In this former cattle ranching capital, the West is still as wild as ever, but that doesn’t mean every meal needs to be prepared over a campfire
Author Sam Polcer Photography Sam Polcer
DAY THREE | Though it’s a few miles down the road in a tiny community called Wilson, your James Beard Award–winning breakfast destination isn’t hard to find. “Just look for the 20-foot trout on the roof,” your concierge tells you. Giant fish notwithstanding, Nora’s Fish Creek Inn is a no-nonsense cabin serving up trout with eggs or corned beef hash to devoted locals. You opt for the “world famous” huevos rancheros, which barely fit on your plate—and eat the lot.
The coziness of the joint—its stone fireplace and bottomless cups of coffee—makes you consider staying awhile, but it’s time to hit the road back to Jackson, where you’ve booked a horse-drawn sleigh ride into the 24,700-acre National Elk Refuge, home to the largest elk herd on the planet. As you bounce across the plain toward thousands of grazing, dozing and braying animals, you spot three regal bucks strolling away from the group, the Tetons rising behind them. It makes for one heckuva panorama.
Lunch is at the Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar & Grill, named for the 2,000 or so 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars inlaid on the bar. A guy on the sleigh ride earlier had recommended you try the hickory-smoked pheasant soup, so you do, and spend the next few minutes contemplating how you might go about finding him to express your gratitude. It’s that good.
A short while later, you’re standing waist-deep with Snake River Angler guide Boots Allen, holding a fly rod. After a short introduction, you’re casting like, well, someone who just learned to cast. The Snake River is home to the most robust population of native cutthroat trout (so named for the linear red, pink and orange marks under the fish’s chin) in the Rocky Mountain West; the waters are teeming with them—except, apparently, the spot where you’re standing. But then the line goes taut and you reel in an intricately spotted specimen. Allen’s tallied four, but no matter. Success!
Feeling rugged and outdoorsy, you head to the town of Wilson, where you celebrate your first fly-fishing expedition with a glass of Veil of Composure pale ale at Q Roadhouse (another Fine-owned eatery). You’re powerfully hungry after wading through that river all afternoon, so when the buffalo burger you order from the eclectic, Southern-influenced menu arrives, it doesn’t stand a chance.
Next it’s off to the Stagecoach Bar, where country and bluegrass outfit The Stagecoach Band is playing for appreciative two-steppers. The bartender points out the banjo player, whose leg appears to be permanently bent. The guy’s name is Bill Briggs. “He was born without a hip joint,” you are told. “His hip is fused into that position.” As local lore has it, Briggs was the first person to ski from the top of the Grand Teton. “They say he’s the father of extreme skiing.” Only in Wyoming.
There’s time for one more back at the hotel, so you belly up at the Handle Bar, a new après pub facing Rendezvous Peak. Though you’re tempted by another array of local microbrews, you decide to give your own defiant attitude a whirl and order a dainty cachaça fizz from the bar’s inventive cocktail list. So what if I’m drinking a frothy cocktail, you think as a sugary mustache begins to form on your upper lip. What I drink is nobody’s business but my own.
Hemispheres photo editor SAM POLCER would be much more excited to go to work every day if there were a team of Alaskan sled dogs to take him there.