I was fortunate to get a last-minute Couch Surfing acceptance from Seth in Jackson, Wyoming. Locals call it Jackson, not Jackson Hole. I made that mistake and put Jackson Hole in my GPS and ended up at a parking lot of a resort I couldn’t afford to stare at. When I finally made it into town I walked around and swung into the Grand Teton Gallery. Seth was out in the woods and I needed to kill time before meeting him. I found the right gallery as they were having a magazine launch party that evening! I lucked out! Bar! Who needs a bar! I found a social place with free food (and good stuff – shrimp cocktails, cheese, meat, crackers, watermelon…), wine and lots of art! A few of the pieces in the gallery were from some of the same artists that show at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. I do work for the arts festival, so I was so excited to see the work of some artists that I knew!
I found out when Seth got in that his place is the happening place. People were always coming and going. Up to six people might live there, but I had a hard time telling who was a guest and who was a resident. I was taken back and felt a bit intrusive as I walked past the refrigerator. I busted out laughing and asked the closest person around what was up with the collage! Apparently, the friends and roommates like to take scenic photos of outdoor activities in the nude! I had just met these people and I’d already seen everything there is to see about them and a ton of other people I’d yet to meet on the refrigerator!
Several of us sat around on a couch in the garage talking until the evening, than I borrowed a bike, Seth rode another bike, another girl hopped on a skateboard and we went over to another exhibit opening. This exhibit opening was in a warehouse looking building. The work was really experimental. There were several art videos running on computers and projected onto walls. People came and went – everyone seemed to know each other, and yet be really chatty with whoever happened to be standing around. I was invited to the big social occasion of the weekend and maybe the month – seven people were throwing a joint birthday campout in the Elk Refuge.
I followed the line of cars curving up the mountain on gravel. I started to wonder if I missed it, when I come to this large flat area at the end of the long trail road. The space overlooks the valley and is loomed over by Sheep Mountian or the Sleeping Indian. I play horseshoes while the sun sets and more and more cars arrive. Almost in an instant I look around and there has to be over 100 people! I secured a spot by the fire as I was passed a foil pocket of sausage and potatoes. Just sitting in my same spot I met multiple people and cuddled with multiple puppies. Actually all the dogs started hanging around me as soon as I started digging in to my food.
Around the fire, some people pulled out guitars and performed acoustic-folk renditions of country pop songs. I learned about what it’s like to live in Jackson. When people decide to live in Jackson, they make it happen. Several people arrived spur of the moment and camped in the Tetons for weeks before finding a place to stay. In fact, one guy at the campout had quit his well-paying job to move to Jackson with no prospects or place to stay. Expect to work multiple jobs. If you ask someone what they do you will get a list: Such as “I am a teacher, yoga instructor, dog walker, who also gives guided tours.” or “I am a bartender, server and nanny, who clears trails.” Expect to live with a ton of people. Everyone has three or more roommates. Expect to maybe not have a car and for it to get COLD in the winter. I wasn’t there in the winter – when I heard what the temperature is – I was so grateful it was summer! But despite all this – EVERYONE in Jackson LOVES Jackson! People get excited and talk animately, “Where can you have the best of everything! Professionals come here! If you want to mountain bike, if you like to ski, if you climb, if you camp, if you hike! Plus, look around! We’re surrounded by this!!”
And it’s gorgeous. The party was still going pretty strong at 2am. I decided to call it quits and sleep in my car. The next day people asked me where I had gotten off to and told me I missed out. They had partied until dawn.
The next few days I camped in Curtis Canyon, near where the party was. It’s free, scenic and quiet. There were flowers everywhere and prairie dogs. I drove into town to work from the Teton County Library. I picked up a hitchhiker that turned out to work in Yellowstone, so I got free admission and someone to take my photo. I did the fast tour of Yellowstone. It was pretty crowded and I wasn’t staying there like I was when I was in Yosemite. The geysers are so cool, the rings of color were wonderful. They made me think about how much I want to own a hot tub one day. One of the Jackson locals had given me directions to a hot spring in Grand Teton National Park. You had to hike there – it was a beautiful sunny day. I’d never seen a hot spring before. The weird thing about it is that the water looks exactly the same as a cold spring, but it feels like bath water.
My last night in Jackson, Scooter (a guy I met at the campout) offered for me to camp at his parents’ farm on the outskirts of town. He lives in a converted old bus parked on their land. His parents live in a log cabin. I loved their place! It is dark with rugs all over the floor and black and white portraits on the wall. Scooter has traveled all over the world and was a huge help. We combined food for dinner, I enjoyed being able to take a shower at the house and he also connected me with a friend to stay with in Laramie. His parents were so old-school, they came in after their trip to the Idaho Falls Cosco. Scooter helped unload into the cellar, while I commented that they so much in storage that they looked ready for a zombie apocalypse. An obviously prepared or paranoid couple, the father than showed me his prize green house tomatoes and lectured me on how I need to be carrying a pistol. I was like, “Um.. it’s a felony in California to have one, so I didn’t get my license…. I took a self-defense class instead.” He gave me a look, “Skinny little girl like you… self-defense… what’s that gonna do?” “I don’t even know ya and worry about ya.” “Better a felony than dead!”
Despite the lecture, I headed out to Laramie early in the morning the next day. Scooter’s friend would be waiting for me.