live 11 or 12 to an apartment. (Sound familiar, Virginia?) In addition to the post-college ski bums and Mexicans, the service-sector workforce includes a goodly share of hippies. “I’ve never seen so many people with dreadlocks in one place,” Sara says. A number of hippies have adapted a new form of housing — yurts. Yes, the portable, dome-like structures perfected on the Mongolian plains.

I intend to spend most of my time here hiking, rafting and sight-seeing. But if I have a chance to find out more about the yurts, rest assured that I will. Until then, check out the Colorado Yurt Company’s website.

(Photo credit: Legends of America.)

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9 responses to “Rocky Mountain High”

  1. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Hey Jim:

    Good to see you made it to Jackson Hole!

    One of the best reasons for subsidizing travel is so citizens can see how others live.

    We have found that some of our best observations come from first impressions of a new place we visit. (Yes, we are fans of “Blink”)

    You would get the same impression arriving in Aspen and Kalispell and … There is a lot of the Northern Rocky Mountain Urban Support Region that looks and has the housing, etc attributes of Jackson Hole.

    By the way to keep your reverence for the Tetons, do not venture to St. Anthonys, Idaho. The mountains look like mole hills from there. (You know what Teton means in Frech, right?)

    By the way it is a Federal Park, not a state park.

    Keep up the good work…


  2. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I remember seeing a young girl wearing a souvenir t-shirt with a picture of the mountains.

    Underneath it said, “Not all Tetons are Grand Tetons”

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    … but .. they .. ARE tetons.. right?

  4. Groveton Avatar


    I am glad to hear you are having a good time in Wyoming.

    If you do get to Idaho, ask a few of the residents what they think of the federal government’s insatiable appetite for owning land. Not the recently arrived NIMBYs from the East but a real dyed in the wool long term resident of Idaho. You might be surprised at how people who grew up in the west feel about the fact that government agencies own 1 out of 3 acres of land in the US. The percentage is much higher in some places out West. Tell them you want to start a Journey to Nowehere putting more land into a trust mandated by federal legislation and managed by a “management entity”. When you ask the question please be careful to start by explaining that you are not an employee of the federal government. Also be sure they know you are only kidding about the Journey to Nowehere. We’d all like to see you get back without any injuries.

    Also interesting that the more you travel the more the problems look the same. You mention many “Mexicans” living in the same apartment. I thought that only happened because the rotten people in Fairfax County refused to demand low density habitation on the clear edge of the New Urban Area. Have the evil people of Fairfax County infiltrated Wyoming and spread their mischief to that lovely state? Or is there a real problem all across the United States finding people to work in areas with strong job growth?

    Also, interesting observations about Jackson Hole. In particular:

    “Jackson is a delightful town. The town center, consisting of a couple dozen city blocks, is full of high-end shops, restaurants and art galleries. Cowboy cosmopolitan, I’d call it. A mix of traditional western motifs — wood-plank sidewalks, every other bar styling itself a “saloon”, and a dominant architectural style that one can only call log cabin chic — side by side with Japanese restaurants and shops displaying European attire. Sushi and Gucci.”.

    What a gushing description.

    High end shops…

    European attire (hopefully not French – we know how you feel about that brand of European”…

    Sushi and Gucci…

    I just have to wonder how that all squares with your recent comments in the essay entitled, The Excesses of Affluence where you write:

    “But I sense that something has gone seriously awry in our society. We buy too much useless stuff. We get bored with it, banish it to the attic or garage and, eventually, throw it away. We purchase much of this useless stuff with consumer credit, undercutting our financial integrity and relying upon faceless foreigners to keep lending us money. Worse, the manufacture, transport and storage of all this stuff consumes energy, which generates pollution and distresses the environment on a planetary scale.

    The bottom line: In exchange for the momentary pleasure we derive from the acquisition of material possessions, we are putting in hock our long-term financial and environmental future.

    Sushi and Gucci indeed.

    Mr. Risse posts a comment in praise of subsidizing travel so that “…citizens can see how others live”. A true Virginia sentiment. Somebody should subsidize other people’s travel.

    The comment could only have been improved by using the word comrades in place of citizens.

    The saving grace of this whole sequence is Mr. Hyde and Mr. Gross exchanging messages about tee shirts and Tetons. I may even have a photograph of said young lady stored on my computer. Let me know if you guys would like to get a copy.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Hippies don’t have dreadlocks. Rastafarians do.

    You conservatives always get hilariously confused when you try to make cultural statements.

    You are out of your depth in Jackson Hole. Better off in Henrico County.

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Aren’t there any Rastafarian hippies?

    Legalize It!

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    As one who grew up in Montana and studied land management at the University there, I must say you can juxtapose fact and fiction as well about the Northern Rocky Mountain Urban Support Region as you can in the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region.

    Anon 11:49:

    Do not be hard on Mr. Bacon, he just landed in a strange place and was quoteing his daughter who is too young to have ever seen a Hippie or a Rasta.

    Save your bashing of “conservatives” for their consumption not their culture.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    That is wise counsel. The problem is, when the rest of us were on the streets back in the 60s, Bacon was hidden away somewhere reading William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater.

  9. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “Cowboy cosmopolitan, I’d call it. “

    When I read that, I thought of Nantucket, which, thanks to historical preservation and architectural review boards, has now morphed into something like “Whaling Modern”.

    Make that “Affluent Whaling Modern”

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